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TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
Social Movements, Strategy Dilemmas
Erin McCandless, Ph. D.
Lanham · Boulaer · New York · Toronto · Plymouth, UK
Tables and figures vii
PART I: MAPPING THIS STUDY 1
Chapter 1: Mapping Polarization and Transformation in Zimbabwe 3
Chapter 2: Historical Context for Social Action in Zimbabwe 25
Part II: THE MOVEMENTS 45
Chapter 3: The NCA: Grievances,
Structure and Identity, Driving Interests 47
Chapter 4: The ZNLWVA: Grievances,
Structure and Identity, Driving Interests 77
Chapter 5: NCA and ZNLWVA: Strategy Dilemmas and Actions 105
Part III: TRANSFORMATIVE MOVEMENTS AND CHANGE 147
Chapter 6: Assessing Outcomes and Implications
for Transformative Change and Peace 149
Chapter 7: Transforming and Preventing
Polarization: Lessons from Zimbabwe 191
Reference List 219
Appendix: Exchange Rates in Zimbabwe
between 1980 and 2009 243
3 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
In February 2000 a national referendum took place on the government’s proposed
new constitution for Zimbabwe. It was rejected. Mobilization for a “No” vote to the
government’s draft had been led by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an
alliance of civil society actors that had become increasingly concerned with what it
saw as government abuses of power. It viewed constitutional change as the primary
way to prevent them. The “No” vote was the first widespread rejection of government
policy in Zimbabwe’s post-Independence period, when the Zimbabwe African National
Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) government had for the better part of two decades
experienced widespread consensual support for its rule.
The referendum results were quickly dismissed as a white, urban vote by the
government, which proclaimed that the NCA’s motives for constitutional change
were merely “political” and not rooted in genuine or legitimate grievances. In
fact, the government was deeply concerned about the NCA’s alliances – in particular
an emergent opposition political party that the NCA, along with the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), had given birth to a year earlier. The Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) was quickly illustrating its ability to mobilize
Zimbabweans desiring “change.” ZANU-PF, however, had no intention of leaving.
In the days following the referendum war veterans who had fought for
Zimbabwe’s Independence from 1972-1979 and had supported the draft constitution
launched a nation-wide movement of land occupations, primarily on large-scale white-
owned farms. The war veterans, organized principally through a welfare organization
called the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), were
deeply frustrated with the lack of progress on land redistribution. The country’s racially
skewed land tenure system had, with the drive for self-rule, led Zimbabweans to war
in the first place. In 2000, however, the land issue remained a festering wound and
many war veterans believed that their sacrifices had gone largely unrewarded.
Moreover, ZANU-PF nationalists, their comrades in the struggle for Independence
and at the helm of their political party of choice, were perceived to be increasingly
aligning themselves with “white” capital over the years, effectively selling out and
MAPPING POLARIZATION AND
TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
4 CHAPTER 1
abandoning the liberation agenda. Indeed, many ZANU-PF leaders were accumulating
great wealth while being seemingly dismissive of the plight of war veterans, most of
whom were living in poverty.
Beset with growing internal and external challenges to its grip on power, the
government quickly sought to co-opt the land movement, which many rural peasants
had joined. A “fast-track” approach to land reform was institutionalized and policies
were promulgated to support it. Taking back the land would serve to fulfill the
unfinished liberation war aims. It would also, government assured, be the key to
Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. This was a public space easily captured; despite the
NCA’s victory, the majority of Zimbabweans were poor, hungry, and still acutely aware
of the structural inequalities rooted in colonial era policies that divided and
disempowered them. Meanwhile, the ZANU-PF government grew increasingly adept
at exploiting the notion that the growing opposition MDC and its civil society allies
were finding difficult to shake: that their concerns were urban and politically driven,
and that they would not and could not solve Zimbabwe’s ills.
Over the following years the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) was
implemented country-wide, displacing the majority of Zimbabwe’s white farmers
and effectively revolutionizing Zimbabwe’s land tenure system. The process served
to deepen the rift between ZANU-PF and its supporters, who were mainly rural
and included war veterans, on the one hand and a broad coalition of primarily
urban-based civil society organizations and the MDC, supported by many Western
governments and donors on the other.
Following the government’s loan defaults, in 2000 the international financial
institutions withdrew from Zimbabwe. The particularly violent elections of 2002
were met with “smart sanctions” by the United States government. These included
a travel ban on government officials and a freezing of their assets. Similar measures
were taken by the European Union, while the Commonwealth suspended
Zimbabwe. As efforts increased to marginalize the troubled country from
international affairs, President Robert Mugabe skillfully used Pan-Africanist and
nationalist discourses to frame the situation as one of ongoing colonial injustice –
a crisis resulting from international interference, including sanctions, the imposition
of poorly designed economic reform policies, and the failure of the United Kingdom
to support needed land reform. For ZANU-PF supporters domestically and abroad,
this logic has effectively legitimized his now three-decade stay in office.
By 2008 the crisis had hit a breaking point with insurmountable economic
challenges and widely discredited Presidential elections. In the first round of voting
in March, the MDC’s 48 percent win did not constitute a sufficient majority, and
the run-off that followed in July was widely discredited due to the atmosphere in
which it took place – one of severe political violence, intimidation and
displacement. With continued efforts by the Southern African Development
Community and the African Union, a power-sharing agreement was reached in
September, resulting in a Government of National Unity (GNU), commonly referred
to as the Inclusive Government, which kept Mugabe as President and made Morgan
5 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
Tsvangirai, leader of the predominant MDC faction, the Prime Minister. At the
time of writing the Inclusive Government is moving into its third year of operation.
While progress has been made in some important areas, Zimbabwe’s transition
remains obstructed on various fronts. The polarization that has divided society
and its leaders, and even many far beyond its borders, is still being fueled by
unresolved issues and challenges that need addressing for transformation to occur.
Overview of Study
This book investigates Zimbabwe’s story of polarization and prospects for
transformation through the perspective of two pivotal social movement
organizations – the NCA and the ZNLWVA – and the strategy dilemmas they have
confronted in trying to mobilize change. As conceptualized in this study, there
are two primary strategy dilemmas confronting Zimbabwean civil society
organizations and social movements. The first is whether to prioritize political or
economic rights in efforts to foment nation-wide transformative change (rights
or redistribution). The second is whether and how to work with government and/
or donors given, in particular, with their political, economic, and social agendas
(participation or resistance). Through in-depth case description and analysis, the
lessons around the actions taken in the context of these dilemmas, the results
that have ensued, and the implications for wider social goals of transformative
change and peace are examined.
