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Zimbabwe: The year since Mugabe's ousting

Sunday November 18 2018

Robert Mugabe

In this file photo taken on July 29, 2018 former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses media during a surprise press conference at his residence "Blue Roof " in Harare, on the eve of the country's first election since he was ousted from office last year. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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HARARE,

Some Zimbabweans dared to hope that the fall of long-time authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe a year ago would finally bring change after years of economic decline, corruption, and repression.

But the last 12 months have been tough, with few signs of Zimbabwe emerging into a new era.

CASH SCARCE

Consumer prices last month rocketed at their fastest pace since hyperinflation a decade ago, with annual inflation hitting 20.9 percent, and many Zimbabweans saying the real rate is far higher.

Cash remains scarce, with depositors forced to line up outside banks to get limited withdrawals of "bond notes" -- supposedly equal to US dollars but worth far less in reality.

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Shortages of everyday essentials such as bread, chicken, cooking oil, and petrol have worsened since Mugabe's fall, as the country runs out of foreign currency to buy imported goods.

Long queues outside petrol stations and empty shops have become regular sights, while medicine supplies have also become scarcer and far more expensive.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party easily won the July election, holding firm control of the parliament.

REPRESSION

The party's leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mr Mugabe, won the presidential race with just over 50 percent -- narrowly avoiding a second-round run-off against Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition MDC, which said the result was fraudulent.

Mr Mnangagwa promised a free and open Zimbabwe after the Mugabe years, but political opponents, protesters and activists still face a repressive regime.

On August 1, security forces opened fire and six people were killed in Harare during demonstrations as election results were delayed. MDC party members have been routinely harassed and government critics targeted, though the government denies involvement.

Zimbabwe must clear its arrears before it can raise more loans needed to re-build the country. With a total debt of $16.9 billion, it says it will clear almost $2 billion of arrears with the African Development Bank and the World Bank by October 2019.

But continuing targeted US sanctions, which remain in place due to lack of reform, could block fresh loans.

SUMMARY

Here is a summary of key developments since Mr Mugabe was ousted after 37 years in charge of the southern African country.

  • On November 21, 2017, 93-year-old Mr Mugabe bows to mounting pressure and resigns in a letter to parliament, which was about to debate his impeachment.

  • Military generals had seized power days earlier after he fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, amid concern Mr Mugabe was positioning his wife Grace to succeed him.

  • Cheering crowds race through the streets of the capital as the news spreads. Britain and the United States welcome Mr Mugabe's departure.

  • Mr Mnangagwa returns to Zimbabwe from South Africa the following day, having fled after his dismissal two weeks earlier.

  • Mr Mnangagwa is sworn-in on November 24, setting out a programme that envisages a reversal of many of Mr Mugabe's signature policies and promising that elections due in 2018 would go ahead.

  • In February 2018, veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dies of cancer. His Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) picks former youth activist Nelson Chamisa to lead it into the election set for July 30.

  • On June 23, a bomb explodes as Mnangagwa leaves the podium at a campaign rally for his Zanu-PF party in the opposition stronghold city of Bulawayo. He escapes unharmed but two bodyguards are killed.

  • Long queues form outside polling stations on July 30 as thousands vote, turnout is estimated at 75 percent.

  • Early the next morning, with vote counting under way, Mr Chamisa claims he is "winning resoundingly". Mr Mnangagwa says he is "extremely positive".

  • As tensions mount, the election authority rejects opposition allegations of rigging.

  • On August 1, the election commission announces that Zanu-PF has easily won most of the seats in parliament but does not give the results for the presidential vote.

  • The opposition alleges fraud and its supporters take to the streets of Harare, with violence erupting. Soldiers fire live rounds and six people are killed.

  • As international condemnation pours in, the government warns it will "not tolerate" unrest.

  • In the early hours of August 3, the electoral commission declares Mr Mnangagwa the winner with 50.8 percent of the vote against Mr Chamisa's 44.3 percent.

  • Mr Chamisa rejects the results as "fraudulent, illegal, illegitimate" and vows to challenge them in court.

  • On August 6, 27 MDC members appear in court on violence charges related to the post-election protests.

  • The MDC lodges a bid to overturn the election results on August 10. The Constitutional Court dismisses it on August 24 for a lack of evidence.

  • Mr Mnangagwa is inaugurated on August 26, calling for unity and a focus on the economic challenges facing the nation. He announces an enquiry into the election killings.

  • The opposition walks out of Mr Mnangagwa's inaugural address to parliament on September 18, when he announces measures to tackle the economic crisis and a deadly cholera outbreak.

  • On October 11, police arrest scores of trade union leaders and activists ahead of national protests against price and tax hikes. The demonstrations would have violated a ban on public gatherings because of the spreading cholera.

  • At a rally to mark the MDC's 19th anniversary, Mr Chamisa insists on October 27 that he had won the July elections. This gathering had been banned several times, with police citing the cholera epidemic.

  • On November 7 two government ministers under Mr Mugabe appear in court on corruption charges.