Zimbabweans Head to the polls on July 30th – Emmerson Mnangagwa versus Nelson Chamisa

On Monday, July 30th, Zimbabweans head to the polls. Although there are 23 presidential candidates, only two have a realistic chance of winning: the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, who leads the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANUPF); and Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Chamisa is backed by an alliance of seven opposition parties.

After 18-years, Zimbabweans will no longeer see the names of Robert Mugabe or Morgan Tsvangirai on their ballots. Mugabe of ZANUPF, the ruling party, was forced out of office as president in November. Tsvangirai of MDC died of cancer in February.


Who are Zimbabwe’s major candidates?

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75-year-old, was one of Mugabe’s closest allies for more than four decades. Mnangagwa served as his spy chief, justice minister and vice president. It is alleged that he was part of the security and intelligence officials who masterminded the massacre of about 20,000 civilians and armed opposition dissidents in the southern Matabeleland province in the 1980s. Mnangagwa is a veteran of the war of independence in the 1970s. He is known by his nom de guerre Ngwena, or crocodile in the Shona language.

Mnangagwa was fired as vice president and Mugabe allowed his wife, Grace, to succeed him. Mnangagwa fled to neighboring South Africa. He returned and took over as president after the military staged a coup d'état and forced Mugabe to resign under threat of impeachment. Although he has promised a free and fair election, the opposition says the necessary conditions haven’t been put in place and the ruling party retains an unfair advantage. He had a narrow escape on June 23, when an explosive device went off near him at an election rally in the city of Bulawayo.

Nelson Chamisa

Nelson Chamisa, 40-year-old, is a lawyer and a pastor. Chamisa has been a leading figure in the MDC since its establishment in 1999. He served as Tsvangirai’s deputy for more than a decade. He was arrested several times during Mugabe’s rule and was hospitalized in 2007 after being badly beaten by the police. Chamisa served as telecommunications minister between 2009 and 2013 after regional leaders persuaded Mugabe into a unity government with the opposition after a disputed election. When Tsvangirai died, Chamisa was appointed as MDC leader for a year ahead of the party’s other deputies, Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe. Chamisa is known to be a proficient public speaker. Chamisa has used his legal experience to advocate for electoral reforms in the courts. He’s pledged to build new roads, rail links and other infrastructure, improve the education and health-care systems and revive the economy if elected.

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