Anyone following politics in Zimbabwe over the last 37 years could be forgiven for thinking they had been watching The Godfather trilogy on repeat. The behaviour of the ZANU-PF and their nonagenarian leader Robert Mugabe has more in common with Vito Corleone than any parliamentary government. The level of self-interest of a minority of party elites at the expense of the sound governance and management that is necessary to maintain a nation has caused decades of mismanagement and economic decline. Though there is a political opposition, the tactical plays made by Mugabe in order to remain in power have rendered them impotent in parliament. Any public dissent towards the system is considered a cardinal sin, and it is not uncommon for those who speak their opinion to be rounded up by the police at the dead of night and thrown in jail. Elections are blatantly rigged in ZANU-PF’s favour, and even if that fails, they resort to naked violence and violence at the hands of their loyalist party members, holding the country and opposition to ransom until they get their way. It is much the same tactics he had used to achieve power, mixing opportunism and brutality to remain on the proverbial throne. He may have defeated Rhodesia by political means, but what he replaced it with has been a nightmare, one which many supporters of independence in the 1970’s would have hoped never occurred.
The Colonial Years
In 1922, a referendum took place which, if former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith were to be believed, greatly influenced the trajectory of Southern Africa towards the path it is on now. The people of Southern Rhodesia, caught in the midst of the decline of the British South Africa Company, voted 2 to 1 in favour of the responsible government, rejecting the alternative of joining the Union of South Africa. The only place which voted in favour of the union was Marandellas (Marondera). From here on in, Southern Rhodesia was effectively an unofficial British Dominion. Unlike the rest of British Africa (excluding South Africa), the civil service was not made up of British expatriates on assignment but of locals.
There was one hitch, however. The only voters were white settlers. From 1923, when the first constitution came into effect until 1980, Africans of all persuasions were effectively prevented from voting due to education requirements. Mirrored on the requirements of the former Cape Colony, this was an effective gerrymander under the guise of meritocracy to maintain white hegemony.
Attempts by New Zealand missionary-come-Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister Garfield Todd in the mid-1950’s to extend the African franchise from 2% to 16% of the total electorate composition, alongside other native reforms such as education and some basic civil rights was seen as a threat to white hegemony. Todd would be hounded out of office by his own party. His final speech, in which he said ‘We are in danger of becoming a race of fear-ridden neurotics – we who live in the finest country on earth’ was a sign of things to come. Todd’s foresight and gradualism would not be shared by any of his successors until it was too late. Indeed, it was the rejection of Todd that spurred leaders such as Joshua Nkomo to become more politically active.
Ian Smith acceded to the role of Prime Minister in 1964, after rolling Winston Field, who had been discredited by his failings of negotiations of nation status with Britain. Stubborn and with a ruler-straight Manichean outlook on African politics (and that of the world) during the Cold War, he was a staunch believer in minority control which had been in existence since the defeat of King Lobengula's Ndebele Kingdom in 1894. This action of preserving white-minority rule for as long as possible no doubt contributed to Mugabe’s eventual rise.
Smith saw the world through Manichean eyes – His government Pro-Western, Capitalist, Democratic, his opponents in ZANU and the Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU) as communist agents of China and the USSR respectively, with the sole goal of destroying Africa for their own partisan benefits, and the majority of Africans as unprepared for Western governance and democracy but at the mercy of intimidation and manipulation by his opponents.
This is where Smith went wrong. Though in his autobiography The Great Betrayal he claims he spent more on African welfare than any other colonial government, little progress had actually been made. His decision for Rhodesia to go independent in 1965 was more or less to circumvent British Labour’s No Independence before Majority Rule policy, a decision which caused 15 years of civil war and the birth of the nation’s problems.
