Maverick Citizen


Cry Zimbabwe – Zanu-PF plans to rule forever

Cry Zimbabwe – Zanu-PF plans to rule forever
Zimbabwean President and Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, addresses his party's last election campaign rally in Shurugwi on 19 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

Zimbabwe is a country of up to 16 million people that finds itself in the thrall of an elite of a few hundred people and their political and often criminal backers internationally. Unfortunately, on Wednesday, 23 August it is likely that the few hundred will once more outfox the hungry millions and be ‘democratically’ re-elected to power.

Forty-three years after independence in 1980, Zimbabwe’s citizens find themselves enmeshed in never-ending poverty. 

According to official statistics released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency in 2022, while unemployment is only at 7.9%, 88% of those employed were in informal employment. Of those employed, 62% were earning about R793.33 per month and 48.8% of young people between 15 and 24 were said to be just “roaming around the streets”.

On top of this, one report says that a combination of poverty and a failing education system has led to a resurgence of child labour: according to the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZimCODD) there are an estimated 190,000 “child vendors” selling goods in cities, towns and villages across Zimbabwe.

By contrast, Zimbabwe’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has a vast hidden wealth and – like President Ramaphosa in South Africa – a penchant for breeding some of the world’s most expensive Ankole cattle. At the time of his death, some reports estimated that former president Robert Mugabe had accumulated up to a billion dollars in assets, most of it hidden overseas. 

With a country for a cash cow, Zanu-PF has no intention to give up the right to rob its citizens.

Cry Zimbabwe

Forty arrested Citizens’ Coalition for Change members in a police truck arrive at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on 17 August 2023. The 40, including aspiring member of Parliament for Glenview South Gladmore Hakata, were arrested for allegedly holding an unsanctioned car procession to solicit support ahead of the country’s elections on 23 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

As has been reported by Maverick Citizen, Al Jazeera’s exposé “The Gold Mafia”, and other investigative media platforms such as The Sentry, elite capture of the state and the economy by acolytes of Zanu-PF and the military allows a handful of cartels to run the economy. 

Read more in the Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe: Explosive cartel report uncovers the anatomy of a captured state

In Zimbabwe, cartel economics meets kleptocracy to create a vicious circle that enriches a few while feeding Zanu-PF and the military the funds needed to maintain control and, every five years, ensure they have a war chest to keep democracy and the will of the people at bay.

The result is that, despite a progressive constitution, adopted in 2013, that is more stuffed with fundamental human rights and freedoms than even the South African Constitution, the vast majority of Zimbabweans are denied dignity, healthcare, basic education and sufficient food. 

Numbers do nothing to describe the lived experience of millions of Zimbabweans, whose country has become a human rights violations crime scene.

In fact the constitution is honoured mainly in its breach.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme, 42% of Zimbabwe’s population live in extreme poverty and 26.7% of children have stunted growth. 

When it comes to health the Covid-19 pandemic exposed again how the fragile healthcare system is in crisis. 

Read more: Rich or poor, in Zimbabwe crumbling healthcare is deadly for all | Coronavirus pandemic | Al Jazeera

According to ZimCODD there are “acute shortages of medical equipment and drugs, and poor remuneration of health workers has led to a mass exodus of skilled health personnel. Maternal mortality has increased from 462 to 470 deaths per 100,000 live births.” The government’s own statistics reveal that in 2020 and 2021 more than 4,000 health workers – including 2,000 nurses – left the country.


A woman carries drinks for sale in the township of Mbare in Harare on 9 June 2021. Despite promises by the government to create formal work, most people have been forced into the informal sector to make a living. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

The list of statistics could go on. But numbers do nothing to describe the lived experience of millions of Zimbabweans, whose country has become a human rights violations crime scene.

Under these circumstances what Zimbabwean in their right mind would vote for Zanu-PF, the party that has perpetuated their poverty and indignities to levels that are perhaps even worse than existed before independence? 

Forever Zanu-PF

How is it then that there is a widespread fear that Zanu-PF will again win the “harmonised elections” that take place on Wednesday, 23 August?

As explained by panellists in a recent discussion (One Week to Go. Will the Election Take Place, and What is Likely to Happen?), the answer is simple: through a well-documented combination of fear, bribery, judicial capture, electoral commission capture and vote gerrymandering, carried out in a covert steal-the-election campaign that has taken place over many months.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe democracy in ICU facing death by a thousand cuts

No government or international human rights body can say that they were not warned or made aware of what was happening. A brave independent civil society has done its utmost to monitor, document, and cry for solidarity and support. 

They continue to speak out despite freedom of speech being criminalised. Later today the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association will launch a new report titled Facing the Fear, Confronting Threats to Personal Security and Fear in Zimbabwe, which describes the architecture of what it calls “authoritarian peace”. 

Former Zimbawean president and Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe

The late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

It is clear that there is no path to social justice and genuine peace in Zimbabwe without direct international support and pressure on the regime, particularly from Africa. 

