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dictatorship and the response of the social movements
Links Journal of Socialist Renewal
June 28, 2010
economy has been in free fall. Between 2000 and 2005, the economy
contracted by more than 40 per cent. Today GDP per capita is estimated
to be the same as it was in 1953. Before the replacement of the
Zimbabwe dollar with the US dollar and the South African rand in
2009, the country had the highest inflation rate in the world, soaring
to 165,000 per cent in February 2008.
At the start
of 2007, the IMF calculated that 80 per cent of Zimbabwe-s
population lived below the poverty line. The Consumer Council of
Zimbabwe declared in September 2007 that people needed a minimum
of Z$22 million per month to survive, far above the income of most
Zimbabweans. Schools collapsed, major hospitals suffered from basic
shortages and unemployment reached an estimated 80 per cent, a situation
that has not been significantly improved following the establishment
of the joint Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)-Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) government in 2009.
While much of
the economic crisis was triggered by the land seizures, this explanation,
favoured by capitalist media commentators and orthodox economists,
gives only a fraction of the picture. Zimbabwe has also been squeezed
by the implementation of direct and indirect sanctions by Western
countries. An international legislative structure has forced the
pace of this strangulation; this has included the US Zimbabwe Democracy
and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which immediately cut access
to international credit for the state and Zimbabwe companies. The
reduction in aid means that the country now receives less than US$10
aid for every HIV-infected person, compared to the regional average
of $100. As international funds have dried up, the state has been
largely incapacitated, with welfare provision, often in the form
of food aid, now being provided by international agencies and NGOs.
In the face
of economic collapse, the regime has been unable to sustain its
attempts to capture support through a limited program of reforms.
Early this decade, ZANU-PF introduced price controls on basic commodities
but was forced to suspend them as massive shortages hit most shops.
Since then the regime has swung wildly backwards and forwards between
price controls and market-based approaches. Caught in a global economic
vice, the regime resorted to what it had always done. Land and business
contracts were distributed to cronies, while President Robert Mugabe
mouthed platitudes about "foreign powers". ZANU-PF relied
increasingly on violence, as each reform was snatched back under
pressure from the economic crisis. The regime-s authoritarian
neoliberalism has continued unabated, albeit chaotically, for years.
For the past six years Zimbabwe-s Reserve Bank governor Gideon
Gono has pursued a haphazard program of cuts in subsidies, privatisation
and debt repayment.
reform in Zimbabwe was celebrated across much of Africa as a historical
blow against the legacy of colonial inequality, this was also a
failure. In 2002, ZANU-PF stated that it intended to seize 8.5 million
hectares of land before the presidential elections that year, the
majority of land owned by white farmers. They succeeded in doing
this by 2003, as the pace of land seizures and occupations came
to an end. Although the regime could provoke high-profile land seizures,
most of the large farms went not to the Zimbabwean poor, but to
leading members of the ZANU-PF regime and its elite supporters.
For those Zimbabweans who were granted small parcels of the seized
land, the regime did not have the resources to provide them with
the training and equipment so that they could profitably cultivate
their new smallholdings.
intifada and civil society
There is a tendency
to downplay the extent of popular unrest against the Mugabe regime,
with political conflict instead portrayed as between the country-s
two dominant parties. Yet the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
the main opposition party, has its roots in the popular challenge
to ZANU-PF in the late 1990s and the social movements on which it
rested. Zimbabwe-s biennio rosso of 1996-8 saw a two-year
revolt by students and workers. Strikes by nurses, teachers, civil
servants and builders rippled across the country. In January 1998
housewives orchestrated a "bread riot" that evolved
into an uprising of the poor living in Harare-s township.
