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Spring in Zimbabwe?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 19, 2018 03:27

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A change of leadership or the same old same old. Zimbabweans ponder the election results.

Euphoria gripped Zimbabwe in June this year. The leader of the last 37 years has gone. Robert Mugabe, undisputed leader since independence in 1980, had finally gone too far.

When ailing 93-year-old Mugabe sacked his erstwhile bodyguard and long serving ally, Emerson Mnangagwa from the Vice Presidency late in 2017, allegedly to make way for his ambitious South African-born wife, ‘Gucchi’ Grace, expectations gripped the country.

Mnangagwa had been a good friend of Mugabe, but was never going to be an easy enemy. He was Mugabe’s Minister of State Security when the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade broke the back of a possible Matabele opposition in what came to be known as the Gukurahundi massacre. Dismissed from the Vice Presidency, he fled to South Africa.

In this uncertainty the Commander of the National Army, Constantine Chiwenga, while on a visit to senior military leaders in China in November 2017, called loyal Generals and had them carry out a ‘soft’ coup, convincing Mugabe to resign and to retire to opulent quarters with a generous pension, but no access to power.

Mnangagwa returned to an interim Presidency, and appointed Chiwenga to a constitutionally questionable position as Vice-President.
 
Mnangagwa called for early elections, no doubt counting on the death of the long time leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, in February 2018. Tsvangirai’s successor, 40 year old Nelsom Chamisa, was a relative unknown and had little time to prepare.

Chathamhouse.org

Mnangagwa called for an open, democratic campaign, and urged all parties to feel free to campaign in all parts of the country, and for people to exercise their democratic rights.

Newzimbabwe.com


The election results were balanced on a knife edge. Chamisa claimed that poll station reports showed him winning, but delays in the release of the results led to public demonstrations in the capital, Harare. Peaceful demonstrations became violent when soldiers broke up a press conference called by the MDC, and killed between six and sixteen demonstrators, firing live ammunition.

Thestar.co.ke

Mnangagwa deplored the use of violence as well as the alleged detention of unspecified numbers of opposition members.
 
Chamisa appealed the election outcome, and was rewarded by a minute adjustment of the results, Mnangagwa’s total being lowered from 50.8% to 50.6%, Chamisa’s total increasing from 44.3% to 44.39%. . A court challenge is pending.

Mnangagwa at a subsequent summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) claimed that he was elected cleanly and fairly, and called on all Zimbabweans to work together to repair the damage caused to the economy during the Mugabe era.
 
While observers who hoped for a Zimbabwe spring were disappointed that the ancient Shona feudal political culture, overlaid by Colonial selective democracy has not been swept away by popular democracy, there are a few interesting developments. A growing popular involvement, peaceful mass demonstrations, and an apparent need by Mnangagwa and the military for popular support must point to a growing democratic spirit.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 19, 2018 03:27

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Zimbabwe's new leader begins journey to 2018 election, key tests are economic growth, democracy, reform.

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