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”

ZIMBABWE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RESULTS: Tensions High, Death Toll Rises and Results Delayed Further

Some Harare residents, standing amid the shattered windows of the violence, expressed frustration and exhaustion.

“We are a peaceful nation,” said 29-year-old Sifas Gavanga. “We don’t deserve the death we saw.”

zim-army
Zimbabwe military and civilians in good times: celebrate the ouster of Robert Mugabe//18 November 2017

Zimbabwe’s ruling party and the main opposition group have both declared they won the presidential election ahead of the announcement of the result.

The rival claims by Zanu-PFC and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reflect a bitter rivalry that was exacerbated by deadly violence in the capital.

Six people were killed when police and army fired live rounds to disperse a protest on Wednesday by opposition supporters in Harare. In addition 14 were injured and 18 people were arrested at the offices of the MDC, police said.

Zimbabwe Elections
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa is greeted by supporters during a visit to a hospital Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said it will start announcing results of the presidential election at 10pm local time (8pm GMT) on Thursday, though by law it has five days from the vote on Monday to deliver the final tally and it has sometimes given conflicting statements about when it is releasing information.

International election observers urged the commission to reveal the presidential results as soon as possible, saying delays will increase speculation about vote-rigging.

Meanwhile, a spokesman said the main opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa, was being investigated by police for allegedly inciting violence.

Zimbabwe Elections
Zimbabwe police are seen outside the opposition party headquarters in Harar Credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Mr Chamisa, opposition politician Tendai Biti and several others are suspected of the crimes of “possession of dangerous weapons” and “public violence,” according to a copy of a search warrant, which was seen by The Associated Press.

The warrant authorises police to search for and confiscate any evidence as part of their investigation.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF party have accused the opposition of inciting the deadly violence. The opposition, human rights activists and international election observers condemned the “excessive” force used to crush the protests and appealed to all sides to exercise restraint.

Opposition demonstrations had broken out after electoral officials said the ruling party had won a parliamentary majority in the elections, and Paul Mangwana, a Zanu-PF spokesman, said at a news conference he anticipated similar success in the presidential race.

Elsewhere in Harare, Mr Chamisa said he was confident that his MDC party would be forming the next government. As the rival camps sparred over the election outcome, they also appealed for calm amid a fog of conflicting accounts. Mr Mnangagwa said his government was in touch with Mr Chamisa in an attempt to ease the tensions, though the opposition leader said he had not received any communication.

Soldiers cleared people from the streets of central Harare on Thursday after they swept in and opened fire on Wednesday to disperse protesters who alleged vote-rigging in the peaceful election, the first without long-time leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot. The electoral commission has said the vote was free and fair.

A credible vote is crucial to the lifting of international sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe so that its collapsed economy can recover. Elections under Mr Mugabe’s 37-year rule were marked by violence and intimidation against the opposition, as well as numerous allegations of fraud.

Mr Mnangagwa, who is close to the military, called for an “independent investigation” into the violence in Harare, saying those responsible “should be identified and brought to justice”.

The military deployment was the first time that soldiers had appeared in the streets of the capital since Mr Mugabe’s resignation in November after a military takeover. At that time, thousands of jubilant residents welcomed the soldiers as liberators.

Some Harare residents, standing amid the shattered windows of the violence, expressed frustration and exhaustion.

“We are a peaceful nation,” said 29-year-old Sifas Gavanga. “We don’t deserve the death we saw.”

Zimbabwe steps into the future

Regardless of the result, this week’s election has pressed the post-liberation reset button

Another step: observers check votes at a polling station in Mbare, a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on Monday. Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images

Mugabe’s departure is not the only novelty of this ballot. Also missing is Morgan Tsvangirai, opposition stalwart of the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, who contested the presidency in 2002 and at every election since. Tsvangirai carried considerable moral authority in the early years of this century, holding together a coalition of opposition, trade union and progressive forces, and bearing the scars of beatings at the hands of ZANU-PF. After he was denied an official victory in the 2008 elections, the outcry installed an internationally-brokered national unity government that survived until the 2013 election.