Polarization in Zimbabwe is not simply a process designed by and serving
elites. While this is undoubtedly part of the picture, as it often is in any conflict
setting, this book argues that polarization in Zimbabwe is rooted in genuine and
legitimate unmet historical grievances that have meaning for people globally, over
centuries: the desire for political and economic justice, and the desire to participate
genuinely in decision-making processes that affect society. Zimbabwe illustrates
how two sets of forces have coalesced around these grievances, with entrenched
positions shaping and deepening the processes of polarization. The strategic
actions of the NCA and ZNLWVA, particularly over the 1997-2007 decade, were
often catalysts or drivers of these processes.
The cases suggest that these two powerful strategy dilemmas have not always
been well managed in Zimbabwe. While the NCA and ZNLWVA are amongst those
who have perhaps most used radical resistance-oriented measures, believing that
this will bring change, it is also evident that they, and the wider set of stakeholders
concerned with change in Zimbabwe, may not have sufficiently foreseen and
accounted for the ways in which their actions would interact with the actions of
others working for change in debilitating ways, thereby increasing polarization.
This book argues that, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of many civic actors
in Zimbabwe to address the ongoing crisis, the two strategy dilemmas have over
the years served more as obstacles than as entry points for transformative change.
6 CHAPTER 1
The book draws on four years of sustained fieldwork (2001-2004) conducted
during the years when Zimbabwe’s crisis was pivotally unfolding and shorter visits
to the region in 2007 and 2010. While the book spans the period of 1997-2010,
particular attention is focused on a period of intense interaction between the
state, civil society, and donors (1997-2004). Outcomes and impacts of NCA and
ZNLWVA strategic actions from this period are examined in the years that follow,
and reflections are made on the current, Inclusive Government context (2009-
2010) for understanding the strategy dilemmas, polarization, and transformation.
While it is often assumed that Zimbabwe is a unique case and its relevance to
wider debates and international learning is marginal, nothing could be farther
from the truth. The issues that have divided Zimbabweans are of profound import
globally. Africa alone is awash with examples where political struggles, often led
by social movements, have achieved democracy and economic freedom in name
but not fact, and where leaders are in place (be they authoritarian or democratic)
who are not effectively serving their people. In many of these countries, deep
structural inequalities and identity divisions left by colonialism have been
compounded by poor post-colonial policies and practices, both domestic and
international. In such contexts, tough strategy dilemmas arise for civic actors
around priorities, the appropriate actors to partner with, and agendas to assume.
These dilemmas often obstruct or undermine effective action and foment or fuel
divisions. They are by no means “Zimbabwean” dilemmas, although in Zimbabwe
they have taken on particular forms that have resulted in extreme polarization
over the years, with highly destabilizing effects.
The Zimbabwe case brings out other related issues of global relevance, such
as the nature, role, and limits of leadership within government and civil society; the
ability of civil society to foment change in an authoritarian context; and the
appropriate roles for international donors operating within a host county where there
are strong political divisions and/or tense state-(civil) society relations. While
Zimbabwe’s story has played out in deeply divisive ways, understanding where, how,
and why these polarizing conceptions and strategy dilemmas can result in actions
and choices that tip too far in certain directions, resulting in destructive processes of
polarization, can facilitate our collective search for transformative change and peace.
As this book moves into production the world is captivated by non-violent
revolutions in North Africa that are ousting leaders who have been in power for
decades. While there is a fairly wide consensus in Zimbabwe and internationally
that President Mugabe should go, efforts to understand polarization and
transformation must start with the recognition that he is not the sole source of
Zimbabwe’s ills. As this study illustrates, the reality is far more complex.
Polarization and Transformation in Zimbabwe is guided by three interlocking
aims that seek to deepen understanding about strategy dilemmas faced by civic
7 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
organizations and social movements – in Zimbabwe and beyond – and how and why
particular choices may contribute to polarization on the one hand, and/or
transformative change and peace on the other. Together, these streams of inquiry
illustrate why efforts to bring meaningful change in Zimbabwe since the late 1990s
have been so profoundly difficult. The three aims are:
1. Depolarizing concepts
Underpinning conflicting beliefs about around the nature and suitable role of
civil society are two conflicting conceptions. The Anglo-American, liberal tradition
posits that civil society is an autonomous realm of associational life above the
individual (or family, some argue) and below the state (Seligman 1992; Patel 2002).
From this view, civil society demarcates social space – against the state and the
market – to uphold a sphere of political life for citizens. It has a precautionary role
against the state and an advocating role to protect individual rights and liberties
from incursions by the state and to promote and expand them (Keane 1998). The
Marxist tradition, on the other hand, identifies civil society as the site of economic
relations, upon which a legal and political superstructure is elevated (Bobbio 1989,
27), the socio-economic base of the state. The state and civil society for Marx
were the executive arms of the bourgeoisie, and thus the state could never be
neutral or serve societal interests as a whole.
Italian political philosopher Antonio Gramsci charted a middle ground,
which some, especially in the Zimbabwe context, usefully employ. Gramsci argued
that civil society is neither entirely captive of the state nor autonomous; rather, it
is a site for problem-solving where society might be defended from incursions of
both the state and market. However, he argued, it can also become a battleground
where the state, ruling elites and other powerful actors intervene with hegemonic
projects to influence and spread the agendas of organized groups (Hearn 2001).
In Zimbabwe the nature and role of civil society is deeply questioned.
Accusations about political and self-serving agendas and motives of different
actors, and their alliances and relationships with political parties, the government
and donors, are at the heart of the polarization. Unpacking these issues through
in-depth examination of the NCA and ZNLWVA, the study aims to contribute to
efforts that build upon Gramscian thinking to understand state-civil society
relations in a more integrated and contextualized manner, transcending liberal/
Marxist interpretations of civil society that contribute to polarization.
While conceptions of social movements, civil society, and NGOs are all highly
contested in international theory and practice, efforts are not made to defend any
one conception. The NCA and the ZNLWVA are considered both social movements
and social movement organizations (SMOs) – manifesting different forms in different
periods – and part civil society. A social movement can be defined as a collectivity,
acting with some degree of organization and continuity outside of institutional
channels for the purpose of promoting or resisting change (McAdam and Snow 1997,
8 CHAPTER 1
xviii-xxi). SMOs are complex organizations whose goals coincide with the preferences
of a social movement and which try to realize those goals.
Here emphasis is placed
on how organizations and movements self-conceptualize, how they understand their
relationships with the state, political parties, and donors, and the degrees and types
of autonomy they maintain, with a view to identifying concepts that transcend liberal,
Marxist and other mainly Western conceptions of civil society and social movements
from the Zimbabwean context.
