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Zimbabwe election 2018: Five things



Zimbabwe Election

More than five million Zimbabweans are going to the polls on 30 July to vote in historic Zimbabwe elections. But what makes it different from previous votes?

1) The first election without Mugabe

Since Zimbabwe’s birth in 1980, only one person has ever won an election to lead the country – Robert Mugabe. He was prime minister until a presidential system was introduced in 1987.

But the 94-year-old was ousted from power last year by the army and those in his own party who were angered at moves to allow his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

A few weeks before the military takeover in November, Mr Mugabe had fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and was manoeuvring for his wife to be appointed in his place.

But it ended in his downfall and Mr Mnangagwa became president. He is now the Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate.

And there is a change in the air when it comes to campaigning as all parties have been able to hold rallies and marches without hindrance or intimidation, unlike in previous polls.

International election observers from Europe and the US have been welcomed for the first time since 2002.

The media scene is also vibrant, with different views being expressed – though state media is still seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling party.

2) Longest ballot paper

Robert Mugabe’s exit from the scene has led to a flourishing of political ambitions – and 23 names will appear on the presidential ballot.

Fifty-five parties are also contesting the parliamentary election. Commentators say this shows how feared the former president had become during his 37-year rule.

Some of those trying their luck have returned from the diaspora to relaunch their careers. But the main presidential contenders are Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF and Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC Alliance.

However, there is a controversy over the two-column design of the presidential ballot paper, which has Mr Mnangagwa appearing at the top of the second column.

The opposition says this is illegal, but electoral chief Priscilla Chigumba said if it was done as a single column when folded, a voter wouldn’t be able to post it into a ballot box as it would be too thick for the slot.

Evan Mawarire is not standing on the presidential ballot, though he is vying for a seat as a councillor in the capital, Harare.

The charismatic pastor became famous for his courageous criticism of Mr Mugabe’s rule. His viral #ThisFlag movement was sparked after he spontaneously posted a video expressing his frustration at the woeful state of the nation – and urged Zimbabweans to be proud of their flag and demand change.

He then organised a two-day shutdown in July 2016 – the biggest strike action in more than a decade – and was charged with trying to overthrow the government.

He was acquitted a week after Mr Mugabe resigned.

3) Ghost voters ‘banished’

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has introduced a fingerprint ID system to register voters, which it says has been able to identify when people register more than once.

It says the new system, which required everyone to re-register, means the voters’ roll is now “clean” and free from ghost voters.

In total 5,635,706 people are registered – 238,409 fewer than in 2013, despite an annual population growth of more than 2%.

In the past, one way in which people have allegedly rigged elections was by using the identities of dead people still on the voters’ roll.

The commission has denied recent allegations that 250,000 ghost voters have managed to get on to the new list.

It cited the example of a woman in Mutare, in the east of the country, who had registered three times, giving a different address in each case. But Zec said the ID system had spotted it was the same voter and her duplicate entries had been removed.

In total Zec says 92,000 people who initially registered have been excluded because of various anomalies.

4) ‘Witchcraft’ animals banned

The Zimbabwe election commission has banned a whole host of things from candidates’ logos, including some animals and weapons – though guns are allowed.

This is the full list of outlawed symbols, in the order it appears on the Zec website: Flame Lily, cheetah, elephant, secretary bird, flaming torch, leopard, lion, buffalo, griffon (mythical creature), owl, bird of prey, cobras, sword, rhino, laurel wreath and axe.

No official explanation has been given for why they are not allowed. Historian Pathisa Nyathi told Zimbabwe’s state-run Chronicle paper that witchcraft may have been a contributing factor in some cases: “From an African point of view, for example, an owl is associated with witchcraft. A snake can equally be associated with witchcraft. Also, depending on the type of snake, it could be related to ancestral spirits.

He added that plants and animals are seen as having “national significance” might also be a reason for the ban. The flame lily, for example, is Zimbabwe’s national flower.

The ruling Zanu-PF uses an image of Great Zimbabwe ruins as its emblem – an iconic stone tower from an ancient empire between two trees to symbolise unity; the opposition MDC has an open palm of a hand to depict openness.

5) The decline in anti-gay hate speech

The director of a gay rights group says there been “a sharp decline in the use of hate speech and harassment of the LGBT community” during campaigning in Zimbabwe, where homosexual acts and gay marriage are banned.

Mr Mugabe once infamously said gay people were “worse than pigs and dogs” and claimed homosexuality was unAfrican.

“LGBTI issues have been used as a tool to divert Zimbabweans from discussing other pressing issues affecting them and a convenient ploy for political leaders facing rampant unemployment, political unrest, and a downward economic spiral,” Chester Samba, from Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), told the BBC News website.

Elections in the past have been characterised by scapegoating a largely invisible and unpopular minority, creating a moral panic, which at times easily escalated into a witch-hunt.”

He admits that no party’s manifesto has anything specific on gay rights, though Zanu-PF did invite Galz for a meeting to gauge the challenges the LGBT community faces.

Gay people face widespread stigma in Zimbabwe – it has been too dangerous to live as openly homosexual and as a result, many have been too scared to go to hospitals for treatment when they get ill.

In another sign that attitudes may be changing, the body that coordinates the treatment of HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe has announced that it is opening up five drop-in centres nationwide for gay men.


Kembo Mohadi resigns amid sex scandal



Kembo Mohadi sex scandal

Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi resigned on Monday following local media reports he had engaged in improper conduct.

Kembo Mohadi, along with Constantino Chiwenga, was a deputy to President Emmerson Mnangagwa since 2018, but without a political power base, he was not seen as a potential successor to the president.

In a rare move by a public official in Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi said he had taken the decision to step down “not as a matter of cowardice but as a sign of demonstrating great respect to the office of the President”.

I have been going through a soul-searching pilgrimage and realised that I need the space to deal with my problem outside the governance chair,” he said in a statement released by the Ministry of Information.

Local online media service ZimLive has in the past two weeks carried reports that Kembo Mohadi had improper sexual liaisons with married women, including one of his subordinates.

Mohadi, 70, denied the accusations last week saying this was part of a political plot against him. On Monday he continued to deny the accusations saying he would seek legal recourse.

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Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers



Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom




Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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