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New leadership brings more of the same in Zimbabwe but a democratic opening in Angola

In November 2017, Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a military coup after nearly 40 years at the helm of the country. He was, however, replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Since the coup, Zimbabwe (4th quartile) has seen no significant change in its XpA scores, underlining the level of continuity despite the change in leadership.

A deeply flawed election, in which the ruling ZANU–PF took power, was held in 2018. Voting turnout was high, and the day of the vote relatively peaceful, but after the announcement of ZANU–PF’s victory the environment unravelled into protests, which the army violently shut down, killing seven and injuring 14.[1]

Both ruling party ZANU–PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai perpetrated attacks on journalists in the run-up to the elections.[2] The Mnangagwa regime has promised to reform media legislation, but there have been few details on the content or timeline of these amendments.[3]

Angola’s comparable situation, in which President João Lourenço become the country’s first new President in 38 years in late 2017, brought different outcomes. Lourenço was the handpicked successor of José Eduardo dos Santos, but he soon made strong breaks from his predecessor’s politics, mounting a spirited anti-corruption campaign and firing many people – including the army’s chief of staff (who is also under investigation for fraud) and the head of foreign intelligence.

Angola (3rd quartile) is one the XpA’s top Advancers across all four of our time periods (2017-2018, 2015-2018, 2013-2018, and 2008-2018), showing strong and steady advances since 2008. Over the past decade the country has moved nearly 20 positions, from the 4th to the 3rd quartile.

President Lourenço demonstrated more respect for public demonstrations than his predecessor; in 2018, there was both a dramatic increase in protests and a decline in police crackdowns and arrests of demonstrators.[4] The political and civil rights environment became less restrictive throughout the year; the courts appeared to operate without political interference,[5] and the environment for CSOs improved significantly, with less official interference.[6]

In acquitting two journalists of defamation charges, an Angolan court recognised the right to inform, presenting a big step forward for media rights.[7] However, the state still owns the majority of outlets,[8] and the prohibitive cost of operating licenses and failure to open up broadcasting to new operators remain restrictions on pluralism.[9]

 

 

[1] International Press Institute, Zimbabwe Battles for Media Freedom After Milestone Election, 24 October 2018, available at https://ipi.media/zimbabwe-battles-for-media-freedom-after-milestone-election/

[2] International Press Institute, Pressure on Media Grows as Poll Date Nears in Zimbabwe, 18 July 2018, available at https://ipi.media/pressure-on-media-grows-as-poll-date-nears-in-zimbabwe/?mc_cid=69a6d798e0&mc_eid=01a6c004a9

[3] International Press Institute, Zimbabwe Battles for Media Freedom After Milestone Election, 24 October 2018, available at https://ipi.media/zimbabwe-battles-for-media-freedom-after-milestone-election/

[4] Freedom House, ‘Angola’, Freedom in the World, 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/angola

[5] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2019, p29, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019

[6] Freedom House, ‘Angola’, Freedom in the World, 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/angola

[7] Reporters without Borders, Angola: Rafael Marques and Mariano Bras Acquitted at Last, 9 July 2018, available at https://rsf.org/en/news/angola-rafael-marques-and-mariano-bras-acquitted-last

[8] Freedom House, ‘Angola’, Freedom in the World, 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/angola

[9] Reporters without Borders, ‘2019 RSF Index: Big changes for press freedom in sub-Saharan Africa’, World Press Freedom Index, 16 April 2019, available at https://rsf.org/en/2019-rsf-index-big-changes-press-freedom-sub-saharan-africa

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