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”

European Union Joint Statement on Post -Elections Human Rights situation in Zimbabwe

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Harare International Festival 17 – 21 July 2018
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EU had the biggest observer mission to Harare for the July 30, 2018 harmonized election in Zimbabwe

Harare International Festival 17 -21 July 2018

Zimbabwe’s churches urge lifting of international sanctions

zimbabwe elections

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has urged the lifting of ‘punitive’ sanctions on Zimbabwe following last week’s disputed election, which saw incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa returned with a decisive majority.

In a ‘pastoral statement‘, the ZCC said: ‘We plead with the international community not continue the isolation of Zimbabwe on the basis of shortcomings of this election. You are fully aware that the punitive measures on the new government will not affect those in leadership but the ordinary Zimbabweans. We believe that it is in the opportunities for Zimbabweans’ access to health care, education and basic social services that the nation will flourish and grow a robust democracy.’

Emmerson Mnangagwa
ReutersZimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, August 3, 2018.

The statement acknowledged the perception that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which pronounced the elections broadly free and fair, was ‘not fully independent’ and that ‘the electoral playing field remains uneven whilst favouring incumbents’.

However, it backed the ZEC’s ‘technical conclusions’ and urged the release of supporting data.

It also reflected on the divisions that marked the election, saying: ‘The deepening polarization between urban and rural voters, younger and older voters, as well as richer and poorer voters requires urgent redress through a holistic process of nation building and envisioning. The cry of different sectors of our population requires both a pastoral and prophetic response.’

READ: The churches and the aid agencies made the same theological error

The statement urged the ruling Zanu-PF party to pursue policies aimed at unity and reform, and issued a thinly-veiled warning to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to eschew violence and beware of incendiary rhetoric. It refers to ‘the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos. Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone’s control.’

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.”

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.”

EUROPEAN UNION Statement On Zimbabwe Elections

EU ZEuropean Union Election Observation Mission Republic of Zimbabwe Harmonised Elections 2018 


Improved political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote, but unlevel playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the pre-election environment. We now hope for a transparent and traceable results process.Harare, 1 August 2018

This preliminary statement of the EU EOM is delivered before the completion of the entire electoral process. Critical stages remain, including collation of results and adjudication ofpetitions. The EU EOM is now only in a position to comment on observation undertaken to date, and will later publish a final report, including fidl analysis and recommendations for electoral reform. The EU EOM may also make additional statements on election-related matters as and when it considers it appropriate.


The 30 July 2018 Harmonised Elections in Zimbabwe were the first since the stepping down from power of the former president Robert Mugabe after 37 years in office. Many previous elections have been contentious and with reports of abuses, and so while the commitment to hold credible elections by the interim president was welcomed, a legacy of the past was a low level of trust in the democratic process and institutions, which permeated the electoral environment.

The elections were competitive, the campaign was largely peaceful and, overall, political freedoms during the campaign, including freedom of movement, assembly and speech, were respected. However, the misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favour of the ruling party, meant that a truly level playing field was not achieved, which negatively impacted on the democratic character of the electoral environment.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) undertook a biometric registration of voters and put in place administrative arrangements for polling as scheduled. Stakeholder confidence in the institution, however, was lacking, due to a lack of transparency and inclusivity and poor communications. A seems of decisions, including on the layout of the presidential ballot, raised concerns about its impartiality. The new voter roll was generally inclusive, though it was not adequately shared with stakeholders and has some errors and changes which need to be clarified.

On Election Day, EU observers reported a large turnout and a generally well-managed and peaceful process. However, in some places them were reports of a high number of assisted voters and of voters not found on the voter roll. The count at the polling stations was fairly well organised, though with some inconsistent organisational practices. It was noted that while the result sheet was posted outside the polling stations in a majority of places, this was not the case everywhere.

