Politics of Zimbabwe

The politics of Zimbabwe takes place in a framework of a full presidential republic, whereby the President is the head of state and government as organized by the 2013 Constitution. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

Political developments since the Lancaster House Agreement

The Zimbabwean Constitution, initially from the Lancaster House Agreement a few months before the 1980 elections, chaired by Lord Carrington, institutionalizes majority rule and protection of minority rights. Since independence, the Constitution has been amended by the government to provide for:

The elected government controls senior appointments in the public service, including the military and police, and ensures that appointments at lower levels are made on an equitable basis by the independent Public Service Commission.

ZANU-PF leader Robert Mugabe, elected prime minister in 1980, revised the constitution in 1987 to make himself president. President Mugabe's affiliated party won every election from independence on April 18, 1980, until it lost the parliamentary elections in March 2008 to the Movement for Democratic Change. In some quarters corruption and rigging elections have been alleged. In particular the elections of 1990 were nationally and internationally condemned as being rigged, with the second-placed party, Edgar Tekere's Zimbabwe Unity Movement, winning only 20% of the vote. Presidential elections were held in 2002 amid allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation, and fraud, and again in March 2008.

Ethnic rivalry between the Shona and Ndebele has played a large part in Zimbabwe's politics, a consequence of the country's borders defined by its British colonial rulers. This continued after independence in 1980, during the Gukurahundi ethnic cleansing liberation wars in Matabeleland in the 1980s. This led to the political merger of Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) with the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) to form ZANU-PF and the appointment of Nkomo as vice president.

During 2005, with the Mugabe's future in question, factionalism within the Shona has increased.[1] In October 2005 it was alleged that members of the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC have held secret meetings in London and Washington to discuss plans for a new Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe.[2] On February 6, 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a Cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including 5-year veteran Minister of Finance Herbert Murerwa.

Political conditions

Since the defeat of the constitutional referendum in 2000, politics in Zimbabwe has been marked by a move from the norms of democratic governance, such as democratic elections, the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, freedom from racial discrimination, the existence of independent media, civil society and academia. Recent years have seen widespread violations of human rights.

Elections have been marked by political violence and intimidation, along with the politicisation of the judiciary, military, police force and public services.[3] Statements by the President and government politicians have referred to a state of war, or Chimurenga, against the opposition political parties, in particular the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T). Newspapers not aligned with the government have been closed down, members of the judiciary have been threatened and/or arrested. Repressive laws aimed at preventing freedoms of speech, assembly and association have been implemented and subjectively enforced. Members of the opposition are routinely arrested and harassed, with some subjected to torture or sentenced to jail. The legal system has come under increasing threat. The MDC has repeatedly attempted to use the legal system to challenge the ruling ZANU-PF, but the rulings, often in favour of the MDC, have not been taken into account by the police.


Political power in Zimbabwe is split between three branches, the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches, with President as the head of the executive branch, the Prime Minister the head of the legislative branch and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe the head of the judicial branch.


Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front 30 November 1987
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front 12 December 2014

Under Zimbabwe's Constitution, the president is the head of state and government, elected by popular majority vote. Prior to 2013, the president was elected for a 6-year term with no term limits. The new constitution approved in the 2013 constitutional referendum limits the president to two 5-year terms, but this does not take effect retrospectively (Robert Mugabe has held the office since 1987).

The Cabinet is appointed by the president and responsible to the House of Assembly.


Parliament (formerly known as the House of Assembly) has 120 members elected by the common-roll electorate, 10 tribal chiefs, 12 presidential appointees, eight presidentially appointed provincial governors, Speaker, and the Attorney General. It may serve for a maximum of five years.


The judiciary is headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe who, like their contemporaries, 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 Parliament.

The Supreme Court is the highest court of order and the final court of appeal. The Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyausiku, is the senior judge. Others who sit on the bench of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe are Justice Paddington Garwe, former Judge-President of the High Court, Wilson Sandura, Vernanda Ziyambi and Luke Malaba.

The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law with South African influences. A five-member Supreme Court, headed by the Chief-Justice has original jurisdiction over alleged violations of fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution and appellate jurisdiction over other matters. There is a High Court consisting of general and appellate divisions. Below the High Court are regional magistrate's courts with civil jurisdiction and magistrate's courts with both civil and criminal jurisdiction over cases involving traditional law and custom. Beginning in 1981, these courts were integrated into the national system.

