Government and Politics of Zimbabwe

The form of the Government is Presidential. According to Zimbabwe's constitution, the president is head of state and head of government, and is elected for a 6-year term by popular majority vote. Parliament is bicameral and sits for up to a 5-year term.

The legislature is bicameral and consists of the House of Assembly and the Senate. The House of Assembly has 150 members; 120 are directly elected, 10 are traditional chiefs, 8 are provincial governors, and the remaining 12 are appointed by the president.

In the 66 seat Senate, 50 seats are popularly elected, 6 members are directly appointed by the President, 8 chiefs are elected from the 8 rural provinces (excluding the metropolitan provinces), and 2 are the president and vice president of the Council of Chiefs. The parliament elects a speaker from outside its membership and a deputy speaker from among its members.

In September 2007 the House of Assembly and the Senate unanimously passed Constitutional Amendment 18 which provides for significant changes in the country's electoral dispensation. The amendment sets out the framework to harmonize presidential and parliamentary elections, reduce the presidential term of office from 6 years to 5, to increase the number of seats in the House of Assembly from 150 to 210 and in the Senate from 66 to 93, to empower Parliament to serve as an electoral college should the office of president become vacant for any reason, and to empower the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delimit parliamentary and local constituencies. The amendment came into effect on October 1.

It may be mentioned that the constitution of Zimbabwe, which was written in London during September–December 1979 and which took effect at independence on April 18, 1980, secured majority rule for Zimbabweans.

The judiciary is headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court who, like the other justices, 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 the parliament.

Robert Mugabe played a key role in ending white rule in Rhodesia and he and his Zanu-PF party have dominated Zimbabwe's politics since independence in 1980. President Mugabe has defended the seizures of white-owned farms.

The main challenge to the octogenarian leader's authority has come from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC says its members have been killed, tortured and harassed by Zanu-PF supporters. The president has accused the party of being a tool of Western powers.

Mugabe was declared the winner of the 2002 presidential elections, considered seriously flawed by the opposition and foreign observers. He received a boost in 2005 when Zanu-PF won more than two-thirds of the votes in parliamentary elections, said by the MDC to be fraudulent.

The size of the win enabled the president to change the constitution, paving the way for the creation of an upper house of parliament, the Senate.

Ideologically, Mugabe belongs to the African liberationist tradition of the 1960s - strong and ruthless leadership, anti-Western, suspicious of capitalism and deeply intolerant of dissent and opposition.

His economic policies are widely seen as being geared to short-term political expediency and the maintenance of power for himself. Mugabe has defended his land reform programme, saying the issue is the "core social question of our time".

At the time of independence, the white minority controlled the municipal councils, but legislation was soon introduced to amalgamate each municipal council with the council of its surrounding township, and, for the first time, black mayors were elected in 1981. Local government elections in rural areas replaced the old apparatus of district commissioners with a party-based council structure.

The Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai is the largest opposition party. The MDC is currently split into two factions. One faction, led by Welshman Ncube contested the elections to the Senate, while the other, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, opposed to contesting the elections, stating that participation in a rigged election is tantamount to endorsing Mugabe's claim that past elections were free and fair.

However, the opposition parties have resumed participation in national and local elections as recently as 2006. The two MDC camps had their congresses in 2005 with Morgan Tsvangirai being elected to lead the main splinter group which has become more popular than the other group.

Mutambara, a robotics professor and former NASA robotics specialist has replaced Welshman Ncube who was the interim leader after the split. Morgan Tsvangirai did not participate in the Senate elections, while the Mutambara faction participated and won five seats in the senate. The Mutambara faction has however been weakened by defections from MPs and individuals who are disillusioned by their manifesto.

As of 2007, the Tsvangirai-led MDC has become the most popular, with crowds as large as 20,000 attending their rallies as compared to between 500–5,000 for the other splinter group. There is wide disagreement in Zimbabwe and neighbouring states as to whether a divided MDC can win presidential elections against a disciplined ruling party. The opposition continues to be weak in rural areas, where a large number of the population of Zimbabwe resides.

Major Political leaders:

  • Robert Mugabe President and chief of Zanu-PF party,
  • Morgan Tsvangirai led Movement Democratic Change (MDC),

Major political parties:

  • Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF);
  • Movement for Democratic Change (MDC); United People's Party (UPP).
Last Updated on Monday 4th August 2008