A crackdown in Zimbabwe exposes the instability of the Mnangagwa regim

The ruling elite is far from united

IN THE early hours of August 5th four men broke into a house in eastern Zimbabwe known to be home to activists for the MDC Alliance, the country’s main opposition bloc. They dragged the husband and wife outside before beating them with sticks on their back and buttocks. Two of the assailants took turns raping the wife; the other two raped the husband. All the while the children of the couple watched.

After holding peaceful elections on July 30th Zimbabwe has again descended into violence. At least six people were killed on the streets of the capital two days after the vote. Since then human-rights groups have recorded more than 150 alleged cases of abuse against opposition supporters (including that of the husband and wife above), most seemingly at the hands of soldiers. The true figure is almost certainly many times higher. Hundreds of MDC members have fled their homes, including Tendai Biti, one of the bloc’s senior figures, whose claim for asylum in Zambia was rejected on August 8th.

For some the violence is not just grim, but odd. Since taking power via a coup last November, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sought to convince the world that Zimbabwe is “open for business” following nearly four decades of misrule by Robert Mugabe. The culmination of this plan was meant to be a convincing victory in the election, which even if neither free nor fair, would be orderly enough to win him the blessing of foreign governments. They would then encourage creditors to lend the country much-needed foreign currency. Instead there is mayhem. When not shooting civilians in the back, Zimbabwe’s ruling elite seems to be shooting itself in the foot.

Zanu-PF, the party of Mr Mnangagwa, has a history of thuggery. Mr Mugabe once boasted: “We have degrees in violence.” But the recent brutality is probably made worse by the fact that the ruling elite is far from united. Both Zanu-PF and the myriad security forces are fragmented. So while some factions may lose from chaos, others believe they will gain. So goes the macabre struggle for power and spoils.

In his election campaign Mr Mnangagwa tried to portray himself as an all-powerful leader. But his control over his own party remains fragile. The so-called G40 faction, associated with Grace Mugabe, Robert’s second wife, remains influential, well funded and keen for Mr Mnangagwa to fail. At the local level it has been hard for the president to exert authority. There were two dozen riots during the primary elections for Zanu-PF candidates. Some newly elected members of parliament, such as Webster Shamu, have repeatedly clashed with Mr Mnangagwa. Overall only about a quarter of new members are incumbents. No one knows how the newcomers will wield their power.

Neither is there unity between the armed forces and Zanu-PF, nor among the men in uniform themselves. The agitator-in-chief, according to several sources, is Constantino Chiwenga, the vice-president and minister of defence, who is rumoured to want one day to replace Mr Mnangagwa. The former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) played a pivotal role in the coup last year, but has struggled to adapt to political life. (He tried to fire thousands of striking nurses before realising that was not possible.) It is he, rather than the current head of the ZDF, Philip Sibanda, who is believed to have instigated the crackdown on August 1st, out of frustration that others have been too soft on the MDC. Mr Chiwenga speculates that his critics are high on weed.

The president may be weaker than many assume, but he is not innocent. Mr Mnangagwa reportedly co-ordinated the post-election violence in 2008-09. It is implausible to claim, as his allies do, that he knows little of what is happening now.

The MDC is challenging the legality of Mr Mnangagwa’s first-round win in the presidential race on July 30th. But given the partisanship of Zimbabwe’s judges, defeat looks certain. Therefore Mr Mnangagwa will be sworn in again as president before the end of the month. He will do so amid growing mistrust among foreign governments and would-be investors. And with more blood on his hands.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline”Open for chaos”

Mugabe property ‘vandalised’ as poll pressure heats up

 

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe looks on during a press conference at his private residence nicknamed "Blue Roof" in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2018.
Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe looks on during a press conference at his private residence nicknamed “Blue Roof” in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2018. 
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

 

Tensions were high in Zimbabwe on Monday after former president Robert Mugabe announced on Sunday that he would not be voting for the ruling Zanu-PF.

An ally claimed that state security assigned to Mugabe at his private residence was withdrawn after the press conference and that soldiers had vandalised his property.

At his home on Sunday‚ Mugabe announced that he would not cast a vote for the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Jealousy Mawarire‚ who coordinated the press conference and also speaks for the Mugabe-backed National Patriotic Front‚ a political party formed in March this year‚ said the security was withdrawn in response to the press conference.mugabe

The briefing was beamed live by some regional and international news organisations‚ on the eve of the first election that Mugabe will not participate in post-independence. The soldiers who guarded the property had left the accommodation they used severely damaged‚ he claimed.

“Bulbs‚ electricity switches and anything that made the house habitable was vandalised. The leader of the nine soldiers dumped keys to the house at Mugabe’s reception and told the receptionist they had been ordered off the premises because of the press conference. Only two police officers remain‚” Mawarire said in a statement.

Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate in Monday’s election is Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ his former deputy president. Mnangagwa is in a neck-and-neck contest with Nelson Chamisa‚ the leader of the MDC Alliance‚ for the country’s top job.

The 94-year-old Mugabe is expected to cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield.

