Vehicles using the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia will have to pay up to $30 in toll fees from next year, as the two countries say they need to raise funds to maintain the facility.

The two neighbours share the 110 year old bridge, whose maintenance is carried out by the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Zambia Railways (ZR). In a statement, issued on Friday the Emerged Railways Properties, a joint company owned by NRZ and ZR said the toll fees will come into effect from January 1.

“Following the enactment of Statutory Instrument 171 of 2012 in terms of Section 6 of the Toll Roads Act (Chapter 13:13) published in the government gazette dated 2 November 2012, all motorists traversing the Zambia-Zimbabwe border of Victoria Falls are hereby notified the Emerged Railways Properties will commence the collection of Toll Fees for the use of the Victoria Falls Bridge effective 1 January 2017,” the statement reads.

The Road Transport and Safety Agency (RATSA) will collect the fees on behalf of the two governments at the two border posts and entry points to the bridge. Haulage trucks will pay $30 while buses and mini buses which are mostly used by tour operators on a daily basis will fork out $7 and $5 per entry respectively.

Heavy vehicles will part with $10 while taxis and small vehicles below two tonnes will be exempted, according to the statement. The bridge, said ERP in the statement, is key to the socio-economic life of both countries as well as the SADC region hence the need for regular maintenance for it to cope with increasing levels of traffic.

“It is against this background that the government of Zambia and Zimbabwe have resolved to put in place the requisite legal instrument for the tolling of the bridge. The Victoria Falls toll fees will be used specifically for the refurbishment and maintenance of the bridge in order to guarantee its long term existence.”

The bridge was constructed in 1905 by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company and is the gateway to the Sadc region.

 

The Source

Who would have thought that this year would end with Robert Mugabe having lost the presidency of both the governing Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe? None could have foreseen such a development being the work of his ruling party’s inner circle.

The whole development is clearly a product of internal Zanu-PF tensions and actions. The military top brass involved are old standing Zanu-PF cadres that have propped Mugabe up for decades. Emerson Mnangagwa, who has been sworn in as his successor, has been Mugabe’s right hand man for 37 years.

Zimbabweans have every right to celebrate the end of Mugabe’s long and disastrous reign, but they would be wrong to assume that this is the end of their political problems. The same Zanu-PF leadership has taken control of this transition, making it an intra-party matter rather than a national opportunity for deepening democracy as many hope.

Mnangagwa’s first priority will be to ensure consolidation of Zanu-PF power. He may do so by positioning Zanu-PF as a born again party committed to change. He may seize the opportunity to introduce real changes in the conduct of Zanu-PF and government leadership, in economic policies and in rebuilding the social compact by showing greater maturity in relations with other political parties and civil society.

But, as reports surface about the harassment of some of Mugabe appointed ministers and their families at the hands of men in uniform, we are reminded that the military should never be encouraged to manage political problems because they are likely to cross the line of civil-military relations. Excessive use of military power is likely to follow.

Mugabe the survivor

Mugabe has survived many attempts to get rid of him before. These include the efforts of the previous opposition Zimbabwean African People’s Union (Zapu) under Joshua Nkomo in the 1980s, through to the Zimbabwe Unity Movement in the 1990s and to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2000s. All these efforts failed because Mugabe has, at times, been popular, at times cunning and at times ruthless in preserving power – for himself and the Zanu-PF.

At times reliance on patronage of indigenous systems of leadership helped Mugabe and the party ward off challenges. Over the past 15 years, Zanu-PF has relied on the crude use of state power, draconian security measures and brutality on the streets.

It has also resorted to buying popularity through measures such as the violent land restitution process between 2001 and 2007.

Zimbabweans at the inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare. EPA-EFE/Aaron Ufumeli

After 2007, Zanu-PF and Mugabe had to contend with a regional mediation process by the Southern African Development Community after an election they lost, but which the MDC did not win by margins needed to form its own government. Zanu-PF responded by unleashing violence and brutality on opponents. Power sharing, which gave the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangarai an opportunity to position themselves as alternatives, saw Mugabe and Zanu-PF play every trick in the book to preserve power.

After Zanu-PF narrowly won the 2013 elections, it seemed that Mugabe and his party had finally prevailed. But the power battles turned inward, as party factions jostled over who would succeed Mugabe.

Zanu-PF power struggles

Various factions in the Zanu-PF have crystallised into two main camps.

