December 12, 2011 / 2:12 PM / 7 years ago

FACTBOX-Key political risks to watch in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe expects its strong economic recovery to continue next year from a decade of decline, but it may be slowed down by a fierce contest in elections that veteran President Robert Mugabe’s party wants before the end of 2012.

In his 2012 budget statement, Finance Minister Tendai Biti projected Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) would expand by 9.4 percent in 2012 from an estimated 9.3 percent this year.

But Biti warned the growth prospects were fragile due to political uncertainty, potential for instability and discord over policies in a unity government that Mugabe was forced to form with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai following disputed polls in 2008.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party militants blocked Tsvangirai from holding some rallies last month, and several violent clashes between their youth wings forced ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to convene a peace congress to ease tensions and start work on a code of conduct for election campaigning.

Tsvangirai, 59, says he will win any free and fair poll but has to fight for the creation of a conducive environment after a violent drive by ZANU-PF forced him to drop out of a runoff presidential race against Mugabe three years ago.

Analysts say Mugabe, 87, is pressing for polls a year ahead of schedule because of his advancing age and failing health.


A peace summit of Zimbabwe’s major political parties helped ease tensions early this month, but analysts say the real test for ZANU-PF’s campaign troops of independence war veterans and youth brigades called “green-bombers” will come closer to the elections.

Over the last two years, Mugabe’s supporters who command state security organs have harassed Tsvangirai’s structures, and left him looking powerless in the unity government.

Some officials have warned that frustrated MDC youths could be forced into confronting ZANU-PF structures which critics say have routinely used violence against opponents since 2000.

What to Watch:

- A rise in inter-party violence as drive for elections picks up steam.

- Tsvangirai and the MDC making a fresh appeal for political intervention from mediators in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who are trying to help Zimbabwe to agree on a programme to hold a free and fair election.


A ZANU-PF annual conference endorsed Mugabe at the weekend as its candidate in the next presidential poll, but analysts say he will face a tough battle convincing Zimbabwean voters to extend his rule after 32 years in power.

Although ZANU-PF officials rally behind Mugabe in public, in private many would like the ageing 87-year-old leader to retire and pass on the leadership to a younger heir on fears that poor health and questions over his capacity will cost the party victory.

The death of Retired General Solomon Mujuru in a fire in August has changed the dynamics in internal party battles over Mugabe’s succession.

The battles have intensified over reports that Mugabe is suffering from prostate cancer, according to a June 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. {ID: NL5E7K50UP]

Reports say Mujuru, husband of Vice President Joice Mujuru was pressing Mugabe to step down and that his ZANU-PF faction also courted Tsvangirai’s MDC party.

What to watch:

- How Mugabe can mend the fractured party ahead of elections and signs he could be leaning towards any one of his allies bidding to succeed him.

- How Mujuru’s camp will regroup after losing its backroom operator and strategist.


Rising controversy over Tsvangirai’s private life and media focus on his sexual partners has put a spotlight on his public image in the MDC party, creating propaganda fodder for the rival ZANU-PF to question his leadership credentials.

Local media reports say Tsvangirai has made two women pregnant and tried to pay them off in the past year. He has so far not denied the charges.

The media also said Tsvangirai married one of the women at a traditional ceremony last month, but his office says he only paid a $10,000 penalty as responsibility for the pregnancy in line with Zimbabwe’s African custom.

What to watch:

- Rifts and restlessness in his party over his handling of the latest controversy over women in his life since the death of his wife Susan in 2009.

- ZANU-PF pressing propaganda campaign portraying Tsvangirai as a bed-hopping figure unable to manage his private life and unsuitable for public office.


The government unveiled a $4 billion budget for 2012, which included an increase in royalties for gold and platinum.

Finance Minister Biti said Zimbabwe was not getting enough in taxes from mining and hiked royalties for gold to 7 percent from 4.5 percent and doubled those for platinum to 10 percent.

What to watch:

- Mining companies slowing down on production over the new taxes or seeking downward review of the royalties.

- Projected revenues of $600 million from Zimbabwe’s fast-expanding diamond mining sector.


Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Kasukuwere from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party says mining firms have mostly met deadlines by which they were required to submit plans to transfer a 51 percent stake in their operations to locals.

Some foreign mines with operations in Zimbabwe include Impala Platinum, Aquarius and Rio Tinto , while British banks Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank operate locally.

The heavily criticised law is aimed mainly at mining firms and banks operating in a resource-rich state that has become an economic basket case because of what analysts say are years of mismanagement by Mugabe’s government.

Analysts say it is more likely the cash-strapped government wants to wring concessions from miners such as more cash or mineral rights. This explains why the government is negotiating with individual companies, the analysts say.

What to watch:

- Details of the agreements reached between the government and individual miners.

- What the government will do to non-complying companies.


Parliament is expected to debate some reforms to the country’s security and electoral laws which critics say Mugabe has used to hold onto power for three decades.

The MDC is also pushing for some changes to the security laws to keep military out of local politics.

Zimbabwe’s security service chiefs are hostile to Tsvangirai, calling him a Western front and have openly backed Mugabe in previous elections while vowing never to salute Tsvangirai even if he became President.

What to watch:

- Mugabe’s stance beyond polite agreement that generals should desist from making public statements on politics.

- How regional leaders, especially South African President Jacob Zuma who is mediating in Zimbabwe, will react to the MDC calls for military reforms.


A multi-party parliamentary committee leading a review of the constitution says it will respect the wishes of ordinary Zimbabweans, but the final charter is likely to be a compromise between ZANU-PF and MDC, who both lack a two-thirds majority in parliament needed to pass the new supreme law on their own.

A referendum on a draft not backed by either party would likely trigger violence.

What to watch:

- Compromise deal. Many Zimbabweans hope a new charter, replacing the pre-independence document, will strengthen the role of parliament, curtail presidential powers and guarantee civil, political and media liberties.

- ZANU-PF reaction to prolonged delays in the crafting of the new constitution.


Although Zimbabwe’s unity government has opened up the print media, critics say Mugabe’s ZANU-PF wing in the administration is still blocking entry of truly private players in broadcasting and has licensed its proxies to ease pressure to open up the airwaves.

- If any fallout from the controversial licensing of two commercial radio stations will force authorities to revisit the issue.

- Pressure on or tight management of media ahead of general elections. (Reporting by Cris Chinaka)

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