The rise of a revolutionary
Robert Mugabe is in many ways the quintessential caricature of a politician – Intelligent, Proud, but under no circumstances to be trusted. Born in 1924, as a child, Mugabe showed an inclination toward intelligence, preferring the company of books to that of other children. One stage of his life was being taught of the Irish War of Independence by an Irish Jesuit priest, a Father Jerome O’Hea. When Mugabe couldn’t afford the fees for a teacher-training course, O’Hea contributed partly to the fees.
In 1952, he would be accepted into Fort Hare University in South Africa, long considered to be the breeding ground for anti-colonial revolutionaries, leaving in 1955 after completing a bachelor of arts. Whilst it was at this time he was exposed to Marxism for the first time, he didn’t reciprocate his interest in politics by becoming active just yet, opting to gain several degrees via correspondence and working in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Ghana. During that time, Joshua Nkomo emerged as the dominant anti-minority rule leader of the time.
It was only when he returned to what was originally a short visit home in 1960 that Mugabe entered political activism for the first time. Persuaded to stay, however, his education and teaching experiences meant that he was set for a meteoric rise. His eye—opener was a speech in front of 40,000 that had amassed during a protest march to the Prime Minister’s office. Not long after, he was elected the publicity secretary of the anti-colonialist National Democratic Party, headed by Nkomo. This would become ZAPU not long after.
However, the union between the two would be short lived. First of all, there were tribal issues. Mugabe is a Shona, Nkomo a Matabele. These two particular tribes have an animosity that stretches beyond European colonialism to the days of Zulu expansionism. Furthermore, there was a clash of strategy. Nkomo was more diplomatic, aiming for independence and majority rule via diplomatic means, whereas Mugabe preferred a more militant manner, unafraid to stoke up racial tensions and expel the white minority by force. Nkomo as the head had performed poorly in negotiations for the 1961 constitution. Whilst Nkomo disavowed it not long after signing (A fact Smith argued was pre-planned), the fact that he was too conciliatory to the Rhodesian and British Government was seen as insulting to Mugabe. Nkomo had also argued in favour of a government in exile, something Mugabe considered ineffectual. Nkomo’s opponents would eventually split and form ZANU, with Herbert Chitepo as their leader, Ndabaningi Sithole as President and Mugabe as Secretary General. Both ZANU and ZAPU would be banned by Smith in 1964, and both Nkomo and Mugabe were imprisoned.
Whilst in Prison, the increasing tensions in the country continued. ZAPU had become aligned with the USSR, whilst ZANU opted for China, a nation whose Marxist ideals correlated more with Mugabe’s. From here, the anti-colonialist struggle became another pawn on the chessboard of Communist control, with both the USSR and China fighting for allies in the third world. For Mugabe however, one incident went straight to the heart. His son, Nhamodzenyika, died in exile after a severe bout with malaria. Current Zimbabwean Senator David Coltart mentioned in his autobiography that Mugabe, in a state of grief, requested a furlough to bury his child. One of his minders, a Detective Tony Bradshaw, believed Mugabe would return and that the gesture would be a political gesture to fellow nationalists that would “soften the harden attitudes”. However, for one reason or another, the request was denied, and Coltart suggests that this increased Mugabe’s resentment to his enemies.
Meanwhile, ZANU President Ndabaningi Sithole had begun to lose the respect of the party with a leadership style considered to be rather erratic and was again sent to trial after being discovered attempting to leak out an order for the assassination of Smith. However, putting himself ahead of the party and trying to save him from the gallows, Sithole confessed and recanted, treason in Mugabe’s eyes. Sithole was removed in a vote of no confidence and duly replaced by Mugabe.
Released in 1974, Mugabe had to be smuggled into Mozambique dressed as a nun in order to avoid arrest. However, it was not until the murder of Chitepo, allegedly by Rhodesian security forces, that the war went in ZANU’s favour. ZANU had itself been subject to crippling infighting prior to Mugabe’s accession to power. Now in control, Mugabe did everything to solidify power. He managed to win the support of his officers, and portrayed himself as a prominent guerrilla leader, despite the fact actual warfare was delegated to Josiah Tongogora. His former second in command, Wilfred Mhanda, was jailed after accusations of disloyalty. Tongogora himself died in a car crash, a death many consider Mugabe to have been culpable. This purge, however, made ZANU and Mugabe the kingmakers.
