28 Jun

Scene is set for interesting contest in Zimbabwe’s upcoming poll

Zimbabweans are heading to the polls on July 30. They will be making their decisions not only on what appears to be a dramatically changed political landscape, but with looming fears of a destabilised country following the recent bomb blast at a Zanu-PF election rally in Bulawayo.

Reports say that the attack targeted President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Opposition parties now fear a crackdown.

But Mnangagwa and his deputy immediately pledged that the bomb attack wouldn’t stop the elections going ahead.

Nonetheless, the incident is likely to create a climate of fear, insecurity, intense polarity and high securitisation of the state.

Even before it happened civil society actors and think-tanks in Zimbabwe had raised questions about the possibility of a rigged election.

But be that as it may, the circumstances are very different from when Zimbabweans went to the polls in 2013. Then Zanu-PF won a two thirds majority.

The upcoming elections will be closely fought between the 75-year-old Mnangagwa and new leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Alliance), Nelson Chamisa (40). In addition, the polls will be contested without two men who have dominated Zimbabwe’s politics for decades – Robert Mugabe, who was deposed in 2017 and Morgan Tsvangirai who died in February this year.

These two factors – new leaders and the absence of old ones – set up an interesting contest.

As things stand, the MDC-Alliance is seeking to regain its relevance in the absence of Tsvangirai. Across the aisle, Mnangagwa is seeking to legitimately secure his authority, and the dominance of his party following the November 2017 transition after 37 years of Mugabe’s rule.

The elections are significant for average Zimbabweans too. Citizens are eager for new leaders to kick start the economy after years of decline under Mugabe’s rule.

A lot is at stake for Zanu-PF. The party has aggressively pursued an agenda to restore its legitimacy regionally and internationally. For example, the Mnangagwa administration has repeatedly promised that the election will be credible. It has even taken its reform agenda to the international stage.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jun

‘Stay out of politics,’ Zimbabwe army told ahead of crucial elections

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has questioned the Zimbabwe National Army’s ability to explicitly stay clear of the southern African country’s forthcoming election –  regardless of its outcome.

In an interview with News24, Senior researcher at ISS, Derek Matyszak said that there was need for the Zimbabwean military to stay clear of politics if the country was to hold a credible election.

“It is important that the military publicly announces its pledge to stay clear of politics regardless of the election results. They have often been meddling in politics in the past and have just recently done that when they stepped in last year,” said Matyszak.

The Zimbabwean army played an important role in getting President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power last year, as they launched a brief take over from then president Robert Mugabe.

The military temporarily took control of the country on November 15 when internal feuding escalated in the ruling Zanu-PF party over then president Mugabe’s succession.

The takeover, which the army said was targeting Mugabe’s corrupt allies came days after the 94-year-old leader had fired then deputy Mnangagwa who had strong military ties and was widely tipped as the likely successor.

Mugabe’s wife Grace had indicated interest in succeeding her husband. The army’s intervention was followed by mass street protests against Mugabe and a motion to impeach the veteran ruler who resigned in a letter to parliament as proceedings to recall him began.

“The military’s involvement in politics is a worrisome issue because they have been meddling with the country’s politics for the past decades.

In 2008 they made it clear that they were not going to back any leader without any liberation credentials.

And they have also made it clear in the past seven months that they are the final arbiters in the country’s politics. So their announcement to stay clear of the election will be important,” said Matyszak.

To read the full article, click here.

06 Jun

Zanu-PF supporters to march for President Mnangagwa

Supporters of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party are reportedly expected to march in the capital Harare on Wednesday, in solidarity with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

According to NewsDay, Harare provincial chairperson, Godwin Gomwe, said that everything was set for the march.

“We are going ahead as planned, nothing has changed in terms of the message for the solidarity march…,” Gomwe was quoted a saying.

This comes a day after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance held its hugely-attended peaceful march demanding the implementation of electoral reforms.

The opposition are demanding the publication of the full voter roll, independent audits of ballot papers as well as guarantees of safety for non-government candidates.

Zimbabwe’s next polls – on July 30 – will be the first since the fall of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe who was forced to step down following a brief military takeover in November.

Mugabe who had been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from British colonial rule in 1980 was replaced by his former deputy, Mnangagwa.

Previous elections in Zimbabwe were marred by violence which peaked in 2008 when then-opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted a presidential run-off because of a spate of deadly attacks on his supporters.

Mnangagwa has pledged “free, fair and credible elections” as he seeks to end Zimbabwe’s isolation and mend fences with the West.

He will face-off against Nelson Chamisa who became leader of the MDC following Tsvangirai’s death from colon cancer in February.

