Politics of Zimbabwe

The politics of Zimbabwe occurs in a society deeply divided along lines of race, ethnicity, gender and geography. The ZANU–PF party has historically been dominant in Zimbabwe politics. The party, which was led by Robert Mugabe from 1980 to 2017, has used the powers of the state to intimidate, imprison and otherwise hobble political opposition in Zimbabwe, as well as use state funds and state media to advance the interests of the party.

Per the 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe is a full presidential republic, whereby the President is the head of state and government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The status of Zimbabwean politics has been thrown into question by a 2017 coup.

Zimbabwe has been undergoing an economic crisis since the late 1990s.

Political developments since the Lancaster House Agreement

The Zimbabwean Constitution, initially from the Lancaster House Agreement a few months before the 1980 elections, chaired by Lord Carrington, institutionalises majority rule and protection of minority rights. Since independence, the Constitution has been amended by the government to provide for:

  • The abolition of seats reserved for whites in the country's parliament in 1987;
  • The abolition of the office of prime minister in 1987 and the creation of an executive presidency. (The office was restored in 2009, and abolished again in 2013.)
  • The abolition of the Senate in 1990 (reintroduced in 2005), and the creation of appointed seats in the House of Assembly.

The elected government controls senior appointments in the public service, including the military and police, and ensures that appointments at lower levels are made on an equitable basis by the independent Public Service Commission.

ZANU-PF leader Robert Mugabe, elected prime minister in 1980, revised the constitution in 1987 to make himself president. President Mugabe's affiliated party won every election from independence on April 18, 1980, until it lost the parliamentary elections in March 2008 to the Movement for Democratic Change. In some quarters corruption and rigging elections have been alleged. In particular the elections of 1990 were nationally and internationally condemned as being rigged, with the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement, winning only 20% of the vote. Presidential elections were held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud, and again in March 2008.

Ethnic rivalry between the Shona and Ndebele has played a large part in Zimbabwe's politics, a consequence of the country's borders defined by its British colonial rulers. This continued after independence in 1980, during the Gukurahundi ethnic cleansing liberation wars in Matabeleland in the 1980s. This led to the political merger of Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to form ZANU-PF and the appointment of Nkomo as vice president.

During 2005, with Mugabe's future in question, factionalism within the Shona has increased. In October 2005 it was alleged that members of the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC had held secret meetings in London and Washington to discuss plans for a new Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe. On February 6, 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a Cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including 5-year veteran Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa.

Political conditions

Since the defeat of the constitutional referendum in 2000, politics in Zimbabwe has been marked by a move from the norms of democratic governance, such as democratic elections, the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, freedom from racial discrimination, the existence of independent media, civil society and academia.[citation needed] Recent years have seen widespread violations of human rights.

Elections have been marked by political violence and intimidation, along with the politicisation of the judiciary, military, police force and public services. Statements by the President and government politicians have referred to a state of war, or Chimurenga, against the opposition political parties, in particular the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T). Newspapers not aligned with the government have been closed down and members of the judiciary have been threatened and/or arrested. Repressive laws aimed at preventing freedoms of speech, assembly and association have been implemented and subjectively enforced. Members of the opposition are routinely arrested and harassed, with some subjected to torture or sentenced to jail. The legal system has come under increasing threat. The MDC has repeatedly attempted to use the legal system to challenge the ruling ZANU-PF, but the rulings, often in favour of the MDC, have not been taken into account by the police.[citation needed]

Government of Zimbabwe

Political power in Zimbabwe is split between three branches, the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches, with the President as the head of the executive branch, the Prime Minister the head of the legislative branch and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe the head of the judicial branch.