From 1977, Rhodesia’s grasp of military control was beginning to slip. What had in previous years had been a one-sided military affair was now becoming a full scale conflict. As the casualty list increased and crucial infrastructure such as the bombing of the fuel depot in the capital, Salisbury, struck at the heart of a people that, in spite of sanctions, had believed they were unbeatable. Smith was force to accept Minority Rule as well as conduct negotiations. Mugabe, who was desperate for a military victory, and probably sensing one as well, initially refused until Samora Machel, President of Mozambique (and whom considered him an upstart) threatened to cut his nations support to ZANU. It would be agreed during the Lancaster House talks that there would be a peaceful transition with the integration of rebel forces into the new Zimbabwean Defence Force, and after a brief resumption of British Rule following the Lancaster Agreement, Mugabe was elected Prime Minister, with ZANU the governing party.
As Zimbabwe’s leader, Mugabe has made a habit of saying and doing anything to ensure he remains in power. The creation of a mafia state, where political appointments were divvied up among his own personal loyalists, the arrest, torture and murder of opponents, constitutional rewriting and an attempt at genocide whilst attempting to win the support of as many world powers as possible and publically disavowing and criticising those who reject him have been characteristics of his rule. Whilst originally trying to reconcile with the white minority, he shunned it after Smith, now opposition leader, privately disagreed with him over policy.
The Gukurahundi massacre, an attempt by Mugabe to wipe out opponents among the Matabele’s, particularly those affiliated with ZAPU with the use of his North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, resulted in countless deaths and a wave of destruction.. Edison Zvbogo, then a member of the ZANU-PF politburo, claimed that the orders targeting Ndebele’s came from the top. It is estimated that 20,000 people were killed, though The Guardian suggests it could have been higher. Despite the atrocities attracting international attention, the British Government opted to pull the wool over their own eyes. Jason Burke, The Guardian’s African correspondent, even made the comment that Prince Charles, on meeting The Guardian editor Peter Preston and The Observer editor Donald Trelford, had mentioned that he had been informed by the UK foreign office that the massacres ‘were all exaggerated’. Burke argued that British interests in the massacre were muted as a result of not wanting to rock the boat. It was only after further western attention that Mugabe put a stop to the massacre and change tactics.
As well as permitting genocide, Mugabe also turned a blind eye to corrupt loyalists. Several politicians loyal to Mugabe, who were indicted, convicted and imprisoned for corruption, were issued presidential pardons. The Zimbabwean Dollar began to decrease in value every year, and the economy likewise was slowing down. The major newspapers and broadcasting companies were taken over, their owners and reporters dismissed and replaced by ZANU loyalists. White flight to South Africa, Britain and other Commonwealth Realms, was beginning to increase dramatically.
However, some checks and balances were still in existence. There were still competent people who had their job in the civil service pre-1980 and were not beholden to ZANU loyalty. The court system was still a model of integrity. Furthermore, an opposition existed. ZAPU was still a force in parliament, and the white minority was allocated 20 seats for seven years, during the time they were largely filled by Smith’s Rhodesian Front. However, this was all contrary to Mugabe’s one-party state program.
Even if Mugabe had power resulting from a democratic mandate, any form of opposition could thwart some of his actions. However, the agreement to maintain the 1980 Constitution, including the provision for the 20 seats reserved for whites, would expire in 1987. Mugabe had long eyed the introduction of a one-party state, much in the same way his contemporaries Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Hastings Banda of Malawi and Nyerere of Tanzania had all done 20 years previously. Removing the Parliament of Smith and his Rhodesian Front (at this stage the Conservative Alliance Zimbabwe) would effectively strengthen ZANU and weaken Nkomo and ZAPU. Furthermore, abandoning a Westminster-style government in favour of a Presidential Republic would weld both legislative and executive control into one, giving himself more control.
