Zimbabwe on brink of chaos as EU ponders ‘fragile state’ status

While the EU reviews whether Zimbabwe qualifies as a fragile state, there are worrying signs that the political situation is deteriorating on the ground, writes Tom Gillhespy.

By Tom Gillhespy

Zimbabwe is in a major state of flux. Unprecedented things are happening, such as President Robert Mugabe’s recent public spat with veterans of the liberation war, an influential group who have arguably kept him in power.

And while high profile members from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF political party are being kicked out, the International Monetary Fund is applying pressure on Zimbabwe over its budget, 80% of which is spent on salaries. This is creating speculation that civil servants, teachers and the youth militia will not be paid, and worryingly, the security forces, who are showing signs of discontent and divided loyalty towards the regime.

In the context of the EU and other major donors currently reviewing the status of Zimbabwe, and whether or not it qualifies as a fragile state, these are concerning developments.

Those kicked out of the ruling party have spoken of forming a coalition with opposition parties like the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), creating a potentially powerful grouping that could appeal to both MDC and ZANU-PF supporters. Of course, any former ZANU-PF members who joined this grouping would bring with them the loyalty of some in the security forces. This means that at the next election, some of the opposition, as well as the government, could be armed.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a nation with a violent recent history, whose recent economic recovery has collapsed and with enormous unemployment. Politicians are reportedly increasing ethnic rhetoric – so far unsuccessfully – in an attempt to create further divides within society.

While this is, of course, worrying, change brings opportunities for both war and peace. For example, the split in ZANU-PF is a useful political education. As different sides try to damage the other, past secrets are revealed – rigged elections, assassinations and intimidation – exposing the political class to the public in a way that has not been seen before.

But splits in the party leadership and the rejection of old alliances are leaving elements of the security forces, war veterans and youth militia feeling used by the politicians. There is no clear indication of who those disaffected will align with, as different groups contemplate what is in their interest.

A further uncertainty, and the most likely spark for future violence, is the next election, due in 2018. This may seem far away, but with all major international donors currently reviewing their strategies for Zimbabwe, external preparations to help ensure a peaceful election are not expected until at least 2017. And that is assuming Mugabe lives that long. Should he die, an election has to be called within 90 days.

For all of these reasons, it is imperative that the work of civil society and local organisations, continues and expands. In the current donor climate, all civil society actors in Zimbabwe are suffering. But as the political situation deteriorates, local organisations working on the ground are as important as ever to provide Zimbabwe with the leadership that elites refuse to provide.

And it can be done. Following the relative peace of the 2013 elections, there is hope that memories of the 2008 violence remain strong enough to avoid a rerun next time around. But there is no room for complacency, and with no definite successor to Mugabe, the closer any leadership fight, the bloodier it is likely to be.

Furthermore, July 2016 has seen the rise of a new wave of protest against Mugabe’s regime, driven by online campaigns and social media such Twitter and WhatsApp. It appears Zimbabweans have been pushed into a corner and are now prepared to fight for their livelihoods and for a change.

Violent demonstrations over a ban on importing commodities from South Africa, in Beitbridge, on the border with South Africa, and demonstrations a few days later against an increasing number of police road blocks, show a confrontation between ordinary members of the public and the Mugabe regime that has not been seen since the 1999 food riots.

The mass ‘stay-away’ or “Shutdown Zimbabwe” campaign then saw the complete closure of business in the country, and running battles between riot police and members of the public.

It would appear that Zimbabwe is entering a new phase of turmoil, with civic groups, church leaders and political activists converging on the common aim of pushing for reform within the government. How Mugabe and his government respond will determine the future of the country.

Local organisations and activists will continue engaging key players such as the police and traditional leaders for them to play a positive role in preventing violence. With international donors prevaricating, we must be ready to support those organisations, who are doing vital work, often at great risk, to stop politics descending into armed conflict once again.

This is an edited version of an article first published by Peace Direct.

By Tom Gillhespy | Peace Direct. Tom Gillhespy is Head of International Programmes at Peace Direct.

Related Posts
Zanu PF infighting escalates; State media labels Mutasa Rhodesian spy
HARARE - In a new desperate attempt to discredit Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa State media on Sunday labelled him an agent of the colonial British South Africa Police ...
President Mugabe and his Equatorial Guinea counterpart President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo jointly address members of the media after their closed-door meeting at State House in Harare yesterday. – Picture: Believe Nyakudjara
HARARE—Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was recently in Harare for a three-day visit cementing his decade long relationship with President Robert Mugabe. In remarks after closed-door meetings, President Mbasogo ...
Tsvangirai chides Mugabe for Mujuru expulsion
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday said President Robert Mugabe blundered by firing a younger leader in former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, as he continued his charm offensive to entice the ...
Battle over Mnangagwa ascendancy intensifies
ABOUT five months into the aftermath of the controversial Zanu PF congress held last December which led to the dramatic rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa to the vice-presidency with the brutal ...
Opposition Wants Mugabe to Step Up Drought Relief Efforts
HARARE—The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai has urged President Robert Mugabe to call a special Cabinet meeting this week to tackle the hunger situation that is threatening ...
‘So you hired and worked with a fool’ –  Mutasa taunts Mugabe
FIRED presidential affairs minister Didymus Mutasa has hit back at President Robert Mugabe, saying the savage criticism he was served by the veteran leader actually raises questions about the 90-year-old’s ...
Mugabe to Die in 2015, Malawian Prophet
CONTROVERSIAL but widely popular Malawian prophet, Austin Liabunya, has said President Robert Mugabe will die in 2015, an online newspaper has claimed. The Maravi Post said Liabunya said this during the ...
No ‘Arab Spring’ In Zimbabwe, Mugabe Warns Protesters
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe warned protesters on Friday there would be no "Arab Spring" in Zimbabwe after anti-government demonstrations descended into one of the worst violence seen in the ...
‘I will rule till I die’ – Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe yesterday launched a tirade against critics who say he has overstayed in power, vowing to hang on to power until he dies. Mugabe became AU chairperson in January ...
Will Mugabe succession battles lead to civil war in Zimbabwe?
HARARE—A political scientist says conflicts within Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party may degenerate into civil war if President Robert Mugabe does not stop it. Professor Shadreck Guto of the University of ...
Zanu PF infighting escalates; State media labels Mutasa
Who is Benefiting From Deepening Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea
Tsvangirai chides Mugabe for Mujuru expulsion
Battle over Mnangagwa ascendancy intensifies
Opposition Wants Mugabe to Step Up Drought Relief
‘So you hired and worked with a fool’
Mugabe to Die in 2015, Malawian Prophet
No ‘Arab Spring’ In Zimbabwe, Mugabe Warns Protesters
‘I will rule till I die’ – Robert
Will Mugabe succession battles lead to civil war

Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment

Jennifer Lopez coyly addresses Drake relationship amid romance rumours

20th January 2017 Staff Reporter 0

Jennifer Lopez claims her relationship with rapper Drake is strictly professional. In a new interview, the Shades Of Blue actress avoided questions about their rumoured romance and instead, confirmed they have collaborated on a new […]

Arts & Entertainment

Paris Jackson ‘wants to vomit’ seeing white actor as ‘King of Pop’

12th January 2017 Staff Reporter 0

Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris says she is “incredibly offended” by a new comic film in which a white British actor, Joseph Fiennes, portrays the late “King of Pop.” Paris Jackson, 18, also called the tongue-in-cheek […]