Under the present Zimbabwean Constitution, the President's powers can be grouped roughly into the following categories:

  • Power over the Legislature, namely the power to summon, adjourn and dissolve Parliament, and the power to appoint members of Parliament.
  • Power over the Judiciary, namely the power to appoint judges and other members of the judiciary.
  • Power to appoint members of the Executive, namely Cabinet Ministers and administrative officers such as public servants.
  • Power to appoint ambassadors and members of constitutional Commissions.
  • Power over the security forces, namely the Defence Forces and the Police.
  • Legislative power, namely the power to enact legislation.
  • Power to declare war and make peace
  • Miscellaneous powers, such as the exercise of the prerogative of mercy and the power to confer honours and precedence. The grant of a pardon or respite from execution of sentence or the substitution or suspension of a sentence must be published in the Gazette.
Main office-holders
Office Name Party Since
President Emmerson Mnangagwa ZANU-PF 24 November 2017
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga ZANU-PF 28 December 2017

Under Zimbabwe's Constitution, the president is the head of state, government and commander-in-chief of the defense forces, elected by popular majority vote. Prior to 2013, the president was elected for a 6-year term with no term limits. The new constitution approved in the 2013 constitutional referendum limits the president to two 5-year terms, but this does not take effect retrospectively (Robert Mugabe had held the office from 1987 to 2017).

The Cabinet is appointed by the president and responsible to the House of Assembly.

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is a non-cabinet ministerial position in the government of Zimbabwe. The incumbent is Didymus Mutasa. The duties of the position have yet to be publicly defined.


Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare

Parliament consists of the House of Assembly and, since 2005, the Senate, which had previously been abolished in 1990. The House of Assembly has 210 members elected by universal suffrage, including the Speaker, and the Attorney General, and may serve for a maximum of five years. Under the 2013 constitution, the Senate consists of 80 members, of whom 60 are elected for five-year terms in 6-member constituencies representing one of the 10 provinces, elected based on the votes in the lower house election, using party-list proportional representation, distributed using the hare quota. Additionally the Senate consists of 2 seats for each non-metropolitan district of Zimbabwe elected by each provincial assembly of chiefs using SNTV, 1 seat each for the president and deputy president of the National Council of Chiefs and 1 male and 1 female seat for people with disabilities elected on separate ballots using FPTP by an electoral college designated by the National Disability Board.


The judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe who, like their contemporaries, is appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. The Constitution has a Bill of Rights containing extensive protection of human rights. The Bill of Rights could not be amended for the first 10 years of independence except by unanimous vote of Parliament.

The Supreme Court is the highest court of order and the final court of appeal. The Chief Justice is the senior judge. Others who sit on the bench of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe are Justice Paddington Garwe, former Judge-President of the High Court, Wilson Sandura and Vernanda Ziyambi. Luke Malaba, a former justice of the Supreme Court, was appointed acting chief justice on 1 March 2017 following the retirement of Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku. Malaba was promoted to chief justice on 28 March.

The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law with South African influences. A five-member Supreme Court, headed by the Chief-Justice has original jurisdiction over alleged violations of fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution and appellate jurisdiction over other matters. There is a High Court consisting of general and appellate divisions. Below the High Court are regional magistrate's courts with civil jurisdiction and magistrate's courts with both civil and criminal jurisdiction over cases involving traditional law and custom. Beginning in 1981, these courts were integrated into the national system.

List of chief justices of Zimbabwe:

Incumbent Tenure Notes
Took office Left office
Hector Norman MacDonald 1977 May 1980 Appointed by Ian Smith (Rhodesia under UDI)
Sir John Fieldsend 1 July 1980 1983
Enoch Dumbutshena February 1984 1990
Anthony Gubbay 1990 2001
Godfrey Chidyausiku 2001 2017
Luke Malaba 2017 present

