Citizens and Official Government Processes in Zimbabwe

Introduction and Background

Governments’ traditional mandate and purpose is to serve the needs of citizens by way of designing and implementing programmes and policies that address the latter’s needs. In this light, we sought to understand the extent to which citizens understand the roles and functions of different tiers of government. We also sought to find out the extent to which citizens have played a role in shaping government programmes by participating in official processes and platforms established by both central and local governments.

The Zimbabwean Constitution affirms broad-based participation in national processes as an indivisible right. Section 13(2) of the constitution obligates the Government to “… involve the people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them”. In the survey questionnaire we sought to determine if citizens have a clear understanding of the different roles of officeholders and critical institutions. The survey also sought to determine the levels and ways in which citizens participate in official processes of central and local government. We sought to answer the question, ‘are citizens actively engaged in public processes?’ We are also cautious of the fact that being part of a government-led consultative process is not synonymous with achieving the goal of participation. We asked if citizens had voted in the recent elections, if they had been a part of local and national processes of consultation on policy decisions.

The final part of the questions were focused on assessing citizens’ perceptions with regards to the extent to which different tiers and functions of government are open to broader participation. Citizens’ perceptions are shaped by their own objective knowledge, experiences in interacting with officials and institutions at different levels and is also based on conjecture. In many surveys we have noted that in the absence of clarity on the question being asked and where there are predetermined responses, respondents revert to guessing. It is difficult however, to clarify the extent to which responses are influenced by actual knowledge or just guessing. These nuances serve to provide a comprehensive picture of citizen perceptions. By its very nature, perception analysis is based on subjective responses and does not need to be informed by scientific knowledge;it is what the citizen perceives on the issue at that time.

Access the full research report here (2MB PDF)

Source: SIVIO Institute

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