2016 political highlights

HARARE - Inter and intra party political fights dominated the year 2016 as President Robert Mugabe faced perhaps the greatest challenge to his political career.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known since independence from Britain in April 1980 was confronted with demonstrators who were questioning his capacity to steer the country through the hard times.

From flowers to helmets, to sleeping in the open, political activists used every trick in the book to show their displeasure at Mugabe’s rule.

The nonagenarian leader vowed in the past that he will not leave office through the ink of a pen, but social media hashtags threatened to send him packing.

With the intensity of the pressure, many analysts predicted Mugabe’s fall before the end of the year but he hung on despite the challenges.

Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag, a little known pastor was the first to throw the gauntlet at Mugabe when he led a shutdown of Harare that had authorities reeling.

The events that unfolded after Mawarire’s video were unprecedented, as one move led to the other. #ThisFlag movement emboldened the people and gave them the courage to face the fierce Mugabe administration, opening a new chapter in Zimbabwe’s political history.

Mawarire, became an overnight “hero” for the Zimbabwean people after he was arrested for challenging the Mugabe-led government. His court case was attended by thousands of his supporters, who rallied behind his cause and he became the face of the struggle for the Zimbabwean people.

He, however, left for South Africa and the US soon after his release when the State’s case crumbled.

His legacy led to the eruption of several social movements and demonstrations, creating more problems for Mugabe who resorted to a violent response through the use of the police.

Among some of the social movements that emerged were #ThisFlower, #Tajamuka , #ThisGown, Occupy Africa Unity Square, #ThisConstitution, #ThisGown, #MyZimbabwe, #Tasvinura and #TheEndGame. The protesters’ move became a warfare short of guns and bombs — a new cold war grounded on technology and above all, non-violent.

These movements were led by leaders such as Sten Zvorwadza, who became famous for offering flowers to the police as a way of seeking a “ceasefire” following a spat of violent encounters.

It was this hilarious side of the protests that created lighter moments for otherwise sad experiences.

While police officers were wielding button sticks and at some instances guns, all that Zvorwadza had was himself and a flower.

And for that he became known for his spirit of resistance and resilience in the face of violent police attacks.

The fearless Zvorwadza later bought a helmet to shield his head from the police button sticks following constant attacks.

Besides the likes of Zvorwadza, MDC’s Happymore Chidziva gave the Zanu PF government a torrid time after he also led successful protests.

During the protests, scores of people were arrested, while police and ZBC motor vehicles were burnt. Violent clashes became the order of the day for some time following a successful stay-away that “shut down” the country in July.

Mugabe has in the past used the security sector both overtly and covertly — particularly the army, police, war veterans and the Central Intelligence Organisation — who have employed unorthodox tactics to keep him afloat.

However, as the country continues facing a myriad of problems, among them cash shortages, high unemployment, poverty, hunger and the general deterioration of the country’s economy, the discourse changed this year.

This was necessitated by the country’s situation. The country is in tatters as the government is failing to provide proper service delivery, equip hospitals and develop a proper infrastructure.

The social movements gave the nonagenarian leader sleepless nights and by any standard posed him with the greatest threat to his coveted throne that he has jealously kept to himself.

This also prompted the nonagenarian’s government to draft a Cyber Crime Bill in a bid to contain protests that were fuelled by the hashtags and regulate the social media content.

If Mugabe and Zanu PF feel the political walls are beginning to close in around them, they are probably right.

In 2016 the Zimbabwean political landscape shifted significantly ahead of the 2018 elections.

The mooted coalition deal between former vice president Joice Mujuru and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai spooked Mugabe and Zanu PF and it also involves smaller opposition parties who are members of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) which has been holding demonstrations around the country to press for much-needed electoral reforms.

The coming in of Mujuru in early last year put Mugabe and his Zanu PF under threat.

The emergence of Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) sent the ruling party into panicked attempts to stem the tide.

Zanu PF attempted to woo back the members and officials it unceremoniously expelled in a wave of purges led by First Lady Grace Mugabe that began in late 2014 and included the expulsion of Mujuru, several Cabinet Ministers and senior Zanu PF officials.

In 2016 the ruling party had been embroiled in factional and succession fights pitting vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa faction against the party young turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) which is opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.

The fights led to the neglect of the economy, with thousands losing their jobs and the country’s service delivery system hitting an all-time low.

The squabbles led to Zanu PF bigwigs wash their dirty linen in public, leading to accusations and counter-attacks.

This also led to a new paradox of events which saw the emergence of fraud allegations against Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo. Moyo was accused of siphoning over $400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef).

He, however, accused the other faction of coming up with the charges in a bid to silence him for opposing Mnangagwa’s presidential bid.

Mugabe also received the greatest blow of his political career in 2016 after the former freedom fighters ended their 41-year relationship with the Zanu PF leader following the release of a damning communiqué on him in July.

The government has been trying to woo back the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led war veterans after their fall out with Mugabe when they indicated that they wanted Mnangagwa to succeed the nonagenarian.

However, after Mutsvangwa’s executive set difficult conditions for Mugabe including that he ditches Zanu PF’s G40 faction kingpins including Moyo and party commissar Saviour Kasukuwere who are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions.

War veterans had served as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.

In serving those divorce papers on Mugabe, the liberation struggle fighters also said pointedly that Mugabe’s continued stay in power was now a stumbling block to the country’s development, adding coldly that the nonagenarian would be “a hard-sell” if he contested the watershed 2018 presidential elections.

The ruling party was also forced to press a panic button after independent candidate Temba Mliswa outwitted his former party candidate in the constituency’s by-election.

One of the major events in Zimbabwe politics in 2016 was an astonishing confession by Mugabe who revealed that diamonds worth more than $15 billion was looted in the eastern mining area of Marange.

The announcement sparked protests with the first being the April 14 MDC mega demonstration in Harare.

During the year, opposition political parties received another heavy blow following the announcement that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had been diagnosed with cancer.

It became a turning point, which resulted in the MDC leader also announcing the appointment of two more vice presidents in the form of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri.

Tsvangirai has since recovered from the dreadful disease.

Comments (1)

Worse is to come as long as the same government and its leadership is still clinging to power.

Pythias Makonese - 3 January 2017

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