The first is Mugabe and his henchmen of the so-called Zezuru group, including top heads of security forces who had wanted Mugabe to continue for a long time. They favoured Solomon Mujuru before he died and later Mnangagwa as a successor.

The second was made up of younger, rather flamboyant group of mainly men around Mugabe Zanu-PF politicians who had gained power and influence in the civil service. This group was known as the G-40. In the past few years this group backed Grace Mugabe as her husband’s successor.

Things have hung in the balance with the G40 gaining momentum because they could influence Mugabe’s judgement and decisions through his wife and nephews. This group could make a call who needed to be fired or isolated – and the president would act accordingly.

For example, when moderates in the Zanu-PF and war veterans touted Vice President Joice Mujuru as possible successor to Mugabe, the G40 aimed a barrage of insults against her and publicly declared that her time was up. Shortly afterwards Mugabe fired her and got her expelled from the party. This deepened divisions within Zanu-PF and intensified concern about the G40 and Grace Mugabe.

The last straw was the firing of Mnangagwa and threats against chiefs of armed forces.

Believing that Mugabe was being manipulated by the G40, the military stepped in to weed out those around the president. What they wanted was to persuade Mugabe to go and for Mnangagwa to replace him in as peaceful a process as possible so as not to destabilise Zanu-PF’s hold on power. The military showed great patience as it set about achieving this outcome.

In the end – and after citizens had taken to the streets calling for Mugabe, and the G40, to go – the old man resigned, thus avoiding an embarrassing impeachment process.

New forces versus old

Mugabe is gone. A faction of the Zanu-PF that had gained currency around him is being squeezed out of every space in Zimbabwe. A new faction under Mnangagwa is in place.

Mugabe stands as a shadow of continuity behind leaders who have been around him for decades and who have now been entrusted with the renewal agenda. Mugabe has left, but what’s been called Mugabeism remains: both the positive side of vehemently defending the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and the negative side of the brutality of state power.

Mnangagwa and the military have lavished him with generous post-retirement packages, honoured with a holiday in his name and praise. The interim president has warned the deposed G-40 faction of Zanu-PF to return stolen state monies or face the law.

A clean break with Mugabe’s heritage of violence and crude dominance will have to wait even beyond elections next year. Zimbabwean citizens have been energised by their role in removing Mugabe. They would do well to remain vigilant, to press for more fundamental changes in the way the state behaves and insisting on democratic processes in economic policies. Otherwise they will continue to live under one Zanu-PF faction to another without real change in their lives.

 

Siphamandla Zondi, Professor and head of department of Political Sciences and acting head of the Institute for Strategic and Political Affairs, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

When the first reports appeared of military tanks approaching Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, questions started flooding my mind: would this mean a transition in power? And would it be a transition of the kind regarded as “model” transitions – transition from dictatorship to democracy?

Ever since it became clear that Emmerson Mnangagwa would be inaugurated as the next president, there are fears that the country wouldn’t go through a genuine transition, that one dictator might simply replace another as was the case in Egypt.

Transitional justice is a term coined by the scholar Ruti Teitel in 1990. She defined it as a form of justice that could address the legacy of human rights violations and violence during a society’s transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one. Transitional justice refers to the ways in which countries emerging from periods of conflict and repression address large scale human rights violations so numerous and serious that the normal justice system is unable to provide an adequate response.

Transitional justice has become a vital part of modern peace building efforts alongside disarmament, security sector reform and elections. The United Nations views it as the full range of processes associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses with a view to ensuring accountability, serving justice and achieving reconciliation.

It encompasses issues such as whether the perpetrators of serious human rights violations under a previous regime should be prosecuted or pardoned. It also involves looking at reparations, institutional reform, public recognition of violations and whether and how investigations should be initiated to uncover the truth about past violations.

It’s still unclear whether Zimbabwe will manage an effective transition to participatory democracy and freedom. But the current signs are not encouraging.

Transitional justice in Zimbabwe

After three decades of state sponsored violence, there is an acute need to break the culture of impunity that has become entrenched in Zimbabwe. The steady erosion of human and political rights has further led to a lack of faith in the rule of law.

Early excitement about prospects of transitional justice in Zimbabwe has already been dampened by the agreement struck between the military and the outgoing president. The deal entails exempting Robert Mugabe from prosecution for crimes committed during his 37 years in office. The immunity deal reportedly covers numerous members of Mugabe’s extended family, including his stepson and nephews. It may also include senior ruling party officials detained by the military as well as those who are currently overseas.