2. Transcending strategy dilemmas
Secondly, the book aims to shed light on the nature and operational mechanisms
of strategy dilemmas and how processes of polarization are effected by and
entrench these dilemmas in an effort to highlight ways to transcend them. The
strategy dilemmas in this study are defined as participation/resistance and rights/
redistribution. They form the basis of this study’s conceptual framework, acting
as heuristic devices to gain deeper insight into the nature of the dilemmas
underlying Zimbabwe’s polarization.
Participation here refers to the strategy of partnering with, or working within,
processes set up by government or donors, and resistance to the strategy of fomenting
change by working outside the system, challenging and transforming existing
structures of authority or processes that visibly reinforce the status quo, or creating
entirely new, parallel structures and processes. While notions of “engagement” or
“reform” are often used in contrast with resistance, here participation is used because
it better reflects contemporary discourse and envisaged practices around the nature
of civil society relations with the state and donors. This usage also reflects the concept
of Gramscian hegemony
– whereby regimes reproduce their rule through coercive
measures and through the organization of consent – a highly relevant concept in the
Zimbabwean context. Rarely defined, resistance is used in leftist, nationalist, and
social movement discourse and practice in manners that imply radical, often highly
confrontational strategies and anticipated radical outcomes, i.e., structural,
transformative change. Liberal and Marxist perspectives suggest opposite sets of
relationships between state and civil society on the one hand, and donors and civil
society on the other, that reflect tensions in the participation/resistance dilemma.
Liberal conceptualizations suggest that civil society is autonomous from the state,
often in a “watchdog” role, with more collaborative, “partner”-oriented relationships
with international organizations and even donors. Marxists tend to argue conversely,
partnering civil society with a (presumably socialist-oriented) state against
international actors or “capital.” Examination of the public playing out of these debates
in Zimbabwe provides a unique context to re-examine the relevance and utility of
the concepts and theories underpinning them.
Rights discourse is often associated with liberal thinking, concerned in
particular with civil and political rights and individual liberties. Redistribution, as
discussed above, is often associated with Marxist thinking, in particular, with the
9 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
redistribution of wealth, and often land and other natural resources. While some
(i.e., those working on social and economic rights) may depict no natural conflict
between the two, in Zimbabwe and amongst many left-leaning and nationalist
sympathizing analysts, rights discourse is viewed as a Western, liberal, imposed
project that is in conflict with redistribution concerns. In Zimbabwe this view is
being strongly propagated by the government and ZNLWVA-affiliated war veterans
amongst others, with far-reaching implications: it has become part of the engine
fueling polarization at all levels – even within civil society.
3. Contributing to transformative change and peace
Finally, the book aims to contribute to thinking and practice about how social
movements and wider civil society can work to ensure their actions contribute to
transformation rather than polarization. As such, the results of key strategic actions
of the NCA and the ZNLWVA are examined: social process outcomes are identified
and their implications for wider social goals such transformative change, and
ultimately peace, are considered. As conceptualized in this study (in detail in
chapter 6), transformative change and peace are both rooted in practices of people-
centered democracy and development. Both value constructive changes of (rather
than in) the system and structure, and of the movement towards constructive
inter-group relationships. Both are process- and outcome-oriented.
Research Strategy and Structure of Book
Examining these cases in Zimbabwe’s politically charged climate involved considerable
that undoubtedly shaped the research process, ruling out certain traditional
research practices and necessitating creativity. Multiple strategies of inquiry were
employed, including case studies, ethnography, and evaluation. The study was guided
by a critical theory approach,
encompassing a commitment to understand the
meaning of social action and to explain the social process outcomes, and a political
More than two hundred interviews were conducted with
stakeholders at all levels in civil society, government, political parties, and the
international community, primarily in Zimbabwe.
Participant observation was
undertaken to gain insight into the NCA,
and with the ZNLWVA, influential key
informants, well connected with the war veterans, allowed for deeper access than
researchers often have. Interviews with war veterans were conducted at their homes,
workplaces, and resettled farms. To assess change, a critical evaluative framework
was developed, described in detail in chapter 6, combining the NCA’s and ZNLWVA’s
self-assessments alongside normative criteria reflecting wider social goals within
Zimbabwean society and the global peace and social justice community. This approach
seeks to offer the dynamism needed to catalyze new thinking and practices that can
potentially contribute to facilitating a way out of polarized positions that divide civic
organizations and the wider society.
10 CHAPTER 1
This book is divided into three parts. Chapters 1 and 2 in part I effectively
“map” the study methodologically, theoretically, and contextually. Chapter 2
examines Zimbabwe’s historical, political-economy context, focusing on the factors
that have given rise to, and facilitated, social action.
Part II turns to the case studies: the NCA and the ZNLWVA. Chapters 3 and 4
focus, respectively, on their structure and identity, and the grievances and interests
that drive them. These chapters generally seek to tell the story from their
perspectives, unpacking stereotypes often applied to them by other actors, and
endeavor to reveal the contradictions and complexities in their composition and
role, and the nuanced ways in which they evolve and operate in certain contexts.
In chapter 5 specific strategic actions are described – the NCA’s “No” vote and its
choice of “mass action” as its primary strategy, and the land occupations of the
ZNLWVA – and the ways in which the strategy dilemmas inform them and play
out are examined. This chapter illustrates how the SMOs built and drove social
movements around constitutional change and land redistribution, and how and
why the identified strategy dilemmas evolve and operate in Zimbabwe.
Part III, starting with chapter 6, examines the social process outcomes of the
strategic actions and their implications for transformative change and peace.
Chapter 7 identifies lessons from the study in the context of the three aims
discussed above and reflects upon the strategy dilemmas, polarization, and
transformation in the context of the 2008 GPA and the first two years of Zimbabwe’s
Inclusive Government working towards its implementation.
Zimbabwean Scholar and Activist Debates
Investigating polarization and transformation through the lens of social movement
organizations in Zimbabwe benefits from engagement with wider debates
embedded in North-South scholarship, practice, and activism. In Zimbabwe these
debates take on unique strains, as they both underlie and respond to the very
real dynamics that have polarized the environment.
The Nature of Civil Society
Scholars and activists over the last decade have reignited debates about the
structure, interests, and alliances of social movements and civil society as part of
a wider political economy critique of neo-liberalism and the nature, purpose,
and efficacy of international intervention. It is often asked whether these
associations are private or public, and whether they are principled, progressive,
and altruistically driven or represent simply another sphere of the neo-liberal
project. While not new, such debates reflect unresolved ideological tensions about
11 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
the nature of civil society between liberal, Marxist, and Gramscian (Western
historical) traditions, and, increasingly, critical African and other Southern
perspectives. In Zimbabwe these debates are implicit and the assumptions that
inform them clearly underlie polarization.