Provincial governance

Main articles: Provinces of Zimbabwe, Districts of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, each administered by a provincial governor appointed by the President. The provincial governor is assisted by the provincial administrator and representatives of several service ministries. The provinces are further divided into 63 districts.Provinces are constituent political entities of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe currently has ten provinces, two of which are cities with provincial status. Zimbabwe is a unitary state, and its provinces exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate. Provinces are divided into districts, which are divided into wards.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe delineates provincial governance and powers. After constitutional amendments in 1988, provinces were administered by a governor directly appointed by the President of Zimbabwe.[1] Since the 2013 constitutional changes, there are technically no longer provincial governors, though in practice they remain in place as Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs. The 2013 Constitution also calls for the devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities where appropriate, though Zimbabwean opposition parties argue that the central government has yet to comply.[2]

With the establishment of Company rule in Rhodesia in the 1890s, the country was divided into two provinces: Matabeleland in the west and Mashonaland in the east. Under British colonial rule as Southern Rhodesia, the colony was divided into five provinces. Later, the Rhodesian government expanded the number of provinces to seven: Manicaland, Matabeleland North and South, Mashonaland North and South, Midlands, and Victoria (today Masvingo).[3] In the 1980s, Mashonaland North and South became three provincesThe youngest provinces, Bulawayo and Harare, were created in 1997.

Political parties and elections

Presidential elections

Mnangagwa was re-elected president.

Emmerson MnangagwaZANU–PF2,350,71152.60
Nelson ChamisaCitizens Coalition for Change1,967,34344.03
Wilbert MubaiwaNational People’s Congress53,5171.20
Douglas MwonzoraMovement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai28,8830.65
Joseph Makamba BushaFreeZim Congress18,8160.42
Blessing KasiyamhuruZimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity13,0600.29
Tapiwa Trust ChikohoraZimbabwe Coalition for Peace and Development Party10,2300.23
Gwinyai Henry MuzorewaUnited African National Council7,0530.16
Elisabeth ValerioUnited Zimbabwe Alliance6,9890.16
Harry Peter WilsonDemocratic Opposition Party6,7430.15
Lovemore MadhukuNational Constitutional Assembly5,3230.12
Valid votes4,468,66897.97
Invalid/blank votes92,5532.03
Total votes4,561,221100.00
Registered voters/turnout6,623,51168.86
Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC

Results by province

Results by Province
Province Joseph Makamba Busha Nelson Chamisa Tapiwa Trust Chikohora Blessing Kasiyamhuru Lovemore Madhuku Emmerson Mnangagwa Wilbert Mubaiwa Gwinyai Henry Muzorewa Douglas Mwonzora Elisabeth Valerio Harry Peter Wilson Total Votes Rejected Total Votes Cast Total Valid Votes Cast Voter Population Voter Turnout %
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes %
Bulawayo 437 0.26 131,037 78.52 306 0.18 255 0.15 129 0.08 31,053 18.61 1,389 0.83 230 0.14 1,004 0.60 803 0.48 249 0.15 2,040 1.21 168,932 166,892 287,352 58.79
Harare 1,236 0.17 517,494 71.46 778 0.11 804 0.11 543 0.07 193,881 26.77 4,958 0.68 470 0.06 2,337 0.32 1,365 0.19 325 0.04 10,071 1.37 734,262 724,191 1,084,601 67.70
Manicaland 2,496 0.45 240,672 43.47 1,547 0.28 1,814 0.33 1,074 0.19 290,960 52.56 8,588 1.55 993 0.18 3,891 0.70 713 0.13 877 0.16 11,354 2.01 564,979 553,625 829,324 68.13
Mashonaland Central 2,089 0.44 95,508 19.97 785 0.16 1,289 0.27 455 0.10 370,175 77.41 4,058 0.85 586 0.12 2,280 0.48 358 0.07 648 0.14 9,200 1.89 487,431 478,231 625,968 77.87
Mashonaland East 1,435 0.26 184,827 33.51 892 0.16 914 0.17 415 0.08 354,081 64.20 5,101 0.92 671 0.12 2,178 0.39 435 0.08 563 0.10 10,694 1.90 562,206 551,512 773,281 72.70
Mashonaland West 2,579 0.47 209,744 38.10 1,165 0.21 1,667 0.30 529 0.10 323,523 58.77 5,664 1.03 825 0.15 3,157 0.57 757 0.14 887 0.16 13,931 2.47 564,428 550,497 785,583 71.85
Masvingo 2,634 0.53 167,813 33.96 1,454 0.29 2,240 0.45 637 0.13 307,383 62.21 6,798 1.38 908 0.18 2,825 0.57 540 0.11 896 0.18 11,087 2.19 505,215 494,128 723,934 69.79
Matabeleland North 1,425 0.65 111,609 51.03 955 0.44 1,060 0.48 489 0.22 91,306 41.74 5,356 2.45 751 0.34 4,249 1.94 826 0.38 703 0.32 6,594 2.93 225,323 218,729 371,701 60.62
Matabeleland South 1,331 0.76 80,365 45.89 970 0.55 1,035 0.59 416 0.24 82,511 47.12 3,997 2.28 702 0.40 2,673 1.53 503 0.29 612 0.35 4,772 2.65 179,887 175,115 300,768 59.81
Midlands 3,154 0.57 228,274 41.08 1,378 0.25 1,982 0.36 636 0.11 305,838 55.03 7,608 1.37 917 0.17 4,289 0.77 689 0.12 983 0.18 12,810 2.25 568,558 555,748 840,999 67.61
National Total 18,816 0.42 1,967,343 44.03 10,230 0.23 13,060 0.29 5,323 0.12 2,350,711 52.60 53,517 1.20 7,053 0.16 28,883 0.65 6,989 0.16 6,743 0.15 92,553 2.03 4,561,221 4,468,668 6,623,511 68.86