Writing in the Sunday Times this week, respected Zimbabwean academic Ibbo Mandaza alleges that South Africa turned its back on a proposal made to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in January 2023 for an international conference on Zimbabwe that would have led to a plan for a negotiated solution to Zimbabwe’s political crisis and appointment of an Eminent Persons Group.

So, once more, civil society activists have been left on their own.

Children load scrap metal for sale at an outlet in Hopley, Harare, on 8 July 2022. Amid rising poverty in Zimbabwe as a result of economic decay, thousands have turned to the scrap metal business to survive. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement on South Africa’s foreign policy in which he claimed: “The key pillars of our foreign policy include the promotion of human rights, peace and stability and the strengthening of trade and investment ties with other countries.”

The human rights part of this is simply not true.

For at least two decades now the ANC and the government of South Africa have turned their backs on people in Zimbabwe: presidents Mbeki, Motlanthe, Zuma and Ramaphosa all have blood on their hands, preferring to cover up for the sins of their comrades than to defend human rights of the people.

To make matters worse, poor people in South Africa have turned their anger at their own conditions into xenophobia, directing it into murderous attacks upon people from Zimbabwe who have been forced for economic or political reasons to flee to South Africa, in no small part because of our government’s indifference to their plight at home.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) too has turned its back, ignoring the flouting of its own Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

Thanks in no small part to South Africa there is no longer a SADC Tribunal.

When the BRICS Summit welcomes Emmerson Mnangagwa to South Africa later this week, as president of Zimbabwe, it too will turn its back on Zimbabwe. That at least is not surprising.

A Zimbabwe man holds a Zanu-PF election poster

A Zanu-PF supporter lifts a placard bearing the image of Zimbabwean President and Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa during an election campaign rally in Uzumba, Maramba, on 5 August 2023. Zimbabweans go to the polls on 23 August. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

So what is to be done?

In his article in the Sunday Times this week, Ibbo Mandaza quotes Nigerian activist Aisha Yesufu as saying: “Until rigged elections are treated the same way as coups, democracy will continue to be in danger.” 

Mandaza calls Zimbabwe’s disputed elections of 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018 “the antithesis of democracy”, a situation where the electoral process is just a mechanism “through which the securocrat state renews its illegitimate mandate”.

South Africans be warned. 

Street vendors in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, on 19 December 2022. Many people have turned to street vending to make ends meet owing to harsh economic conditions. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

Unfortunately, the Zanu-PF model for election rigging is an approach to elections that increasingly many governments seek to emulate, rather than repudiate, and which – with the exception of Brazil – will find favour among BRICS heads of state. 

With elections only a day away it’s difficult to know what to do, other than Cry Zimbabwe, and hope for the miracle that Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, still believes he can deliver. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Victory certain, Zimbabwe opposition leader Chamisa tells Harare rally in final election push

Failing that there’s no short-term or easy solution other than for democratic and social justice activists to unite across the world, to organise better for elections than those who have the power to subvert them, and to force the return of popular, participatory, human rights-centred democracy from below. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Thanks Mark for telling it like it is – so very true. SA under the obnoxious anc criminal syndicate masquerading as government has the blood of thousands of Zimbabweans on their hands and are 100% complicit in the devastation, grand theft, poverty, misery and crime committed against that nation. From day 1, under Mbeki and that odious NDZ, who was foreign minister at the time, declared the 1st stolen election as free and fair. The rest is history and it just keeps on repeating itself. How poignant and sickening is Cyril’s the spineless and arch-hypocrite’s call for the West to drop sanctions against the vicious and murderous regime there and now this BRICS fetid circus where Mnangagwa is welcomed as is evil mass-murdering monsters like Putin, amongst others there. It just shows you how hollow, hypocritical, deranged, immoral and disgusting BRICS is. As long as you are anti-West, you can murder, devastate, beat, torture, kidnap and steal your own country blind and they will welcome you with open arms. Any decent and self-respecting nation with human rights, freedom and democracy as its modus vivendi would contemptuously reject having anything to do with this wicked and deceitful mob.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Remember when the only ethical leader of the ANC Madiba decided to ‘call out’ Mugabe for what he was? A torrent of abuse from the foul-mouthed Mugabe followed (Juju style) … with not a word of censure … not that it matters to ‘politicians’ in the main ! Incidentally … what of the current British invitation for that journalist slaughtering MBS to visit … Money still talks ?! The obscene amounts of money by his regime on offer to ‘top’ sportsmen (who are already filthy rich!) to flock to Saudi Arabia is another example of how ‘sick’ many have become .

    • Bill Gild says:

      Exactly! And, before long, SA will look a lot like the Zimbabwe of today.

  • Homo Capensis says:

    Good article, but by what metric does the author think the average Zimbabwean is not considerably worse off than pre Independence!

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