Despite ongoing contestation around the concept of civil society as
discussed in the previous section, the liberal perspective of civil society is widely
hegemonic in international practice, promoted by the humanitarian, development
and democratization communities. European and American donor consensus that
civil society is both the autonomous force that can hold governments accountable
and the base upon which a truly democratic culture can be built has since the
1980s led to a massive flow of funding to “civil society.” This consensus narrowly
interprets civil society as professionalized NGOs dedicated to advocacy or civic
education work on public interest issues directly relating to democratization, rather
than older, established voluntary organizations and social movements (Carothers
and Ottaway 2000). This donor tendency has occurred in Zimbabwe, and underlies
debates about the nature and role of civil society.
Many critical scholars in Zimbabwe and internationally go further, arguing
that the civil societies developing in this liberal form reproduce material hierarchies
and class inequalities. The now highly prominent “neo-liberal” version of civil
society, it is argued, facilitates the operation of both state and market, benefitting
and marginalizing actors differentially and giving rise to new social groups and
forms of organization as prompted by changing economic incentives (Beckman
and Sjögren 2001). Civil society has served to cushion the shocks of structural
adjustment, and in the context of the international financial institutions (IFIs) and
donor-promoted poverty reduction development paradigm, civic organizations
are becoming a means for stabilizing rather than challenging the social and political
status quo (Hearn 2001; Cox 1999). In Zimbabwe these arguments are employed
by many within government as well as by some scholars critical of donor-supported
civil society (Moyo 2001; Rich Dorman 2002b).
In recent years, Zimbabwean scholars have begun arguing that civil society is
a much more complex and contextualized phenomenon. While liberal and Marxist
theorists were writing about the evolution of civil society in their own societies,
colonialism interrupted the organic development of civil societies in Africa and
elsewhere (Masunungure 2008, 66). Civil societies that have developed in post-
colonial Africa are thus not shaped by, or responsive to, indigenous problems,
challenges, and opportunities inherent in their societies, but rather reflect hybrid
interests of both local and alien, compounded and exacerbated by the forces of
globalization. Zimbabwe scholars Moyo, Helliker and Murisa argue that civil society
is “marked by significant internal diversity and contradiction,” and that, like the
state, is a “form of social domination in capitalist society and embedded within it
are contradictory relations” (2008, 2, 27).
12 CHAPTER 1
Its structure and driving influences
The structures and constituencies that make up civil society formations and the
interests and motives that drive them constitute a messy terrain that reflects
diversity and contradiction. Key questions driving Zimbabwean debates have
concerned whether an organization has a social base and “organic linkages” and
the nature and scope of their constituencies (Moyo 2001; Moyo, Makumbe, and
Raftopoulos 2000; Sachikonye 1995a). These are examined in chapters 3, 4, and
7. They link to and build upon Mamdani’s influential Citizen and Subject (1996),
which considered the urban dominance of particular forms of civil society, the
ideals and motivations that drive urban versus rural civic formations, and the
strategies employed to achieve desired results.
Questions of value orientation, motives, and related tactics embedded within
these debates are hotly contested in Zimbabwe. “Progressive social movements”
have been defined in the African context as inclusive movements that seek to
articulate the demands of the poor and politically disenfranchised through
interactive campaigns that address structural issues (Cheru and Gill 1997); as
“democratic struggles” that represent the poor of society and protect them against
corporatist strategies of the state (Mamdani 1991, Sachikonye 1995a); and as
“peasant movements” that specifically seek to defend rural livelihoods
(Mkandawire 2002; Moyo 2002a). Importantly, these conceptions link
democratically oriented approaches with ends oriented to economic justice.
In Zimbabwe “progressiveness” is fervently debated through the discourse of
“civil” and “uncivil” and raises the question of whether activists are actually
“politicians,” i.e., primarily motivated by “politics.” Where most civil society scholars
in Zimbabwe have focused on the violence of the land occupations, dismissing the
notion of war veterans as civic actors, Moyo and Yeros have sought to turn notions of
“civility” on their head. They argue that it is the “uncivil” agency of “landless and
land-short” (rural proletarians and peasants) that “has been the basic source of
agrarian reform historically” (Moyo and Yeros 2005, 53; Yeros 2002a). Neo-liberalism,
they argue, has shrunk “civilized” political space. More recently, Moyo and his co-
authors argue that while the “uncivil” was before associated with “property-unfriendly
forces” – once the radical nationalist, socialist and land redistributing forces – in this
era of neo-liberalism, the net is cast even wider, to the “market-unfriendly” forces.
They suggest that dualistic portrayals of the “urban civil” and the “rural
communitarian” fail to capture the varied forms of both “civility” and “incivility” that
exist in both urban and rural settings. They argue that “this notion of uncivility pertains
to the sensibilities and logic of capital, and should not be conflated with violent
forms of political practice” (Moyo, Helliker, and Murisa 2008, 10).
Political motivation is a deeply divisive issue in Zimbabwe and more widely in
Africa, and it is often considered antithetical to civic activism to have ambitions of
political office, or be working to foment regime change. Such issues do not concern
many Western movement theorists, who emphasize that social movements are a
13 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
part of “normal” politics (Meyer and Tarrow 1998) and often part of the
environment that give rise to or influence parties, courts, legislatures and elections,
as illustrated in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia
(Goldstone 2003, 3; Kitschelt 1989; Rootes and Richardson 1995).
Some social movement theorists emphasize the challenges associated with
analyzing motivations, focusing on participation and how committed members
sustain the movement (McAdam and Snow 1997). Motivation often depends upon
the social context and the incentives or disincentives for participating (Opp and
Roehl 1997), although it is sometimes based on complicated ideological,
communicative, psychological, and structural factors (Walsh and Warland 1997,
229). Social movements are comprised of different people, forces and interests.
While some highlight the propensity for contemporary movements to consist of a
small group of professionals who mobilize a team of transitory constituents to
participate in a particular activity (McCarthy and Zald 1973, 1977), De Waal argues
that in the African context successful social movements often consist of a coalition
between a “primary mobilization” of constituencies and “secondary activism” of
professionals (2002, 95).
As this study illustrates, questions about organizational form are deeply
interconnected with the choice of strategies and how strategy dilemmas manifest,
and with the nature of outcomes. It is arguably the dynamic interactions between
structures and strategies that are important to unpack when working to
Strategies and Dilemmas of Civil Society
The choice of strategies that civil society organizations and social movements
employ has much to do with the context within which they are working. In
Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, critical factors in the choice of a strategy relate to their
cultural availability – also referred to as repertoires of contention (Tarrow 1994,
– and the “political opportunity structure”: those features of the
political system which create the overall abilities and capacities for civil society
groups to organize (Uhlin 2001). At the same time, context and culture do not
eliminate agency; movements are sources of innovation in protest behavior as
their actions expand the forms of contention available to succeeding generations
of activists (McAdam and Snow 1997). These issues become increasingly relevant
as the forthcoming case analysis unfolds.