By then, Tsvangirai’s lustre had waned, and since then his coalition has only become more fractured. He died in February this year.

Inheriting the MDC mantle is lawyer Nelson Chamisa, contesting these elections for the seven-member MDC Alliance. Chamisa turned forty earlier this year, only just attaining the age qualification for presidential candidates. In a society where deference to age is deeply ingrained, Chamisa’s youth has presented a challenge. On the up side is the desire for generational change in leadership and the appeal to an overwhelmingly youthful population (although a quarter of the population is under eighteen and too young to vote).

Chamisa’s relative youth is not the only factor that made his MDC inheritance a contested one. His ascension pushed aside a senior female MDC figure, Thokozani Khuphe, who had been Tsvangarai’s deputy and served as deputy prime minister in the national unity government. The boy’s clubs (young and old) on both sides of politics have been increasingly exasperating for the many highly competent and energetic female politicians who have been kept just below the pinnacles of power.

Khuphe contested the validity of Chamisa’s assumption of the MDC leadership, presenting as a candidate in these elections for MDC-T (the ‘T’ standing for Tsvangirai, as opposed to the MDC-N, headed by Welshman Ncube, an earlier iteration of splits in the party). Khuphe also labours under the burden of coming from the minority Ndebele population, which predominates only in the south of the country.

Another high-profile female among the twenty-three candidates for president was Joice Mujuru, who was a very young firebrand in the liberation struggle. Her rise to the vice-presidency in 2004 came at Mnangagwa’s expense, and she was dismissed by Mugabe in December 2014, probably because she was becoming too popular within ZANU-PF. Her attempts to form a strong rival party — initially People First and subsequently the People’s Rainbow Coalition — struggled to gain traction.

For his part, Mnangagwa has spent the eight months since his ascendency to the presidency assiduously assuring Zimbaweans that a new era was under way. He has repaired relations with the international donor community, maintained close relations with China, declared Zimbabwe newly open for business, and even held a meeting with white farmers to assure them of a role in restoring Zimbabwe’s place as the region’s bread basket.

On the ground, however, there’s sense that little has changed. The economic challenges remain profound, chief among them the task of stimulating growth when you don’t have your own currency. (Since the hyper-inflation of 2008, Zimbabwe uses the US dollar.) Corruption persists as a threat to progress at both micro and macro levels. And any future government will have to chart a course between encouraging inflows of money, and becoming dependent on development assistance.

Western development agencies congratulate themselves on squeaky-clean funds distribution, but their practices often induce a different kind of corruption of the spirit. Money flows to projects whose objectives are set by the external donor, local recipients become practised in the art of telling the donors what they want to hear, and the hard choices in resource-constrained environments are never faced.

Mnangagwa has sought to reinvent himself as the technocrat best able to navigate these choppy waters. Indeed, he may well be able to position Zimbabwe to benefit from the contest for supremacy between China and the West. He has set his face assuredly to the future, not least because his past includes the 1980s Gukurahundi killings, which obliterated the Ndebele as a political force.

At the time of writing, the outcome of the presidential election is yet to be declared but ZANU-PF has gained a handy majority of seats in the parliament. If Chamisa wins the presidency, it will be a shock equivalent to Mohamad Mahathir’s return to power in Malaysia.

The MDC Alliance leader would face all the same challenges as Mnangagwa, but may be less well-placed to overcome them. His campaign showed some worrying signs. He has cloaked himself in a facile religiosity, accompanying many of his campaign tweets with the hashtag #godisinit. In 2016 he graduated as a pastor from the same theological college that has produced some of Zimbabwe’s more prominent self-appointed “prophets,” hugely popular in Zimbabwe with their combination of prosperity gospel and fire and brimstone.

Chamisa was able to attract crowds over the course of the campaign, but many of his promises — high-speed rail, $15 billion of investment from America (denied by the US Embassy), rural airports to air-freight produce to Europe — were fanciful. When he claimed to have been endorsed by Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, the response from Kagame was to say he’d never met him – and Chamisa’s riposte, a tweet of a photo showing him shaking Kagame’s hand at a public occasion, was hardly convincing.

