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A poster on the side of a dirt road in Zimbabwe supporting President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF party
Image: DW/C. Mavhunga

Zimbabwe gears up for first post-Mugabe election

Columbus Mahvunga
July 28, 2018

As the relatively peaceful campaign for Monday's presidential and parliamentary vote winds down, questions over credibility and loyalty remain at the forefront.


Zimbabweans are set to head to the polls on Monday to decide the successor of ousted former President Robert Mugabe.

But although previous election campaigns in Zimbabwe were characterized by allegations of corruption, vote rigging and even violence, this time around is different, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told DW.

"The prevalence of violence this time around is less, compared to previous elections," she says. "The obvious reason is that [President Emmerson Mnangagwa] has been preaching peace and as a result there has been compliance from all political parties. There is a commitment, there is political will, that there will be no violence."

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa waves at a rally
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a rally in MaronderaImage: picture-alliance/S.Jusa

Keeping things civil

Unlike their predecessors, front-runners President Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa from the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party have largely avoided personal attacks throughout the campaign period — although both say they are confident of taking Zimbabwe's No. 1 job.

However, the opposition began their campaign with a plethora of complaints against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which it accuses of rigging the election in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party, as it was also accused of doing throughout Mugabe's 37-year rule.

Read more: Zimbabwe election unlikely to solve country's economic woes

But Alexander Rusero, a senior lecturer in journalism and international politics at Harare Polytechnic College, says the discord between the opposition and the electoral commission could impact the credibility of the polls.

"There has to be some positive perception of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in the eyes of the entire populace, but when you have an opposition throwing brickbats at the commission — and the commission at times engaging in a defensive mode — it's not healthy," he told DW. "If [this tension] is not managed well it can degenerate into undesirable outcomes."

Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa greets his supporters at a rally in the lead-up to the general election
Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa greets his supporters at a rally in Chitungwiza in the lead-up to the 2018 general election Image: picture-alliance/T.Mukwazhi

The need for credibility

Rusero says it's Mnangagwa who stands to gain more from a credible election than the opposition, following Mugabe's resignation in November 2017.

"ZANU-PF is trying to legitimize itself because after what happened in the ousting of Robert Mugabe, you have a government that has questionable legitimacy," he told DW. "It's in desperate need of endorsement so it can at least say that it is governing through the concern of the people, through the concern of the electorate. Should [ZANU-PF] win, it will clear the dark episode of what happened in November."

Loyalty vs. change

Election surveys are currently predicting a number of different outcomes, ranging from a landslide victory for the ruling ZANU-PF party to a neck-and-neck result, which would lead to a runoff between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

Read more: Zimbabwe vote: Old guard vs. new

73-year-old Helen Katandika, a ZANU-PF supporter, stands in a field on her property
73-year-old Helen Katandika says she will support ZANU-PFImage: DW/C. Mavhunga

In the village of Arcturus about an hour's drive east of Harare, 73-year-old Helen Katandika says she plans to support Mnangagwa out of loyalty to ZANU-PF.

"I support ZANU-PF because it gave me this land," she told DW. "During the Mugabe era we were living quite well here. I cannot say whether Mugabe was good or bad; I only heard that they decided to remove him."

Meanwhile in Epworth, about 50 kilometers east of Harare, Josephine Mari thinks it's time for change and is confident that Chamisa will become Zimbabwe's next leader — although she does not have the right to vote in this election.

"I am classified as an 'alien' since my parents are of Malawian origin," she told DW. "But they are just the same those two — Mnangagwa and Mugabe."

Results of Monday's election are expected by next Saturday at the latest, as the country's constitution requires the results to be released within five days after the close of polls.

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