Source: https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/zanu-pf-supporters-to-march-for-president-mnangagwa-report-20180606

05 Jun

Chamisa writes to Mnangagwa, ahead of election

Zimbabwean leader Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has said that interaction between the president and opposition figures “will only be a fixture of post-election Zimbabwe and not before”.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Charamba said this as he revealed that Chamisa recently wrote to the president asking for an inclusion in a government of national unit similar to that of Kenya.

In March, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former prime minister Raila Odinga said they had launched a new initiative to unify the country that was largely divided between tribes that supported the rival leaders, raising fears of violence.

Said Charamba: “Indeed, he (Chamisa) wrote asking for inclusion in a government of national unity, which is why he has given an example of Kenya — President Uhuru and Mr Odinga.”

Charamba, however, said that Mnangagwa would only likely consider making such an offer after the plebiscite.

He described Chamisa’s proposal as an attempt to “violate the democratic will of Zimbabweans in honour of a bilateral arrangement, more so when that arrangement stems from a fear of elections”.

This came after Mnangagwa reportedly declared that his ruling Zanu-PF party would still be in power after the July elections.

According to New Zimbabwe.com, Mnangagwa also described the opposition parties as “barking puppies” who would not mount any significant challenge to Zanu-PF.

“Zanu-PF is in power. Let it be known that nothing will change in this country even if we go for elections because people will vote for our party. Elections on July 30 belong to Zanu-PF. We dictate what happens in this country. We already have an upper hand and the elections have been won already by us. Let those who want to argue do so, but just vote for Zanu-PF,” Mnangagwa was quoted as saying.

Source: https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/mdc-leader-chamisa-writes-to-mnangagwa-asks-for-inclusion-in-unity-govt-ahead-of-election-aide-20180605

29 May

Mugabe snubs parliament over $15m diamond probe, given last chance

Former Zimbabwe president Robert Gabriel Mugabe has snubbed the country’s parliament in respect of summons for him to appear before a committee investigating diamond revenue.

The lawmaker who chairs the parliament’s mines and energy committee said Mugabe was left with a last opportunity to appear before them to answer questions.

“We had written to the former President for the second time to come but he has failed and we are going to write him for the last time as required by the law,” MP Themba Mliswa said.

The probe referred to by the state-run Herald as the ‘Missing $15 billion hearing’ is seeking clarification from Mugabe on alleged loss of US$15 billion worth of diamonds revenue during his tenure in office.

The committee said it will issue a final summons to him to appear before it without fail on the 11th of June.

The first summons was slated for 23rd of May at 0900 hours – when he failed to appear as widely expected, MP Mliswa put it down to miscommunication, stating that his old age meant that asking him to appear in the morning was unfair.

Asked what parliament will do in the likely event that he refuses to show up, Mliswa said he would be invited up to three times after which the service of the police will be solicited to help bring him.

“The implications would be the police bring you,” Mr Mliswa told the BBC last week.

The second appearance date was scheduled for 28th of May (today) at 1400 hours (1300 GMT) but there was no sign of the former leader who ruled for over three decades till he was ousted in November 2016 in what is widely described as a de facto coup by the army.

The Herald reports that the committee has summoned several former ministers, sitting ministers, high ranking security officials and all those who were part of the diamonds mining operations with a view to getting to the bottom of the matter.

Source: http://www.africanews.com/2018/05/28/mugabe-snubs-parliament-over-15m-diamond-probe-given-last-chance/

23 May

Zimbabwe launches a second state-owned airline

The first one is so indebted its planes are impounded when they land abroad. Will the second be any better?

HAVING one loss-making state-owned airline is bad enough. What, then, of a government that wants two?

Earlier this year Zimbabweans were startled to learn that the government had concluded a secret $70m deal to buy four second-hand Boeing jets from Malaysia to form the core of a new national airline, Zimbabwe Airways. This venture is supposed to compete with Air Zimbabwe, the flag carrier, which ran up huge debts thanks to poor management and ex-President Robert Mugabe’s habit of commandeering its planes so his wife could shop abroad.

The government hopes to stimulate tourism and business by reopening long-haul routes that are closed to Air Zimbabwe, whose planes can be impounded as soon as they land on foreign runways. It suspended flights to London’s Gatwick airport in 2011, for instance, after one of its planes was seized over an unpaid debt. It has since been banned from European skies because of concerns over the safety of its creaking planes.

Critics questioned the secrecy and the price paid for the new planes. The government had claimed for months that the new airline was a private initiative, funded by Zimbabwean investors living abroad. Joram Gumbo, the transport minister, told local newspapers it had been necessary to lie because “if they had been exposed as government of Zimbabwe planes, they would have been taken by the creditors who were claiming for money.” He also revealed that “the man in charge of Zimbabwe Airways” is Mr Mugabe’s son-in-law.

