Zimbabwe elections: What you need to know

Wednesday August 23 2023

A supporter of Zanu-PF holds up an election campaign poster during a rally in Harare, Zimbabwe on August 9, 2023. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP


Voters across Zimbabwe’s 210 constituencies will head to the polls on Wednesday, seeking to determine whether the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa will win his second, and final term, in office.

But what else matters in these polls?

The candidature

President Emerson Mnangagwa, 80, of Zanu-PF will be seeking to defend his seat. But he faces a tight race against Nelson Chamisa, 45, (CCC, the Citizens Coalition for Change) the opposition leader who went neck and neck with him last time, five years ago, losing narrowly.

In total, there are 11 candidates, however, a huge drop from 23 last time in 2018. This is partly attributed to the hike in nomination fees from $1000 to $20,000 this year.

Read: Zimbabwe bars opposition candidates from upcoming polls


Douglas Mwanzora of MDC dropped out of the race last week alleging unfairness, but the race also includes Elisabeth Valerio running as the only woman contender. Earlier, the Supreme Court nullified the candidature of Saviour Kasukuwere whom earlier courts had declared unfit to run as he hadn’t been in the country for at least 18 months before the polls.

The other runners include:

  • Joseph Makamba Busha of FREEZIM Congress
  • Lovemore Madhuku: NCA
  • Harry Peter Wilson: DOP
  • Trust Tapiwa Chikohora: ZCPD
  • Blessing Kasiyamhuru: ZIPP
  • Wilbert Archbald Mubaiwa: NPC
  • Gwinyai Henry Muzorewa: The UANC

The contest

Mnangagwa is tipped to defend his elections, going by earlier performance, however narrow. In 2018, he got 2,460,463 (50.8 percent) of the votes against Chamisa’s 2,147,437 (44.3 percent). This time, he may perform better given he has stayed in power longer than in 2018 when he had only taken over after former President Robert Mugabe, who had become his enemy, was deposed by the military.

Read: Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe will be 'lost' if he isn't re-elected

The context

In spite of many candidates competing in the race, this is essentially a two-horse race between Mnangagwa, also known as the Crocodile, and his nemesis Chamisa. That doesn’t mean Chamisa has had it easier.

His rallies have been cancelled and police have routinely beat up critics of Zanu-PF. Observers seeking to watch over the polls have either been denied accreditation or deported with government officials accusing them of trying to tale non-existent stories about the polls.

Some international media outlets have also been refused accreditation or simply frustrated with unreasonable customs clearances to give up trying to cover the elections. These has seen some players allege unfairness and declare the elections already rigged, something Zanu-PF has rejected.

Read: HRW: Zimbabwe's upcoming poll will not be free, fair

How to win, the legal way

A candidate must win more than half of the votes cast, under the famous 50-percent-plus-one rule. In 2018, after Mnangagwa won, Chamisa rejected the results citing alleged irregularities. He went to the Constitutional Court which rejected his pleas and confirmed Mnangagwa.

Nonetheless, if none of the presidential candidates reaches the threshold of 50 percent plus one vote, a run-off election will be held on October 2. Normally, all results are announced within five days of closure of polling stations.

What else?

Chamisa is contesting for the second time, having picked up the mantle from former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangrai, now dead. But it is the first time he is running on CCC.

Last year, he lost a court battle that took away his former party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Read: Mnangagwa's poll victory upheld

He then formed CCC. Incidentally, MDC says its candidate won’t be competing after the electoral commission rejected 89 candidates for legislative seats for filing their papers late.

In truth, the nomination fees have become a toll order in a country with scarce US dollars, but which uses the green buck as a legal tender. Candidates routinely cited this to the electoral commission, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Other stuff

There are 6, 619 690 registered voters scattered across 210 constituencies that will also elect an MPs each in the Wednesday polls. These elections are officially known as ‘Harmonised’ because other elective seats will be contested as well.

Polling stations open at 7 AM and close at 7 PM local time (GMT+2). Presidential election results must be announced within three days of the election. The elections will also see senators elected via proportional representation while councillors will be elected directly by the voters.

In spite of issues or fairness clouding the campaigns, the economy is the major issue in this election as Zimbabweans battle high unemployment, high inflation (77.2 percent annual inflation), collapsing currency ($1 = Z$4500 (Zim dollars) on the official market and $1=$9 000 on the widely used parallel black-market).