Mugabe hinted that his support in the election was for Chamisa‚ who he said appeared to be doing well‚ judging by the turnout at his rallies. Chamisa has held around 80 rallies over the last few months in rural and urban areas.ugabe press conferencemugabdr

In response to Mugabe’s comments on dumping the ruling party‚ a video of Mnangagwa was widely shared on social media platforms in which he said it was clear that Mugabe was plotting a return to power under Chamisa. An audio clip was also aired on national radio.

“The choice is clear‚ you vote for Mugabe under the guise of Chamisa or you vote for a new Zimbabwe under my leadership‚” Mnangagwa said in a brief message.

Meanwhile‚ the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said it had reported Chamisa to the police for failing to adhere to a law that bans election campaigning 24 hours before voting day.

Flanked by his lawyer‚ Thabani Mpofu‚ and spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda‚ Chamisa said at a press briefing held at the Meikles Hotel on Sunday that he would not lose the election and accepted the support from Mugabe‚ saying he needed every vote to win.

Utoile Silaigwana‚ the ZEC acting chief elections officer‚ condemned Chamisa for violating the law by holding a press briefing and said he had since been reported to the police.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has noted with concern the violation of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] by one of the candidates contesting in the 2018 Harmonised Elections. Clause 7 (1)(b) of the Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates and other stakeholders provides as follows: (1) No political party or candidate may‚ from midnight 24 hours before polling day in any election or referendum until polling stations are closed on that day publish‚ or cause or permit the publication‚ of any advertisement or statement promoting or opposing a particular party or candidate‚” said Silaigwana.

“It has come to the knowledge of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that one of the Presidential candidates today‚ the 29th of July 2018 held a press conference at Meikles Hotel‚ in direct contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act Fourth Schedule (Section 160A‚ Clause 7(1)(B). This matter has been reported to the police for investigation on possible infraction of the electoral law.”

Mugabe lost chance to fix Zim financial crisis – Communist Party

HARARE –  Zimbabweans take to the polls this morning saddled with chilling reminders of life under a hyper-inflationary economy but carrying hopes that the new government they will elect will speedily fix their lives and bring back food on the table through increased investment inflows, good policies and cordial relations with other countries.The once prosperous southern African country has stagnated into a net importer of basic foodstuffs and processed commodities as its industries recline on the back of operational constraints. A bigger portion of its populace has been driven out of the country in search of greener pastures and remittances from expat Zimbabweans have played a key part in sustaining livelihoods, say analysts.

Today’s election – in which current President Emerson Mnangagwa will contest against main rival Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance and 21 other presidential hopefuls – is landmark for a country that until last November had known only one ruler since independence in 1980. Yet it is the economy that will be under greater focus as Zimbabweans, weighed down by economic difficulties for a long time, cast their ballots.

ZANU PF Presidential candidate, 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa
“After the election we expect things to improve and prices to stabilise from this current wave of increases as people get over the apprehension over elections,” Denford Mutashu, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers said from Harare.Zimbabwean retailers, among them Pick n Pay and OK Zimbabwe as the big players, source most of their stock from South Africa while Johannesburg based firms also have local units. South Africa is expected to continue playing a strong tole in Zimbabwe’s economy post the elections, economists told Business Report.

“South Africa is our biggest trade partner and as such we expect increased cooperations and invesment flows from South African investors. We both have local content policies but as we go beyond the elections, whatever policies we adopt should be in line with agreements and Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion agreements that are in existence,” Vandudzai Zirebwa, an economist with the Buy Zimbabwe pressure group said in an interview on Friday.

 
New South African investors in Zimbabwe include Karo which is developing a large platinum mine in the country which will be complemented by a refinery facility.  Other existing SA firms such as Anglo Platinum are investing more into constructing a pgmsmelter facility.
There are other investors through the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange who want Zimbabwe to quickly get over today’s election so that they can refocus their investments. The stock exchange has been rising as people switch investment strategies from monetary assets that are considered risky to the stock exchange which is seen as a long term store of value until after the elections.
As Zimbabweans vote today, the aftermath of the election will need to be embraced with an open mindset by whoever would have emerged victorious, experts emphasize. There have been disagreements over the electoral framework but opposition parties have decided to go to the polls nonetheless.
“What is critical is to address the fundamentals of the economy – first issue is forex shortages, identify factors that are quick wins and for me this includes addressing viability in agriculture and mining sector. There is room for improvement only if the new administration is open minded enough,” Zirebwa added.With Mnangagwa promising to open up the economy for further investments and Chamisa stacking up a list of quick fixes for the economy through restoration of credibility and confidence in how the economy is managed, Zimbabweans will place their votes knowing that their fortunes for the next five years will depend on their decisions today.

Mugabe: I will not vote for those who torment me

mugabdrVideo: Robert Mugabe: ‘I will not vote for those who torment me’

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe says: ‘I will not vote for those who torment me,’ hinting that he won’t vote for Emmerson Mnangagwa. This is the first time he has addressed the nation since being ousted out of power in…

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