The protests, strikes and campaigns were often explicitly against
the government-s programs of structural adjustment. The first
of these, the Economic and Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP),
was introduced in 1991and was sponsored and advocated by the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The second, known
as ESAP II, was introduced in 1996. Factories closed, workers were
laid off and state funding to education was slashed. Discontent
with the results of ESAP steadily increased throughout the 1990s
and was expressed by the labour and student movements, together
with a range of other civil society organisations.
strike occurred in July 1997 in Zimbabwe-s important clothing
industry, which employed 30,000 workers, but the industry was undermined
by cheap textile imports resulting from ESAP liberalisation. The
end of state support for industry and the removal of tariff barriers
signalled a sharp decline for the industry.[v] A pay dispute was
used as an opportunity to sack thousands of workers in a range of
clothing outlets. A member of the National Union of the Clothing
Industry of Zimbabwe (NUCIZ), Steven Maunga, had worked for City
We were closed
out of the company and forced to go onto the streets. We went to
court and the company was ordered to reinstate all employees. Denied
by the employer, we have pursued the case until now.
defeats, the lesson of the period was clear, as the general secretary
of the NUCIZ Joseph Tanyanyiwa explained: "We would really
control by means of workers power."
the initially urban-based movement of anti-ESAP unrest, the rural
poor, particularly veterans of the war for independence, started
to invade white-owned farms. At first the regime evicted the "squatters"
and arrested the movement-s leaders. In 1998, the University
of Zimbabwe in Harare was closed for five months and students demanded
that opposition forces be organised into a national political party
a workers- party. Students organised protests, marching with
workers. The revolt in Indonesia in 1998 against the dictator Suharto
inspired those protesting in the streets. These years of popular
mobilisation and political debate were described by one activist
as a "sort of revolution".[viii] Eventually the revolt
led to the formation of the MDC in September 1999. The new party
was formed by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). At this
point the MDC was resolutely pro-poor, formed by the working class
and for them. As Job Sikhala, a founding member, explained, "It
was basically a party of the poor with a few middle class".[ix]
For many of those who had been involved in the exuberant protests
that had rocked Zimbabwe, and who saw a parallel between the revolution
in Indonesia and the protests in Zimbabwe, they thought new party
would bring about a radical transformation.
Though the major
force behind the formation of the MDC was the activism of students
in the Zimbabwe
National Students Union (ZINASU) and trade unionists led by
other social movement organisations played a vital role. These were
frequently organisations that had been galvanised into action by
the depth of the economic crisis, and subsequently the resistance
to it. The resistance provoked by structural adjustment saw an increase
in poverty and unemployment culminated in 1997 in the formation
of the National
Constitutional Assembly. The NCA incorporated ZINASU, the ZCTU
and women-s organisations and sought to define a new relationship
between political power and civil society by campaigning for a democratic
and people-driven constitution.
After the food
riots in January 1998, a new coalition of human rights organisations
came together to form the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. Initially
formed to provide assistance to those who had suffered from government
repression following the riots, the forum-s remit quickly
widened. As the struggles against the government broadened to include
new layers of society, so did the number of organisations that sought
to give these groups a more coherent voice. In June 1999, for example,
the women-s organisations that were housed under the NCA banner
formed the Constitutional Women-s Coalition, which would later
become the Women-s Coalition. This initiative spoke of their
sense of marginalisation from both the official process of consultation
by the government for a new constitution and also the NCA-led popular
rejection of the government-s constitution.
organisations also became active, or were reenergised. From 1995
churches encouraged and nurtured the rapid development of civil
society organisations. So a Jesuit training centre, Silveira House,
started to hold critical debates about the failures of ESAP, and
possible alternatives to structural adjustment. Other church groups
began to stray into the political arena, so the Zimbabwe
Council of Churches (ZCC) trained election agents to monitor
the 1995 vote. Church groups were, in many respects, the seedbed
for the development of civil society organisations. The meetings
that led to the creation of the NCA were held at Africa Synod House,
home to the ZCC. Similarly, the preparatory meetings of the MDC
were in the premises of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops- Conference.
After the formation
of the MDC in 2000, the ZCC organised meetings that led to the formation
of the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN). The ZESN, a coalition of NGOs,
would play an important role in training and monitoring the violently
contested elections over the next decade. However, many of the relationships
between churches and civil society group broke down soon after they
were formed. The ZCC, so vital in the formation of the NCA, withdrew
in 1999 accusing the organisation of being too political. Nor were
church groups intransigent opponents of the government, when ZANU-PF
launched its own constitutional commission to challenge the NCA
some church leaders decided to join.
