19 Apr

Zimbabwe’s Election Most Important in a Generation, Biti Says

Zimbabwe’s elections scheduled to take place this year will be the most important in a generation and critical to restoring democracy and economic growth in the southern African nation that has been dominated by one party since independence in 1980, opposition politician Tendai Biti said.

Zimbabwe has been an international pariah since a violent election and land-reform program in 2000 resulted in the imposition of sanctions by Western nations, caused an economic collapse and prompted the emigration of millions of citizens. A change in leadership in November that was engineered by the military is deterring some investors from returning.

“It is the most important election of our lifetime because it has to answer the question of legitimacy,” Biti said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Wednesday as Zimbabwe celebrated its national independence day. “The quality of this election, the substantive content and outcome of the election are going to be key.”

Zimbabwe is required by its constitution to hold general and presidential elections by Aug. 22. The vote will be the first without Robert Mugabe since 1980. Mugabe, 94, stepped down as president in November after the military temporarily took control of the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75-year-old former intelligence chief who replaced Mugabe, has been nominated by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front as its presidential candidate.

Six opposition parties have formed an alliance with the biggest group, the Movement for Democratic Change. Zimbabwe’s main opposition figure and MDC founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, died of cancer in February. Nelson Chamisa, a 39-year-old lawyer, will run as the coalition candidate.

Biti said the opposition’s prospects for the elections are good, partly because 60 percent of the 5.3 million registered voters are between 18 and 40 and have little memory of the liberation war that shaped the ruling party’s generation. Chamisa’s youth will help, he said.

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16 Feb

Death of Tsvangirai Threatens Unity of Zimbabwe’s Opposition

The death of Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has left his party in disarray ahead of presidential elections later this year.

Tsvangirai, who led the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, died Wednesday at the age of 65 from colon cancer.

He had been nominated to run against President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the presidential vote expected in the first half of this year but indicated last month he was considering bowing out of the race after undergoing treatment, saying it was time to leave his party in “new hands.”

While the MDC on Thursday appointed Nelson Chamisa, 40, as acting party president for 12 months, he may face challenges from deputy leaders Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe.

On their Twitter accounts, the three men have each claimed to be the official party voice and speak for Tsvangirai, fueling media speculation that they’re locked in a power struggle.

“The fear for the opposition is that his sad passing will exacerbate the ongoing leadership battle in the party, which may cause it to split or otherwise be in disarray ahead of polling,” said Derek Matyszak, senior research consultant at the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies.

The party has previously splintered with senior officials Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube forming their own parties.

Chamisa, a lawyer, was widely seen as Tsvangirai’s favored successor. Khupe is MDC’s longest-serving vice president and holds an information technology degree, while Mudzuri is an engineer with a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former mayor of Harare.

Tsvangirai’s death comes only three months after the ousting of Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until the military seized control in November 2017 and forced him to resign.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front named Mnangagwa to succeed him. A date for the presidential election hasn’t yet been announced.

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