The Puppetmasters

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Police in Zimbabwe recently arrested more than two dozen members of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) opposition political party during an “unsanctioned gathering.” It was the latest example of “a wave of politically motivated violence against opposition supporters,” reported Reuters.

That wave is likely due to expectations that CCC leader Nelson Chamisa will challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa later this year when Zimbabwean voters cast ballots for a new president. Officials have yet to schedule an exact date but a vote this summer is likely, explained Africanews.

Mnangagwa belongs to the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU-PF, the party that has ruled the country since independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. Known as “the crocodile” due to his “political shrewdness,” the BBC reported, he ousted longtime authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe as head of state in 2017 – ending Mugabe’s 30-year reign. Mnangagwa defeated Chamisa in the 2018 general election.

The ZANU-PF has been leveraging its control of government to crack down on CCC supporters and anyone else who might represent a threat to his power, argued the Daily Maverick, a South African newspaper.

In June, for example, a ZANU-PF activist abducted and gruesomely murdered Coalition member and opposition activist Moreblessing Ali, Vice News noted. Police arrested attendees at her funeral on charges of “inciting violence.” As the Africa Center for Strategic Studies wrote, many remain incarcerated even though they have yet to be charged.

The intensity of the crackdown could be directly proportional to the threat the CCC poses to Mnangagwa.

Polls now show that Chamisa is likely to win the upcoming presidential vote, according to the Brenthurst Foundation. Pollsters said that economic stagnation was driving dissatisfaction with the status quo. Half of the country said they would emigrate if they could, noted Bloomberg. Better pay and conditions in countries like the UK have caused a brain drain in Zimbabwe’s health sector, for example, Al Jazeera added.

The prospects of a Chamisa victory are not as good as polls might show, however. Mnangagwa would likely secure victory, predicted Straftor, a think tank, due to “corruption, violence and election interference.” The researchers added that his ill-gotten reelection would further undermine the economy, facilitate mismanagement of public finances, fuel corruption in mining, and hurt the country’s prospects regarding foreign aid and investment.

Writing in the Africa Report, researchers Ibbo Mandaza and Tony Reeler called for a political settlement that would recognize the will of the people and allow for a government that can work to boost Zimbabwe’s economy.

A free and fair vote is one place to start.

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