News / Africa

Zimbabwe Politics Grows More Volatile During 2010

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right chats to Prime Minister Morgan Tsavangirai during their end of year press conference at State House in Harare, Dec 20, 2010
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right chats to Prime Minister Morgan Tsavangirai during their end of year press conference at State House in Harare, Dec 20, 2010



Zimbabwe's appears to be in for more political turmoil with talk of fresh elections earlier this month at the conference of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party. Most Zimbabweans indicate they do not want elections next year because they may interfere with the political stability and economic progress made since the unity government came to power nearly two years ago.

Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change have been discussing elections in the final months of 2010. Much of the talk on the streets of Harare is very different from the noise coming from political leaders.

Blessings Sibanda works for a Harare company that sells agricultural supplies. He said that for him and many others, 2010 was one of the better years since Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis began a decade ago.

"We have seen a little improvement, increasing capacity and seen it in government where revenues have gone up to a point where government has given salary increases for next year, which means the festive season is going to be better, merrier," said Sibanda.

He said with a measure of economic stability many people now have more disposable incomes and will be able to buy extras for their families during holiday period, especially food. He and others say the talk of elections is worrying.

"The only damper will be after this festive season [if] we go into election mode and it will scuttle some of the benefits we have seen from the stabilization," said Sibanda.

Earlier in the year, Tsvangirai and Mugabe were getting on much better than at the end of the year.

In September, in Johannesburg, Tsvangirai described the slow progress and many frustrations of the unity government, but said people should remember the despair and catastrophe of Zimbabwe before it came to power.

"We are making progress. Zimbabwe is moving forward, it is slow, but it is there. We have health workers and medicines in our hospitals, teachers and books in our schools, food in our supermarkets, water in our taps and fuel in our petrol stations."

Tsvangirai later became angry when Mugabe awarded several top civil servant jobs to ZANU-PF supporters instead of to the MDC, as spelled out in the political agreement.

More important than allocation of these jobs, according to many political analysts, was the lack of progress in electoral reform and better governance, so that the next polls would be undisputedly free and fair.

A political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, Eldred Masunungure, said he was thoroughly disheartened by the state of the unity government at year end.

"I would say the coalition government is in a very perilous state and the marriage between the old regime ZANU-PF and its coalition partners, the two MDC formations, is approaching a stage of irretrievably breaking down," said Masunungure.

Tsvangirai ended the year also talking about elections. He said he wants a re-run of presidential elections because they were disputed by violence at the last polls in  2008.  

Elections would end the inclusive government, but the local public affairs watchdog, Veritas, said the constitution does not allow a presidential election to be held on its own.

Veteran political analyst, Brian Raftopoulos, who is also director of the Solidarity Peace Trust, said senior security officials within ZANU-PF, whom he called securocrats, have strong influence within ZANU-PF. They want elections to protect the massive assets they acquired under Mugabe's rule since 1980 independence.

"They would feel endangered if any other party came to power because of the massive abuses they have inflicted on Zimbabweans over the last 30 years," said Raftopoulos. "They have a terrible history of terror, torture, violence, throughout  post-colonial Zimbabwe."

ZANU-PF ministers in the inclusive government introduced controversial laws in early 2010 that say black Zimbabweans must own 51 percent of any company worth more than $500,000.

There was a storm of protest and the unity government moved quickly to water down and delay the so-called indigenization laws. By year-end no action had been taken beyond the continued threats from ZANU-PF leaders.

At the ZANU- PF conference, Mugabe linked indigenization to the targeted sanctions by the United States and European Union against senior ZANU-PF leaders and about a dozen mostly state-owned companies.

"In some cases we must read the riot act to the British and others, and say to them, this is only 51 percent we are taking," said Mugabe. "Unless you remove sanctions we will go for 100 percent."

Despite Mr. Mugabe's threats about indigenization, the unity Cabinet recently allowed foreigners to buy a 53 percent stake in a state company, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

The Southern African Development Community, which mediated and guaranteed the power-sharing government agreement, has not commented on the election talk by either  Mugabe or Tsvangirai. SADC indicated last month it will hold a meeting in January to discuss the unity government's progress in implementing the political agreement.

Mugabe relishes criticizing London and Washington, but he has shown in the past that he can be influenced by SADC. Many people are wondering what action SADC will take if Mugabe unilaterally dissolves parliament and declares elections next year before a new constitution can be put in place as called for by the power-sharing accord.

Raftopoulos is concerned SADC is running out of patience with Zimbabwe's political in-fighting.

"SADC in a sense are looking to bring this to some kind of finality, and so are all three parties [in the Zimbabwean government]. From SADC's point of view they would like an election that is reasonably free and fair that they can sell as legitimate," said Raftopoulos.

Raftopoulos said Zimbabwe has a long way to go in order to have reasonably free and fair elections.

Despite slow progress in 2010, businessmen are enjoying the stability that came with the inclusive government and believe 2011 is too early for elections.

The managing director of a chain of Harare retail shops, Paul Hanyani, says recent year-end bonuses for civil servants have improved sales and says the economy has improved.

"From the experience we had in our country, we are not yet ready for such kind of a process because we have seen things that are not good, violence and so on, retrogressiveness in terms of the economy. Personally I think we needed more time before we get to such a process again," said Hanyani.

Zimbabwe's unity government has no limit to its existence, but the constitution says elections must be held every five years - or by March 2013.

Experts say progress in implementing the political agreement, most of which is now enshrined in the constitution, is due for review before any of the three political parties in the unity government can unilaterally bring the inclusive government to an end.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

Day in Photos

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.