This immunity agreement creates grave doubts about the legitimacy of the foundation on which the new Zimbabwe will be built.

It’s clear that the agreement violates international law. Under Mugabe’s rule opposition supporters suffered harassment, intimidation, forced removal and death. Crimes against humanity were also committed. There are also strong allegations that Mugabe ordered his opponents to be tortured. International law holds that to be guilty of torture, it isn’t necessary that a person should have directly participated in torture. Ordering torture is sufficient to warrant conviction.

There are other reasons to doubt whether Zimbabwe’s new leadership is interested in pursuing transitional justice. For example, would they be prepared to look back at post-independence crimes such as the Gukurahundi massacre in Matabeleland that claimed the lives of 20 000 people? Given Mnangagwa’s prominent role in this massacre it’s highly unlikely that official attempts will be undertaken to uncover the truth of this massacre.

Measured against the South African transition, it is already clear that the “transition in Zimbabwe” is imperfect. This is because it lacks democratic legitimacy. Unlike the wave of transitions from socialism to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Zimbabwean transition, at this stage, does not look as if it has the potential to truly liberate Zimbabwean citizens and to convey them into a state in which human rights are supreme.

Free passage for Mugabe

Former Zimbabwe finance minister and opposition party member Tendai Biti said in a recent interview with South Africa’s Sunday Times that there was no point in prosecuting Mugabe. He said:

we cannot let the past continue to hold the future, and Mugabe is in the past… He must be given the right of free passage…

But Mugabe does not deserve a “right of free passage”. To award him this right would be to make a mockery of the principles of international law, transitional justice and the ongoing suffering of millions of Zimbabweans.

Biti emphasised the importance of economic growth and transformation. As a former finance minister he should know that financial prosperity cannot be separated from social cohesion and respect for the rule of law.

 

Mia Swart, Professor of International Law, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Long in coming but swift and relatively painless when it happened, the downfall of Robert Mugabe offers Zimbabwe a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recalibrate its hitherto dire trajectory. The transition comes with myriad challenges and opportunities, the handling of which will ultimately determine what direction the country takes. Here are four key ways that the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, can get it right.

1. Strike a new political settlement

The lesson of Zimbabwe’s past 20 years is that a toxic political environment is a severe impediment to the economic development. Political risks create uncertainty and keep sorely needed investment away. A key priority must therefore be the creation of a more inclusive political settlement. When the time came, Zimbabweans from all walks of life were ready to come out and clamour for a fresh start – their “ideals” clearly unified them and need to be harnessed to something concrete out of them.

Some of the provisions needed to do this are already in the constitution, and simply unimplemented. Others, however, need to be negotiated within and among all political actors. Equally, it’s important Zimbabwe doesn’t rush into new elections, but instead creates the conditions necessary for free, credible and fair ones in the future. Properly managed elections are not a magic wand, but they will go a long way in reducing the socio-economic costs of political risks associated with instability.

2. Reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth

Zimbabwe has never fully recovered from the economic crisis that peaked in 2008. GDP growth rebounded to 11.9% in 2011, but declined to an estimated -2.5% by 2017. Formal sector jobs have shrunk significantly over the last two decades. A 2015 report showed that of the 6.3m people defined as employed, 94.5% were working in the informal economy, 4.16m of them as smallholder farmers. The formal sector, meanwhile, accounts for just 350,000 people.

This means a majority of Zimbabweans can be classified as “working poor”, doing precarious work with irregular incomes in agriculture and the informal sector. Poverty levels remain high: around 72% of Zimbabweans now living in chronic poverty. The challenge is to generate national and individual wealth, while also making sure a lot more people benefit from growth than have done over the past two decades.

Currently, the service sector contributes the most to GDP. While mining and the service sector have earned the country much-needed foreign currency and contributed significantly to GDP growth, they can only do so much alleviate poverty in a country where a majority of people still live off the land.

3. Make agriculture work

To start reducing poverty as soon as possible, the government needs to get the agricultural sector working again.

When agriculture does well in Zimbabwe, the knock-on effect is remarkable. It not only raises rural incomes (thereby reducing poverty) but also creates more manufacturing jobs in the cities and small towns as the “agriculture-induced” demand for goods and services rises. It also expands the tax base and enables Zimbabweans sitting on productive assets to contribute to building the economy.