But if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does declare Chamisa the victor, they will dispel any fears they are prepared to rig elections for the government. By contrast, if Mnangagwa is declared victor, the MDC Alliance is already preparing the ground to declare themselves robbed. Within hours of the polls closing, social media was flooded with claims Chamisa had won, along with purported tally sheets from electorates and claims that Mnangagwa had fled the country.

Meanwhile, like a hammy actor prolonging his death scene on stage, Mugabe gave an election eve press conference to declare he would not support the ZANU-PF candidate. Amateur theatrics is the last thing Zimbabwe needs now.

In the reality-based universe, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission appears to have been doing a through and diligent job. International election observers are on hand to give assurance, regardless of the outcome. Whatever the next couple of days hold, Zimbabwe will have taken another major step to forge its future.

MDC President Nelson Chamisa alleges “fake results” conspiracy

Zimbabwe poll: MDC President Nelson Chamisa touts “fake results” conspiracy

The opposition leader believes Zimbabweans are being “prepared” to accept bogus results.

The first round of preliminary results for the Zimbabwe election have been declared, and Nelson Chamisa has got a bone to pick.

The MDC leader was dealt a blow when the earliest batch of votes were declared on Tuesday evening and finalised by Wednesday morning. The ruling Zanu-PF party are on course to retain their Parliamentary majority.

Zimbabwe election results so far

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced a total of 152 declared results for the National Assembly. Of the 152, Zanu-PF won 109 seats, while the MDC Alliance got 41 seats. The National Patriotic Front (NPF) and an independent candidate make up the remaining two votes.

It’s not exactly curtains for the MDC, however. The race for the Senate is different to the actual presidential poll. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa are still to learn which one of them has pulled in the majority of the votes.

Nelson Chamisa’s “fake election” claims

Chamisa, though, is not taking these results lightly. He claims that these Parliamentary figures are a strategy being devised to prepare the public for “fake presidential results” – by announcing that Zanu-PF have a majority in the National Assembly, the MDC leader believes it’ll be easier to lie about an Mnangagwa victory:

Nelson Chamisa@nelsonchamisa

Zec seeks to release results to buy time & reverse the people’s presidential election victory. The strategy is meant to prepare Zim mentally to accept fake presidential results.We’ve more votes than ED.We won the popular vote & will defend it !

What will happen in the presidential vote?

The presidential vote is expected to be much closer than what we’ve seen in the one for seats in Parliament. The face-off between the ruling party and their main opposition has been too close to call over the last few days.

Neither candidate has been shy about declaring victory, either. Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa claimed on Tuesday they had seen the results and it was good news for both of them. All we know for sure is that one of them is lying.

Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections Fail to Pass the Credibility Test

We, the undersigned Civil Society Civil Organizations (CSOs) convening under the banner of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) and other stakeholders representing various interest groups in Zimbabwe, wish to share the following concerns and accompanying resolutions with citizens of Zimbabwe and the global community.


This is in line with our collective national aspiration to see the restoration of a legitimate constitutional order in Zimbabwe. We reiterate that after the November 2017 military coup, a credible electoral process is the only legitimate way of restoring our constitutional order but unfortunately, the elections conducted on July 30, 2018 seem to have betrayed the national aspiration. The July 30 election falls short of a credible process.

History of Elections in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe has a long history of disputed electoral outcomes that have impacted negatively on the state legitimacy question and consequently, the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The developments of the past 24 hours confirm that there was no major shift or disjuncture from the historical patterns and formulation of elections in Zimbabwe.

While we appreciate that the electoral environment was relatively peaceful and characterized by a huge turnout at polling stations, it must be noted that Zimbabwe went to the elections with serious issues being raised around the transparency and credibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which has over the years acted as more of an appendage of the ruling party, ZANU PF.

