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Is Zimbabwe any closer to regime change?

This will be the topic at a one-and-half-hour seminar in Pretoria this afternoon where the speaker will be Derek Matyszak, a senior research consultant, Peace and Security Research Programme, at the Institute Security Studies.

Matyszak, a lawyer who was once a researcher at the Harare-based Research Advocacy Unit, has written extensively on Zimbabwe elections and succession in the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.

The succession debate has become a topical issue as Zimbabweans wonder whether President Robert Mugabe, who is the ZANU-PF presidential candidate for next year’s elections, will make it or not because of his advanced age and poor health.

A recent poll has also shaken opposition parties currently working on coalitions to kick ZANU-PF next year when it said that ZANU-PF and Mugabe would win elections if they were held tomorrow.

According to a notice for the seminar circulated by the ISS, the event will be webcast live.

“The longer an authoritarian regime is in power, the more fraught the politics of succession,” the notice reads.

“Zimbabwe is a good example. Patronage networks and institutional capture result in a zero-sum game, making a peaceful transfer of power difficult.

“This seminar will consider what Zimbabwe’s constitution says about succession and the somewhat confused provisions of ZANU-PF’s own constitution.

“In the last 15 years, Mugabe’s reign has been characterised by ‘pendulum politics’, with the ascendancy of one group over the other changing with increasing frequency.

“Could the recent swing of the pendulum in favour of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ‘Lacoste’ group be the last oscillation?” it questions.

Two years ago, Matyszak told a Southern African Political Economy Series forum that Mugabe always played his potential successors against each other when one became too powerful for his own liking.

“Mugabe likes to be the only person sitting with the power and when it looks like somebody else is developing power then he moves to undercut that power.

“But you will never see him doing dirty politics, you will never see his fingerprints at the scene and you will never say Mugabe did this,” he said.

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