The good news is that, while other sectors of the economy will take more time to develop, this is one area that can provide some quick returns. Productivity needs to keep rising and support must be provided for people who have access to farmland, but are currently too poor to use it effectively.

Getting agriculture to work ought to be a core priority. Given the nature of structural changes (particularly the emergence of opportunities through global value chains) a key starting point must be an agricultural review commission to investigate current conditions for smallholder agriculture and recommend new policies required to transform in the sector.

4. Unlock investment

With abundant natural resources and a relatively literate population, Zimbabwe is well-placed to attract a large share of the investment being funnelled through South Africa into the rest of the continent.

The country’s mining industry, for one, has already proven its capacity to attract investment, provided global commodity prices recover as expected. But even then, that will depend upon cleaning up Zimbabwe’s toxic political environment and confused policymaking, both of which increase costs for investors.

The country could also benefit from opportunities in the emerging digital economy, but again, this will mean prioritising and maintaining investment in bureaucracy and infrastructure.

All this will require huge sums of money, which the government may not have at the moment. Still, perhaps this new beginning is at least an opportunity for constructive dialogue with the donor community, something Zimbabwe struggled to manage while Mugabe was at the helm. If Zimbabwe gets the politics right, there is every reason to be optimistic that this promising country will flourish at last.

 

Admos Chimhowu, Senior Lecturer, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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New Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Friday pledged to revive Zimbabwe’s moribund economy and create jobs for its unemployed masses in a speech to mark his inauguration. Mnangagwa also said the 2018 elections would go ahead and promised to restore financial and economic stability.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was on Friday sworn in as Zimbabwe’s third president by Chief Justice Luke Malaba to loud cheers at a packed National Sports Stadium, marking the end of Robert Mugabe’s nearly four decades rule and a new chapter for the southern African country.

Less than three weeks after he fled the country to escape ‘threats’ on his life, Mnangagwa stood on the podium to pledge uphold the constitution of Zimbabwe and to protect the rights of its 16 million citizens.

“I will devote myself to the wellbeing of Zimbabwe and its people,” he pledged and to ‘oppose whatever that will harm Zimbabwe.”

Mnangagwa, for over 40 years one of Mugabe’s closest and trusted lieutenants, declared upon his return to the country that Zimbabwe was entering a new era of democracy.

He becomes the third president of Zimbabwe after Canaan Banana and Robert Mugabe, the second executive president after Mugabe, to take office.

Mugabe, who ruled with an iron fist during his often tempestuous reign, resigned on Tuesday, three months before his 94th birthday as parliament debated a motion to impeach him, one week after the military took over control of the country.

Mnangagwa is taking over just months away from an election in which he will be the ZANU-PF candidate. A shattered economy marked by empty banks and silent factories awaits Mnangagwa while restoring investor confidence will have to be at the top of the agenda.

The buy-in of the international community will be key and so far the noises from key allies have been positive. Mnangagwa has already spoken of receiving pledges of support’ from the international community, an abomination under Mugabe but can only be good for him.

 

Credit: The Source

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has warned members of the public against using Bitcoin, saying its use is not legal in the country. The RBZ has been lax towards regulating the crypto currency arguing that despite its popularity, the central bank discouraged its use due to lack of a regulatory frameworks for exchanges and start-ups providing digital currency related financial services.

The central bank said whilst it recognised the economic benefits of using digital currencies such as Bitcoin, it believed that any type of unregulated alternatives should be approached with caution, even if it provided the unbanked an opportunity to regain financial control.

RBZ director and registrar of banking institutions, Norman Mataruka, said Bitcoin was illegal and the regulator would not allow its use in Zimbabwe. "In terms of the Bitcoin, as far as we are concerned, it is not actually legal. In Southern Africa, what we have done as regulators, we have said that we will not allow this in our markets," he said.

"Research is currently being undertaken to ascertain the challenges and risks associated with these particular products and until we have actually established and come up with a legal and regulatory framework for them, it will not be allowed," he said.

Recently the RBZ adopted an approach of warning citizens not to get involved with crypto currencies saying if they did, they risked losing their investments and not having any recourse should that happen. Bitcoin, which was brought to popularity in Zimbabwe through the MMM pyramid scheme, whereby members could "give help" and "ask for help" in the form of Bitcoin, managed to attract as many as 66 000 people.

