The Persistent Crisis of the Zimbabwean State

Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research Solidarity Peace Trust.

Introduction

Since the 2013 elections the convulsions within the ruling party have intensified to unprecedented levels. In response to this phenomenon there has been a good deal of analytical commentary on these struggles, focusing on the nature and causes of the contestations and centring mainly on the central question of Presidential succession. 1 Common to all the analyses is the challenge of stabilising and democratising the Zimbabwean state by dealing both with the legacies of colonial period and their continuities, as well as their new iterations, in the post-colonial era. This is not a problem peculiar to Zimbabwe, and in different forms continues to haunt the state in post-colonial Africa, as it is forced to contend with the legacies of both structural inequalities and despotic forms of rule. 2

In Zimbabwe this problem has manifested itself in a centralised, authoritarian ruling party that has conflated its operations with that of the state and overseen the erosion of the capacity of state structures to deliver to and protect the broader citizenry. In the rural areas the state has entrenched its power bases through a combination of coercion, a failure to democratise ‘traditional’ structures and the increasing placement of these under state/party control. Importantly, this consolidation of control in the countryside has also been the result of the delivery of land, with all its attendant problems, through the fast track land reform process. In the urban areas Zanu PF’s control over peri-urban land politics is linked to its undermining of the opposition’s tenuous control of certain urban local government structures and has furthered the reach of Zanu PF’s structures of power and patronage. 3 Read more

Thu, June 9 2016 » Zimbabwe Update » 1 Comment

Is Zimbabwe heading towards another disputed election?

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By Brian Raftopoulos

As Zimbabwe’s elections on 31 July approach, the Southern African Development Community is under pressure to complete its mandate from 2007.

In September 2008 the three major political parties in Zimbabwe entered an inclusive government following a contested election in June that year. The Global Political Agreement (GPA), as it was called, was facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the facilitation was led by the South African government.

After nearly five years under a very problematic and intensely contested inclusive arrangement, the people of Zimbabwe face another election on the 31st July in a battle for the presidency, parliament and council representatives. The setting of the election date was announced unilaterally by President Mugabe, following a decision by the constitutional court clearly directed by Mugabe’s party. Read more

Mon, July 29 2013 » 2013, Elections, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment

SPT – Zimbabwe Update No.5. October 2012: Towards another stalemate in Zimbabwe?

SPT - Zimbabwe UpdateBy Brian Raftopoulos

Introduction.

Four years after the signing of the SADC facilitated Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe, the outcome of the process remains fiercely contested and in the balance. The Agreement, which set out to prepare the political process for a generally acceptable election after the debacle of 2008, has been marked by severe ebbs and flows, all too characteristic of the battle for the state that has constituted the politics of the GPA. At almost every stage of the mediation from 2007 and the implementation of the GPA from February 2009, intense conflicts over the interpretation of the accord have left their debris on the political terrain, at the heart of which has been the struggle over the meaning of ‘sovereignty’. Around this notion Zanu PF in particular has woven dense layers of political discourse combined with the coercive force of the state that it continues to control. The major aim of this strategy has been to manipulate and stall the reform provisions in the GPA, and to regroup and reconfigure its political resources after plunging to the nadir of its legitimacy in the 2008 electoral defeat. Read more

Mon, October 22 2012 » Constitution, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment

SPT – Zimbabwe Update No.4. March 2012: The Shadow of Elections

SPT - Zimbabwe UpdateA great tragedy of the Mugabe regime has been the deconstruction of national institutions, which some analysts have mistaken for a ‘radicalised state.’ In effect Zimbabweans have witnessed a destructive form of vanguardist politics in which a particular party has claimed the right to speak for the majority and in so doing has turned its back on the establishment of stable, functioning national institutions, through which the generality of Zimbabwean citizens could hold those in power to account. In the process, on the one hand, the messaging from the most arrogant section of this elite has increasingly been couched in terms of a priestly imposition of a selective dogma, dressed in a nationalist cloth that provides precious little cover for most of the population. Additionally, through control over the centralised structures of coercion in the country, key members of the security sector have spawned informalised structures of violence that threaten once again to mar the prospects for a generally acceptable election outside of a fuller implementation of the GPA.

On the other hand the countries of the West, through an increasingly problematic sanctions regime, have added to the political gridlock in Zimbabwe in the guise of being the arbiters of global human rights. In the face of the inconsistencies in the application of the ‘right to protect’ by the Atlantic emporium in contemporary global politics, this potentially noble project is in danger of being cast as yet another form of imperial arrogance. Read more

Fri, March 9 2012 » Elections, Zimbabwe Update » Leave a comment