An idiot’s guide to Zim politics

This is Ray Ndlovu’s idiot’s guide to Zimbabwe politics.

President Robert Mugabe has been at the helm of Zanu-PF – as its first secretary – and Zimbabwe since the country gained independence from colonial power Britain in April 1980.

 *A power-sharing government was formed on February 15, 2009, brokered by Thabo Mbeki, then-president of South Africa, who in September 2008 had the leaders of Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) sign a memorandum of understanding about forming a government of national unity.

 *Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, have faced off in three election encounters, in 2002, 2008 and last year. Mugabe has been declared the winner in all the election contests, with Tsvangirai complaining that each successive poll outcome has been rigged in favour of the incumbent.

 * Mugabe and Zanu-PF suffered a crushing defeat in the March 2008 parliamentary elections. The MDC won and – for the first time since independence – it was not Zanu-PF that held the majority of seats in parliament. In the simultaneous presidential elections, Tsvangirai won, but with not enough of a majority to be declared the outright winner. Political violence persuaded him not to take part in the run-off.

 * The MDC, formed in September 1999, is Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party, but has been hit by two notable splits. The first breakaway occurred in 2005, by a splinter group led by Welshman Ncube. The most recent was in March, by the MDC renewal team, led by Sekai Holland. It includes in its ranks Tendai Biti, the former finance minister and MDC secretary-general, and Elton Mangoma, the former energy minister.

 * Mugabe turns 91 in February. At his party’s congress next month, he is to be confirmed as the party candidate for elections in 2018.

 * The presidium in Zanu-PF comprises the party’s top four office-bearers: the president, his two vice-presidents and the national chairman.

 * Under Zimbabwe’s new constitution, adopted in March last year, the current head of state is eligible for two five-year terms. This would see Mugabe legally ending his term in 2023, when he will be 99.

 * Grace Mugabe, the first lady, is to take over as the head of the Zanu-PF women’s league from Oppah Muchinguri at the party’s congress next month.

 * Joice Mujuru has been vice-president to Mugabe for 10 years in government and in the party, and is the front-runner to take over from Mugabe.

*Ndlovu is a senior journalist in Bulawayo for The Financial Gazette, the leading business weekly in Zimbabwe.

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