However, when it crashed, a number of people were 'burnt' and left with a sour taste in their mouths.

Some Bitcoin startups in Zimbabwe include Bitmari, a company which enables Zimbabweans to send money across other countries in Africa, at substantially lower costs.

 

- New Ziana.

November 2017 will go down in the history of Zimbabwe as the beginning of the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37 year tyranny. A tumultuous week finally culminated in his resignation on November 21st. One cannot understate the widespread jubilation at the demise of Mugabe and his desire to create a dynasty for himself through his wife Grace.

But the optimism is misplaced because it doesn’t deal directly with the dearth of democracy in Zimbabwe.

First, contrary to popular sentiment that the coup was meant to usher in a new era of political liberalisation and democracy, the takeover is actually meant to deal with a succession crisis in Zanu-PF. The military made this clear when it said that it was dealing with criminals around Mugabe. And the party’s secretary for legal affairs Patrick Chinamasa indicated that removing Mugabe from the party’s Central Committee was an internal party matter.

Secondly, I would argue that the military resorted to a “smart coup” only after its preferred candidate to succeed Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was fired from the party and government.

The way in which the military has gone about executing its plan upends any conventional understanding of what constitutes a coup d'etat. It’s a “smart coup” in the sense that the military combined the frustrations of a restive population, internal party structures and international sympathy to remove a sitting president. It thereby gained legitimacy for an otherwise partisan and unconstitutional political act – toppling an elected government.

This begs the question: Is the military now intervening for the collective good or for its own interests?

Why the military intervened

It is baffling to imagine how the military has suddenly become the champion of democracy and regime change in Zimbabwe.

It’s clear that what motivated the military commanders was a fear of losing their jobs and influence after their preferred successor was purged. They launched a preemptive strike against Mugabe to safeguard their own selfish interests as a military class and the future of their careers.

Given the symbiotic relationship between the Zimbabwean military and the ruling Zanu-PF party, it was inevitable that the top commanders would be embroiled in the party’s succession crisis. After all, the military has been the key lever behind the power of both Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF since 1980.

In the past they have acted as part of the Zanu-PF machinery, openly campaigning for Mugabe alongside other security agencies.

And they have played a key role in neutralising political opponents. Back in the 1980s the military was responsible for the massacre of thousands of civilians and Zapu supporters in Matebeleland. More than two decades later in 2008 they were responsible for the torture, death and disappearance of 200 opposition activists and the maiming of hundreds more.

In addition, the UN has implicated Mnangagwa and the generals in the illegal plundering of resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have also been fingered in the disappearance of diamond revenues from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields.

On top of this the military and Zanu-PF share a special relationship that has its roots in the liberation struggle. The Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) was the political wing of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) during the liberation war. They therefore have vested interests in the survival of the party.

After independence, the relationship remained intact as the military became the guarantors of the revolution. Some of the same surviving commanders of Zanla are still senior high ranking officials. The commanders are also bona fide members of the ruling party and guarantors of Zanu-PF power.

The same securocrats are also members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association. This quasi paramilitary group is an auxiliary association of the ruling party and has fiercely opposed Mugabe’s attempt to create a dynasty.

Military must step aside

Zimbabwe goes to the polls next July to choose a new president and parliament. The elections – if conducted in a credible way – will provide the next government with the legitimacy it needs to take the country out of its political and economic crises.

Now that Mugabe has resigned the hope is that the military will allow a genuinely democratic transition to take place. All political players, including opposition parties, would need to be incorporated into a broad-based transitional authority pending credible elections.

But for the elections to be credible, the transitional authority would need urgently to reform the electoral system. This would ensure Zimbabweans can freely and fairly choose their leaders. Without this, peace and prosperity will continue to elude Zimbabwe.

The ConversationIn the long run, the military would do well to get out of politics instead of continuing to view itself as “stockholders” in the country’s political affairs because of its liberation struggle credentials.

 

Enock C. Mudzamiri, DLitt et DPhil Student in Politics, University of South Africa

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

For decades, Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe in a ruthless, even recklessmanner. Over nearly 40 years, he turned the “jewel of Africa” into an economic basket case that’s seen inflation of up to 800 percent.

Then, late in the night of Nov. 14, the country’s security services detained and put Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president under house arrest in what appeared to be a military coup. The whereabouts of his powerful wife, Grace, are unconfirmed.

 

Much remains unclear at this early stage. Will violence erupt? Is this really the end of the Mugabe era?