In the last few years, the notion of “dilemmas” has emerged within the
context of state-building discussions, and “dilemma analysis,” a tool to facilitate
addressing them, has received some attention (Paris and Sisk 2007; McCandless
and Rose 2010). These concepts are explored in chapter 7. As discussed earlier, a
conceptual framework developed for this study encompasses two strategy
dilemmas facing social movements in Zimbabwe and farther afield: rights or
redistribution and participation or resistance.
14 CHAPTER 1
Participation and resistance
As conceptualized here, the participation/resistance dilemma draws upon older
debates such as revolution or reform (Luxemburg 1986). In contemporary social
movement debates, proponents of reform view social movements as shaping social
relations at the level of the state, politicizing previously uncontested relations and
re-politicizing previously settled relations (Arrighi et al. 1996). Older social movements
tended to focus on capturing state power. The African left has considered this debate
with respect to the post-colonial state. Some see the growth of movements linked to
the disbursement of state resources and their incorporation as inevitable (Sachikonye
1995a), while others are concerned that changing the state from within amounts to
movements being captured; instead, they believe, the left should work to create
autonomous institutions (Shivji 1991). There can be problems, however, with this
approach: where bureaucratic structures are set up, they can begin behaving like
state institutions, or clientelism can develop and spread (Cheru 1996). In addition to
different conceptualizations of the dilemma itself, there are varying interpretations
and usages of both participation and resistance.
The meaning of “participation” has been hotly debated in the last decade in
particular, influenced by the requirements of IFI- or donor-promoted poverty reduction
strategy papers (PRSPs) for all countries receiving international loans, which are meant
to be “participatorily developed” and “country owned.” Despite the use of terms like
“participation” and “partnership” in the preparation of the PRSPs, the influence of
civic organizations is limited, agendas are often predetermined, and the scope for
participation is often confined to what can be better termed “consultative” status
(McCandless and Pajibo 2003). There is also widespread skepticism amongst
Zimbabwean and international activists concerning the genuineness of the
participation that donors are advocating and prepared to offer in their decision-making
structures. The pressure for civil society to be “partners” of both government and
donors – it can be assumed – undermines the ability of civil society to develop an
autonomous, critical voice of actors at both levels.
Critical questions surrounding the quality of participation arise where the
influence of political context, expectations of the process, and the method and
organ of participation must be factored into the analysis (Christian Aid 2002). In
the African context, the concept of “empowerment” is often tied to participation.
Questions of participation as empowerment are deeply political – in the spirit of
Paulo Freire (1970) and Mahatma Gandhi, for example – where there is a desired
goal to facilitate change in favor of the dispossessed. African scholars have argued
that participation of the poor will be futile unless power structures that perpetuate
poverty are simultaneously addressed (Cheru 1996; Mkandawire 1999; Bond 2001).
The table below suggests a typology of participation, perhaps better termed
“levels of involvement.” In this study these terms are used as they are noted here,
while participation is used as described in the strategy dilemma conceptual
framework. The concept of resistance is historically used in social movement and
15 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
leftist discourse but seldom defined, though it often contains judgments about
both strategy and outcome; both in general are assumed to be radical, i.e., non-
institutional, protest-oriented strategies aiming to affect structural change.
Harrison argues that like the term “struggle,” “resistance” requires a normative
judgment; he equates these terms with mass politics, widening political
participation, and the promotion of socio-economic equality (2001, 388). Several
scholars point to the ways in which the “victory” of a political and economic model
at the end of the Cold War has led to the death of political struggle, with new
constitutions accompanying substantial structural continuity. As well, the ongoing
ways in which neo-liberal economic globalization weakens the state and society
and their organizational capacity to resist as social gains of the last century are
lost (Harrison 2001; Gills 2000; Kagoro 2001).
Chin and Mittelman usefully draw from three master theorists to evolve a
framework for resistance that highlights “forms of resistance” as multifaceted,
emerging in particular social and cultural contexts: Gramsci and his theory of
counterhegemony; Polanyi and countermovements; and Scott and infrapolitics
(2000) . Gramsci’s main target was the state, and the mode of resistance was wars
of movement (frontal assaults) and wars of position (non-violent resistance)
designed to impede the state’s functioning. A Gramscian reading of resistance
would have to explicate the development of a counter-hegemonic consciousness
that informs wars of movement and position. Polanyi, writing about the causes of
the crises of the 1930s, developed the concept of “countermovements”
were arising, re-exerting social control over the market – a double movement.
Whereas Gramsci and Polanyi focus on the collective level, Scott’s “infrapolitics”
seeks to explain the changing meaning of politics and resistance in most forms of
day-to-day dominant-subordinate relations (1990).
While each of these has some relevance in Zimbabwe, Polanyi’s
countermovement speaks to Zimbabwe’s social context where there is resistance
(in this case a double movement or countermovement) against economic injustice
on the one hand and political authoritarianism on the other. As noted above,
Table 1.1: Forms of Participation
Source: McGee and Norton (2000), adapted by author.
Where participants initiate and assume control of the
process; the most advanced form of participation
Where participants are allowed to debate and agree on
the content of the policy formulation process
When public views are solicited; government is not under
any obligation to include such views in the final outcome
A minimum requirement for a participatory process; at this
point, stakeholders are briefed about the PRSP, its purpose is
explained, and the process is planned
Initiation and control
16 CHAPTER 1
Gramsci is used by some Zimbabwe scholars to explain the situation and strategies
employed, although perhaps more in the context of how participation is used
here. Hammar and Raftopoulos focus on the state’s creation of hegemony around
the land issue and see Mugabe’s efforts to pose the crisis not on the level of a
class in crisis, but on a “universal plane” as a national and Pan-Africanist problem
(2003, 19). Rich Dorman writes that the context of political hegemony requires
that NGOs have good relations with the state (2001). NGOs feel compelled to be
accommodating in such a context. While the concept of hegemony is sometimes
associated with subaltern groups as victims of false consciousness who fail to
recognize their oppression, they may know themselves to be exploited, but fail to
act due to fear of reprisal (Scott 1990), which is perhaps the case in Zimbabwe.
Some associate resistance with violence, or, especially in the case of
Zimbabwe, “uncivil” behavior as discussed in the previous section. For movement
scholars, violence is believed to grow out of confidence and impatience with change
or lack of resources (Gamson 1997; Della Porta and Diani 1999). Violent action
may polarize the conflict, transforming “relations between challengers and
authorities from a confused, many-sided game into a bi-polar one” (Tarrow 1994,
104). It often leads to an escalation of repression, and the conflict more generally
may alienate sympathizers and lead to greater responsiveness to the claims of
moderates (Haines 1988, 167; Gamson 1990).