But the trajectory
was clear. These "mushrooming" demands expressed the
explosion of protests in the aftermath of two structural adjustment
programs and eventually led to, in the words of a recent study,
"the foundation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
at the ZCTU-s Convention. This was, and still is, seen as
an opportune marriage between civil society and political interests."[This
uneasy coalition meant that the MDC would remain jostled by competing
interests, which sought to influence the opposition-s political
evolution and its strategy in confronting ZANU-PF. If the mid-1990s
saw the emergence of a vibrant civil society willing to confront
the government, once the MDC was formed it too was forced to contend
with distinct and critical voices that could claim ownership over
the party. In the first year of its foundation the question for
the MDC became which of these voices would become hegemonic.
The period from
February 2000, when the government lost a referendum vote on a new
constitution and the first general election contested by the MDC
were in June that year, was marked by a rapid escalation of state-sponsored
violence. Despite this, the MDC almost won the election in 2000,
gaining 57 seats against ZANU-PF-s 62. The regime maintained
its pressure on the opposition in subsequent years. Along with the
regime-s politicisation of the war veterans it launched the
National Youth Service (NYS). In 2001 the first NYS camp was opened,
named after the government minister who initiated the training,
Border Gezi. One graduate described the courses as "a combination
of things but mainly Marxism, socialism and business management".
This expressed ZANU-PF-s schizophrenic mix of state capitalism
and neoliberalism, set against a background of economic crisis.
By 2006 the NYS had opened eight training centres. In the first
five years of the NYS more than 40,000 youths had completed training
By 2003, the
regime seemed to have gained the upper hand. ZANU-PF increasingly
sold itself internationally and at home as the true inheritors of
the liberation movement. The MDC, by contrast, seemed cowed and
unable to mount a serious resistance, either politically or on the
streets. A decisive moment came in June 2003. The so-called "final
push" was launched by the MDC and was meant to undermine the
regime with a week-long stayaway and a march on State House. However,
no serious efforts were made to mobilise the available forces, leaving
only students in Harare to organise a protest that was violently
crushed. The week gave the MDC neither its international media coup
nor mass action. The government scored another victory against the
opposition and emerged stronger.
social movements began to suffer from "donor syndrome",
as foreign-funded NGOs increasingly filled the political vacuum
that had been left by the failure of the opposition and the collapse
in the economy. Zimbabwe-based organisations saw a massive inflow
of funds. This distorted grassroots activism, leading to what has
been described as the "commodification of resistance"
as mobilisation is increasingly "paid for" from NGO
funds. In Zimbabwe the "commodification of resistance"
is a symptom of the frustrated transition to democracy in Africa,
and the decline in the movements that gave birth to the MDC. The
general effect is the massive distortion of resistance by the introduction
and the distribution of donor money to activist groups and NGOs.
The result for the student movement, for example, in Zimbabwe was
the "artificial" creation of the Zimbabwe Youth Democracy
Trust in 2003 by ex-members of the executive of ZINASU. The money
for the trust was provided by the Norwegian NGO, the Students and
Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH). Student activists
were diverted into fighting over positions in the trust and for
control of the organisation. Donor money had flowed into the ZINASU
as the union is incapable of funding its own activities through
elections in 2005, also widely believed to have been rigged, the
MDC lost 16 seats to ZANU-PF, securing the necessary two-thirds
majority needed to unilaterally change the constitution. Though
the opposition had faced years of violent intimidation, the MDC
was also by this stage hopelessly divided by a regime that had succeeded
in outmanoeuvring it. The MDC became a contested space, with voices
and groups, many from civil society, criticising the direction of
a Zimbabwe socialist who was a member of the MDC until 2003, criticised
the "hijacking of the party by the bourgeoisie, marginalisation
of workers, adoption of neoliberal positions and cowardly failure
to physically confront the Mugabe regime and bosses. It is . . .
imperative that the party moves much more leftward . . . in order
to realign to its base".
It was not only
socialists who criticised the opposition. In 2003 one loyal MP,
Job Sikhala, explained how the MDC core had become "really
fat and thick . . . it is almost a party of the rich. You cannot
look at a person who was with you during the foundation of the MDC
as the person who is there now".
in the MDC eventually led to the party splitting in 2005, with one
faction now being led by Arthur Mutambara, an important student
activist in the late 1980s.
efforts were made to mount opposition to the ruling party after
2003, these did not come mainly from the MDC. New social movement
organisations attempted to fill the vacuum.
