This report reviews the state of the legislative and policy framework on the human rights defenders in Zimbabwe. The vulnerability of rights, despite the expansive provisions in the Constitution, calls for the need of human rights defenders to challenge openly rights violations and advocate fearlessly for their protection.

The issue of state responsiveness has recently become a matter for investigation by social scientists, and even the UN in a large survey. The concern is to understand whether governments really understand what their citizens want and expect of them, a not trivial question when the value of elections in holding governments accountable and responsive.

Whilst it is often argued that religions should stay clear of politics, it is also evident that many churches in Zimbabwe do at least vote, and many participate in politics. One religious group that is frequently accused of being politically partisan are the members of the various apostolic sects, who, according to the narrative, are supporters of ZANU-PF.

Social Capital has become a concept of growing interest in the past two decades. The presence of a high degree of social capital is argued to be one of the strong underpinnings of democracy, and the presence of varieties of civic and social associations is assumed to contribute to more active citizenship. In the West at least, there is increasing concern about the declining participation of citizens in elections, together with concern that citizens are also less interested in participating in social and civic networks and associations.

Social capital has become an increasingly investigated variable in understanding citizen participation, or lack of it, in public life and politics. Whilst there are reservations about the explanatory power of the concept, there are also demonstrations that social capital is a factor that influences communities, lowers crime, and may increase political participation. Although demographic variables do not seem to influence the growth of social capital, at least one study indicates that there are some gender differences (Onyx & Bullen. 2000).

Afrobarometer surveys on Zimbabwe frequently run into criticism about both the methodology and the findings. This was the case with the public release of the Round 7 (2017) survey results. A particular bone of contention was what to make of apparently contradictory findings. For example, participants were confused by the findings that a majority of Zimbabweans both trust and fear the President, Robert Mugabe. This confusion was driven apparently by a failure to appreciate the limitations of quantitative research.

The Research and Advocacy Unit and the Mass Public Opinion Institute conducted a study to examine active citizenship in Zimbabwe, with a major focus on women and youth. Using all the six rounds of the Afrobarometer data from 1999 to 2014 the study looked at “risk aversion” focusing on the risk taking and risk aversion behaviour of Zimbabweans. The interest in people’s risk taking behaviour was borne out of the need to understand the rise to eminence of citizen movements and collective citizen action and apparent increase in active citizenship in 2016.

This report is based on work carried out by the Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU) under its active citizenship and community security programmes. The aim is to understand whether the role of women and young people in local participatory policy-making is contributing to creating a conducive environment for the full enjoyment of its citizens, and also that duty bearers are getting more responsive to the inputs by the community which they serve. We try to answer the question: Does citizen participation in day to day activities of their local authorities imply increased accountability?