Zimbabwe Beyond July 2013: Prospects for rebuilding vibrant social movements

James Muzondidya. Zimbabwean Researcher and Analyst.

One of the dominant and recurring themes in civil society discourses around the revival and strengthening of the Zimbabwean civic movement is the issue of social movements.  At almost every Civil Society Organization (CSO) workshop/meeting that has been convened since July 2013, there has been a general consensus amongst CSO leaders, policy and strategy advisors and research practitioners that there is a critical need for the civic movement to reconnect with its social base in order to remain relevant, legitimate and powerful. Much more importantly, it has been strongly argued that there is an imperative need for a sustained process of (re)building social movements that can push for the realization of Zimbabwean citizens’ socio-economic rights and interests as well as social and political change. What has, however, been critically missing in this emerging ‘post-July 31 consensus’ is some serious thinking about how this social movement (re)building process is supposed to be done; the kind of social movements envisioned; the opportunities and challenges involved in rebuilding these social movements; the role that contemporary CSOs is supposed to play in the whole process; and the strategies required for such a process to succeed.  This discussion paper seeks to examine the key issues that need to be considered in Zimbabwean civil society’s deliberations around social movement rebuilding. Read more

Tue, June 2 2015 » Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

Zimbabwe’s Politics of Despair

Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research and Advocacy, Solidarity Peace Trust.


In an insightful commentary on the current state of Zimbabwe politics, Joost Fontein writes about the prevalence of despondency in which a ‘new timescale of hope and aspiration’ has emerged ‘that makes both the present and any immediate future appear equally uninspiring.’1 In many ways this resignation to the politics of the long haul reflects the loss of hope in an imminent alternative, which was the structure of feeling that fuelled the social imagination of opposition and civic politics from the late 1990’s until the complexities and complicities of the Global Political Agreement. Underlying this politics of despair are a plethora of factors, ranging from the re-organisation of Zanu PF and its political machinery of patronage, coercion and electoral chicanery, to the massive dissipation of opposition energies in the context of  large-scale changes in Zimbabwe social structure since the 1990’s.  The recent implosion in Zanu PF around the politics of succession have, moreover, provided further evidence of the pervasive mood of despair in Zimbabwe’s polity, even against the background of the ruling party’s purported victory and resurgence in the 2013 election. Read more

Tue, March 24 2015 » Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

Re-engagement, renewal, and the death of Zimbabwe’s Real(e)st National Democrat.

Wilfred Mhanda

Wilfred Mhanda

By way of an obituary for Wilfred Mhanda (aka Dzinashe “Dzino” Machingura): May 26 1950 – May 28 2014

By David Moore, University of Johannesburg 

Zimbabwe’s Ides of April foretold the death of the Movement for Democratic Change as we know it. Morgan Tsvangirai dismissed the author of a letter from within the leadership circles asking him to consider leaving the torch for others. This instigated a late April effort, seemingly led by the fiery MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti, to dismiss the erstwhile champion of change. Tsvangirai, worn with nearly fifteen years of defeat whilst perhaps also sated by the good life, tried in turn to dismiss the cabal. Too much change for him. His heavy handed response will lead to a new party being formed. A week or so later he was in and out of clinics suffering nervous strain. The result: either more fragmentation than ever or renewal breathed broadly into the democratic forces, A détente between the eternal enemies in the Zimbabwean polity, posing within rough camps of ‘intellectuals’ and ‘populists’, could emerge in a new congress of democrats, but there is an equal chance that the gap will widen. Violence between them has already emerged, as in 2005 when the MDC split into a debilitating divide, and indeed when the ‘eggheads’ who would eventually lead Zimbabwe’s current party-state broke off from the folks one of their éminences grise labelled ‘non-working spivs, who had made thuggery and intimidation the law in the African townships’ led by Joshua Nkomo, who despised ‘intellectuals’ ever since.