Thus 1987 heralded the end of 64 years of Westminster Democracy and the end of white-only seats. Despite this power, Mugabe still had to deal with ZAPU and Nkomo. However, concerning the internal rift that the ongoing Gukurahundi massacres had created, Mugabe held out the olive branch on one condition – ZAPU would be absorbed into ZANU, with control being held mostly by ZANU members. Nkomo, under pressure to end the violence, agreed. Mugabe had killed two birds with one stone. ZAPU no longer existed and he had achieved a de-facto one party state. Though he wanted to make it official, the fall of Communism in Europe which resulted in the transition of several neighbouring states from one-party to multi-party democracies made such a move look anachronistic. The disavowal of Marxism-Leninism would follow, and Mugabe would attempt to move the country toward a free-market economy in return for an IMF assistance loan.
By the mid 90’s, any lustre Mugabe had had surely disappeared. The 1995 election resulted in a horrid turnout of 32% - ZANU-PF won 147 of 150 seats. It was this apathy and discontent that would lead to the rise of the MDC.
The white-owned land was beginning to be expropriated, but a scandal erupted in 1994 when the land was being leased to Mugabe loyalists instead of the many Africans the government had originally planned to lease in order to alleviate overcrowding problems. In his book Our votes, Our Gun’s; the tragedy of Zimbabwe, Martin Meredith, described Mugabe as ‘an irascible and petulant dictator, brooking no opposition, contemptuous of the law and human rights, surrounded by sycophantic ministers and indifferent to the incompetence and corruption around him’.
He had also contributed a war effort to the Congolese Civil War, which whilst unpopular, was for him and several other ministers a beneficial revenue raiser. He also had numerous military officers arrested on the charge of attempting a coup. Mugabe’s decision to go into The Congo had angered many of his own soldiers; fed up with the economic crisis and the manner his top generals were running the forces. However, Mugabe opted to cover it up. When journalists for the opposition news paper, The Standard, reported it, Mugabe had the editor, Mark Chavunduka, and reporter Ray Choto, arrested and tortured, leading to widespread condemnation even from the Zimbabwean Supreme Court. Mugabe was unmoved, and made a public defence of extrajudicial punishment in response. Even fellow statesmen were not free from his terror; Former Ceremonial President under the Westminster constitution, Canaan Banana, was jailed in 1998 after being convicted for Sodomy, and died in exile in 2003. Whilst his widow, Janet, had known of and accepted his homosexuality, she late said in an interview to The Guardian that she believed it was an opportunity for Mugabe to remove any possible opponent.
Here had emerged a man who had drunk the chalice of power and had become an addict to the point he would leave no stone unturned to hold onto it.Like Idi Amin of Uganda, Mugabe had begun to see himself as Zimbabwe. Increasingly, he had become more paranoid, more power hungry and absolutely uncooperative with anyone he considered his opponent. Anyone, even formerly close allies, who had the tenacity (or bravery) to criticise or suggest anything contrary to his roadmap to Zimbabwe, was rooted out.
The Dark Years
The election of Tony Blair to the British Premiership in 1997 would be a harbinger of the outright collapse of UK-Zimbabwean relations. It was also at this stage that Mugabe began to become more vociferous in his condemnation of White Zimbabweans. The British-organised willing-buyer/willing-seller acquisition of White Zimbabwean-owned farms, which had been halted over the 1994 scandal, was abandoned completely. His Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, effectively ended the programme when she sent a letter to Mugabe’s Minister of Agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, arguing ‘We do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchases in Zimbabwe. We are a new government, from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests’. In Mugabe’s eyes, this was a direct breach of the part of the Lancaster Agreement in which Britain would assist in Zimbabwean Land Reform. Kenneth Kaunda himself agreed with Mugabe’s point in an interview with the BBC, arguing ‘when Tony Blair took over in 1997, I understand that some young lady in charge of colonial issues within that government simply dropped doing anything about it’.