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) is an activist organisation that has
led some of the most important protests in recent years, linking
issues of violence against women to wider themes of economic and
social collapse from which women suffered disproportionately. The
Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF), formed in 2002, became an alternative
space for political discussion and a forum that has attempted to
bring together those who sought to resist the regime. Both organisations
managed, in the context of a decline in MDC-led action to inspire
and train a new layer of activists. Gender issues were an important
theme for the ZSF. Tella Barangwe explained how she was politicised
through her involvement in WOZA and the ZSF:
here in Zimbabwe they have got a different perspective towards
women, when it comes to women exercising their rights sometimes
men will use mocking words to discourage us from fighting. What
we are fighting for as women. I was a WOZA member and I was then
recruited into other organisations. From there I managed to become
the gender coordinator in the ZSF and I was able to encourage
women to join and become active.
the central problems that have faced by civil society and its
efforts to both influence the opposition and confront the government
has been a brain drain. Previously active and leading members
of a variety of organisations, who were often founding members
of the MDC in the late 1990s, have been forced to leave the country.
The consequences of the economic and political collapse were devastating.
Two organisations illustrate the trend. ZINASU and the International
Socialists of Zimbabwe (ISOZ) were paralysed, at different times,
by the exodus of skilled and experienced activists. But other
elements were arguably more important. The flood of donor money
(and agendas) distorted activists and campaigns, while the political
demoralisation and failure to unseat the regime saw many activists
For much of
the decade Zimbabwe-s civil society activists were faced with
the question of engagement with the regime. In 2006 the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum posed the dilemma starkly, "to
engage or not engage the government of Zimbabwe". Some argued
for engagement as the only way of securing concessions from the
regime, while others rejected any cooperation. ZESN, for example,
was clear in 2005 that "this was the most appropriate way
of securing co-operation and concessions". Yet the radical
women-s organisation WOZA made non-engagement their raison
d-etre, "Our mandate is to conduct peaceful protests
in defiance of unjust law that sanction our fundamental and God-given
freedoms of assembly, expression and association."
positions were challenged when the NGO Bill was almost signed into
law in 2005. The proposed law would have made it illegal for civil
society organisations to engage in questions of governance and democracy,
and prevented them from receiving funding unless permitted by the
state. It was widely regarded a piece of legislation that would
entirely paralyse the involvement of NGOs.
Human Rights NGO Forum study in 2006 highlighted the "constructive
involvement" of campaigners against the NGO Bill. Their interviewees
from civil society pointed to the success of the campaign against
the Bill, which though it passed through parliament in 2005, was
never signed into law. But the study-s conclusions about the
real benefits of engaging the regime were cautious, to say the least,
"Although there may be no immediate tangible benefit to this
type of engagement, it remains strategically important for organisations
to be able to counter any subsequent claims from government that
they `didn-t know- or `were not informed-".
Asking in 2006 whether there was much point in pursuing further
engagement the report-s authors concluded on the basis of
"this experience, and in light of the government-s preference
to deny or ignore that human rights violations are an issue (let
alone a problem), it is highly unlikely that the government would
be prepared to engage civil society on these issues in a meaningful
way". The attitude of judicial impunity that has spread across
Zimbabwe excludes any meaningful engagement. The elections in 2008
were a major moment of "engagement" in the political
process, by the MDC and civil society organisations. The repression
that followed the results shut down any possibility of "constructive"
involvement by civil society. But long before these elections ZANU-PF
developed a repressive legislative architecture that worked against
the involvement and influence of civil society organisations in
government decision making.
The most serious
recent challenge to ZANU-PF came in 2008. The elections illustrated
many of the tensions that are present in the MDC-s relationship
with allied social movements. The election on March 29, 2008, tantalised
Zimbabwe with the possibility of a defeat for ZANU-PF. The opposition
MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, made massive gains. According to
the MDC-s own calculations, Tsvangirai won 50.3 per cent in
the presidential poll compared to Mugabe-s 43.8 per cent.
For a week after
voting had ended, Zimbabwe-s ruling party was silent. However,
once ZANU-PF had recovered from the surprise defeat, repression
against the opposition intensified. More than 70 opposition supporters
and members were killed. Thousands more were terrorised and driven
from their homes.
