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African Press Review 25 July 2018


Tough talking from political rivals in the run-up to elections in Zimbabwe. And withering criticism as the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari nears its end in Nigeria.

In less than a week from now, Zimbabweans will vote in the first presidential poll in almost 40 years that won't result in the re-election of Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe, you might recall, was forced to step down in what amounted to a coup d’état in November last year.

Naturally, the election tops the news agenda.

True to form, the government mouthpiece The Herald quotes Mugabe's successor, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who warns: "The law will be applied firmly on elements bent on inciting anarchy in this year’s harmonised elections as authorities are committed to delivering a peaceful and credible poll."

"His comments come in the wake of several threats by MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa to ‘shut down the country’ and ‘cause chaos’ if his party loses next week’s plebiscite," the paper tells readers.

For the record, of 153 political parties in Zimbabwe, 55 will take part in the forthcoming election and 23 will take part in the presidential poll.

The Herald repeats Mnangagwa's appeal for peace, saying the peace pledge signed by most of the country’s political parties should be adhered to.

The sub-text to this is of course: Or Else!

Mnangagwa knows a thing or two about violence. He's known as "the crocodile" after the guerrilla group he created to fight against white minority rule.

"Elections in shambles: Mujuru" is the attention-grabbing headline in privately owned Newsday.

This is Joice Mujuru, formerly of the ruling Zanu-PF party, now the presidential candidate of the People’s Rainbow Coalition.

“To date, the integrity of elections is in a shambles following the dictatorial tendencies of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, regarding the voters’ roll, security of data, data manipulation and audit of the voters’ roll,” Mujuru is quoted as saying.

Just the sort of skulduggery employed by Mugabe to maintain his stranglehold on power.

The more things change…

In neighbouring South Africa, The Star comments that "the bar for success is low, but the stakes in Zimbabwe's elections are high."

The paper says President Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF party hope a credible victory in the 30 July election will legitimise the power they gained from the “soft coup” that toppled Mugabe.

With victory, they say, the donors and dollars will flood into the country they have resurrected from nearly two moribund decades. Zimbabwe is now “open for business” and will thrive. Zanu-PF’s resurrection will thus be complete.

But a new survey suggests Zanu-PF should stall any premature celebration plans. The latest one showed that, in the space of one month, Nelson Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance has closed the gap with Zanu-PF. The surveys are conducted by Afro barometer, an independent research network that conducts public attitude surveys across Africa and its Zimbabwean partner, Mass Public Opinion Institute, a non-profit, non-governmental research organisation.

"Given the momentum of the MDC-Alliance, the post-Mugabe Zanu-PF’s hopes of a resurrection may be dashed. A great deal hangs on both parties’ ability to manage this interregnum," the paper says.

In Nigeria, an editorial in The Guardian is proof, if proof were needed, that winning political power is not the end of the story.

Where there is a free press there is scrutiny.

Thus, "Mr. President (that's to say Muhammadu Buhari), Nigerians under your watch have lost hope for brighter days and live in uncertain times," says the Guardian's editorial.

"There is gloom in Nigeria today," it says. "Security has taken a turn for the worse. Herdsmen have run amok. Farmers have abandoned their farmlands and become refugees. Prices of foodstuffs have hit the roof and there is hunger in the land."

General elections are due Nigeria in February next year. Time enough for more withering criticism of the country's rulers.

Stay tuned.

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