Rights and redistribution
The rights/redistribution strategy dilemma has roots in historical political economy
debates between liberalism and Marxism that are complex and remain contested.
There are also parallels with debates on democracy and development surrounding
their relationship: Can they truly co-exist? Should one trail or lead the other? While
globalization processes appear to be entrenching positions further, donors increasingly
coordinate action based on the advancement of neo-liberal economic policies and
political conditionalities focused on good governance, democracy, the rule of law,
and human rights. This is partly what makes the Zimbabwe case interesting, where
this “business as usual” has not unfolded as it has elsewhere, but has rather been
hotly contested and formed the substantive core of Zimbabwe’s polarization.
Many African scholars and activists have argued vehemently against
Western-style democracy and development, declaring that ultimately the forms
proposed are anti-democratic and anti-developmental. Democracy has too often
been restricted to the political and public domain, while economic management
and growth models are based on the non-democratic principles of private
ownership and competition, and the interests of those engaged in export and
international trade. They often come at the expense of civil and political liberties
and self-government, creating profound social and economic inequality, social
crisis, and even conflict (Cheru and Gill 1997; Ake 1996; Cheru 1987, 1999;
Nyang’oro 1999). These scholars have begun to recast traditional, narrow
17 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
conceptions of democracy (i.e., election, constitutionalism, and the rule of law)
and development (i.e., economic growth), emphasizing instead the compatibility
of human and people-centered development and “real” democratization.
In Zimbabwe and across Africa, Mamdani’s thesis about the nature and
contemporary repercussions of colonial rule lies at the heart of rights/redistribution
debates and concerns. Mamdani argues that colonial rule sharply distinguished
racial groups between rights-bearing colons (civil society) and African ethnic
populations (the tribalized peasantry) who were governed through customary
laws (1996, 2001). Continued denial of justice for the “native majority,” he suggests
(1998, 1990), can lead to conditions where unaddressed social grievances can be
“harvested by a demagogue.” In such cases, talk of “rights” (over justice and
redistributive concerns) gives a legal umbrella under which minorities preserve
and reproduce their privilege. Critics disagree, many speaking indirectly or directly
to the Zimbabwe situation. De Waal shifts the blame for the rural (redistribution)
/urban (rights) divide back to African leaders (2002, 96). One common form of
political authority is personal or arbitrary rule: domination by a “big man” who
seeks to evoke traditional images as chief of the tribe or “father of the nation”
whose citizens are infantilized as “subjects” and should not insolently demand
“rights.” This sort of rule is especially effective in rural areas where adapted forms
of traditional authority prevail, and where challenges to government authority
will lead to their violent repression. As such:
Any civil society mobilization is antithetical to this neo-traditional rule . . . The
government will tend to dismiss both civil society leaders and opposition
politicians as elitists who represent only narrow urban interests. This charge may
contain an element of truth: any form of social mobilization presupposes that
people envisage themselves as citizens and bearers of rights, not as subjects,
and if this kind of socio-political culture is confined to urban areas, this is where
civil society and social mobilization will occur (De Waal 2002, 98).
In Zimbabwe the rights/redistribution debates draw out these themes in a
specific context of nationalist history and the politics of land redistribution, the
urban/rural divide, and North-South justice and the history of colonialism. Two
leading Zimbabwean social theorists have presented different sides of this debate.
Raftopoulos argues that a violent program of land occupations sanctioned by the
state is at odds with an important part of the nationalist legacy – civil and political
rights (2003b). The land issue has been mobilized by ZANU-PF as a political resource,
pushed by the war veterans; it has “demonized human rights issues as a minority
concern driven by Western-backed opposition forces” and in the process “damaged
the potentially fruitful dialogue that should ensue between rights and
redistribution concerns, insisting on a facile association of the former with a roster
of others perceived as outside the authentic national community” (2003b, 218).
This has driven a wedge between the civic movements and the official legacy of
the liberation struggle.
18 CHAPTER 1
Raftopoulos argues that urban struggles can and do deal with “bread and butter”
issues, that this approach is the basis for human development, and that “a substantive
and lasting redistribution program cannot be achieved without a broad-based
democratization of existing post-colonial polities” (2003b, 219). Sam Moyo on the
other hand argues that the liberal formula proposes the following: independence
(from the state rather than donors); multiparty democracy (when neo-liberal politics
holds hegemonic place); respect for the rule of law (defined by private property);
independent judiciary, meaning “bourgeois”; and free press, meaning “private” (2001).
Further, the enforcement of the liberal rights framework marginalizes the
redistribution agenda. Rural-based movements, such as war veteran-led land
occupations, have catalyzed major land redistribution efforts and are excluded from
the “civil” framework conforming to proper procedure and content of opposition
politics in accordance with the liberal model. He argues that their land occupations
were a deliberate effort to “smash” the liberal constitutional order.
The role of constitutionalism in transformative change in Africa comprises an
important part of these debates. Shivji’s work on the subject suggests that while
liberal constitutions focus excessively on the powers of the political elite, new
discourses and practices are focused on outlining a democratic process for developing
“a political compact that defines not only the power relations between political
communities and constituencies, but also defines the rights, duties, and obligations
of citizens in any society” (1991, 27; Ihonvbere 2000). The resulting constitution should
be a living document that all citizens actually understand, claim ownership of and
deploy in the defense of their rights. Also, to ensure against the abuse of power
eroding possibilities for good governance, human rights provisions must be included
(Sinjela 1998, 25, cited in Ihonvbere 2000). Others have argued that constitutionalism
is and should remain a critical element of peace and conflict prevention, primarily in
terms of providing representation, legality, and transparency in decision-making, and
mechanisms for managing change, including the peaceful transfer of power (De Waal
2002; Hart 2003). But whether and how the constitution and wider democratization
approaches associated with “rights” can support the aims of redistribution is
contested. Bartlett reflects a widespread critique that human rights are primarily
concerned with liberal notions of civil and political concerns of the individual (and
his and her property) rather than basic economic concerns, i.e., the rights to the
means of life, to health, and to education (2001, 83). In Zimbabwe the constitutional
movement (through the NCA in particular) has been widely critiqued in this manner;
even Raftopoulos has observed that it has failed to sufficiently engage with “the
legacies of the liberation struggle” (2003b, 235).
Social Movement Impacts, Polarization and Transformation
Identifying and understanding the impacts of civic or social movements, particularly
at the national level, is a complex task and a key reason for limited systematic
scholarship in this area (McAdam and Snow 1997, 461). Despite challenges, movement
19 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
scholars have discussed the related questions of what accounts for “success” of a
movement, and what have certain actions/tactics achieved. Zimbabwe scholars have
contributed more on the latter, especially in seeking to understand the outcomes of
the land occupations and the fast-track policy of government (discussed in detail in
chapter 6). This study overall is more concerned with the latter question as well,
while moving it into the area of impact – considering the wider implications of
outcomes for transformative change and peace.