ZINASU worked closely with the MDC. Students became election agents
and campaigners for the MDC after rural activists had been chased
and beaten by ZANU-PF thugs. Tinashe Chisaira was a law student
at the University
see those who were running away from ZANU-PF women, children,
those with broken limbs, people who had seen their homes burnt
and children killed. It was a painful moment.
of a coordinated and systematic defence of the results, the MDC
vacillated as ZANU-PF began to unleash its reign of terror. Chisaira
remembers one moment;
when we were in Harvest House there was this message that some
MDC activists had been attacked and then the word came through
that able-bodied people must go and defend MDC supporters. But
in the end they told us not to go.
Chisaira suggests, was complex. So while the MDC was unable to provide
consistent leadership during the post-election period it was also
paralysed by a recent history of retreat from popular mobilisation.
Chisaira vividly describes:
the MDC had was that it had distanced itself from those who would
have fought in the trenches. We supported the MDC but they didn-t
support us. The workers, the populace, supported the MDC but the
MDC no longer trusted in the people; no longer fully coordinated
with the people. So when people were being beaten, Tsvangirai
fled to Botswana. (Interview with author, March 19, 2010).
Zimbabwe since 2008
The MDC refused
to contest the second round of the presidential election, an inevitable
decision due to both the worsening election
violence and the opposition-s inability to lead a popular
defence of the March 29 vote. Mugabe was victorious and his fraudulent
election confirmed ZANU-PF-s dictatorship. Under Western pressure
protracted inter-party negotiations started soon after his inauguration.
February 2009 saw the birth of an inclusive Government of National
Unity (GNU), with leading members of the MDC assuming significant
positions in the new parliament. Tsvangirai became prime minster.
Tendai Biti, a longstanding member of the MDC, secured the important
finance portfolio. But other vital ministries and real power remained
firmly in ZANU-PF hands.
For some social
movement activists in the ZSF, ZINASU and the NCA, the GNU signalled
a defeat. But within months of the GNU becoming operational, ZANU-PF
did begin to reduce the repressive apparatus of the state. By 2010,
activists could more easily organise. Mike Sambo, the national coordinator
for the International Socialist Organisation of Zimbabwe, sees the
GNU as having delivered both limited economic successes and political
The most significant change that has been bought by the GNU is the
availability of basic commodities which had been scarce for five
years. Right now you can go into any shop and get anything of course
only if you have dollars. So there has been a relative return to
economic stabilisation in terms of availability and also prices.
celebrate the ease of organising meetings and opposition events,
there is among a narrow layer of social movement activists a sense
of political defeat and disorientation with the GNU, says Sambo:
identify Mugabe as an enemy so seeing him working together with
the MDC that people had given their trust somehow has the whiff
of betrayal. Everyone wanted Tsvangirai to be president, so his
collaboration has led people to feel disappointed.
that marginalised the political activism of the major players in
Zimbabwe-s political transition in the early 2000s, several
social movements managed to keep the flame of resistance to ZANU-PF
alive. Prominent organisations who helped to defend the space for
activism were WOZA, the NCA and the ZSF. But in conditions of economic
crisis these organisations suffer from a paralysing disease: the
"commodification of resistance".
been levelled against WOZA for being heavily "commodified",
receiving funds and paying activists for their attendance at events.
The NCA, once the standard bearer of the struggle for democratic
rights, was accused of diverting resistance to funded workshops
and conferences in regional cities. Recent reductions of donor funding
have recently crippled NGOs reliant on such sources of revenue;
funds have been withdrawn due to the twin effects of the global
recession and the withholding of funds by donors hostile to the
The MDC is
also another source of "commodification", as the party
supports particular factions of social movement organisations. Tinashe
Chisaira, student coordinator for the ISOZ, claims that one faction
was "heavily funded by the MDC: T-shirts, accommodation. For
their congress in December  they invited students throughout
Zimbabwe and those students were housed in Palm Lodge [a comfortable
hotel in Harare]. That funding came from the MDC and other right-wing
NGOs like Crisis in Zimbabwe."
The ZSF has
been exhausted. Its structures do not meet and it does not organise.
Broken on the anvil of ZANU-PF repression and economic hardship,
many social movement organisations have had a short lease of life.
