Ceteris Paribus: Zimbabwe elections trend: Prospects of 2008 repetition


SINCE gaining its independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has experienced great turmoil, with a succession of political and economic challenges affecting the country. After 32-year of tyrannical rule, Robert Mugabe put himself up for yet another run in the billed 2008 presidential election, which turned out to be the most violent of all the presidential elections held in Zimbabwe to date. 15 years later, Zimbabwe is getting ready for another presidential election in 2023.

Political turmoil and economic stagnation served as the setting for the 2008 presidential election. Since 2000, the country has experienced hyperinflation, with prices at one point doubling every 24 hours resulting in widespread unemployment and poverty, as well as a skilled labour outflow to other countries.

 In addition, Mugabe's reign grew to become more authoritarian as he tried to hold onto power using force and intimidation. When the 2008 elections rolled around, it was obvious that reform was necessary for Zimbabwe to advance.

The 2013 presidential election saw two main candidates: Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.  Tsvangirai was leader of the opposition MDC party and had previously run against Mugabe but lost due to alleged electoral fraud.

The results of the 2008 election were disputed by both sides and eventually led to a bloodbath in the nation as the ruling government opted for a re-run and subsequently used violence in areas they had significantly lost. The huge loss suffered by the ruling government was attributed to the hope of a recovery of the economy through a different government.

The context for Zimbabwe’s 2023 presidential election can be debated to be relatively similar to that which preceded it 15 years earlier. Since then, there have been significant changes both politically and economically that have set Zimbabwe on a path towards stability and prosperity. Under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership, human rights abuses and the use of violence post-elections by the same party have remained common.

Similar to 2008, Zimbabwe closed the year 2022 with the highest inflation rate in the world, at 244%. According to official statistics from the ZimStat, migration of special skills to other countries has been on the rise in recent years.

Armed with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 amid unpopular economic policies, companies have been shutting down or heavily retrenching or both, which has resulted in high levels of unemployment and the dominance of parallel activities as the informal sector accounts for 88% of the economy. These are typical driving factors leading to the 2008 election outcome.

However, on the other side some improvements have been noted. While in 2008 the government failed to control the local unit which led to a shift to other currencies post-election, the current government has succeeded in controlling some stability compared to the 2008 scenario.

 While 2022 closed with the highest inflation rate, the magnitude has been receding since the fourth quarter of 2022.

While other companies are shutting down, more projects are being initiated in the country, despite most being informal, while economic growth has resumed after years of stagnation due to cheaper exports owing to a weak local currency.

 In addition to this, the government has implemented various reforms aimed at improving governance such as introducing electronic voting systems which are seen as more transparent than traditional paper ballots used previously.

In conclusion, it is clear that there have been significant changes between Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential election and what we can expect in 2023.

While both elections are likely to be fiercely contested, there are now more viable options than before with several parties vying for power.

 Hypothetically, the prospects of witnessing another 2008 bloodshed in the 2023 elections are significantly curtailed and thus chances of business continuity are relatively high.

  • Duma is a financial analyst and accountant at Equity Axis, a leading media and financial research firm in Zimbabwe. — [email protected] or [email protected], Twitter: TWDuma_

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