Blair himself was hardly the model British Prime Minister – the issue plagued him for some time, and former South African Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki even accused him of requesting South African help for an invasion of Zimbabwe. However, this breakdown effectively began Zimbabwe’s international isolation. Those persons Mugabe would derogatorily refer to as ‘Blair and Company’ would suspend all aid to the nation, the IMF followed suit. Zimbabwe would be expelled from the Commonwealth of Nations in 2002, with its complete withdrawal the following year. The EU would impose sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002, strengthening them and reiterating them in the years that followed.
A constitutional referendum in 2000, which was surprisingly rejected at a referendum, was blamed by Mugabe on the white minority. Whilst this gave him an excuse to ramp up land reform efforts, the real story is quite different. The new constitution proposed had alienated many members of ZANU-PF, notwithstanding his non-retroactive term limit (which at the time would have allowed Mugabe to rule until 2010), legal immunity to his government for its actions and the proposed land reform clause which would have permitted the seizure of white-owned farmland without compensation. The use of a highly effective SMS allowed a higher urbanised population opposed to change defeat the proposal. The Movement for Democratic Change was born. The MDC would win 57 of 120 seats in the parliamentary election several months later.
Each election afterwards would see the MDC and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, subject to a wave of physical, verbal and legal intimidation at the hand of both ZANU-PF and the state apparatus under the thumb of Mugabe. Voter intimidation and widespread electoral fraud and inducement were rife throughout the 2002 presidential and 2005 parliamentary elections. Tsvangirai himself was subject to a trumped-up treason charge; however, the High Court dismissed the charges.
Judicial intimidation has become rife during the progression of Mugabe’s reign. Roy Bennett was jailed for 15 months after being goaded into pushing the justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, on the floor of parliament (although in the immediate aftermath, Bennett was likewise assaulted by a ZANU PF member and a gun pulled on him by another ZANU PF MP). Tendai Biti, an on-again/off again MDC supporter, was also charged with treason.
The concept of Judicial Independence is itself considered expendable. Mugabe has pushed out countless judges whom consistently oppose his ideological motives. Most famously, he bullied out Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay, whom consistently ruled Mugabe’s land reform to be illegal. Accusing him of being a puppet of the white minority, his departure allowed Mugabe to appoint a loyalist, Godfrey Chidyausiku, as Chief Justice. Likewise, the Zimbabwean Republic Police is considered to be no more than Mugabe’s thugs who consider intimidatory arrest, brutal beatings and torture of his opponent’s fair game. Zimbabwe had in effect become a mafia state for the benefit of the ruling cliché.
The 2008 crisis and sharing the throne
The Zimbabwean election of 2008 will forever be an example of how to resort to backhand intimidation if all else fails. At this point of time, the ever-sliding Zimbabwean economy was facing a hyperinflation crisis. Though inflation had increased in the years after independence, the heights it would reach were ridiculous. In 2007, it was 66,000 percent. By the time of the election, it was 231,000,000 percent. Neglected infrastructure and the absolute collapse of basic health and sanitary organisation meant that a major health epidemic was inevitable. Unemployment at this point was reaching 80%, but the Mugabe Government was hell-bent on scaring away any foreign investment by bringing in indigenisation legislation, meaning that only African Zimbabweans could own 51% or more of local businesses.
Sport, which had been the central pillar of the nation ever since colonisation, was also beginning to suffer. It was often commented for years that Zimbabwean Cricketers on international duty would buy basic appliances unavailable at home instead of customary souvenirs. Struggling financially, as well with political interference affecting morale, the Zimbabwean Cricket Union suspended themselves from test cricket from 2005 to 2010. Zimbabwean Soccer (which had produced Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, as well as a strong national league), Rugby (1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cup participants) and Field Hockey (the women’s side has won gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics) also suffered. In short, Zimbabwe was already in a crisis not seen since the Weimar Republic years.
