An update on Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe is a country that has been in turmoil for decades. The latest crisis is around elections held in the country at the end of July, but first, a brief history.

Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, gained independence from the British in 1980. Since then, one man has been at the centre of all politics: ex-President, Robert Mugabe of the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). Mr. Mugabe was first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987. He then became President of the country in 1987 and remained its leader until 2017. That’s a long time!

Mugabe has been a controversial figure throughout his long Presidency.

  • He put down all his opponents after Independence, often using force.
  • He wanted to redistribute property. He felt it was wrong that white Zimbabweans, who made up just 1% of the population, owned 70% of the land. White farmers were forcibly removed from their farms which angered Western powers, who in turn imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe for years. The economy began to fare badly, and there was political unrest.
  • Mr Mugabe also had to deal with the new opposition party, The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Violence and charges of vote-tampering have often marked elections.
  • Mr Mugabe has also been accused of human rights violations and corruption.

Then in November 2017, came a political earthquake. The Zimbabwean army surrounded government buildings in the capital, Harare, and placed Mr Mugabe under house arrest. Many suspect that Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Vice President, was behind the coup. Facing impeachment charges, Mr Mugabe resigned after 37 years! Elections were called, and the main candidates were Mr Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa of the MDC. Mr Mugabe surprised everyone by stating in a press conference that he would be voting against Mnangagwa and his party!

On 3 August, Mr Mnangagwa was declared the winner though citizens and international elections watchdogs claim that unfair tactics, like duplicating votes, were used to win the election. Violence broke out after the results, and on 8 August, the MDC led by Mr. Nelson Chamisa, stated that it is going to challenge the result in court. The suspense continues……so watch this space!  

POLITICAL TERMS

  • Sanction – to issue a penalty or ban by one country (or countries) against another for any wrongdoing or breaking of a treaty or law.
  • House arrest – keeping someone like a prisoner in his/her own house rather than in a prison.
  • Coup (full form coup d’etat -French) – when a person or groups of people, suddenly take over the government, often by the use of force.
  • Impeachment – a charge of a person in government of a serious offence. If the person is ‘impeached’, he or she is removed from office. 
  • International elections watchdogs – A group of people who are neutral. They don’t pick sides. They are called in to monitor that elections being conducted in a country are ‘free and fair’.  

Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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