Three things to know about Zimbabwe’s presidential election

Zimbabwe heads to the polls on 23 August to elect its president, members of parliament and local councillors. It’s the country’s 8th election since 1990

By Gemma Ritchie
Friday, August 18, 2023

Image: Dalle E

  • Almost 1-million more Zimbabweans have registered to vote in the 2023 general election than in 2018 
  • Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa will face Nelson Chamisa on the ballot for the second time
  • The country’s next president faces myriad challenges – from triple-digit inflation to $8.3-billion in foreign debt

Zimbabwe heads to the polls on 23 August in its 8th election since 1990. Almost 1-million more people have registered to vote compared with 2018’s 5.7-million. Voters will cast three ballots to elect the president, 210 members of parliament and 9,000 councillors.

A voter turnout of 85% was recorded in the last election. Zimbabwe generally has a far higher turnout than South Africa, which saw 66% of registered voters at the ballot box for the general election in 2019.

The presidency

Presidents in Zimbabwe serve five-year terms and there is no limit on how many terms they can serve. Robert Mugabe was the country’s leader for almost three decades, serving as prime minister from 1980 to 1987 and then as president from 1987 to 2017.

The country has had three presidents since its independence from Britain in 1980: 

  • 1980 to 1987 – Zimbabwe African National Union’s Canaan Banana 
  • 1987 to 2017 – Zanu-PF’s Robert Mugabe
  • 2017 to the present: Zanu-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa

Eighty-year-old Mnangagwa has led Zimbabwe since Mugabe’s resignation in November 2017. He served in Mugabe’s cabinet and was the former president’s deputy until he was fired days before Mugabe resigned.

The candidates

To contest the election, a presidential candidate must be:

  • 40 years or older
  • A Zimbabwean citizen by birth or descent
  • A resident of Zimbabwe
  • A registered voter

To stand in 2023, presidential candidates have had to pay a nomination fee of US$20,000 (about R370,000).

The candidates contesting this year’s presidential election are:

  • Zanu-PF: Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, who, at 80, is the oldest candidate
  • Citizens Coaliton for Change: Nelson Chamisa (45)
  • Zimbabwean Coalition for Peace and Development: Trust Chikohora (48)
  • UANC: Gwinyai Muzorewa (79)
  • United Zimbabwe Alliance: Elisabeth Valerio, the only woman on the ballot
  • Free Zim Congress: Joseph Makamba Busha (59)
  • Zimbabwe Partnership For Prosperity (ZIPP): Blessing Kasiyamhuru (45)
  • National Constitutional Assembly (NCA): Lovemore Madhuku (57)
  • National People’s Congress (NPC): Wilbert Mubaiwa
  • Democratic Official Party (DOP): Harry Peter Wilson (62)

Mnangagwa’s strongest challenger is likely to be Chamisa. It is the second time the two will face each other in an election. Their first encounter in 2018 ended with Mnangagwa as victor with 50.7% of the vote against the Chamisa’s 44.4%. 

Chamisa, who Mugabe declared as his favourite candidate in 2018, was a member of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), an opposition coalition that included the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and six smaller parties. In 2022, Chamisa abandoned the MDC-A to launch the Citizens for Coalition Change.

This year’s MDC’s candidate, Douglas Mwonzora (55), has attempted to withdraw from the election, claiming the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been treating the party unfairly. The ZEC responded that it was too late so his name will still appear on the ballot sheet.

Shifting allegiance

Zanu-PF has historically relied on the voters in rural areas, with 67% of the population living outside urban areas. In the last election, the ruling party lost ground against the MDC-A in Harare, where it only managed 27% of the vote. Manicaland, one of Zimbabwe’s most populous provinces, switched allegiance to the MDC-A. 

Challenges facing the country

Economic revival remains at the top of the agenda Zimbabwe’s leadership: 


Zimbabwe Electoral Commission

Zimbabwe’s constitution 2013