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Momentous day for Zimbabwe

  • 30 July 2018

Today, Monday 30th July 2018, is a momentous day for Zimbabwe as the country goes to their first ever election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper. Mugabe was the country’s first leader and ruled the country from 1980 until six months ago.

The leading candidates in this election, amongst the extensive list of 23 names which will appear on the ballot paper, are 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa who is standing for the ruling party Zanu PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front), and Nelson Chamisa who is standing for the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). At 40, Chamisa could become the country’s youngest ever leader.

Zimbabwe is expecting the highest ever number of voters including a large proportion of first time voters. Nearly half of those registered are under the age of 35 and it is predicted that many of the young city voters will vote for Nelson Chamisa, MDC leader.

Fr Nigel Johnson SJ, Development & Communications Director for the Jesuit Province of Zimbabwe-Mozambique says, “What is unpredictable is the rural vote, which counts for more than half of the electorate. In previous years, largely coerced by the local authorities, they have voted for the ruling party Zanu (PF), But this time, with the much freer atmosphere, it is impossible to predict how they will vote.”

To win, a candidate needs to gain a majority of over 50% of the votes otherwise there will be a secondary vote on September 8th which according to Fr Nigel will mean, “a very difficult month of more campaigning, more outrageous promises and lies, more fake news and more allegations of rigging.”

Jesuit Missions has a long history in Zimbabwe, and recently provided urgent food relief as well as coordinating partnerships between Jesuit schools in the UK and Zimbabwe. There is still a large number of British-born Jesuits actively working in Zimbabwe.

Although the election campaign has been very peaceful and a significant improvement on previous years there are still many unknowns as the country goes to the polls. Fr Nigel says, “We do not know what the reaction will be when the results start to come in and we see who takes the lead, and how the losing party will react. If Munangagwa is declared President, will Chamisa and his supporters accept the results, or will they launch massive demonstrations? If Chamisa is declared the winner, will Zanu (PF), accept it? At this moment in time, all we can do it wait.”

Photo: Students at St Joseph’s Chishawasha (Zimbabwe) who are partnered with St Joseph’s Hurst Green (UK) as part of the Jesuit Missions Companions Programme.