Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe: the Endgame? Notes de l’Ifri, January 2017
The descent into the morass of failure seems relentless for a country that used to be, at the aftermath of its independence in 1980, the “jewel in Africa” to be carefully preserved, as former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere advised an acclaimed Mugabe ascending into power.
The precipitous economy has sparked growing dissent and anti-government protests in Harare since June 2016, which have flared up all over the country, calling for Mugabe’s ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), to step down.
Yet, despite his rapidly deteriorating health conditions and his advanced age, the 92-years-old President seems not having any intention to leave the helm of his sinking ship. He unlashes the heavy-handed Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) against demonstrators and openly threatens judges ruling over the exercise of constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly. The future ahead is filled with uncertainties for Zimbabwe, with a new wave of protests staged by opposition groups calling for electoral reforms, the announced plans to introduce bond notes in October sparking apprehensions from investors and citizens and growing factionalism within ZANU PF. Overall, consensus coalesces around the idea that Zimbabwe is finally entering a new phase of its history; yet, the direction of this transition remains unclear. Much will depend on the power struggle within the ruling party, the cohesion of the opposition and the ability of the international community to seize the moment and re-engage the country in a process of real and meaningful change.
This note provides the historical background of the present crisis; analyses the political dynamics in the ruling party and opposition circles and describes various potential developments from now to the 2018 elections.