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.

Conceptual Framework: Understanding the nature of Social movements

Social movements are organized sustained collective campaigns pushing for the implementation of certain policies or specific changes in society’s structure or values in order to achieve a specific social goal.  Social movements may seek to a better order for themselves or the world, while others seek to safeguard recent achievements against reversal or encroachment.[1] Many third world social movements, for instance, have been formed to defend their members’ livelihood against the encroachment of economic crisis and political repression. Social movements usually emerge in response to situations of inequality, oppression and/or unmet social, political, economic or cultural demands and strive for political and/or social change.  The key objective of social movements as collectivities is attempting to change the social order.

The main defining characteristic of social movements is that they are comprised of constituents pursuing a common political agenda of change through collective action.’ (Batliwala 2012: 3).[2] Their power mainly lies in their potential of mass-based citizen action to transform societies and create new forms of political participation and political voice, including in the domain of governance (Dutting and Sogge 2010).[3] Social movements have existed across history, and recent history has shown that they remain...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.

International Context and Zimbabwe

In this discussion I want to concentrate on the broader international context in which Zimbabwean politics is being contested, because this provides a larger vista to gage the possibilities for new political alternatives to emerge. In October 2014 the EU lifted its 12 year restrictive measures on particular agencies in the Government of Zimbabwe under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, although the measures against Mugabe, his wife and the supply of military equipment remained in place. This position was slightly modified with Mugabe’s elevation to the Chair of the African Union in February 2015. Following this development the restrictions on Mugabe were revised allowing EU member states to grant exemptions, ‘where travel is justified on the grounds of urgent humanitarian need, or in exceptional cases on grounds of attending intergovernmental meetings and those promoted or hosted by the European Union.’2 Following the lifting of most of the restrictive measures various EU trade delegations visited Zimbabwe as a further step towards the normalisation of relations between the two. Under this process of normalisation the EU assistance to the Government of Zimbabwe, though not through direct budget support, will be focused on three areas: improving health outcomes; support for economic development based on sustained agriculture; and institutional strengthening to consolidate the democratic process, peace and stability.3 However despite this movement away from hostility the EU still await more positive policy signals from the Zimbabwe Government...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.

The contestation over the meaning of the ‘targeted measures’ has marked the political discourse in the country from the early years of the new millennium until the present. For the opposition MDC, the civic movement and Western countries these measures were a just response to the repressive and authoritarian politics of the Mugabe regime and the violence and irregularities that marred most of the plebiscites in the decade of the 2000’s. During this period the measures played an important role in keeping a focus on the abuses of the Mugabe state, and provided some measure of accountability for the gross violations of human rights carried out by the state in this period.

For Zanu PF the measures were not targeted but amounted to a broader regime of sanctions that affected not only particular individuals in the ruling party but the economy and the Zimbabwean populace more generally. This argument was based on the fact that these punitive measures from the West not only restricted the supply of military equipment to the Mugabe government but, aside from the provision of humanitarian assistance, prevented any substantive new investments from entering the country. Moreover as the terms of the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act 2001 set out, the US opposed any new loan, credit facilities or debt reduction initiatives being carried out by the International Financial Institutions. These measures effectively added to the investment pressures that had built up in Zimbabwe since the Zimbabwean Government’s fall out with the International Financial Institutions in the late 1990’s.

Throughout the period of the Zimbabwean Crisis in the 2000’s the Mugabe regime incorporated the sanctions issue into its anti-imperialist and Pan Africanist discourse, and made it a key component of the ‘patriotic history’ through which it crafted its political project. This strategy worked effectively...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.

Mugabe’s August 22 inauguration completed the text messenger’s disappointment. In the intervening three weeks, the MDC-T’s manoeuvres seemed rote: would the ZANU-PF-packed courts ever have allowed evidence proving the ballot fraudulent, null, and void? Would SADC’s and the AU’s slight hesitations in their reports have ever been acted on?

SADC’s consecration at Llongwe preceding the final anointment was the cake’s icing. Lindiwe Zulu, labelled in July a prostitute by Mugabe for trying to keep Zimbabwe’s...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.

One key factor in understanding the different politics of violence in these countries has been the role of the state. While the state has become conflated with the dominant political party and its violence in Zimbabwe this has been less apparent in Kenya and, with some exception, not the case in South Africa. Nevertheless violence in all three countries, whether perpetrated by the military, paramilitary or informal armed formations or protesting citizens is closely associated with the dynamics of anti-colonial nationalism and state formation. Moreover questions of sovereignty, nation-building and legitimacy lie at the heart of making sense of the forms and character of violence.

For example, the state has played a crucial role in determining the relative weight of ethnic identification as a factor of violence. Thus colonialism, and more particularly its constructions of indirect rule or what the scholar Mahmood Mamdani refers to as ‘decentralised despotism,’ gave rise to ethnicity as a key marker setting the limits of the boundaries of political community in ways that have in many cases endured in the post-colonial period.

Of the three countries, the discourse and moral economy of this particular category have been most evident in Kenya where the battle and exercise of state power has been largely played out within the limits of elite alliances...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”.

Now having dispensed with the disclaimer, I must also hasten to add, that my decision to vote “YES” is not in any way to suggest that I do not have any issues related to the formulation of the Draft Constitution or the processes related to the forthcoming Referendum. I do… starting with the fact that I honestly do not believe that the process leading to the Draft Constitution itself was as participatory as it could have been. I am of the firm view that women were not heard to the extent they should have been. There is ample evidence of this from the COPAC reports. In terms of the forthcoming Constitutional Referendum itself, I am of the view that the time given for dissemination and analysis of the Draft Constitution to Zimbabweans is too short. I am not persuaded that exactly 30 days is adequate time for the kind of reading of the Draft Constitution that citizens need in order to make informed decisions on the day of the Referendum itself.  Finally I am not persuaded that the Draft Constitution will be circulated as widely as it should be before the Referendum. This could very well mean that people may end up voting for a Draft Constitution they have neither seen nor read and sadly in some instances, for a document whose contents they do not understand.

Now having dispensed with the preliminary issues, I want to go into why I am voting “Yes”.

1. I am a firm believer in participation. One of my good friends likes to say “decisions are made by those that participate”, and I totally subscribe to that idea. I have voted in every election and referendum since I became eligible to vote, and this Referendum is going to be no exception. I will vote because I want to participate in what I believe...Read more

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