I don’t know the answers to those questions yet. I’m not sure even Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who appears to have orchestrated Mugabe’s overthrow, knows how his gambit will turn out.

But with each passing hour, it is increasingly evident that Zimbabwe – a country whose politics I spent uncountable hours grappling with as a State Department official – is poised to see its first real leadership transition since 1980.

Setting the stage for Zimbabwe’s coup

For decades, Mugabe’s grip on Zimbabwe was iron-clad. Even when challenged by an invigorated opposition in 2008, he kept the presidency by entering into a nominal power-sharing agreement. After a decisive electoral victory in 2013, though, he cast the coalition aside.

But as the elderly president grew increasingly frail this year, the power struggle to succeed him became frenzied. Two major camps were vying for power.

Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who as a soldier fighting for Zimbabwe’s liberation earned the nickname “the crocodile,” represented the old guard. The 75-year-old enjoyed strong military backing, particularly from the veterans’ association, a powerful coalition of former combatants from Zimbabwe’s independence struggle which began in 1964 and ended in 1979.

The crocodile who snapped back. Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

Last year, the group broke with Mugabe in a public letter, declaring that he had “presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin.” Many believed that Vice President Mnangagwa orchestrated the group’s letter as a shot across the bow to warn would-be rivals.

The second camp jockeying to control Zimbabwe before the coup was led by Mugabe’s current wife, Grace Mugabe. At a relatively spry 53, she represented the younger generation, drawing significant support from the ruling party’s loyalist Youth League and from an informal grouping of emerging leaders known as “Generation 40.”

But Grace Mugabe was deeply unpopular among ordinary Zimbabweans, who called her “Gucci Grace” because of her extravagant spending. Plus, she had a reputation for cruelty. Earlier this year, the president’s wife faced accusations of beating a 20-year old South African model with an electric cable.

In September, after Vice President Mnangagwa was emergency airlifted to South Africa due to a strange illness, Grace Mugabe had to publicly deny, on state TV, that she had poisoned her rival.

As recently as early November, it appeared that Grace’s camp had prevailed. President Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa. Mnangagwa, it seems, had a different plan. While in exile, he stayed in touch with his military allies.

On Nov. 14, Mnangagwa’s camp struck back. By the next morning, Mugabe was under house arrest, his wife had reportedly fled to Namibiaseeking asylum and Mnangagwa’s cohort appeared to control the country.

Democracy or dictatorship?

At least, that’s the picture right now. Events have moved swiftly in the last 24 hours, and some big questions remain unanswered.

If Mnangagwa officially takes power, the first unknown is whether he will rule by fiat or cobble together a transitional government. It’s unclear whether Mnanangwa and his allies have any real interest in introducing democracy to Zimbabwe. To do so, they would need to hold an election within a reasonable period of time, say six months.

Military coups don’t have a promising track record of ushering in democracy. Recent scholarship finds that while “democratization coups” have become more frequent worldwide, their most common outcome is to replace an incumbent dictatorship with a “different group of autocrats.”

Soldiers patrol the strees of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, after a military coup d'etat against president Robert Mugabe. AP Photo

Signals in Zimbabwe are mixed so far. Experts generally describe the latest developments as “an internecine fight” among inner-circle elites and ask two key questions: Which side will prevail, and will violence break out?

In my assessment, the answers hinge on Mnangagwa, a hard-nosed realist and survivor who was critical in securing Mugabe’s four-decade rule. Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record. Many consider him responsible for overseeing a series of massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi,” in which an estimated 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group perished.

More recently, in 2008, civil society groups accused Mnangagwa of orchestrating electoral violence against the political opposition and rigging polls in Mugabe’s favor.

It is also true that Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.

‘Unity’ for Zimbabwe?

Nonetheless, reports indicate that Mnangagwa is currently talking to several opposition parties about potentially forming a transitional government. A key stakeholder in any such arrangement would be Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, who served as prime minister to Mugabe as part of the 2009 power-sharing agreement.

That coalition achieved some success on economic matters, but Mugabe’s party never relinquished any real authority. Mnangagwa was among those who clung to power back then, but I believe he might play things differently now. Mnangagwa is no reformer, but he does need to find ways to bolster his legitimacy. Not to mention he will quickly need to confront Zimbabwe’s massive economic woes.

