Zimbabwe January 2018


Zimbabwe Summary 23 January 2018

President Emmerson Mnangagwa (2017-present) appoints retired army commander General Constantino Chiwenga and veteran politician Kembo Mohadi as vice-presidents of both the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and the government. Concerns grow over increasing military involvement in Mnangagwa’s government ahead of the 2018 general elections.


Vice-presidential appointments cast doubt on possibility of free and fair elections …

President Emmerson Mnangagwa(2017-present) appointed two vice presidents, retired army commander General Constantino Chiwenga and former minister for state security, Kembo Mohadi, on 28 December.1 The appointments represent consolidation of power by Mnangagwa and the military. Chiwenga’s appointment soon after retiring from the army is seen as his reward for leading the coup that ended former President Robert Mugabe’s (1980-2017) 37-year rule and brought Mnangagwa to power.2 Mnangagwa also appointed Chiwenga as minister of defence and war veterans affairs, and Mohadi as national peace and reconciliation minister. 3 Mnangagwa assigned the two vice-presidents the joint responsibility of overseeing the performance of other ministers in cabinet. 4 Mnangagwa’s appointment of former high-ranking army officials to the government and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) is raising concern both in Zimbabwe and abroad.5 It also raises doubts about the new government’s commitment to a free election later this year. The military played a central role in Mugabe’s re-election throughout his presidency, particularly from 2000 when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) provided Mugabe with the most formidable challenge to his rule since independence.6 The military’s response included acts of violence and intimidation against opposition members and their supporters.7 Having played a critical role in Mnangagwa’s rise to power by assisting in Mugabe’s removal, the military is expected to seek to protect Mnangagwa’s presidency:8

“Mnangagwa’s rise to power was backed by the military, and it goes without saying that the army would not let Mnangawa lose the 2018 election to the opposition. Most importantly, Mugabe’s removal had little to do with democracy, but the preservation of political power and economic interests by Mnangagwa and his allies in the military, especially Chiwenga and Sibusiso Moyo, who have a well- documented history of shady business dealings in Zimbabwe and beyond.”
9 Mnangagwa has promised “credible, free and fair elections” in either May or June 2018.10 However, he has not backed this promise with any significant commitment to institute electoral reforms, which the opposition and civil society organisations have demanded.11 In a letter to Mnangagwa and newly appointed justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the Zimbabwe Election Resource Centre (ERC) and other opposition parties have requested electoral reforms to ensure free and fair general elections in 2018.12 The ERC has requested that Zimbabwe citizens in the diaspora be permitted to vote, and has asked for assurances that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will be protected against political influence13. However, Ziyambi has rejected these calls, arguing that the constitution and other laws already guarantee free and fair polls.14 Fears that the military may block the transfer of power should Mnangagwa lose elections to the opposition appear founded, given its history of violently campaigning for Zanu-PF’s candidates.15 However, a free and fair election could provide Mnangagwa with an opportunity to assert his legitimacy as Zimbabwe’s president. His critics, including former higher education minister Jonathan Moyo, have challenged the legality of his administration, alleging that Mnangagwa seized power unconstitutionally and is leading an “illegal regime”.16 During his inaugural address on 24 November, Mnangagwa described the November coup as “an act of defending the national interest” by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF)17. He also claimed that the defence forces’ actions were consistent with their mandate of defending and protecting Zimbabwe as well as upholding the constitution.18 The High Court of Zimbabwe issued a judgement on 25 November that ruled that the military intervention was constitutional and lawful. 19 The army’s increased influence in Zanu-PF’s party politics and government presents an even greater challenge to the opposition, which has become weaker over the years due to divisions in the party. Some opposition politicians are likely to cross the floor to join a re-aligned Zanu-PF after the election.20 Despite Mnangagwa’s apparent disinclination to introduce political reforms, his promises of economic reform are likely to appeal to a number of voters.21 Mnangagwa could be tempted to believe that Zimbabwe can achieve sustainable economic development without political reforms and respect for human rights. However, to support an appearance of legitimacy, he is expected to demonstrate that the rule of law still works in Zimbabwe.22

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1. [The Herald, 30 Dec 2017.]

2. [The Source, 3 Jan 2018.]

3. [The Herald, 30 Dec 2017.]

4. [The Herald, 30 Dec 2017.]

5. [Daily News, 3 Jan 2018.]

6. [Source, analyst, London]

7. [Source, analyst, London]

8. [Source, analyst, London]

9. [Source, analyst, London]

10. [News24, 22 Jan 2018.]

11. [Newsday, 20 Dec 2017.]

12. [Voice of America, 3 Jan 2018.]

13. [Voice of America, 3 Jan 2018.]

14. [Voice of America, 3 Jan 2018.]

15. [Source, analyst, London]

16. [Daily News 3 Jan 2018.]

17. [Newsday, 20 Dec 2017.]

18. [Newsday, 20 Dec 2017.]

19. [Newsday, 20 Dec 2017.]

20. [Source, analyst, London]

21. [Source, analyst, London]

22. [Source, analyst, London]