Zimbabwe Power Struggles and Politically Motivated Violence 1

In May 2014, rumors rose about the ill health of the then 90-year-old President Robert Mugabe, but afterwards his politically influential role was re-emphasized. Since the factual clarification of the question of succession was a taboo within the party, there were personal disputes between ambitious and high-ranking party cadres as well as between competing factions within the ZANU-PF about the succession plan.

Since the end of July 2014, President’s wife Grace Mugabe’s candidacy for the chairmanship of the ZANU-PF Women’s League has sparked discussions about the question of the successor to the presidency. She was elected head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League at the party congress in December 2014. The then Vice President Joice Mujuru was dismissed and expelled from the ZANU-PF at the beginning of April 2015. The political representation of women came into question as a result of these conflicts. Mugabe could count on the ZANU-PF youth league for a long time.

Some political observers and journalists have long assumed that the power of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was considered an ambitious presidential candidate and who has shared the office of vice president with Phelekezela Mphoko since 2014, would continue to grow. In the context of a state visit in July 2015, Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe wanted to tackle reforms based on the Chinese model, for example in the judicial and social sectors, with the help of Chinese political advisors. Also his assessment of the economic problem at the time Zimbabwe and the economic reforms received wide media coverage. For a long time – including in September and October 2017 – the question of the succession shaped conflicts in the leadership of the governing party ZANU-PF, specifically their disputes with the parliamentary group over the ambitious and controversial President’s wife Grace Mugabe.

Before that it had in June and July bis September 2016 strikes and protests because of the economic misery given and consequent supply problems to the crackdown has also spoken publicly about the use of the army. Political scientists analyze the development of democracy in Zimbabwe such problems, medium and long-term changes and fundamental structures. Some researchers hold positions that are loyal to the regime, which is partially criticized. On the part of German political foundations and research institutes there are publications that document developments. Individual journalists also provided information on political trends in 2017.

Political crisis culminates in Emmerson Mnangagwa’s takeover

On November 14 and 15, 2017, the political crisis in Zimbabwe escalated. According to ehealthfacts, the army advanced into downtown Harare, set up checkpoints on connecting roads and blocked access to parliament. President Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest. According to information on state television, which army officials had previously occupied, they took control of the state in order to overcome a serious political, economic and social crisis. Alludes to the escalated power struggle for the presidential succession and the dismissal of Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president on November 6, 2017, as well as his exclusion from the governing party ZANU-PF.

Army officials stressed on November 15, 2017 that Mugabe would remain in office; they wanted to bring criminals to justice – meaning representatives of Grace Mugabe’s ZANU-PF faction; it is not a coup. Political observers and commentators saw things differently. Factors for the assessment were constitutional references and the question of how the development community in Southern Africa (SADC) under the current chairmanship of South Africa and the African Union (AU) would react to the intervention of the army and which positions there was within SADC. Negotiations between President Mugabe and senior army officials took place on November 16, 2017. South African President Jacob Zuma had sent his defense ministers and security ministers to the Zimbabwean capital Harare for negotiations. Further discussions should be held at SADC level. There has been speculation about the influence of China as the most important trade and military partner. It was reported that both China and South Africa and other governments in the region had been briefed on the army’s plans in advance.

While opposition members like Morgan Tsvangirai have called for President Robert Mugabe to be removed, political observers assumed that Emmerson Mnangagwa would take over the presidency – possibly only until new elections. Civil society representatives like Evan Mawarire called for compliance with the constitution. Political observers in South Africa and officials in Germany gave assessments of the situation and hoped for opportunities for dialogue.

However, the information situation on November 15, 16 and 17, 2017 was partially diffuse, there were occasional reports that contradicted each other, and contradicting situation assessments that reflected information problems. In order to obtain the most differentiated picture possible in retrospect, reading different media in the country and in the region is recommended, especially since independent journalism remains a challenge. Also media from other continents contribute to the formation of opinion in.

On November 17, 2017, it was announced that Mugabe had attended an academic ceremony, a graduation ceremony at the Zimbabwe Open University, a university in Harare, and that he had refused to give in to pressure from the army and resign.

Joshua Nkomo

You may also like...