Category Archives: Zimbabwe

At age 90, Mugabe launches ZANU-PF purge in Zimbabwe

mugabe2015Photo credit to New Zimbabwe.

After 34 years in power, and having controlled the government of Zimbabwe since virtually the moment of its independence in 1980, following the collapse of the white minority rule of what was previously Rhodesia, you’d think that president Robert Mugabe would be focused more on anointing a successor than causing more upheaval. zimbabwe new icon

If so, you’d be wrong.

For a leader who emerged as the darling of Western governments in his fight for black majority rule, then became an international pariah as Zimbabwe became synonymous with one-party rule, land confiscation, oppression of the few white residents who didn’t leave in 1980 and, more recently, hyperinflation, cholera epidemics and rigged elections, it should come to no surprise that Mugabe (pictured above) still wants to call the shots, two months short of his 91st birthday.

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RELATED: Post-election, what comes
next for Zimbabwe?
[August 2013]

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The most recent upheaval involves Joice Mujuru, vice president of Zimbabwe since 2004 and the vice president of the ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front).


At age 59, she came of age during the struggle against Rhodesian white minority rule, earning the nickname ‘Spill Blood’ as a teenager in the fight for Zimbabwe’s freedom. Mujuru (pictured above) has literally spent her entire adult life working under Mugabe’s command. She’s been in government consecutively since 1980, when she was first appointed as a minister of community development and women’s affairs. Her husband, Solomon Mujuru, was until his 2011 death, the highly feared head of Zimbabwe’s military. Among the radical cadre of leaders within the ZANU-PF, Mujuru is widely viewed as a moderate voice who could have pulled Zimbabwe from its Mugabe-era isoltion into a more normal relationship with the rest of the world.  Continue reading At age 90, Mugabe launches ZANU-PF purge in Zimbabwe

Despite Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa is becoming more democratic, not less


African legal scholar Andrew Novak and I make the case at Reuters today that despite the reelection of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, sub-Saharan Africa is making gains with respect to democracy, and we examine the eight countries with elections between mid-July and September 30 alone (though as of earlier this week, Madagascar seems to be postponed until later this year).madagascar-flagMali Flag Iconzimbabwe new icon

We look to three catalysts in particular:

Recent African elections demonstrate progress in three ways.  First, long-delayed or boycotted elections are finally taking place, removing military regimes or one-party states from power.

Second, for the first time, several countries having enjoyed two or three free and fair elections in a row. This is significant because running two well-managed elections improves the odds that there will be a third, and then a fourth — turning an isolated electoral experiment into a true democratic tradition.

Third, elections once marred by violence have been carried out peacefully, improving the credibility of political leaders and encouraging coalition-building and a non-zero sum attitude toward governing.

So for every Zimbabwe, there’s a Mali, which represents a return to two decades of democratic traditions.  There’s a Kenya, where president Uhuru Kenyatta’s election earlier this spring wasn’t marred by violence, despite a close race.  There’s a Guinea, where long-delayed elections are moving forward after fraught negotiations between the ruling party and the opposition.  Even in Zimbabwe, July’s elections passed without the violence that resulted in 2008, and Mugabe’s successor will likely have to be much more responsive to economic and social pressures than Mugabe, who too often gets a free pass from Zimbabweans and other Africans due to his founding-father status in leading the country out of white minority rule in 1979-80.

Our conclusion is that there’s room for measured optimism:

It would be a mistake to view the developing African democracy with the same kind of rapture than some international investors have developed in recent years for Africa’s “cheetah” economies.  But in the wake of international discouragement over Zimbabwe’s vote, it would also be a mistake to conclude that African democracy is in retreat, when there are so many signs that it continues to grow stronger.

Photo credit to Joe Penney / Reuters.

Post-election, what comes next for Zimbabwe?


We didn’t know results of Zimbabwe’s Wednesday national elections, but it was clear from the first unofficial reports that it was going to be a huge victory for Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front), as every ‘election’ has been in the 33 years since Zimbabwe won majority rule and independence from the United Kingdom. zimbabwe new icon

That’s exactly what the Zimbabwe Election Commission has reported over the weekend: Mugabe has defeated Morgan Tsvangirai, the country’s prime minister and leader of the opposition MDC-T (Movement for Democratic Change) by a margin of 61% to 34%, with Welshman Ncube in third place with 2.7%.  In addition, the ZANU-PF has won 159 seats in the 210-member House of Assembly, the lower house of Zimbabwe’s parliament, to just 51 for the MDC-T.  That’s a loss of 49 seats for the MDC-T over the last parliament, and a gain of 59 for the ZANU-PF, giving Mugabe’s party the two-thirds majority it needs to amend Zimbabwe’s newly adopted constitution.