Briefly, on the issue of what accounts for success, conventional wisdom has
linked favorable political opportunities and the extent of movement mobilization
(Goldstone 2003, 20), and considered how outcomes are mediated by political
context, in particular conducive state or party circumstances.
the role of political context in determining outcomes, opting for explanations
based on resource mobilization or collective action (Gamson 1990). A range of
studies attribute success to a variety of factors that concern, amongst other things,
the numbers and diversity of strategies, who is involved, and the length of time
such strategies are employed.
The levels of success for a movement action are
also emphasized by some (Amenta, Carruthers, and Zylan 1997; Gamson 1990),
being: 1) recognition by opponents or the state (though without benefits this
may be “co-optation”); 2) gains in policies that aid the group; 3) the challenger
transforms itself into a member of the polity. Problems with ascertaining “success”
go beyond issues of causality, i.e., to the question of interpretation of the meaning
of success. This has led to a more differentiated analysis of what results a project
or program can produce.
As for what particular actions/strategies achieve, social movement literature
is at odds with the actual goals and achievements of many social movements:
while the latter often influence the way in which the political system as a whole
functions, the literature mostly refers to “outcomes,” focusing on such issues as
changes in public policy. Zimbabwe is no exception, where both the NCA and the
ZNLWVA have national-level goals that extend far beyond a programmatic output
or outcome. Few analysts have considered social movement impacts more broadly
given the inherent challenges in establishing causality (Della Porta and Diani 1999;
Roché 1999). Most agree, however, that translation of grievances into political
impact involves structural change (Beckman and Sjögren 2001) – i.e., in the
condition of those mobilizing for change – and cultural transformation: the
elaboration of “new codes” (Melucci 1982, 1984).
Sociologists have theorized
about structural change – where the emphasis is on changes of rather than changes
in society (Sztompka 1993). Development and peace practitioners and social
change theorists have made useful inroads into the study of structural change
and transformative change, which this analysis draws on and discusses in detail in
chapter 6. Suffice to say that, according to eminent peace theorists, transformative
strategies for peace and change often require the use of confrontational strategies
to raise the profile of latent conflict and bring the existence of structural violence
into public awareness (Curle 1990; Galtung 1996).
20 CHAPTER 1
It is logical then that social movements, particularly those using confrontational
strategies, can also contribute to polarization and conflict. Polarization is widely
considered to play a causal role in civil war and inter-communal conflict, while the
mechanisms that produce and drive it are not well understood (LeBas 2006, 421).
Much debate on polarization has been influenced by scholarship underpinning
theories of ethnic and identity conflict, with social-psychology driven explanations
focusing on the processes of group formation and differentiation that can be adversely
influenced by (mis)perceptions, stereotyping and dehumanization (Bloom 1990).
Peace scholar Johan Galtung emphasizes that polarization, defined as social, human
distance, may exist for ages between countries or classes of people without turning
violent. Particularly in structural conflicts, people may suffer in silence, perhaps until
their basic needs are violated, or until a wider culture of violence develops, paving
the way for physical violence (Galtung 2007).
Some movement scholars describe polarization as a process, a “widening of
political and social space between claimants in a contentious episode and the
gravitation of previously uncommitted or moderate actors toward one, the other,
or both extremes” (McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001, 322), and complex interactions
between mechanisms that drive polarization, such as boundary formation, the
strategic use of violence, and defensive radicalization.
LeBas draws upon these
theories, arguing that political polarization in Zimbabwe has been crafted by elites
(2006). While not a necessary consequence of democratization, she suggests that
it was a result of short-run strategies of political elites in the interests of both
political parties to divide the electorate into two opposing camps. This served to
politicize constituencies, increase party mobilization capacities, and prevent
organizational fragmentation, which in turn set in motion broader political
processes beyond the control of political actors that intensified polarization and
fostered deadlock. LeBas’s deep empirical analysis reveals important insights into
the rapid development of political party competition and polarization in Zimbabwe.
She suggests that pressures from below – against negotiation, for continued mass
action and confrontation – have made it difficult for the MDC in particular to
adopt more moderate and possibly more effective strategies (2006, 435). The focus
of this study is targeted towards these wider processes of mobilization from below
and understanding how they contribute to polarization and transformation.
Studies considering social movement or civic organization action on peace
outcomes at the national level are exceedingly hard to come by. One useful study
considers impacts of movements on the peacemaking processes in four countries,
but without examining the wider issues central to sustaining peace, such as those
engaged in fostering of people-centered development and democracy (Gidron,
Katz, and Hasenfeld 2002). This book endeavors to make an important contribution
in this area, examining results of social movement action at the national level and
the implications for transformative change and peace.
* * *
21 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
As illustrated in the preceding discussion, Zimbabwe scholars (who are often
simultaneously activists and/or policy-makers) are making critical contributions
to each of these areas of inquiry, around the nature of civil society organizations,
the strategies they undertake and dilemmas they face, and the outcomes that
result. In addition to in-depth studies of particular organizations and movements,
two studies in particular have sought to engage debates that cut across these
three issue areas. Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and
Nation in the Context of Crisis (Hammar, Raftopoulos, and Jensen 2003) and
Contested Terrain, a 2008 study edited by Moyo, Helliker, and Murisa, both offer
nuanced, empirically-based analyses that endeavor to provide a richer picture of
what lies beneath Zimbabwe’s polarities.
In spite of these efforts, heated debates about the nature of Zimbabwe’s
crisis continue that illustrate deep divisions in perspectives. In late 2008 the debates
amongst scholars were profoundly internationalized when Mahmood Mamdani
published an essay entitled “Lessons of Zimbabwe” in the London Review of Books
Mamdani argues that Mugabe’s land reform measures, however harsh,
were long overdue and effectively spawned a democratic revolution – socially,
economically and even politically. Achieved with relatively minimal turmoil, the
measures have won him considerable popularity in Zimbabwe and throughout
southern Africa. He argues, moreover, that Mugabe has ruled not only by coercion
but also by consent. Unsurprisingly, a set of critiques were launched by scholars,
targeting a range of issues that included: Mamdani’s dismissive position on state
violence and the closure of democratic spaces; his underestimation of the scale
of displacement during the period; his misreading of the history of the labor
movement and trivializing characterization of the MDC and civil society; his
assessment of the contribution of sanctions to the crisis; and his lack of
acknowledgement of ZANU-PF’s enormous loss of legitimacy.
