Zimbabwe: New Constitution, Fresh Elections, Parties in Disarray

Zimbabwe Mugabe backs 100% black ownership
President Mugabe on the campaign trail

AFRICANGLOBE – Two key dates loom in Zimbabwe’s political calendar in the first half of 2013: a referendum on the tortuously negotiated new constitution and then national elections for the presidency and the parliament.

To those signal events must be added the continuing leadership struggles within the two main parties, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

By the end of the year, Zimbabwe’s political scene could be transformed, and with it the prospects for the country’s economic revival.

Initially, the ZANU-PF and MDC coalition was to be a short-term fix to disputes over the bloodstained 2008 elections. The two parties were meant to agree reforms of the constitution and the security forces speedily.

Fresh elections would follow, giving one of the parties a decisive mandate. Yet both parties are moving into campaign mode, ready for a messy compromise on the constitution.

President Robert Mugabe, prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara will agree on constitutional revisions before putting the new fundamental law to a popular referendum.

The new constitution is likely to include a provision to clarify what happens should a president resign due to ill health. With President Mugabe due to celebrate his 89th birthday in February, this would force ZANU-PF’s hand on the succession.

Those long-standing rival contenders for the presidency after Mugabe – vice-president Joice Mujuru and defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa – have been joined by a younger generation of hopefuls such as justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

The MDC, whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had a particularly bad 2012, faces its own wrangles. Waiting in the wings is redoubtable finance minister and MDC secretary general Tendai Biti.

Political allegiances are shifting again. A poll by Freedom House in late 2012 claimed support for the MDC had dropped from 40% to 20% but for ZANU-PF had risen from 17% to 30%. Significantly, 50% of respondents were undecided.

This suggests Tsvangirai’s marital sagas in 2012 cost the MDC some support. Party leaders are trying to regain the initiative, cracking down on corruption in MDC-controlled councils.

ZANU-PF is clawing back support in the countryside, even in Matabeleland where antipathy towards Mugabe and his party was running most strongly