November 13, 2017

#MyNewZimbabwe: Who will win the struggle to succeed Mugabe?

Ruling ZANU-PF party rallies around first lady amid crackdown on online dissent.

On Monday, November 13 at 19:30 GMT:

Last week, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa for "disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness, and unreliability," and has accused the ex-vice president of plotting to overthrow him. This is the latest and most dramatic twist in a vicious power struggle over who will succeed the 93-year-old leader of the once-thriving southern African country.

The vice president - widely perceived as a strong contender to replace Mugabe - was expelled from the ruling ZANU-PF party on Wednesday, and has fled the country claiming he has received death threats. 

Zimbabwe is facing severe cash and commodity shortages and the economy is still recovering from dramatic upheaval that began in 2000. The two men have worked alongside each other for nearly 50 years in government, and were allies in the 1970s guerrilla war that brought Mugabe to power.

Mugabe, in power since 1980, is seen as increasingly fail. With the vice president gone, his wife Grace Mugabe is now the top contender to be his successor. She has long been engaged in a public feud with Mnangagwa, calling for his removal as recently as the day before he was fired.

The political infighting comes amid an intensifying crackdown on social media, which is widely used in Zimbabwe to express political opinions. In October, the government created a Ministry for Cybersecurity, Threat Detection and Mitigation, and says it wants to crack down on cyberbullying. Government critics and human rights advocates, though, say the new ministry is being used as a cover to spy on social media users and stifle dissent and free speech.

Four people were arrested for booing Grace Mugabe at a rally on Saturday and subsequently charged with undermining the authority of the president. A US citizen, Martha O’Donovan, was arrested and jailed for allegedly retweeting a comment said to be insulting to the president. She has since been released on bail, but in the meantime her case has renewed the #ThisFlag movement. The movement, which began last year, showcases what users online are saying is an attempt to crackdown on free speech and the state of the economy. People on Twitter are also using #MyNewZimbabwe to share their vision of what a prosperous Zimbabwe could look like.

On Monday, we'll look at the role of social media in politics, and discuss what the dismissal of the vice president means for the future of Zimbabwe. 

Read more:

Robert Mugabe sacks vice-president to clear path to power for wife The Guardian
Mugabe's wife Grace rises to pinnacle of power in Zimbabwe Bloomberg 
Zimbabwe created a new ministry to monitor social media. But most Zimbabweans don't want government monitoring. The Washington Post 

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