At the heart of the
different positions informing this debate that continue to underlie polarization in
Zimbabwe lie questions about the nature, role, and legitimacy of actors vying for
change, their strategies, and the outcomes and impacts of major social actions.
This work endeavors to bring these important streams of thought together
into deeper dialogue, interweaving insights and lessons from wider scholarship
and practice, in search of transformative routes out of Zimbabwe’s polarization.
1. They include: inducing participants to offer their services; defining organizational aims;
managing and coordinating contributions; collecting resources from their environment;
and selecting, training and replacing members (Scott 1981, 9). SMOs possess the means
and mechanisms to mobilize resources for protest in order to further the movement’s
objectives (Rucht 1996), while working to neutralize opponents (McCarthy and Zald
1977, 1987, 19).
22 CHAPTER 1
2. Gramsci defined hegemony as the indissoluble union of political, intellectual, and moral
leadership, which goes beyond a simple class alliance (Mouffe 1979, 179). It is
elaborated and spread through civil society, including intellectuals and material and
institutional structures or hegemonic apparatuses, e.g. schools, churches, media,
architecture. Hegemony is established when power and control over social life emerge
from and operate within society rather than forced by the state, or external sources
(Chin and Mittelman 2000, 167).
3. During this period international journalists and non-governmental organizations were
regularly denied entry or forced to leave the country if there was any suspicion about
their work. Interacting with war veterans, who were publicly propagating a worldview
hostile to foreigners and civil society generally, presented other problems, such as
simply trying to arrange legitimate interviews. Eventually I was “caught” doing research,
interrogated on multiple occasions by Central Intelligence Organization operatives,
and had my visa extension denied, despite having an offer for a full-time teaching
position at a Zimbabwe-based university.
4. A critical theory approach seeks to provide a historical account of the present order, a
critique of injustices and inequalities, and an assessment of immanent and
transformative possibilities for change, created through negotiation of analytic
frameworks with indigenous discourse (Cox 1981; Burchill et al. 2005; Young 1990). In
this tradition, critical ethnographic methods (Denzin 1989) and critical evaluation
methods were used (Greene 1994, 533).
5. Political economy perspectives seek to understand the balance of forces and power
relations involved in diverging social projects and competing political agendas within
civil society, as well as the contexts and forces that account for the emergence of
different segments in civil society (Gibbon 1995; Kasfir 1998; Sjögren 2001).
6. Between 2001 and 2004 approximately 150 interviews were systematically undertaken
in Harare, Manicaland, Matabeleland, and Masvingo – three major geopolitical regions
of the country – while more sporadic interviews were undertaken in many other parts
of the country, rural and urban. Approximately fifty interviews were conducted in
visits to the country in May 2007, May 2010 and November 2010, in Zimbabwe and
South Africa. Approximately half of the original 150 interviews with war veterans and
NCA activists were conducted in local languages by Zimbabwean researchers Gerald
Mazarire and Showers Mawowa. Focus groups were found to be counterproductive
given the climate of fear, with the exception of interviews with war veterans
themselves. Grassroots interviewees overwhelmingly chose to remain anonymous
and thus their interviews (between 2003 and 2004) are sourced only in terms of their
7. For two years I worked part-time with the NCA in the Information Department, mostly
assisting with the production of the Agenda quarterly publication. I attended meetings
when allowed, but not staff meetings. One senior NCA representative believed that I
was a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative, reflecting the general culture of
extreme distrust and fear of infiltration. I never participated in protest activities.
8. Movement scholars also talk of “toolkits of protest tactics” available to activists at
any given historical moment (McAdam and Snow 1997, 326).
9. See, for instance, “The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development,”
Arusha 1990. “Empowerment” means, among other things, creating the space and
institutional framework for consensus building as well as building the capacity of the
23 MAPPING POLARIZATION AND TRANSFORMATION IN ZIMBABWE
people and equipping them with the requisite knowledge and skills to participate
effectively and meaningfully in national policy dialogue processes (Gumah 2003).
10. Countermovements aim to halt or neutralize goal attainment activities of the
movement in question (McAdam and Snow 1997, xxiii).
11. See for example: Lipset 1959; Dahl 1989; Przeworski and Limongi 1997 on traditional
concepts, and for African scholars: Adedeji 1997; Adjibolosoo 1995; Cheru 1999, 2000;
Sachikonye 1995a; Amin 1994.
12. Interview with Sam Moyo, April 25, 2004.
13. An undemocratic political system is generally not conducive, while patronage-type
systems upheld by rewarding individuals may produce symbolic benefits rather than
structural measures (Amenta, Carruthers, and Zylan 1997, 497).
14. These include: the disruptive force of movement tactics (McAdam 1997; Gamson 1997),
particularly among the poor and lower classes (Piven and Cloward 1979); minimalist
strategies (Gamson 1990); the interweaving of organizational models and diverse
strategies (Della Porta and Diani 1999); the relevance of a movement’s social basis
(Sachikonye 1995a); a coalition between the mass mobilization of people in pursuit of
their own rights and interests, and those of professionals (De Waal 2002); and a
“sustained challenge to power holders in the name of a population living under the
jurisdiction of those power holders by means of repeated public displays of that
population’s worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment” (Tilly 1999, 257).
15. This could be through the “importation” of new issues into public debate or the degree
to which a movement has a “sensitizing impact” on a social or political actor in line
with its agenda (Kriesi et al. 1995, 211).
16. For a fuller discussion and review of this literature, see LeBas (2006).
17. Several researchers have worked on the NCA (e.g., Brian Kagoro 2001; Sara Rich Dorman
2001; Brian Raftoploulos and Gerald Mazarire 2000). Most research has focused on
the period only until or just after the “No” vote in 2000. While the war veterans, more
specifically the ZNLWVA, have attracted a considerable amount of scholarly attention
since the land occupations launched in 2000, most research was conducted by analysis
of newspaper articles and some sporadic interviews, some written by white farmers
who lost farms (e.g., Cathy Buckle 2002). Norma Kriger (2003) has extensively
researched the war veterans (during the 1980-1987 period) with an approach rooted
in analysis of power and history. Sam Moyo (1995-present) bases his work on extensive
interviews with war veterans and focuses more closely on the issue of land than on
the war veterans as an organization. Wilbert Sadomba’s 2008 PhD thesis is the most
comprehensive analysis of the war veterans to date. A war veteran himself, he analyses
the history of the liberation movement, their strategies and motives behind the land
occupations, from the inside.
18. The essay draws heavily on a 2005 study by Moyo and Yeros and seeks to explain the
origins and outcomes of the land reform program, including its casualties and the
associated domestic and international causes.
19. These were captured in “Reflections on Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘Lessons of Zimbabwe’”
in an issue of Concerned Africa Scholars, Bulletin no. 82, Summer 2009. http://
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