Presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2013 were free of the widespread violence of the 2008 elections, but the process was neither fair nor credible. Numerous factors contributed to a deeply flawed election process: A unilateral declaration of the election date by the hastily convened and politically compromised Constitutional Court, formed after the country adopted a new constitution; heavily biased state media; a voter registration process that did not comply with the law and that skewed registration towards supporters of the ruling party; partisan statements and actions by security forces, and active-duty personnel standing for office in contravention of the law; limitations on international observers; failure to provide a publicly useful voters’ register; and a chaotic separate voting process for the security sector. The elections resulted in the formation of a unitary ZANU-PF government led by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF supermajorities in both houses of Parliament. ZANU-PF used intimidation and targeted violence to retain some parliamentary seats during 2015 by-elections.
Since 2014, ZANU-PF had either dismissed or suspended more than 200 cadres for stepping offline following a purported plot by Mujuru to oust President Mugabe from power. Mujuru was thrown out of the party and government in late 2014, together with the likes of Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti and many others. The purge also affected former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda. And since the purge, war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa has been among those who have been shown the exit door, despite the President having promised that there would be no further dismissals.
In 2015, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remained fragile. Although conditions have improved since 2008, violations still occur. Harassment and discrimination continue to make up more than 60% of reported incidents. There have been increasing reports of discrimination in the implementation of government-controlled food aid programs. There is periodic use of violence by the state, especially during election periods. However, due to some improvement in citizens’ civil liberties, Freedom House recently improved Zimbabwe’s status from “Not Free” to “Partly Free” in its Freedom in the World report.
In July 2016 Zimbabweans staged a hugely successful stayaway dubbed #ShutdownZimbabwe, which was coordinated by #Thisflag movement, Tajamuka/Sesijikile and Occupy Africa Unity Square. One of their demands was that President Robert Mugabe must step down for failing to stop the country’s economic collapse. #This Flag founder Pastor Evan Mawarire called for another round of stayaways to force Mugabe’s government to address their demands.
The euphoria created by the #ThisFlag campaign, which mobilized tens of thousands of supporters and is spearheaded by the exiled evangelical Pastor Evan Mawarire, began to fizzle out as the divided opposition parties were unable to capitalize on the mass demand for change. Many of the protestors who took to the streets in Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru were as critical of the traditional opposition parties as they were of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
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