Zimbabwe: Change now?

As Zimbabwe approaches the twentieth anniversary of its independence, political change is in the air. Although it survived Africa’s so-called wave of democratisation, which brought transitions in Zambia and Malawi in the early 1990s, the Mugabe regime is faltering. Having lost a key constitutional referendum, is power slipping from the government’s grip?

The World Today Updated 27 October 2020 Published 1 April 2000 5 minute READ

Sara Rich Dorman

St. Antony's College, Oxford

In Zimbabwe’s February referendum, fifty-four percent voted against the new draft constitution, which had been produced by a government-sponsored commission. Urban voters opposed it by margins of up to three to one, while those in rural areas tended to support the government.

The ‘No’ vote suggests that a wide spectrum of citizens – black and white – are frustrated and believe they can contribute to political decision-making. An opinion poll conducted by the Helen Suzman Foundation in January and February revealed that sixty-three percent of respondents think it is time for a change.

Nonetheless, the opposition victory in the referendum does not guarantee it the same result in parliamentary elections scheduled for late April. Given the constituencies and the winner-take-all electoral system, the pro-government vote in the referendum would still be enough to return the governing ZANU(PF) party with a majority in Parliament.

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