For Mugabe, the writing was on the wall. Public discontent was so high that, in a fair democracy, ZANU-PF would possibly have lost all but the most loyal constituencies. Naturally, Mugabe wasn’t going to give up power that easily. Tsvangirai was arrested in March 2007, a year before the election. During his imprisonment without charge, Tsvangirai was brutally beaten and tortured to the extent that his attorney, Innocent Chagonda, reported to Reuters that Tsvangirai was unrecognisable. His bodyguard was beaten so severely that he would die in October. A local freelance journalist, Edward Chikombo, smuggled out footage of the aftermath of the torture, only to be abducted and murdered several days later. Not long after his release, MDC headquarters was raided, and Tsvangirai again arrested.
The election itself, on the 29th of March, 2008, was a textbook example of electoral fraud. There was a big issue regarding ghost voters, deceased voters who had been kept on the electoral role. Most notably was Ian Smith himself, who had died in South Africa in 2006, and had been prevented from voting in 2002 after his Zimbabwean citizenship was revoked. Names on the electoral roll were in some cases also duplicated. The voter's roll was also not provided in electronic form for the MDC. There were also reports of vote buying, village intimidation and ZANU-PF voters being bussed in.
The result, on the other hand, was a huge shock to Mugabe and ZANU-PF members despite these efforts. For the first time since 1980, ZANU-PF had lost its parliamentary majority, only winning 99 of 210 seats. The MDC, split into two factions after a spat between leader Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara won 110 seats combined. Mugabe had been knocked into second place during the Presidential ballot, winning only 43.2 percent. However, Tsvangirai failed to win an outright majority, meaning a runoff had to be held.
Fearing he could lose power, Mugabe resorted to violence and intimidation as he had done countless times before. Tsvangirai left Zimbabwe in April 2008 temporarily, though his return in May was postponed due to a credible assassination threat. Mutambara was arrested on the first of June, allegedly for statements he had written in The Standard. Tsvangirai himself was again arrested in June but released not long after. Meanwhile, attacks perpetrated by ZANU-PF loyalists against MDC members increased on a scale never before seen. There were reports of over 100 dead, over 200 abducted and thousands injured. Any MDC campaign was effectively shut down by the police, meaning the MDC could not get their message out. The President of neighbouring South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, was criticised for not taking a tougher stance, if any, on Mugabe’s wave of destruction. In the end, Tsvangirai pulled out of the runoff vote and sought shelter in the Dutch Embassy.
Mugabe may have kept power by the barrel of a gun, but all it had done was create a divided nation. Furthermore, a cholera epidemic had broken out across the country, unemployment was reaching 95 per cent, and hyperinflation had hit 80,000,000,000 percent, causing the abandonment of the Zimbabwean Dollar in favour of the US Dollar. Aid agencies had also withdrawn temporarily, seeing the country as too violent.
However, much like his action in negotiating the Unity Accord with ZAPU (who had now split, though never again commanding the support they once had), Mugabe held out an olive branch to the MDC. A temporary constitution was agreed, similar to that of France. Mugabe would be President, Tsvangirai the Prime Minister, and executive power shared between the two men and cabinet. For Mugabe, this was a coup-de-grace. By signing up to it, Tsvangirai made himself guilty by association and lost the support of many supporters. In the 2013 election, ZANU-PF regained its majority, and Mugabe romped home to victory in the presidential ballot, albeit again under very dubious circumstances. Despite this win, it has to be asked if he has only just postponed the inevitable?
