Zimbabwe 2018 elections- what choices do Zimbabweans have?


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With President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcing that general elections will be held on 30 July, Zimbabwe now has just two months to go before the big day.

These will be the country’s first ever polls without Robert Mugabe at the helm, and in this new era, everyone is promising change.

The upcoming vote will certainly look different. For the first time in over two decades, for example, the presidential race will no longer be a contest between the same two figures.

Mugabe was forced to resign last year after 37 years in power, while veteran opposition figurehead Morgan Tsvangirai passed away this February.

On the surface then, this looks like unchartered territory for a new Zimbabwe. But what has really changed?

Since the army rolled into Harare in November 2017 and forced Mugabe to resign, the ruling ZANU-PF has been working hard to rebrand itself.

Internationally, President Mnangagwa and his cabinet have been busy in touring the world and proclaiming Zimbabwe “open for business”.

At home, they have tried to present themselves as a newly-reformed party prepared to democratise and engage in dialogue with the opposition.

Six months since Mugabe stepped down, however, it is hard to see real evidence of this change on the streets.

Basic costs of living continue to increase, there are still major cash shortages, and Mnangagwa’s promised meeting with opposition leaders is still pending.

ZANU-PF’s promises to be tolerant of dissent have also been contradicted by its actions. In the past few months for example, the government has clamped down forcefully on student protests and fired over 15 000 nurses who were striking for outstanding allowances dating back to 2010.

The party’s manifesto, launched last month, also suggests ZANU-PF is obliviousness of the extent to which public services have declined under its watch and how badly economic uncertainty is crippling the lives of ordinary citizens.

For most Zimbabweans facing these realities, the party’s promise to transform Zimbabwe into a middle-income country by 2030 is unrealistic without drastic reform.

In short, Mugabe may no longer be president, but Zimbabwe under the rule of his long-time protégé and former vice-president does not seem all too different.

On the other side of the divide, Zimbabwe’s opposition is also claiming to be the voice of change, but similarly struggling to break with the past and, in particular, its tendency to splinter and in-fight.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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