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

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs