Zimbabwe since the elections in July 2013: The view from 2017

Background

This paper is a review of developments since the Harmonised elections in 2013, and builds on previous analyses. A comprehensive analysis by RAU in May 2016 – Conflict or Collapse? painted a rather forlorn picture. As we commented:

It seems evident from all the foregoing that the ship of state, and all who sail on her, (including the passengers in steerage), are heading into deeply troubled waters. In the context of deflation and drought, there seems to be no-one at the helm, and, rather, everyone is fighting to get their hands on the wheel.

As was pointed out, the succession struggle can lead not only to chaos, but even to complete paralysis in government, and the distinct possibility that Zimbabwe moves from predatory state to failed state. It is a very dangerous outcome when central government fails to govern, and the institutions of the state no longer have direction. This is not the case at present, and, as Bratton has pointed out, Zimbabwe is not a failed state: fragile it might be, but state employees continue to turn up for work despite the poor and erratic pay. But there is at least a paymaster at present.

The most disturbing problem at the moment is that a manifestly national crisis is not producing a national response. If ever there was a time, as was the case in South Africa in the late 1980s, for all political forces to come together to work out a political settlement for the good of the nation, it is now. However, the party in government is splintering, opposition parties cannot agree on a common front, and it appears that all these parties now have their eyes on an election in 2018. Elections do not seem to be the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems, at least not in the past, and it would seem more sensible for the political leadership to be thinking about a national consultation.

Perhaps the major problem lies in there being no effective political settlement in Zimbabwe (Reeler, 2016), and, in fact, there has never been such. Until Zimbabweans define in absolute clarity the rules of the political game, with rigid adherence to constitutionalism, reform of state institutions and an electoral process that losers will accept willingly, Zimbabwe’s political crisis will continue to handicap all attempts at economic reform and the growth of democracy. In the short term, it seems unrealistic to hope for a national consultation and a political settlement that would put Zimbabwe on the road to deep democracy, the political forces are too fractured and scattered for there to be any likelihood of them coming together to address a national crisis. Perhaps conflict and collapse might force this in the end, and those looking on could prepare for this.

From the respective 12 months on, little seems to have changed, and perhaps the crisis is deepening even. This report examines the current state of play in the Zimbabwean polity.

Source: Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU)