Rethinking Citizen Engagement ‘Spaces’ in Zimbabwe’s New Dispensation: Challenges and Prospects for Civil Society Ahead of the 2018 Elections

Introduction

In the past few years, Zimbabwe has been going through a series of political, economic, and social changes that have transformed its systems of governance. Among the most significant was the November 2017 military-assisted transition that led to the ouster of the country’s founding president of 37 years, and the coming in of a new government.

This government has partially stabilized the political situation and opened spaces where citizen voices can influence democratic governance in several ways. Spaces are opportunities, moments, and channels where citizens can act to potentially affect policies, discourses, decisions, and relationships that affect their lives and interests. Analyzing spaces enables greater understanding of how the dynamics of power, agency, and knowledge shape civic engagement for accountable governance programs. Moreover, activists, researchers, policy-makers, and donors interested in promoting democratic governance in the country need to understand the changing configurations of power and how these affect citizen engagements at various levels. To these ends, this discussion paper analyzes:

  • How the shift in power in Zimbabwe has indeed created and opened spaces where citizens’ voices can influence democratic governance?
  • Whether increasing engagement in these spaces will risk restoring the legitimacy of the status quo or contribute to changing the history of exclusion and repression while challenging power relations
  • How civil society organizations (CSOs) seeking to influence accountable and democratic governance can decide where best to put their efforts and appropriate interventions
  • The likelihood of progressive governance reform (economic and political) and the potential of increased citizen participation in governance in view of Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections

Source: Pact

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