Peace & Stability Journal Volume 7, Issue 1 - Page 32

Zimbabwe is highly likely to become increasingly unstable in the next 18-24 months before elections can be held in 2018 , due to a need for sweeping political , electoral , and economic reforms that are unlikely under President Robert Mugabe ’ s decades-long corrupt rule . Instability is likely to increase dramatically as political opposition movement activities and protests of worsening economic conditions undermine nonagenarian Mugabe ’ s weakening grip on power .
Discussion :
The president of Zimbabwe since 1980 , 92-year-old Robert Mugabe has a history of seizing and maintaining power through violence and corruption . His Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front ( Zanu-PF ) party has engaged in especially rampant corruption in the previous two election cycles . 1 In 2008 , Mugabe lost the first round of elections to Morgan Tsvangirai , the Movement for Democratic Change ( MDC ) candidate . In order to ensure that he won the second round , Mugabe implemented a military-led strategy in which thousands of voters were beaten and independent officials were driven out of the election administration . 2 In 2013 , Zanu-PF used massive electoral fraud to ensure victory , with an estimated one million invalid names on the electoral roll , including many deceased voters . 3
Zimbabwe faces substantial economic issues , the foundational problem being a cash shortage . July 2016 marks the second straight month that the cashless Zimbabwe government has been forced to delay payments for civil servants , including doctors , teachers , nurses , and the military . 4 The government has also implemented strict limits on the amount of cash that citizens can withdraw from banks . 5 Further exacerbating the economic crisis is a severe drought in in Zimbabwe , the former breadbasket of Africa , which is the worst in decades . 6
# ThisFlag protest movement began in April 2016 led by Pastor Evan Mawarire 7 and mainly comprised of unemployed young men . 8 A labor boycott or “ stay-away day ” was organized for 6 July via WhatsApp , Facebook , and Twitter using the hashtag # ZimShutDown . 9 By staying away from Harare and other cities , Zimbabweans effectively closed down businesses , shops , and schools . 10
The Congress of South African Trade Unions ( COSATU ) has voiced support for the protest movement in Zimbabwe . On 13 July , COSATU ’ s international relations secretary released a statement that “ Cosatu [ sic ] urges the people of Zimbabwe to continue with the struggle and not to watch idly while the

30 government tramples upon the rights of workers and ordinary citizens . Such coordinated mass action is the only language that unresponsive regimes understand ." 11 This statement is significant because COSATU broke from the narrative of the African National Congress ( ANC ), COSATU ’ s ally and the ruling party in South Africa . The ANC had condemned the protest movement and labelled it as “ sponsored elements seeking regime change .” 12

Women have also been active in demonstrations against Mugabe . On 16 July , hundreds of women gathered in Bulawayo , Zimbabwe ’ s second largest city , and beat pots and pans in a march called the # BeatThePot campaign . 13 The march was organized by MDC , whose vice president Thokozani Khupe stated , “ These pots that we are beating are no longer cooking anything at home this is why we brought them to say we no longer have anything to cook . We are starving .” 14
The relatively successful demonstrations on 6 July and 16 July indicate that the opposition is gaining momentum in Zimbabwe . Mugabe will be 94 when the next presidential election is in 2018 leaving the campaign essentially as a contest between opposition groups . If Mugabe is indeed the Zanu-PF candidate in 2018 , the opposition candidate that will likely pose the greatest challenge to him is Joice Mujuru , Mugabe ’ s former vice president from 2004 to 2014 . 15
After being removed from the vice presidency in 2014 amid allegations that she was plotting to kill Mugabe , 16 Mujuru created her own political party known as Zimbabwe People First ( ZPF ). A major component of Mujuru ’ s platform is her commitment to repairing relations with the West in order to assist with economic recovery in Zimbabwe . 17 This is a far cry from Mugabe ’ s Look East Policy which was implemented following sanctions imposed by the West on senior Zanu-PF leaders . 18 The Look East Policy has resulted in deals with China and Belarus that have yet to benefit the Zimbabwean economy 19 and have made Zimbabwe ineligible for funding from the US , European Union , the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank . 20
A statement made by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association on 21 July gave the opposition further momentum . The veterans made a break with Mugabe for the first time by stating , “ We note , with concern , shock and dismay , the systematic entrenchment of dictatorial tendencies , personified by the president and his cohorts , which have slowly devoured the value of the liberation struggle .” 21 The Veterans Association added that it would no longer support Mugabe ’ s political campaigns 22 as it had with votes , funding and intimidation of opposition and voters in the past . Mugabe responded
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