House of Assembly elections

The National Assembly has 210 single-member constituencies, the results of which are shown below. The remaining 70 seats comprises 60 seats which are reserved for women, six seats in each province, and 10 seats for youth, one seat in each province, which are filled based on the votes in the single-member constituencies using party-list proportional representation, distributed using the largest remainder method and the Hare quota.

On election day itself ZANU–PF won 136 seats and the CCC 73, with ZANU–PF retaining its rural base and the CCC capturing the urban vote. Voting in the Gutu West constituency was postponed to 11 November after one of the candidates died shortly before the elections. Following the parliamentary election in Gutu West, 65.24% of the constituency seats went to ZANU-PF and 34.76% of the constituency seats went to the CCC.

Citizens Coalition for Change1,856,39341.4673273103New
Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai15,3070.340000–88
Zimbabwe African People's Union10,8570.2400000
United Zimbabwe Alliance4,9370.110000New
National Constitutional Assembly2,4620.0500000
Democratic Opposition Party2,1050.050000New
FreeZim Congress1,9260.0400000
Democratic Union of Zimbabwe1,8810.0400000
Mthwakazi Republic Party1,6410.0400000
Zimbabwe National Revival Party1,2710.030000New
Zimbabwe African National Congress6280.010000New
United African National Council5740.0100000
Zimbabwe Coalition for Peace and Development Party4340.010000New
National People’s Congress2970.010000New
Economic Freedom Fighters2860.010000New
United Freedom Party1870.000000New
Freedom Alliance1480.000000New
Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Zimbabwe Elections

Senate elections

Citizens Coalition for Change27New
Persons with disabilities20
Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

MPs who lost their seats

Defeated Party Constituency Defeated by Party
Starman Chamisa Citizens Coalition for Change Mbare Martin Matinyanya ZANU–PF
Temba Mliswa Independent Norton Richard Tsvangirai Citizens Coalition for Change
Raj Modi ZANU–PF Bulawayo South Nicola Watson Citizens Coalition for Change
Mthuli Ncube ZANU–PF Cowdray Park Pasho Raphael Sibanda Citizens Coalition for Change

International organization participation

Zimbabwe participates in the following Pan-African and international organisations:

See also

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