In this statement, we seek to draw attention to the reality that the just ended elections have failed to meet the SADC Principles & Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. We implore that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission failed to take corrective measures cited in the 2013 SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) Report on Elections in Zimbabwe.

We however contend that piecemeal reforms to the Electoral Act and insincere electoral administration seriously dented hopes of a credible electoral process.

Detailed below are the issues of concern;

i.)      Failure to Release Final Voters Roll Before polling – The Zimbabwe Election Commission failed to avail the final voters roll to election stakeholders, parties and candidates, consequently the voters roll that was used on polling day was different from the voters roll that was availed to political parties.

ii.)    Mystery around V11 Forms for Presidential Elections – A preliminary statement by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) indicated that approximately 21 percent of the Polling stations did not post the results of Presidential Elections outside the polling station as required by the Electoral Act. The failure to abide by the law in this instance bred a fertile ground for rigging.

The issue of the V11 forms was also confirmed by senior MDC Alliance members and to quote David Coltart- “No results displayed for Victoria Falls Ward 2. Tent has been removed. Spoke to a police officer and was told they were burnt

It is in the public domain that over the years, Zanu (PF) has sought to win elections at all costs and the issue of the V11 forms, coupled with reports of the party’s activists trying to steal ballot papers at some polling stations around the country is clear testimony that this election is yet another charade that does not in any way subscribe to the tenets of democratic elections.

iii.)  Undesignated Polling Stations – Undesignated polling stations were also discovered in some areas and in Seke Ward 5, the bogus polling officials fled with ballot papers as soon as they had been exposed.

iv.)  Deliberate Displacement of Voters – There was also deliberate displacement of voters with some voters who had inspected their names during the inspection period being told to go and vote in areas where they had not registered as voters.

This adds to claims that the voters roll used during the voting process was different from the one used during inspection. This anomaly also aided the Zanu (PF) tactic of bussing voters.

v.)    Violations of the Traditional Leaders Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe – The partisan involvement of traditional leaders in the electoral process is also another issue of concern. In Gokwe Chireya, approximately 30 traditional leaders were deployed as election agents representing ZANU PF. Despite the fact that the law does not allow traditional leaders to be involved in partisan politics, some traditional leaders went on to contest on a Zanu (PF) ticket.

We also recorded reports of traditional leaders victimizing their subjects who are known and perceived opponents of the regime. In the absence of a clear and coherent national reconciliation programme ZANU PF continued to be a beneficiary of past human rights violations that influenced voting patterns (harvest of fear).

vi.)  Increase in Numbers of Assisted Voters – As a result of intimidation, some areas recorded a high number of assisted voters and our observers on the ground recorded that some citizens who were actually able to vote on their own were forced to declare that they needed assistance. Masvingo province had recorded the highest number of assisted voters by mid-day on polling day (approximately 15 000).

vii.)                        Vote Buying – Vote buying was also recorded by our observers on the ground and reports indicated that some Zanu (PF) members were actually distributing food and other goodies at polling stations. In Mashonaland Central (Mazowe Central) ZANU PF candidates were seen distributing maize using forms from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare a day before polling day.

viii.)                      Unfair Media Coverage – State media remained partisan with negative coverage of opposition candidates. It is in the public domain that prior to the elections, there were reports lodged with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe over the unfair electoral coverage by the State media

ix.)  Bullying and threats to opposition agents: Our observers recorded several cases of opposition candidates election agents being bullied and threatened at polling centres with some of them being barred from observing the vote counting process.

While we appreciate that the electoral environment was relatively peaceful and a huge turnout at polling stations, we reiterate that electoral processes must always reflect and uphold the true will of the citizens. Zimbabwe’s only option is to embrace open transparent and democratic governance as a gateway to the restoration of our constitutional order.

Zanu PF in early lead

Zimbabwe’s ex-President Robert Mugabe slams ruling party on election eve

In his first speech since stepping down as president, Mugabe has said he “cannot” vote for his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Monday’s landmark election. He spoke of having been “tormented” before his ouster.