While the ZSF maintained an important presence from 2002, mirroring
the evolution and momentum of the global social forum process, it
has ceased to play an active role in civil society.
of the activists who animated the ZSF have shifted their strategic
and organisational abilities to the official consultative process
for a new constitution, due to start later in 2010. Funded by the
German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Democratic United Front for
a People-Driven Constitution (DUF) seeks to politicise the consultative
process, which is supposed to be a neutral country-wide factfinding
exercise part funded by the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP). The DUF includes in its membership several unions, HIV support
groups and residents- associations. Through active intervention
in the process, the DUF aims to drive the constitution to the left
on issues such as gay rights, land and wealth redistribution and
political justice. One area of contention was ZANU-PF-s Indigenisation
Bill, conceptualised as a black empowerment initiative, that
insisted on at least 51% local Zimbabwean shareholding in foreign
companies operating in Zimbabwe. The MDC opposed the legislation
as hostile to foreign investment. Though it was liable to become
a program of ZANU-PF patronage, the MDC-s stance is indicative
of their politics and cast them to the political right. DUF activists
aimed to radicialise the "indigenisation" debate, arguing
for wealth redistribution to workers and the poor.
MDC and social movements in perspective
The MDC has
long been a curious paradox. As the 2008 election results proved,
the party maintained, and has even increased, mass support among
poor Zimbabweans in conditions of astonishing hardship. But the
MDC has also oriented itself towards the most powerful Western states
and has been avowedly neoliberal in its policies. The party is advised
by the International Republican Institute and Cato Institute. In
April 2008, it was reported that an MDC government would immediately
access US$2 billion each year in "aid and development",
which Patrick Bond describes as "top-heavy with foreign debt
and chock-full of conditions".
As with many
similar organisations on the African continent, the MDC emerged
out of mass popular unrest coordinated on the ground by social movements.
These protests were themselves a product of the failures of independence
and governments- implementation of structural adjustment programs.
But these protest movements took place in the aftermath of the collapse
of the regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and with
them the ideological moorings for a generation of trade union bureaucrats
and activists. To many it seemed that ideas of economic adjustment
and good governance, the "Washington Consensus" were
the best, perhaps the only, hope for Africa.
The MDC was
and remains an expression of the revolt against structural adjustment
programs carried out by ZANU-PF. It was formed directly by the labour
movement and supported by students who appealed openly to the trade
unions for a party to confront ZANU-PF. The MDC-s core support
came from the urban working class in the main cities of Harare,
Chitungwiza and Bulawayo. But the MDC also attracted a range of
social movement groups, as we have seen, that had helped form the
organisation and could claim ownership over the party. Middle classes
representing local and international business interests also quickly
gathered round the leadership of the party. As early as the parliamentary
elections in 2000 workers made up only 15 per cent of candidates.
Why did the
party become politically dominated by groups of the middle class
that gathered in its ranks? Some of the answer lies in the weakness
of an alternative vision that could have argued inside the new party
against the reorientation towards neoliberalism. Socialists were
active in the MDC, as they were in similar organisations in other
countries across the continent, but their voices were marginal.
Though the mass struggles of 1996-8 showed the potential power of
the working class, the protests, strikes and movements often remained
controlled by the trade union bureaucracy. The MDC has broken from
its original mould formed in the furnace of the late 1990s, shaped
in large part by the radicalism and confidence of the working class.
general secretary of the National Union of the Clothing Industry
of Zimbabwe, recalls:
a rising giant. People are still missing those days... People
are always saying why can-t we go back to those good old
days where we would really control by means of workers power.
It is still a deep conviction that we can deliver workers from
the bondage of oppression.
have been unable to influence the government in Zimbabwe, even in
the less repressive days of the 1990s. One effect of the social
movements that rose to brief prominence in the late 1990s was to
drive the regime to develop a host of repressive laws and an extrajudicial
organisations (war veterans and youth militias in particular) to
shore up their support base; in brief the regime succeeded in constructing
its own reactionary social movements from above.
In 1999 Brian
Raftopoulos observed how ZANU-PF monopolisation of nationalist history
had not been countered by alternative visions of Zimbabwe in the
period of democratisation. This points to an important argument,
namely the failures of opposition parties and social movements on
the continent to develop their own "imagined communities"
with successful organising strategies[xxvi] ZANU-PF-s authoritarian
nationalism poses particular challenges to those who seek to imagine
and construct an alternative future in Zimbabwe.
Leo Zeilig is
a researcher and activist. Currently he is working on a study of
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