What to expect from Zimbabwe this year?

Many issues will affect Africa this year. First of all, the Burundian crisis is far from being solved, one can still see human rights violations occurring across the country. Second, numerous Presidential elections will take place on the continent (DRC, Uganda, Ghana, Niger, Chad, and many others) – some of which being expected with worry. But Zimbabwe could raise concerns too. As President Mugabe is clinging to power, although his almost 92 years, uncertainty remains regarding his future succession.

After have leaved the country for Asia during a month, rumours concerning Robert Mugabe’s death have arose (anew). But his public apparition, on January 23, showed that there was nothing. He met his counterpart Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the Equatorial Guinea’s President, to deal with peace, security and terrorism within Africa[1].

Mugabe, the world’s oldest acting Head of State, has run the country since its independence, in 1980. Despite his age, he still continues to give long public speeches. Some observers have raised questions concerning his health condition, after he felt while coming back from an African Union summit. Furthermore, last September, he brought incredulity when he read, word for word, the same speech as the one he gave a month earlier – seemingly without noticing it.

But who could succeed him when he will not be able anymore to govern? We must remember that the next Presidential election will take place in 2018. For sure, the succession battle will be hectic. Since 2000, the main opposition party is represented by the Movement for Democratic Change and its offshoots. As for her, Mugabe’s wife, Grace, has become a important political figure: after being appointed head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League, she now seems to act as she is single-handedly managing the former liberation movement. Another central personality is Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa, close and loyal to Mugabe couple – at least, up to now.

A recent case has to be seen in this background to be understood: it is Deputy Justice Wadyajena’s trial, which started on January 5. He is accused of having insulted the First Lady and may be charged with insults and public order offence. The man would have said to another representative: “you and your mother are equally stupid[2]” – “mother” being the surname Grace’s proponents gave her. A researcher, Martin Rupiya, stated that “the trial need to be replaced within the context of political struggle[3].

Zimbabwe remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Since the 2000s, thousands – and even maybe millions – of citizens have fled to South Africa. After having known an hyperinflation, the country even removed its own currency to use now the American dollar[4]. 2016 started with demonstrations: taxi drivers and car owners protested against a new licence fee on commuter vehicles. Opposition leader Tendai Biti recently warned that in 2016, Zimbabwe would be “made ungovernable” by citizens displeased with the ruling Zanu-PF[5]. Yet, the United Nations have warned for months that Zimbabwe is nearing food crisis. 2015 was not a good year for farming: irregular rainfall, severe drought and unusually high temperature have destroyed the crops, making farming production drop by 50%. It is worrisome, despite Joseph Made’s, the Minister of Agriculture, undertakings to import corn to feed 1,5 millions people[6]. No one knows where the government will raise funds to pay grain imports, considering that last December, it could not afford its civil servants’ compensations due to liquidity shortage…

[1] Jeune Afrique, Zimbabwe : Robert Mugabe de retour au pays après des rumeurs sur son décès, 24/01/2016

[2] RFI, Zimbabwe: procès d’un député accusé d’avoir insulté Grace Mugabe, 05/01/2016

[3] Ibid.

[4] Slate, Le Zimbabwe dément de nouvelles rumeurs sur la mort de Mugabe, 14/01/2016

[5] AllAfrica, Africa: What (Else) to Expect in Africa in 2016?, 12/01/2016

[6] RFI, Le Zimbabwe confronté à une crise alimentaire, 02/01/2016

Déborah Guidez

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