Much, as usual in Zimbabwean politics, depends on ZANU-PF’s resolution of its internecine competition whilst waiting for its nigh immortal president to tire, retire, or die. One indication of ZANU-PF’s difficulties now that it is in a renewed moment of power, having handily (and slightly sleight-handily) dismissed the opposition in last year’s election but confronting a deflationary economic crisis mirroring the hyper-inflationary inferno of only a few years ago, is its hesitant and half-hearted moves to ‘reengage’ the western ogres of its oft-paranoid imagination. A two-day conference organised in early May by Ibbo Mandaza and the National Endowment for Democracy, appealing to the fringes of the ZANU-PF fray on the side of rational re-integration, signified that....Read more

Fri, June 6 2014 » Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

The Sanctions Debate on Zimbabwe

Solidarity Peace trust LogoBy Brian Raftopoulos In the early 2000’s a series of ‘targeted measures’ were introduced by the EU, US, and later Australia, New Zealand and Canada, against the movement and assets of particular individuals in the Mugabe regime. The measures were introduced as a response to serious electoral irregularities and human rights abuses in the Parliamentary and Presidential elections in 2000 and 2002 respectively. It was also clear that these interventions were a response to the state-led land acquisition process that unfolded for much of the 2000’s, which radically transformed the property ownership structure on the land in favour of small scale farming. Read more

Fri, April 11 2014 » Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

Zimbabwe’s democrats: A luta perdido – e reinício

Robert Mugabe Inaugurated as President for the 7th time

Robert Mugabe Inaugurated as President for the 7th time

By David Moore. David Moore’s 1990 York University (Canada) Phd examined the history of Zimbabwe’s liberation war: the contradictions continue still. Now Professor of Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg, while on sabbatical he is Visiting Scholar at UCT’s Centre for African Studies. This is an altered version of an August 9 OpenCanada.org publication.

August 1 6:08: from inside a party meeting assessing the damage, the SMS from the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai activist could not have been more different than his “WE HV WON” after Zimbabwe’s March 2008 election. “Bad news” wrote the man who was in seventh heaven at the country’s biggest ever political rally two days before: “We hv bn hit by the unexplainable. Its game over. 5 years with Mugabe again”.

The MDC-T’s hopes for a ‘crossover’ peaked at the rally (twenty per cent being registered, opined one senior observer: I trust that the young fellow who pickpocked me was one of the unregistered masses!). The real crossover contrasted starkly to the hopes of the MDC-T, its civil society supporters, and democrats the world over. It marked a fundamental transformation in Zimbabwe’s polity and social order nonetheless.

The results were soon in: ZANU-PF’s 62 to 34% victory over Zimbabwe’s main opposition in the presidential race and an over two-thirds parliamentary majority guarantee ‘revolutionary party’ power for the next five years. Many words have been spilled saying that this will be Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s last term as president, but it should not be forgotten that after 2005’s elections he said he’d rule until he was a century old. Constitution makers may have stopped this: two terms, up to 10 years, is the limit. Biology willing, the need to maintain a faction-ridden ZANU-PF could stretch his years in power to 99. Read more

Wed, September 4 2013 » 2013, Elections, Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

Violence and Transition in Post Settler-Colonial states

SPT LogoBy Brian Raftopoulos, Solomon Mungure, Nicky Rousseau and Masheti Masinjila. The authors are part of the Violence and Transition Project in Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa funded by the IDRC.  

The recently concluded elections in Kenya against the background of the electoral violence of 2007, the anticipated election in Zimbabwe in 2013 with the memory of state led electoral violence in 2008 still fresh in the memory of the electorate, and the proclivity for state violence in South Africa witnessed in the Marikana killings, all point to different but connected legacies of violence in these countries.

Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are three former British settler colonies where between 1963 and 1994 the countries witnessed the coming of independence and the end of white settler rule. However the forms of violence that characterised both colonial rule and the anti-colonial struggles in those countries have continued to haunt their political and everyday life. Thus the Mau Mau period in Kenya, the dominantly guerilla war in Zimbabwe and the widespread urban resistance and more limited armed struggle of the South African liberation movements have found continuing echoes in the contemporary violence in these countries. Read more

Fri, July 19 2013 » 2013, Elections, Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment

5 Reasons why this woman is voting “YES” in the Constitutional Referendum

Teresa P. Mugadza

Teresa Mugadza is the Deputy Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission. She is writing in her personal capacity and the views expressed in this article are her own.

I want to start with a disclaimer. First, I do not represent anyone but myself and therefore my views are myopic to the extent that I represent my selfish interests. Second, I am a functionary of the inclusive government as a Commissioner, so I am sure there are some that will perceive me to be compromised just by that station. I, however, believe that this does not and should not preclude me from voicing my position as a Zimbabwean woman. Further, I am persuaded that after having read the Draft Constitution I owe it to fellow women, to state why I have chosen to vote “YES”. Read more

Wed, March 6 2013 » Elections, Zimbabwe Review » Leave a comment