  • The legal framework provides for key rights and freedoms for the conduct of competitive elections. However, shortcomings in the Electoral Act and the absence of campaign finance regulations limit the integrity, transparency and accountability of the process. Furthermore, delays in adjudication, dismissal of court cases on merely technical grounds and a number of controversial judgments compromised the right to an effective legal remedy.
  • The introduction of a number of legal and administrative changes was welcomed, including increasing the number of polling stations, limiting voters to voting only at their registered station, and limiting the number of excess ballots to be printed. ZEC put in place administrative arrangements for the holding of the 30 July polls as scheduled. However, the potentially positive measures were undermined by ZEC’s persistent lack of inclusivity and transparency. Further, the election management body became embroiled in a number of contentious issues, including the layout of the presidential ballot, modalities for printing and distributing ballots, poor procedures for confirming ballot security between printing and election day and the conduct of postal voting. ZEC also failed to make full or proper use of the Multi-Party Liaison Committees (MPLCs). These issues contributed to a deterioration in the relationship between the electoral commission and the opposition in the weeks before the election.
  • The switch to biometric voter registration (BVR) so close to the time of the election was a major challenge for ZEC, which assumed responsibility for the roll for the first time. Data indicates a reasonable capture rate for eligible voters, though with lower levels of registration in urban areas in particular and a number of errors which remain to be resolved. The manner of sharing the voter roll with stakeholders proved contentious and, while acknowledging the effort ZEC made in undertaking the BVR, its lack of transparency and failure to provide clear and coherent information about voter registration overall added to a sense of mistrust by stakeholders.
  • The campaign was largely peaceful, with freedoms of movement, assembly and expression respected, and both the main presidential candidates held numerous rallies across the country. However, while political rights were largely respected, there were concems regarding the environment for the polls and the failure to achieve a level playing field. Observers widely reported on efforts to undermine the free expression of the will of electors, through inducements, pressure and coercion against prospective voters to try to ensure a vote in favour of the ruling party. Such practices also included direct threats of violence, pressure on people to attend rallies, partisan actions by traditional leaders, collection of voter registration slips and other measures to undermine confidence in the secrecy of the vote, manipulation of food aid and agricultural programmes and other misuses of state resources.
  • Based on EU EOM monitoring, the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), failed to abide by its legal obligation to ensure equitable and fair treatment to all political parties and candidates. State-owned TV, radio and newspapers, which dominate the media landscape, were heavily biased in favour of the ruling party and incumbent president in their election-related coverage. Media operated in a generally free environment during the campaign and freedom of expression was respected. The legal framework for media, while providing for fundamental rights, needs further improvement to bring it into line with the Constitution.
  •  In the direct election for the National Assembly, only 14.75% of candidates were women and women were nominated in just 126 of the 210 seats. But via the additional proportional list system for the Assembly, a large number of women will nevertheless be elected to parliament.
  • On the day of the election EU charmers reported positively on the conduct of voting. Zimbabwean citizens turned out in large numbers and despite some lengthy queues the voting process was managed well by polling officials who worked hard to process voters. Some problems with the voter roll, or lack of voter awareness of their polling location, were evident. Party agents mere present in most places, but polling officials did not always check for indelible ink. Further, there appeared to be a high degree of assisted voting in some places. The vote count in polling stations was reasonably well organised, though procedures were not always followed, inconsistencies were noted and there was inadequate light in some places. The result was posted at the polling station in many instances, but not all. The collation of results is on-going and we continue to observe this. It is important that the final results are shared in a manner which provides for full transparency and accountability, including a breakdown by polling station.

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.

Traditional Zanu – PF rural support base may have just saved Mnangagwa

The MDC may want to hold their horses in celebrating a victory, as the preliminary results suggest that the Zanu-PF still holds the rural power in Zimbabwe.

Watch Live: It's Crocodile Done Deal, as Emmerson Mnangagwa becomes Zim president
A supporter of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa touches an image of the politician glued on a SUV at the ZANU-PF headquarter in Harare, on November 22, 2017. Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa flew home on November 22 to take power after the resignation of Robert Mugabe put an end to 37 years of authoritarian rule. Mnangagwa will be sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony on November 24, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI

The whole of Africa remains in an anxious state after the Zimbabwe Electoral Committee (ZEC) announced the preliminary results of the National Assembly seats.

Which political party has the most parliamentary seats so far?

Of the seven constituencies, six seats were won by Zanu-PF, Zimbabwe’s governing party, with the MDC only securing one seat.

It is still way too early to call it at this time. However, looking at the social placement of these constituencies may reveal a lot about the advantage Zanu-PF holds in these elections.

Emmerson’s Zanu-PF may still hold firm power in rural Zimbabwe

The majority of the seven constituencies that were announced were from rural settings, a place in Zimbabwe’s society that has always been former Zanu-PF leader, Robert Mugabe’s stronghold.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is the de facto president of the country, appears to be benefiting from the power the ruling party has in rural Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, using military forces, has practised fearmongering in this section of Zimbabwe’s society for many decades. Impoverished Zimbabweans’ votes have always been cast with hints of scrutiny.

In Tuesday’s announcement of the election’s preliminary results, it was no different.

The needed humbling for the MDC

After the MDC had spread information that they had already won the elections, without official confirmation from the ZEC, it almost came as a shock when it was discovered that they had only won in one constituency thus far.

It is way too early to make much of this. However, history, together with what we know so far about the results that have been announced, suggests that the MDC has not been able to convince people living in rural Zimbabwe of its promise.

Priscilla Chigumba, who is the chairperson of the ZEC, has confirmed that results from more constituencies would be announced on Tuesday evening going forward.

Of the 210 seats of the National Assembly, there are still 203 in contestation.

It is important to note that, according to Chigumba, the presidential results would only be announced once all of the results have been received and validated.