Officials see the new airline as a panacea for the economy. That seems unlikely. It will be pitted against rivals offering reliable connecting services via their hubs in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates. Airlines based in those countries have the upper hand on numerous fronts, among them economies of scale, network synergies and more frequent flights. Zimbabwe Airways will have only one advantage: the ability to fly between Harare, the capital, and destinations in Europe and Asia without boring stopovers. Yet there is probably not nearly enough direct traffic to fill its planes.

Read more at: The Economist

17 May

Zim electoral body tells opposition parties to ‘back off’

Zimbabwe’s electoral body has reportedly said that it would not be pressured into disclosing who the suppliers of ballot papers for this year’s crunch elections are.

According to NewsDay, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said that there was no law compelling it to involve political parties in its procurement deals.

ZEC said that it would make such information available at an appropriate time and would comply with current legislation’s.

“… there is no legal provision which requires Zec to involve political parties in its procurement processes for the ballot paper and the printer. Section 52A of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] only requires the commission to disclose the following information to all political parties and candidates contesting an election, and to all observers — (a) where and by whom the ballot papers for the election have been or are being printed; and (b), the total number of ballot papers that have been printed for the election; and (c), the number of ballot papers that have been distributed to each polling station,” the electoral body was quoted as saying.

ZEC indicated recently that it won’t go to tender over ballot printers. It said that it had already selected the company that would print ballot papers for the forthcoming polls and won’t put the job out to public tender because there was not enough time, the state Sunday Mail reported.

“Government has selected a company to print ballot papers and supply indelible ink for the forthcoming harmonised elections…. due to security and time considerations,” the report said.

“The tender would normally have been announced in the Government Gazette [but]…it was felt there was not enough time to follow this process,” the paper continued.

To read the full article, click here.

 

04 May

Zimbabwe Ruling Party Primaries Marked by Upsets and Mayhem

Zimbabwe’s ruling party saw some major upsets and raucous bickering during its primaries this week ahead of general elections due by August.

Senior officials including Oppah Muchinguri, the chairwoman of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Industry Minister Mike Bimha and Chris Mutsvanga, an adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, all lost the nominations in their constituencies, according to tallies released by the party on Thursday. Mutsvanga said in a letter to Zanu-PF that he rejected the results.

The primaries in some areas took place amid chaos after ballot papers arrived late or were delivered to the wrong locations. In several wards in Mashonaland West Province, brawls broke out and opposing sides threw bottles at each other, according to Jairos Wirirani, who went to vote in the small farming town of Raffingora, north of the capital, Harare..

“It’s not surprising that the old guard is falling,” Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst at the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said by phone from Harare. “We’re seeing a reconfiguration of politics in Zanu-PF, and by extension Zimbabwe.”

Before the resignation in November of Robert Mugabe, who ruled the southern African nation since 1980, Zanu-PF usually imposed approved candidates.

Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe as president and the head of Zanu-PF, said in an interview with the state-controlled Herald newspaper published on Wednesday that the disorganization in the primaries was a result of a bid “to root democracy into the party.”

On Thursday, he acknowledged complaints that police helped organize the voting process in some areas and told the Herald that the practice was illegal.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change will hold its primaries next week, a spokesman for the party, Luke Tamborinyoka, said by phone Thursday.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-03/zimbabwe-ruling-party-primaries-marked-by-upsets-and-mayhem

20 Apr

Firing of Striking Nurses Stokes Concern About Zimbabwe’s Democracy

The Zimbabwean government’s dismissal of thousands of striking nurses drew condemnation from labor unions and dimmed hopes that the removal of Robert Mugabe as president last year would usher in a new era of stability in the southern African nation.

The firings may hinder the drive by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe in November, to bolster confidence among the public and investors that he can re-establish the rule of law following four decades of Mugabe’s administration that showed scant regard for labor rights.

The decision to dismiss the nurses, who were demanding better pay and working conditions, was announced on Tuesday by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the former military commander who was instrumental in forcing Mugabe to resign.

“Such ill-advised actions that offer a repeat of past repression should be avoided,” said Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC African Economics in Paarl, near Cape Town.

“It highlights the danger of military men assuming political power and failing to note the differences in problem-solving tactics appropriate when wearing a suit.”

While Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution enables all employees other than those who serve in the security forces to strike, it says laws can limit the exercise of that right to maintain essential services.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told reporters Thursday that the dismissed nurses can reapply for their jobs and the government will hire others who are unemployed.

Chiwenga defended the decision to fire the nurses, saying they provide an essential service and refused to go back to work despite the government delivering on an agreement to allocate them a total of $17.1 million in additional pay.

Their actions were “deplorable and reprehensible” and may be politically motivated, he said in an emailed statement from Harare, the capital.

Lovemore Madhuku, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said the law doesn’t allow summary dismissal, and the presidency has no power to fire nurses who are employed by the Health Service Board.

To read the full article, click here.

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.

To read the full article, click here.