Mugabe’s house of cards finally crumbling
Right now, Mugabe is the world’s oldest head of state. At 93, his health has become a serious concern to all Zimbabweans. What is more, he is presiding over a party which knows they are on the nose with the voting populace, much like in 2008. Sensing Mugabe’s mortality, factions within ZANU-PF have begun to emerge, either backing current Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa or Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
In part, Mugabe has to shoulder much of the blame. He has notoriously built his own power at the expense of stability when he decides to resign or if death beats him to it. Some among ZANU, including Mugabe as some have suspected, want Grace to succeed him. However, she is unpopular amongst both the party and the general public. Nehanda Radio, a local station, even referred to her as the ‘First Lady from Hell’, drawing comparisons of her lavish spending habits to that of Imelda Marcos and Marie Antoinette (the latter more fitting as both the Ancien Regime at the time and Zimbabwe today are at similar crossroads). She lacks political experience but makes up for it by association to her husband, something she has used to her advantage as she courts party support.
Mnangagwa, on the other hand, is a founding member of ZANU, whom after the Bush War made millions in landmine clearing. Elected to parliament in 1980, he has been one of the most prominent power brokers in the party. Known to be ambitious and for wanting to succeed Mugabe, many Zimbabweans view him as more of a pragmatic moderate with a focus on stability. However, there are those within the party that view him as a technocrat. Mugabe sees him as less ideologically inclined and is also concerned about his support outside the party, primarily the Defence Force and Civil Service, however due to Mnangagwa’s loyalty to the cause both during the war and under Mugabe, getting rid of him is near impossible. In short, it has created a split between the factions to the point in which ZANU-PF looks like it is at war with itself, with the infighting even spilling out onto public hustings.
The opposition, on the other hand, is made up of a differing stratum of anti-Mugabe activists from the scorned Joice Mujuru to MDC splinter group leader Welshman Ncube, David Coltart as well as Tsvangirai himself. These leaders came together as an alliance in an attempt to unseat Mugabe. In contrast to previous campaigns where often splinter opposition groups would fight amongst each other over the direction of the opposition, these groups have all agreed on one core issue – to remove Mugabe and ZANU-PF before the country gets any worse. The question is, however, if they do win, will they be able to maintain a united front? They may be united now, but what happens when they achieve their goal, and the key to unity is irrelevant? There is also the problem of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ which has characterised African politics for half a century. The split between Tsvangirai and Mutambara is alleged to have occurred due to a significant amount of the party disliking Tsvangirai’s permissive attitude to allowing MDC supporters to commit violence among fellow party members, including an attack of fellow MDC parliamentarian Trudy Stevenson that the MDC originally blamed on ZANU militants. The result was that Mutambara, Coltart, Ncube and a significant portion walked out. Tendai Biti was also expelled after a falling out with Tsvangirai, the disagreement occurring during the 2013 election, contributing to Mugabe’s win. With Mujuru and Ncube at the table, no doubt each wanting something in complete contrast to the other, this could also be a case of too many bees in one hive.
So what lies around the corner for Zimbabwe? Will it be the birth of a truly democratic, cosmopolitan nation in the spite of crisis, or more of the same? The answer is nobody knows at all. It will be a question if any true and meaningful reform can be achieved at all considering how much damage Mugabe has done in the space of 37 years. However, there is hope. Zimbabwe is lucky in the fact that it has fertile soil, vast mineral deposits and a well educated population that has so far kept the nation functioning despite repeated tumult. The agriculture sector is also recovering, despite bureaucratic hurdles implemented in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis hindering any chance of growth.
However, for Zimbabwe to recover, whoever is in charge after Mugabe will need to reconnect with the outside world. Mugabe burnt as many bridges with prominent western powers such as the US, the EU and The Commonwealth. The subsequent isolation has only contributed further to the nation’s sorrow. In an increasingly connected world, Zimbabwe will need to connect to have a chance at recovery. As for democracy, well the future looks less bleak. Though western powers favour democratic regimes, they are willing to turn a blind eye to those dictatorships and authoritarian democracies which support the west on the international stage. Much like Mugabe, Power may well be an addictive substance for the new regime, despite their best intentions going in. However, one can only hope for the best at a time when Zimbabwe’s future could go in any direction.