    
Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe looks on during a press conference at his private residence nicknamed Blue Roof in Harare (Reuters/S. Sibeko)
Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe said on Sunday he would not be voting for his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in the country’s upcoming election, claiming that the current government was unconstitutional. 

 “I will not vote for those who have illegally taken power,” he told reporters from his private residence in the capital, Harare. “I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will throw, thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality.”

In his speech, which was described by several news agencies as “rambling,” he blamed “evil and malicious characters” for his ousting, and said he resigned to avoid “bloodshed.”

Mugabe’s downfall came in November 2017 after the central committee of the ruling ZANU-PF party removed him as party leader and appointed Mnangagwa to take over. Mugabe’s ouster after 37 years in power was celebrated by thousands in the streets of Harare.

Lawmakers in Zimbabwe's parliament celebrate as Mugabe's resignation letter is read out (Getty Images/AFP/J. Njikizana)
Mugabe’s resignation received a joyous reception in parliament

 

‘Utter nonsense’

The 94-year-old Mugabe had been accused of being too old to rule and allowing his wife, Grace, to “usurp” power. On Sunday, he slammed as “utter nonsense” the idea that he had wanted her to take over from him.

Mugabe speech came after months of silence and less than 24 hours before a historic presidential election takes place in the southern African nation — the first without him since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. It was his first national address since resigning from power.

An election poster depicting Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa (picture-alliance/dpa)Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s former intelligence chief

End of an era

Mugabe, whose rule of Zimbabwe became increasingly repressive over the years, called for a “democratic constitution” and the people’s freedom to speak. He also urged voters to accept the result, saying: “Whoever wins, we wish him well … And let us accept the verdict.”

Mnangagwa, 75, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, 40, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe’s landmark vote. Opinion polls, which are considered largely unreliable, have shown Mnangagwa with a slim lead.

Zimbabwe military Won’t Allow Chamisa To Enter State House should he win the election, Declares Minister Mukupe

“Good evening Zimbabwe. Thank you so much.  Last night I congratulated CDE Mr. Nelson Chamisa and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. 

I hope CDE Mr. Chamisa will be a successful president for all Zimbabweans. This is not the outcome we worked so hard for and I’m sorry Zanu (PF) did not win this election this time for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country. 

This is painful and it will be for a long time but I want you to remember this – our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love and about building a Zimbabwe that’s hopeful, inclusive and bighearted.

The military, security agencies and my cabinet have since started the transitional process as far as the organs of government and state are concerned. Statement from the Office of the outgoing President of The Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (Only in Crimson Tazvinzwa’s dreams).

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President Nelson Chamisa, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T)

In a ‘scare crow’ speech, Deputy Finance Minister Terrence Mukupe has declared the army will not allow MDC leader Nelson Chamisa to enter state house should he win the July 30 poll.

The Finance Minister (dep)’s comments come at a time when the Zimbabwean government is seeking international recognition as a civilian state, not a military one. It also comes as the President sought to assert that the November military coup was a civilian transition and nothing to do with the military.

Mukupe said soldiers did not remove Robert Mugabe so to pass on the Presidency to a young inexperienced Nelson Chamisa.

He made these comments while addressing a cell group in Mandara, Harare.

He began by saying, “let us be truthful, our nation where it is and where it is going , it needs an elderly person with a steady hand, who will stabilise things.  For me to say the army took over the country from vaMugabe so that they can hand over to a young man who is talking about spaghetti roads, and talking about impregnating all women. Isn’t you heard him saying these things?

“After saying these things, you say Mnangagwa if he wins I will give him my sister, it is almost being scornful of all women. Imagine me telling you that I want to impregnate all you women, would you vote for me?

“This is what I am saying, even I myself I want to rule, do you hear?  No one refuses to sit in a Mercedes Benz and get all the sirens, but these things have their own time. I don’t think I have the maturity level to get the whole country and the soldiers now saluting me(di; but I heard him saying at one time saying he is already rehearsing performing Presidential guard inspections like this…”