Gift Phiri 8 July 2017
HARARE – Zimbabwe risks suffering another eruption of violence even before
its next presidential election in 2018 over the intensifying succession
wars, a United States-based think-tank has warned.
The United States’ Centre for Preventive Action (CPA), which seeks to help
prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to
expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention, said in its
recommendations for US policy towards Zimbabwe, that the major area of
concern was President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to plan for a transition.
Mugabe, who turned 93 in February this year, has been endorsed by his
party as Zanu PF’s candidate in the presidential election in 2018 polls.
If he wins the poll, he would be Zimbabwe’s leader until the next
elections in 2023. By then, he would be a year shy of reaching a century.
Notwithstanding his advanced age and concerns over his health, Mugabe has
refused to anoint a successor, saying it was the prerogative of his
party’s elective congress to do so.
But that has done little to contain the infighting in his party, with Zanu
PF now split between two factions namely Generation 40 (G40) and Team
Lacoste, which cannot agree on what should happen in the post-Mugabe era.
CPA told the US Council on Foreign Relations that even though the support
of most of the leaders of Zimbabwe’s security establishment would seem to
give the Team Lacoste faction, which is backing Vice President Emmerson
Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, the upper hand over the G40 group supporting
First Lady Grace Mugabe, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the
This also comes as the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) – the
opposition umbrella group formed out of an uneasy alliance between former
vice president Joice Mujuru and perennial opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai – is failing to gain traction.
Mujuru has encountered turbulence within her own breakaway party, and
Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s chief rival for the last 17 years, has been diagnosed
with cancer of the colon and is undergoing treatment in neighbouring South
Genuine opposition unity remains elusive, and the question of who would be
the alliance’s candidate for president remains unsettled.
This comes amid worsening economic decline, with investment drying up,
government struggling to pay public servants, including members of the
security forces on schedule, and the US dollar-denominated bond notes
vanishing from the market and declining modestly in value against the
Amid this crisis, the CPA’s George Ward – a research staff member at the
Institute for Defence Analyses – warned that there was diminishing
likelihood that Zimbabwe’s neighbours will help prevent violence.
South Africa is currently distracted by its own political turmoil and the
growth of economic populism, while in Zambia, the leader of the political
opposition Hakainde Hichilema has been jailed and charged with treason for
allegedly failing to make way for the president’s motorcade.
“These factors have reduced but not eliminated the possibility that
members of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) will act to
limit violence during a succession crisis or to re-establish the rule of
law post-Mugabe,” Ward warned.
While the US has limited direct interests in Zimbabwe, with bilateral
trade and investment flows small, and Harare does not directly threaten
Washington’s security interests, indirectly, however, the US has
substantial equities at stake, CPA said, adding instability in Zimbabwe
could result in internal violence and even greater humanitarian need than
“Even relatively low levels of violence could disrupt food supplies and
require increased emergency aid from the US and other donors.
“Delivery of timely aid could be problematic if the amount of resources
available from the US for emergency assistance declines,” CPA said,
referring to US President Donald Trump’s move to slash $3,6 trillion in
government spending over the next decade in healthcare and food assistance
programmes for poor African countries.
CPA warned that political instability, violence, and further economic
decline in Zimbabwe could see xenophobic violence directed against the
country’s migrants in South Africa becoming worse if large numbers of
refugees began fleeing the country.
“The US should expand contacts with a variety of first and second-tier
Zanu PF and government figures and with influential business leaders to
make clear that it would be willing to offer incentives to a government in
Harare that demonstrated commitment to the rule of law.
“Before embarking on these contacts, the US government should complete an
internal review of its policies toward Zimbabwe to determine how a gradual
relaxation of sanctions might be orchestrated should a successor
government in Harare move toward political and economic liberalisation,”
Mugabe and his inner circle have been subject to US sanctions over rights
abuses and electoral fraud.
“Internationally, the US should consult actively with its European
partners, especially the United Kingdom, to develop a common assessment of
the situation that would provide a basis for coordinated actions should
instability and violence occur,” the CPA said.
It also said because China is the external partner most likely to be able
to influence a successor government led by Zanu PF, “Zimbabwe should be on
the agenda of US-China consultations on Africa.”
Zimbabwe’s isolation from Western markets due to its extreme economic
volatility and Mugabe’s authoritarian system has caused China to become
its primary international ally in recent years, with Beijing spearheading
economic recovery efforts in Harare to strengthen its leverage over the
“Beijing has already demurred in response to the Mugabe government’s
requests for new assistance; this stance might indicate that Zimbabwe
could become a relatively easy test case for US-China cooperation,
especially in the context of US acceptance of China’s substantial role in
Africa,” CPA said.
It also called on the US to make it a priority to consult with South
Africa to limit instability and violence in Zimbabwe.
“Although prospects for cooperation on Zimbabwe with the current South
African government led by President Jacob Zuma are not promising, other
leaders in the ruling ANC, in opposition parties, and in civil society
might be more receptive to proactive approaches to averting instability
and dealing with the complexities of a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.”
CPA said the US should continue to reach out to the opposition to
encourage developing an effective coalition.