List of Chief Justices:

Incumbent Tenure Notes
Took office Left office
Hector Norman MacDonald 1977 May 1980 Appointed by Ian Smith (Rhodesia under UDI)
Sir John Fieldsend [4] 1 July 1980 1983
Enoch Dumbutshena February 1984 1990
Anthony Gubbay 1990 2001
Godfrey Chidyausiku 2001 present

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see List of political parties in Zimbabwe. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Zimbabwe.
  Summary of the 29 March and 27 June 2008 Zimbabwean presidential election results
Party Candidate 1st round 2nd round
Votes % Votes %
   Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front Robert Mugabe 1,079,730 43.2 2,150,269 85.5
   Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai Morgan Tsvangirai 1,195,562 47.9 233,000 9.3
   Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn Simba Makoni 207,470 8.3  
   Independent Langton Towungana 14,503 0.6
   Invalidated 131,481 5.2
Totals 2,497,265 100.0 2,514,750 100.0
  Summary of the 29 March 2008 Zimbabwe House of Assembly election
Party Party leader # of
Seats Popular vote
2005 Dissolution Elected # %
   Movement for Democratic Change - Tsvangirai Morgan Tsvangirai 204 41 27 100 1,041,176 42.88
   Movement for Democratic Change - Mutambara Arthur Mutambara 151 - 14 10 202,259 8.39
   Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front Robert Mugabe 219 78 78 99 1,110,649 45.94
   United People's Party Daniel Shumba 49 - - 0 7,331 0.30
   Peace Action is Freedom for All Abel Ndlovu 6 - - 0 1,545 0.06
   Federal Democratic Union Paul Siwala 7 - - 0 1,315 0.05
   Zimbabwe Progressive People's Democratic Party Tafirenyika Mudavanhu 8 - - 0 1,047 0.04
   Zimbabwe African National Union – Ndonga Wilson Kumbila 2 - - 0 756 0.03
   Zimbabwe Development Party Kisinoti Mukwazhe 9 - - 0 608 0.03
   Patriotic Union of MaNdebeleland Leonard Nkala 7 - - 0 523 0.02
   Christian Democratic Party William Gwata 2 - - 0 233 0.01
   Zimbabwe African People's Union - Federal Party Sikhumbuzo Dube 1 - - 0 195 0.00
   ZURD Madechiwe Collias 1 - - 0 112 0.00
   Voice of the People/Vox Populi Moreprecision Muzadzi 2 - - 0 63 0.00
   Zimbabwe Youth in Alliance Moses Mutyasira 1 - - 0 7 0.00
   Independents 104 1 1 1 54,254 2.25
   Presidential appointees[5] - 20 20 - - -
   Ex-officio members (Chiefs)[5] - 10 10 - - -
Total 773 150 150 210 2,421,973 100%
Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (The Herald)

Summary of the 15 March 2008 Council of Chiefs Executive Election, 29 March 2008 Zimbabwe Senate Election,

31 March 2009 Chiefs Representation Election, and 25 August 2008 and 26 August 2009 Presidential Appointments of Gubernatorial and Non-Constituent Senators
Party # of
Seats Popular vote for Elected Seats
2005 a b Total Diss. Elected a b c Total # %
   ZANU-PF 61 43 10 6 59 59 30 12 5 10 57 1,101,931 45.79
   MDC-T 61 - - - - 1 24 - - - 24 1,035,824 43.04
   MDC-M 36 7 - - 7 6 6 6 - - 12 206,807 8.59
   UPP 11 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 16,875 0.70
   ZANU–Ndonga 1 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 2,196 0.09
   ZAPU-FP 1 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 734 0.03
   PUMA 2 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 320 0.01
   FDU 1 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 303 0.01
   ZPPDP 2 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 124 0.00
   Independents 20 - - - - - 0 - - - 0 41,364 1.72
   Vacant 0 0
Total 196 50 10 6 66 66 60 18 5 10 93[6] 2,406,478 100%
Sources: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zimbabwe Metro), Parliament of Zimbabwe Hansard, Zimbabwe Herald, allafrica.com, sokwanele.com, talkzimbabwe.com, and kubatana.net
a - Ex-officio senators (chiefs), including the president and deputy president of the Council of Chiefs; b - Non-Constituent Senators directly appointed by the President; c - Provincial governors directly appointed by the President.

In June, 2004 the politburo announced that the March 2005 general elections would conform to election guidelines drawn up by the 14 member Southern Africa Development Community. The Registrar-General will not oversee elections, which will instead be overseen by a five-member electoral commission whose chairman would be appointed by Mugabe. The 2005 parliamentary elections were held on March 31. While the African Union reported no major irregularities, opposition figures such as Archbishop Pius Ncube have made charges of vote rigging.[7] Elections were held on a single day, not two or three as before. Translucent ballot boxes were used to prevent "stuffing," and counting was done at polling centers rather than at a single, central location. At the time of the election it was speculated that factionalism between different Shona-speaking clans had increased.[8]

Administrative division

Main articles: Provinces of Zimbabwe, Districts of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, each administered by a provincial governor appointed by the President. The provincial governor is assisted by the provincial administrator and representatives of several service ministries. The provinces are further divided into 63 districts.

See also

International organization participation



  1. Archived copy at the Library of Congress (April 14, 2005).
  2. "The end of Mugabe?". openDemocracy. 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  3. Archived March 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. 1 2 After the recent Constitutional reform in Zimbabwe, presidential appointees and ex-officio members may no longer hold seats in the House of Assembly
  6. Persuant to Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 18, the Senate has expanded to 93 members, including presidential appointments.
  7. "Robert Mugabe is poised to rig a general election once again". The Economist. 23 March 2005.
  8. "Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change". Iwpr.net. 2015-10-13. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
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