Tsvangirai and the MDC-T have rejected the results as a ‘huge farce’ amid plenty of reason to doubt the election’s fairness, but there are also reasons to believe that Tsvangirai made key strategic blunders that will leave him on the sidelines of Zimbabwean policymaking as the country turns to the question of who might ultimately succeed Mugabe.  It is that ‘election’ — an election with an incredibly small coterie of voters — that will ultimately matter more to Zimbabwe, no matter how rigged Wednesday’s vote. Continue reading Post-election, what comes next for Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe looks to ghosts past, present and future in key general election vote today


It’s easy to forget that when Robert Mugabe first came to power in 1980, after a long guerrilla campaign against the white minority rule of Ian Smith in what was then still known as Rhodesia, life in Zimbabwe was optimistic. zimbabwe new icon

A tale of post-colonial hell

Despite his declarations that he wanted a one-party Marxist state as the more aggressive of three competing nationalist leaders, Mugabe (pictured above), the leader of the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) overwhelmingly won Zimbabwe’s first majority-rule election with just a hint of the political intimidation and violence that would be a harbinger of Mugabe’s rule to come.  After the initial 1980 vote, with an air of magnanimity, Mugabe ushered in a post-independence era of optimism.  He refused to harass the white minority of Zimbabwe, even retaining Ken Flower, Zimbabwe’s chief intelligence official, who had once been responsible for trying to assassinate Mugabe.  More importantly for the black majority that could now express representative power in the country, Mugabe briskly set about enacting a program of improving education and health care for the masses, with promises of long-awaited land reform to come.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, and Mugabe turned first on his fellow nationalist rebels, the ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union), whose leader Joshua Nkomo initially served as secretary of home affairs in 1981 and 1982.  Mugabe, who called Nkomo a ‘cobra in a house,’ turned on the ZAPU following a trumped-up scandal over alleged ZAPU arms caches, added that, like a cobra, Nkomo should be attacked and his head destroyed.  Mugabe, who had been clandestinely constructing a secret ‘fifth brigade’ of soldiers loyal to Mugabe alone, began what would be a five-year campaign to subjugate the ZAPU.  The fight took on the ugly shades of ethnic cleansing for the next five years, with the ZANU-PF and military brigades loyal to Mugabe, from the Shona ethnic group, largely harassing — and in some cases using a food embargo with the active goal of starving — the ZAPU supporters, largely based in southwestern Zimbabwe among the Ndebele ethnic group.

About 80% of Zimbabwe’s population of 12.75 million people today is Shona, an ethnic group that predominates throughout Zimbabwe and parts of southern Mozambique and that speaks Shona, a Bantu family language.  But another 15% of the population belongs to the Ndebele ethnic group, which is clustered in the two provinces of Matabeleland, especially in the south (see below a province-level map of Zimbabwe’s 2008 results, which show Matabeleland, even two decades later, is an area of anti-Mugabe sentiment).  Their northern Ndebele language is also a Bantu language, but belongs to the separate Nguni group of languages that also includes Zulu and Xhosa, the former nearly universally understood in South Africa and the latter an important minority language of about one-fifth of southeastern South Africa, and Swazi, spoken largely in Swaziland.


Notwithstanding the violence, residents in Matabeleland voted overwhelmingly for the ZAPU in the 1985 parliamentary elections, which led to ever more oppression.  Nkomo essentially surrendered two years later, and Mugabe signed a unity agreement in 1987 that formally merged the ZAPU into the ZANU-PF and offered a general amnesty from an otherwise needlessly brutal effort to establish a one-party state.

In the meanwhile, the optimism with which a newly independent Zimbabwe launched had flagged.  Mugabe had already begun his longstanding campaign against white settlers in Zimbabwe with threats of expropriation of land, and the economy had already started its long, slow retreat under the weight of Mugabe’s new social spending, the inefficiencies of state-run industry and the rampant corruption that increased with Mugabe’s patronage-based rule. Continue reading Zimbabwe looks to ghosts past, present and future in key general election vote today

Eight sub-Saharan African elections within nine weeks highlights region’s fragile democracy


In the next three months, eight sub-Saharan African countries will go to the polls to elect a new president and/or parliament, a relative blitz that will not only highlight the region’s growing, if fragile, democratic institutions, but will call attention to many unique issues facing sub-Saharan Africa: unequal and unsteady growth rates, the role of Islamic jihad and security, improving health outcomes, the rule of law and governance standards, and further development of vital infrastructure.african union

Between July 21 and September 30, voters in countries with an aggregate population of around 100 million are scheduled to cast ballots, though of course not all elections are created equal — or conducted on incredibly equal ground.  In some countries, such as Guinea and Togo, it will be a success if the elections actually take place as planned; in other countries, such as Swaziland and Cameroon, elections will be essentially a sideshow of powerlessness.  In  Zimbabwe, where longtime president Robert Mugabe (pictured above) is seeking yet another term after 33 years in power, and in Madagascar, where voters will choose a new president and legislature after a problematic 2009 coup and a four-year interim government, the vote could herald once-in-a-generation leadership transitions.