The choices that Zimbabwe’s political leadership makes in the coming weeks will have immense consequences for the future of a country whose development has stagnated under 40 years of authoritarian rule.

Real transitions in Zimbabwe are all too rare. Mugabe led the country to independence in March 1980, assumed the presidency and never left. His demise represents a chance for a political reset.

 

Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The armed forces seized power in Zimbabwe after a week of confrontation with President Robert Mugabe’s government and said the action was needed to stave off violent conflict in the southern African nation that he’s ruled since 1980.

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces will guarantee the safety of Mugabe, 93, and his family and is only “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said in a televised address in Harare, the capital. All military leave has been canceled, he said. Mugabe is preparing to step down, Johannesburg-based News24 reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation.

Denying that the action was a military coup, Moyo said “as soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect the situation to return to normalcy.” He urged the other security services to cooperate and warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The action came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution.”

As several armored vehicles appeared in the capital on Tuesday, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front described Chiwenga’s statements as “treasonable” and intended to incite insurrection. Later in the day, several explosions were heard in the city.

Constantino ChiwengaPhotographer: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images

 

Political Crisis

The military intervention followed a week-long political crisis sparked by Mugabe’s decision to fire his long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president in a move that paved the way for his wife Grace, 52, and her supporters to gain effective control over the ruling party. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she said on Nov. 5 that she would be prepared to succeed her husband.

The events unfolded as Zimbabwe is in deep crisis. The economy has halved in size since 2000 and the nation has no currency of its own, using mainly the dollar as legal tender. Lines of people waiting to make bank withdrawals snake around city blocks in Harare. Some sleep in the streets to ensure they’re served. An estimated 95 percent of the workforce is jobless and as many as 3 million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.

The country is now under military rule, said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean law lecturer who is based in the U.K. and helped design Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution.

Man In Uniform

“When you see a man in uniform reading news on national television, you know it’s done,” he said in a text message. “There are no more questions. Authority is now in the hands of the military.”

Mnangagwa, who said he fled Zimbabwe because of threats against him and his family, had been a pillar of a military and security apparatus that helped Mugabe emerge as the nation’s leader after independence from the U.K. in 1980. He was Zimbabwe’s first national security minister.

Mnangagwa’s dismissal signaled Mugabe’s break with most of his allies who fought in the liberation war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, leaving his wife’s so-called Generation-40 faction of younger members of the ruling party in the ascendancy. While Zanu-PF named Mugabe as its presidential candidate in elections next year against a possible seven-party opposition coalition, he’s appeared frail in public, sparking concern among his supporters that he wouldn’t be able to complete another five-year term.

In this image made from video, Major Gen. S.B. Moyo addresses to the nation in Harare on Nov. 15.Photographer: ZBC via AP Photo

 

Moyo, in the statement, told members of parliament that the military’s “desire is that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective constituencies according to democratic tenants.”

Elections probably won’t be held as scheduled, Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst with the Harare-based Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said by phone.

“The military is going to determine the shape of Zimbabwean politics, although they’ve tried to say this is not a coup,” he said. “This may result in the creation of a new unity government which will involve the opposition.”

 

Source: Bloomberg

A U.S. citizen accused of attempting to subvert President Robert Mugabe’s government was released from Zimbabwe’s maximum security jail on Friday, a day after the High Court ordered her to be freed on bail, Reuters witnesses said.

Judge Clement Phiri ruled on Thursday that there was a “patent absence of facts” in the state’s case against 25-year-old Martha O‘Donovan, whose arrest last week centered on accusations she insulted 93-year-old Mugabe in a Twitter post.

She denies the accusation.

Reuters witnesses saw O‘Donovan leaving prison in a United States embassy vehicle. O‘Donovan and her lawyers did not speak to reporters waiting outside Chikurubi Maximum Prison on the outskirts of Harare.

State prosecutors accuse O‘Donovan of writing a Twitter post in October calling Mugabe a “selfish and sick man”.

The government has since last year been targeting activists and government critics who use social media to speak out against Mugabe, cash shortages in banks and a foreign currency crunch that has caused a sharp rise in prices.

Amnesty International said it feared O‘Donovan would not be the last to be arrested in the government’s “clamp down on social media platforms”. 

Activist pastor Evan Mawarire, whose #ThisFlag movement last year organized the biggest stay-at-home demonstration in a decade, is on trial on a charge of subversion. He faces a separate trial for a similar offence.

 

- Reuters

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