This week, Zimbabweans voted in an election deemed historic because for the first time since independence in 1980, Robert Mugabe would not be on the ballot. It was meant to be a watershed moment for the country, and yet this election showed in so many ways how little has changed in Zimbabwe.
Elections have almost always been tense in Zimbabwe. In 2000, they were marred by sporadic violence and allegations of irregularities. The 2005 election was much the same. The 2008 presidential run-off between Mugabe and long-time political adversary Morgan Tsvangirai left more than 100 people dead. 2013 was tense, and the opposition’s accusations of rigging made little difference as Zanu-PF maintained power.
So it was with a great sense of dismay that Zimbabweans and the world watched the 2018 election follow this pattern, yet again. After the military removed Mugabe last November, this vote was formally dubbed the “harmonised election” that was meant to unite the country. After all, no one but Mugabe would call his removal a coup, and his departure by any means was celebrated as a new dawn.
Instead, six people were killed this week when protests against the parliamentary results turned into violent riots. The situation became deadly when the army opened fire on civilians. Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said the Movement for Democratic Change would challenge the result, while the winner, Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa called for unity as his aides plan an inauguration. Read more