Zimbabwe in Transition

Zimbabwe is in transition; President Robert Mugabe resigned after 37 years in power. Besides the more immediate political causes that led to this historic change, there were also underlying problems in Zimbabwe’s economy over the last decade. Even land reforms that were instituted in 2000 did not stem the urge for political change even as sections of the population made gains. Zimbabwe is on a path to a new, albeit uncertain, future.

 

Events of the last week when the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander announced through state broadcast that the military stood ready to intervene in the party-political processes, which had been simmering for years, caught the whole world by surprise. Zimbabwe, a former British colony, won its independence in 1980. Like many other southern African countries, such as Angola, Mozambique and to a lesser degree South Africa, which obtained their independence through the liberation struggle, its civil–military relations have always been complex. Compounding the crisis within the ruling party in Zimbabwe has been a failure by Robert Mugabe to groom a successor in the 37 years that he has been in power. Since 2014, two vice presidents were sacked by Mugabe and the latest sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has strong links to the security services sector, triggered the recent intervention which claimed no lives. Also, important to note is that the intervention by the military had significant support from the ordinary people who poured out in tens of thousands into the streets of Harare and Bulawayo to express their solidarity with the actions taken by the ZDF. 

Jabulani Chikonwe/Simon Mazorodze Road, Harare - November 20, 2017
Simon Mazorodze Road, Harare | Photo Credit: Jabulani Chikonwe  

What Led to the Transition?

Apart from the secessionist and factional battles, the Zimbabwean economy has been performing badly since 2013. In its takeover, the military stated that “what the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.” For many outsiders, the rebellion against Mugabe by the military and the people came as a surprise given that the country embarked on a land reform programme from 2000, which benefited urbanites, the rural landless, and civil servants. However, during the same period, the economy was faced with a number of challenges, which relate to hyperinflation, closure of industries, and cash shortages. These challenges have directly and indirectly affected the farming population when it comes to access to inputs, failure to get payments in cash, and on time, after delivering agricultural outputs to state marketing boards. Given these challenges, it was surprising that Mugabe told the South African minister of defence who had been dispatched by President Jacob Zuma as part of mediation efforts between the ZDF and the political leadership that “I didn’t think the military could act in such a way after having given them land during the land reform.” 

African Unity Square, Harare
African Unity Square, Harare | Photo Credit: S Niyati

The Politics of Change 

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