Elections scheduled for July 30
By Doug Tilton | Special to the Presbyterian News Service
HARARE, Zimbabwe – When the people of Zimbabwe go to the polls on Monday, July 30, it will be the first time since the country gained independence in 1980 that Robert Mugabe’s name will not appear on the presidential ballot.
Mugabe, 94, who led Zimbabwe for 37 years as prime minister and later president, resigned at the end of November 2017 as Parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against him. He was succeeded by his vice president and former defense minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, also of the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Zimbabweans see the election as pivotal for the country’s revival. The winner will need to help the nation address critical economic problems: a cash shortage, the collapse of the national economy, massive unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.
Leaders of the Harare Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) and the Presbytery of Zimbabwe of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) have asked their partners in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to pray.
“Please pray for free, fair and credible elections and also pray for God to intervene on the cash shortage and economic crisis we are going through,” urged the Rev. Kingstar Chipata, the general secretary of the CCAP-HS. “We also have the issue of the great rate of unemployment, which has affected the country and the church.”
“This is an election of government policies, economy, peace, security and democracy,” said the Rev. David Mhlambeni, moderator of the UPCSA Presbytery of Zimbabwe. He urged Presbyterians to “pray that this election does not become like any other past election where citizens voted, not on economic issues, but on partisan alignment. This election should be a watershed that marks the beginning of a new Zimbabwe.”
Many Zimbabweans are cautiously optimistic about the process. President Mnangagwa has stuck to the constitutionally mandated electoral timetable by calling elections for July 30. To date, there have been relatively few reports of political violence during the campaign, a factor that often marred previous elections.
Voters will also find 23 candidates on their presidential ballots as a result of minimal filing requirements. However, only a few seem likely to pose any serious challenge to Mnangagwa, 75, who will be ZANU-PF’s candidate.
By most accounts, Mnangagwa’s leading rival is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the largest wing of the fragmented Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), previously led by Morgan Tsvangirai, who died earlier this year. Chamisa will run as the candidate for the MDC Alliance, an electoral bloc of seven parties, many of which were part of the MDC at its formation in 1999.
Zimbabwe’s once-booming economy has experienced significant decline since 2000. A chaotic land reform initiative disrupted the economy’s agricultural base. A period of extreme hyperinflation from 2004 to 2009 wiped out savings, disrupted supply networks, scared off investors and led to the abandonment of the country’s currency in favor of foreign currencies: the U.S. dollar, the South African rand and the Botswanan pula. More than 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s economically active adults are thought to be unemployed, and GDP per capita rates have lagged significantly behind other Southern African nations since 2002.
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