Here’s the rundown, in brief:

Togo: July 25togo

Togo, a small west African nation of 7.15 million people, is scheduled to vote for a new parliament, despite the fact that elections have been cancelled twice — first in October 2012 and again in March 2013.  There’s no guarantee that elections this month will actually go forward, either.  While the government and opposition have apparently now reached a deal to hold elections later this month, the composition of the electoral commission remains a major open issue.

Togo’s president, Faure Gnassingbé, took office in 2005 with the support of the country’s military following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had served as Togo’s president since 1967.  Despite winning election in presidential votes in 2005 and 2010, he’s seen as somewhat of an authoritarian leader and his party, the Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais (RPT, Rally for the Togolese People) dominates the unicameral Assemblée nationale, holding 50 out of 81 seats.  Unlike its neighbors, there’s neither a Christian nor Muslim majority in Togo — out of every two Togolese adheres to indigenous beliefs, though one-third of its residents are Muslim and one-fifth are Christian.

Continue reading Eight sub-Saharan African elections within nine weeks highlights region’s fragile democracy

Zimbabweans vote on new constitution

Guest post by Andrew Novak


Voters in Zimbabwe are expected to approve a new constitution in a referendum on Saturday, which will include sweeping changes to the structure of government and to the bill of rights. zimbabwe new icon

After a contentious four-year process of negotiation and input by the Constitution Select Committee (COPAC), representatives of Zimbabwe’s tripartite power-sharing government have completed a draft constitution that is ready to go to voters.  Earlier talks failed despite a near-agreement in spring 2012, after Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) pulled out of talks with the two opposition factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  More than 70,000 polling officers will be deployed in advance of the Saturday referendum at about 9,500 polling places nationwide.  In addition, international observers are also expected in Zimbabwe, including a delegation from the Southern African Development Community.

The new constitution overhauls the structure of Zimbabwe’s government, imposing term limits on the president, further limiting executive power, and placing the feared Central Intelligence Organization under civilian oversight.  Importantly, the president will no longer have unfettered ability to appoint senators, provincial governors, or members of the judicial services commission, which oversees judicial appointments, although he will still have the ability to appoint members of the tribunal that investigates judicial conduct.

The new constitution ensures fair access to state media to all political parties and places electoral oversight solely under the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (previously, the state media was dominated by the ruling party and electoral management was divided among several offices).

For the first time, Zimbabwe’s constitution will include social, economic, and cultural rights, including a right to health care and education, although it limits these rights to citizens and permanent residents.  The constitution includes comprehensive protections for women’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities, but it still bans same-sex marriage; the draft also sharply curtails but nonetheless retains the death penalty.

One noted shortcoming is that power is not devolved to the provinces, so the draft perpetuates the over-centralization of Zimbabwe’s government, although it does successfully limit the ability to suspend constitutional rights during states of emergency.

More generally, the constitution has met criticism for two major reasons: first, it does not completely restrain broad executive power; and second, it was produced in a negotiated fashion between the leaders of the three major parties, lacked sufficient public input, and was rushed to a vote only thirty days after the final draft was published. Continue reading Zimbabweans vote on new constitution

13 in ’13: Thirteen world elections to watch in 2013


Welcome back and a happy new year to all of Suffragio‘s readers.

With 2013 off and running, here are the 13 world elections that will undoubtedly make a difference to the course of world affairs this year — and a key number of them are coming very soon, too. Continue reading 13 in ’13: Thirteen world elections to watch in 2013

Comrade Chinx ousted in Zimbabwe’s twitter coup: ‘We are new to this twita thing’

Too good to be true, especially for a Saturday.

It appears that the Zimbabwe government’s twitter feed is still having some growing pains:

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: We unreservedly apologise for saying whites are pink like raw meat We demanded it be deleted and have will return Cde Soddy as moderator. [7 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: Cde Chinx has been removed from twitter duties. We will however give him a fertile piece of land to farm. He is a good man, just angry. [6 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: We look forward to Cde Sodindo’s return & in the mean time our tweeting is on hold. We have also downloaded a spell check 2assist Cde Soddy. [6 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: Last tweet from Cde Chinx “Cdes I am sorry for my mistake, I have lots of angry against the white- I am sorry.” [6 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: 2show how dedicated & committed Cde Chinx has been he also asked that we tweet this photo of him & our beloved leader: [6 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: Cdes and friends! Its me cde Soddy! I will continue to tweet revolutionary statements and information for beloved party. Pamberi.NeZANUPF [2 hours ago]

ZANU PF ‏@zanu_pf: Cdes and friends please realise that despite our vigorious screen process, something wrong tweet, slip out. We are new to this twita thing. [2 hours ago]

Comrade Chinx’ Dickson Chingaira is a longtime supporter of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party of Robert Mugabe, and he has long had a cultural role in Mugabe’s governments — he is especially well known for his pro-liberation songs from the 1970s and in ensuing years.  It appears he has not had the best string of luck recently, though: he had his mansion bulldozed in 2005, had to become a fishmonger in 2010 and now has been ousted from his Twitter perch.