Zimbabwe’s military unexpectedly ousted President Robert Mugabe in late 2017, nearly four decades after he took power. Debilitating internal factionalism within the ruling Zanu-PF party over succession to Mugabe has culminated in the elevation of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the helm. He has promised to break with the past as he endeavours to navigate a much needed economic recovery. Prospects for promoting a new more inclusive political culture are less certain. Credible elections in 2018 could be a vital stepping stone toward a peaceful democratic transition, but they also pose a challenge to Zimbabwe’s weak institutions. Through research and analysis, Crisis Group sheds light on obstacles to a smooth, credible electoral process leading up to 2018. We help relevant actors nationally and internationally to buttress the likelihood of peaceful elections and democratic transition.
For years, South Africa trusted in behind-the-scenes contacts to alleviate Zimbabwe’s political and economic problems. But those troubles have continued to mount. By stepping up pressure, and by working with Washington on reform guidelines, Pretoria can help Harare find a way out of its crisis.
Tensions simmered ahead of general elections scheduled for August as authorities continued to harass opposition and advanced bill curtailing political freedoms.
Opposition protested bill curtailing political freedoms.Both houses of parliament 31 May-7 June passed Criminal Law Code Amendment Bill criminalising “willfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe”. In response, main opposition party Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) described bill as “dangerous and unconstitutional”, said it was designed to punish citizens, civil society organisations and political adversaries of ruling ZANU-PF party ahead of general elections due in August. NGO Amnesty International 9 June denounced “disturbing crackdown on Zimbabweans’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”, and called on President Mnangagwa not to sign bill into law.
Authorities continued to stifle dissent. Security forces 2 June detained five CCC activists, including one candidate for upcoming elections, following altercation with suspected ruling ZANU-PF party supporters at voter registration centre in Midlands region; all five remanded in custody next day on various charges including assault. Authorities 12 June charged 39 CCC supporters with political violence for allegedly attacking ZANU-PF office in Nyatsime locality, just south of capital Harare in Mashonaland East region.
Final list of presidential candidates disclosed. Electoral authority 22 June said 11 candidates will run for presidency in August, including Mnangagwa, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, and exiled former ruling party official Saviour Kasukuwere.
In 2019, killings by machete-wielding gangs at Zimbabwe’s gold mines jogged the government into preventive action. But police sweeps alone cannot make the sector safe. Harare should adopt reforms that allow more citizens to mine legally and head off disputes over the country’s mineral wealth.
The Zimbabwean government’s decision to hike fuel prices has sparked fierce opposition. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Consultant Piers Pigou explains how economic hardship is driving ordinary citizens to unprecedented acts of resistance.
Zimbabwe’s disputed elections have reinforced political divisions as the Constitutional Court hears an opposition challenge of the results. The military crackdown on opposition protesters highlights the urgency of reform if the government is to preserve stability and, by extension, its re-engagement strategy with international donors.
On 30 July Zimbabwe will hold elections. For the first time since independence Robert Mugabe is not a candidate. His successor presents himself as a reformer – but many doubt the polls will be clean. The opposition warns that Zimbabweans will not tolerate another stolen election.
A new presidential administration in Zimbabwe offers an opportunity for much-needed democratic and economic reform after years of stagnation. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group proposes four key areas on which the EU and its member states should focus its support: the security sector, elections, the economy and national reconciliation.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has the chance to embark on a much-needed process of economic and governance reform in Zimbabwe. The military’s role in the political transition casts a shadow on the road to credible elections, which remain a priority if his government is to earn national and international legitimacy.
Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.
Zimbabwe’s military has detained the country’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace Mugabe, and taken control of the streets of the capital and the main television station. The next step – apparently, a legitimate-looking transfer of power to someone of the army’s choosing – may prove less easy.
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