Politics of Zimbabwe

Politics of Zimbabwe

Politics of Zimbabwe takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential system republic, whereby the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

Political developments since the Lancaster House Agreement

The Zimbabwean Constitution, initially from the Lancaster House Agreement a few months before the 1980 elections, chaired by Lord Carrington, institutionalizes majority rule and protection of minority rights. Since independence, the Constitution has been amended by the government to provide for:

*The abolition of seats reserved for whites in the country's Parliament in 1987;
*The abolition of the office of Prime Minister in 1987 and the creation of an executive presidency; and
*The abolition of the Senate in 1990 and the creation of appointed seats in the House of Assembly. A Senate was reintroduced in 2005.

The elected government controls senior appointments in the public service, including the military and [Zimbabwe Republic Police|police, and ensures that appointments at lower levels are made on an equitable basis by the independent Public Service Commission.

The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party's Soviet-style politburo, effectively outranks the Cabinet as the nation's top policy-making council. Its 26 members include veteran politicians, ministers and service chiefs appointed by the President. ZANU-PF Robert Mugabe, elected Prime Minister in 1980, revised the constitution in 1987 to make himself President. President Mugabe's affiliated party won every election from independence on April 18, 1980, until it lost the parliamentary elections in March 2008 to the Movement for Democratic Change. In some quarters corruption and rigging elections have been alleged. In particular the elections of 1990 were nationally and internationally condemned as being rigged, with the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement, winning only 20% of the vote. Presidential elections were held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud and also in March 2008.

Ethnic rivalry between the Shona and Ndebele has played a large part in Zimbabwe's politics, a consequence of the country's borders defined by its British colonial rulers. This continued after independence in 1980, during the Gukurahundi wars in Matabeleland in the 1980s. This led to the political merger of Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to form ZANU-PF and the appointment of Nkomo as Vice President.

During the course of 2005, with the Mugabe's future in question, factionalism within the Shona has increased. [http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/ar/ar_ze_018_1_eng.txt]

In October 2005 it was alleged that members of the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC have held secret meetings in London and Washington to discuss plans for a new Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe. [http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-zimbabwe/end_mugabe_2926.jsp]

On February 6, 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a Cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including 5-year veteran Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa.

Crisis in democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwean politics

The hallmarks of democracy may be viewed (Diamond, L., et al, 1988. "Democracy in developing countries" Vol. II. Boulder, CO.: Lynne Rienner) as:
* Competition between organised parties for government power
* Political responsiveness to the general public, exercised as a result of free and fair elections
* Civil and political liberty

Since the defeat of the constitutional referendum in 2000, politics in Zimbabwe have been marked by slow regression away from many of the norms of democratic governance, such as democratic elections; the independence of the judiciary; the rule of law; freedom from racial discrimination; the existence of independent media, civil society and academia. Recent years have seen widespread violations of human rights.

Instead, ensuing elections have been marked by [http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr92.html political violence and intimidation] , along with the politicisation of the judiciary, military, police force and public service. Statements by the President and government politicians have referred to a state of war, or "Chimurenga", against the opposition political parties, in particular the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Independent newspapers have been bombed and closed down, members of the judiciary have been arrested and threatened. Repressive laws aimed at preventing freedoms of speech, assembly and association have been implemented and subjectively enforced. Opposition members of parliament are routinely arrested and harassed, and a number have suffered torture or jail terms. The legal system has come under increasing threat. The opposition MDC has repeatedly attempted to use the legal system to challenge the ruling ZANU-PF, but the courts rulings, often in favour of the MDC, have regularly been ignored by the police.

Currently, politics in Zimbabwe match the description by Jackson & Rosberg (1984; "Personal rule: theory and practice in Africa","Comparative Politics" 16 (4)) of an autocratic regime based on personal rule. The specific features are: conspiratorial politics replacing democratic elections; a high incidence of clientilism and rivalry for the leader's favours; widespread corruption; purges or rehabilitations (as with Jonathan Moyo) and succession manoeuvres within the party.


The major opposition party at the moment is the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Executive branch

Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front
November 30, 1987
Vice President
Joseph Msika
Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front
December 23, 1999
Vice President
Joice Mujuru
Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front
September 2004According to Zimbabwe's Constitution, the president is head of state and head of government and is elected for a 6-year term by popular majority vote. The Cabinet is appointed by the president and responsible to the House of Assembly.

Legislative branch

Parliament (formerly known as the House of Assembly) has 120 members elected by the common-roll electorate, 10 tribal chiefs, 12 presidential appointees, eight presidentially appointed provincial governors, the Speaker, and the Attorney General. It may serve for a maximum of five years.

Political parties and elections

In June, 2004 the politburo announced that the March 2005 general elections would conform to election guidelines drawn up by the 14 member Southern Africa Development Community. Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede will no longer run elections, which will instead be overseen by a five member electoral commission whose chairman would be appointed by Mugabe.

The 2005 parliamentary elections were held on March 31. While the African Union reported no major irregularities, opposition figures such as Archbishop Pius Ncube have made charges of vote rigging. [ [http://www.economist.com/world/africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3793417 Robert Mugabe is poised to rig a general election once again (23 March 2005)] www.economist.com (accessed 3 April 2006)] Elections were held on a single day, not two or three as before. Translucent ballot boxes were used to prevent "stuffing," and counting was done at polling centers rather than at a single, central location. At the time of the election it was suggested by one commentator that factionalism between different Shona-speaking clans had increased. [http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/ar/ar_ze_018_1_eng.txt]

No official results have been communicated yet for the 2008 presidential election.

Judicial branch

The judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who, like the other justices, is appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. The Constitution has a Bill of Rights containing extensive protection of human rights. The Bill of Rights could not be amended for the first 10 years of independence except by unanimous vote of Parliament.

Administrative division

"Main articles: Provinces of Zimbabwe, Districts of Zimbabwe"

Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, each administered by a provincial governor appointed by the President. The provincial governor is assisted by the provincial administrator and representatives of several service ministries. The provinces are further divided into 63 districts.

ee also

* Politics of Rhodesia
* Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Information Minister
*Zimbabwe Metro

International organization participation

ICCt (signatory),


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