The International Crisis Group (ICG) has painted a gloomy picture of Zimbabwe’s future, in a recently published briefing titled, ‘Zimbabwe: Stranded in Stasis’.
The briefing examines the various dynamics and developments in the country, including the role of First Lady Grace Mugabe and the Generation 40 group that reportedly supports her, the fractured state of the country’s opposition, as well as the possibilities of re-engagement with the international community.
According to the report, much of how the country’s progress or continued lack of, going forward hinges around the country’s “visibly waning” 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who shows no signs of stepping down.
The briefing identifies the ruling Zanu-PF party as “its own biggest threat,” because of its lack of clarity on how to choose a new leader, including a successor for President Mugabe in the event he “becomes incapacitated or dies in office.”
The ICG’s southern Africa Program Director, Piers Pigou, said the concern around President Mugabe’s grip on Zanu-PF has become more pronounced given the infighting in the party.
“Zanu-PF has a long history of being able to pull together in the face of adversity. The question really is there glue now inside the party which was traditionally Mr. Mugabe,” Pigou said.
“Does that glue really hold the party together and is there an external threat or enemy that they will be able to come together and fight? At this stage of the game, it doesn’t look likely.”
Pigou said while Zanu-PF has remained strong despite its internal conflict, its inability to embrace reforms has compromised its image with the international community, even those that have entertained working with a Zanu-PF government or officials.
“We are not discounting the possibility of potential progress under Zanu-PF’s tutelage,” said Pigou. “The problem that we have to date is what we see at the table at the moment is evidence of a political leadership that is not taking the reform process seriously.”
Noting some of the efforts of proposed reforms to improve the economy, as stated recently by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Pigou said President Mugabe’s government has shown selectivity in areas it wants to exercise reform, while ignoring some of the most critical.
“At the moment the reform agenda is looked at narrowly through the lens of economic and financial reform,” said Pigou, adding, “but I have to say when it comes to issues of rule of law, and governance, there are major, major problems in Zimbabwe.”
Among the areas of concern around reform is elections, pointed out Pigou, predicting another controversial election in 2018 if the reforms are not undertaken.
“The 2018 elections themselves, I am afraid looking at the deficit of the electoral process, relating to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the somewhat mysterious role that the Registrar General continues to play in relation to the voter’s roll, which he still will not release claim a technical fault that no one knows what it is, I am afraid we seem to be sleepwalking toward another illegitimate election in 2018,” said Pigou.
On the issue of electoral reform, the state-run Herald Newspaper reported recently that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told parliament that the government had come up with a number of amendments to the electoral laws, that would include creating an independent Zimbabwe Election Commission.
But Pigou said that until Zimbabwe embarks on electoral as well as other reforms that directly affect people’s livelihoods, including property rights, international perception on Zimbabwe will remain unchanged.
“I think we are going to have to see some significant shifts as it relates to rule of law and governance concerns and that relates to issues around the investment code, and the controversial indigenization processes in Zimbabwe, which are still not clarified.”
On lack of respect for property rights, Pigou said Zimbabwe has drawn unwelcome attention.
“What we have seen for example in the last couple of months, is a series of evictions, of violations, unlawful occupation of farms and abuses in the land process which reflect the kind of broader based problems.”
Despite the lack of critical reports, the ICG briefing noted continued efforts by some western countries to engage Zimbabwe.
The briefing notes that “considerable effort, in particular by EU member states, has gone into building constructive relations with the government.”
The briefing concluded that, “external support, from both West and East, as well as regionally, is essential to aid recovery but can be of only limited benefit if promised political and economic reforms are not implemented.”