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IPresident Mugabe and ZANU-PF are here to stay. Think Africa Press asked a panel of experts what this means for the next five years in Zimbabwe.

With the dust settling in Zimbabwe following the heavily disputed elections, Zimbabweans are getting used to the idea – whether in hope or despair – that President Robert Mugabe will be in power for some time yet and that there is now a rejuvenated ZANU-PF with a super-majority in parliament.

This much is clear. But much remains unclear. What will become of defeated opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC? What will ZANU-PF seek to do with its super-majority? Where does this leave Zimbabwe’s relations with the rest of the world?

In order to shed light these on these questions, Think Africa Press asked a range of experts: "What will five more years of Mugabe and a super majority for ZANU-PF mean for Zimbabwe going forwards?"

Dewa Mavhinga, Senior Researcher on Zimbabwe, Human Rights Watch

The elections, marred by reports of gross electoral irregularities and fraud, further polarised relations between the UK, US, Australia and the EU on the one hand and the AU and SADC (with the exception of Botswana) on the other hand. Looking ahead, there is unlikely to be a change to this status quo as Western governments are likely to retain sanctions against Mugabe and his party in condemnation of the irregularities, while SADC and the AU seek to legitimise Mugabe's presidency by continuing to call for the lifting of the sanctions.

A major concern, based on their past patterns of repression, is that Mugabe and ZANU-PF will use their parliamentary super-majority to amend the new constitution to shut down democratic space and make it difficult if not impossible for local human rights and good governance groups to function. At its December 2012 annual conference, ZANU-PF resolved to “instruct the party to ensure that government enforces the de-registration of errant civil society organizations deviating from their mandate.” Various human rights and democratic reforms undertaken over the last five years may be reversed with no expectation that outstanding reforms, including legislative reforms to repeal repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Reform and Codification) Act will take place in the foreseeable future.

There now will be even less likelihood of domestic justice and accountability for those responsible for widespread human rights abuses, particularly election-related abuses, as many of the perpetrators are aligned to ZANU-PF. The greatest fear is that the ZANU-PF victory will return Zimbabwe to a de facto one-party-state under which key state institutions, including the army, the police, and sections of the judiciary, continue to be openly partisan and aligned to ZANU-PF. The security forces have a long history of partisanship on behalf of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Since independence in 1980, the army, police and Central Intelligence Organization have operated within a system that has allowed elements within their ranks to arrest, torture and kill perceived opponents with impunity.

Dewa Mavhinga is senior researcher for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa at  Human Rights Watch 

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