2019 is ending in Zimbabwe with huge frustration at the lack of progress for the people, with both Prof Jonathon Moyo of G40 and VP Chiwenga engaged in high stakes public drama.
Electricity failures in South Africa itself have now made the blackouts in Zimbabwe even more prolonged. The doctors remain on strike. The battle between unions and the government over public sector wages is unresolved. The UN is now providing food aid for 4.1 million people.
The best news is that former South African President Thabo Mbeki has been consulting a wide range of political leaders in Harare, and will return before the New Year to urge a pathway to agreement on a reform pathway. Members of the Political Actors Dialogue visited Mbeki in South Africa early in December to pave the way for this initiative. MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa tried to claim that the talks were only between himself, Mbeki and President Mnangagwa, and that the priority issue was to delegitimise the July 2018 election outcome, but Mbeki made it clear that the goal was a reform package and that the election outcome had to be accepted.
G40 took the opportunity of the Mbeki visit to launch a book by its most prominent spokesperson, Prof J Moyo, which “proved” that Chamisa won the 2018 elections. The publisher is Ibbo Mandaza, through Sapes Trust. The invitation-only book launch at Mandaza’s Harare house was disrupted by both ZANU-PF youth who are mobilised against G40 and MDC youth who accused Moyo of helping Mugabe to cheat many elections. The ZANU-PF youth accused Mandaza of hosting Moyo on his Mazowe farm, but Moyo is widely believed to be exiled in Kenya.
Mbeki’s intervention coincided with continued hardening of western pressure on the Mnangagwa government, with public statements by the Assistant Secretary for the US Department of State's Bureau of African Affairs, Tibor Nagy, the World Bank, the British Ambassador, which focused on the shooting of civilians in the protests of August 2018 and January 2019. More broadly, they said that Zimbabwe had a long way to go to re-join the Commonwealth, and before there would be an economic rescue package.
Amid all this a kind of soap opera broke out in the family of Vice President Constantin Chiwenga, recently returned from a Chinese hospital. His wife Marry Mubaiwa launched a divorce proceeding on December 3, and in response she was arrested on charges of murder, money laundering and externalising currency. She is accused of attempting to murder her husband while he was in a South African hospital. Whatever emerges as proven in the legal proceedings, this demonstrates the fragility and paranoia at the top of the Zimbabwe government, and that people at this level move large sums of hard currency, while the government publicly denounces people for doing precisely that. The Mnangagwa government continues to struggle with its own enemies within.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has continued to pursue more officials for abuses, which would be to the credit of the government. But it has now been prominent in the action against Marry Mubaiwa.
Zimbabwe Information Centre, Australia
December 22, 2019