In any country around the world, citizen mobilisation to advance democratic governance is not without its challenges. In some countries however, the operating political environment makes it difficult for citizens to actively and effectively engage with structures of governance. Even though studies have shown that including women and youth hashas direct economic, political, social, and cultural implications, these two groupings continue to be marginalised or excluded completely and as a result, Zimbabwe continues to miss out on opportunities to foster accountability.
This is exacerbated by the mutual and growing distrust which deepens the gap between citizens and their leaders. Persistent repression and the manipulation of laws and public institutions for political purposes regularly attempt to stifle perceived opposition.[1]
In Zimbabwe this is heightened by the considerable polarisation along political lines, and. the greatest obstacle to participation for most citizens in both rural and urban areas as well as women and youth is the nature and structure of the state institution of the local government. The system of the local government is designed to retain the status quo and allows ‘participation” in so far as it serves the interests of the ruling party. This partisanship approach to governance is aggravated by the collapse of the economy which has had severe effects upon the employment prospects of the youth, and whilst the last census might describe a majority of Zimbabweans as employed, the youth differ markedly, with 70% describing themselves as “unemployed”.[2]
Consequently engagement by citizens with leadership is a process that is tainted at many levels. In this study the Research and Advocacy Unit examines the participation of women and youth with local authorities with the view to find what hinders participation. By addressing these challenges and those that may be related to the macro-economic environment we feel it is the right path leading to active citizen participation. Marginalising women and youth has far reaching implications especially with regards to accountability at the local level with negative implications on provision of basic goods and services
It is evident that citizen participation or the lack of it has been influenced by polarisation and violence that was witnessed especially around 2008. The situation has not been encouraging in the urban areas as local authorities have failed to meet citizens’ expectations with reports of corruption and underhand deals reported. In rural areas as it is in urban areas, traditional leaders and councillors have used government resources to advance political party interests at the expense of addressing citizens need.
Exclusion of young people from benefiting economically as well as taking up roles of influence in their community has alienated youth from identifying with their communities opting instead to pursue other ventures or taking the exit option to places like South Africa in search of greener pastures. For those that remain in urban areas, they have created their own space with Zimdance hall music genre becoming popular as an avenue of expression. In rural areas, youth expressed that they are only appreciated by the elders when it comes to providing hard labour but the same elders tell them that they do not own households when it comes to distribution of things like agriculture inputs or food assistance.

[1]  Citizen Participation and the Promotion of Democratic Governance In Africa – ecdpm – Linking Policy and Practice in International Cooperation

[2] Age group, 15-29 years in Round Six of the Afrobarometer survey on Zimbabwe [Afrobarometer Online Data Analysis].


Since the advent of the new Constitution in 2013, a large number of legislative tasks have faced the ZANU PF Government. These can be divided into two categories: ensuring the conformity of all existing statutes with the new Constitution (―alignment‖), and operationalising the new institutions required by the Constitution. This analysis shows how, under the guise of alignment and operationalising the new institutions, government has sought to claw back executive power which the Constitution intends diminished. The focus here is on four specific areas: voter registration; two Independent Commissions - the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and National Peace and Reconciliation Commission; the powers of the National Prosecuting Authority; and two aspects of Criminal Procedure.

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This is an article discussing General Notice 9 of 2016 - Minister Zhuwao's “Frameworks, Procedures and Guidelines for Implementing the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.” Previously only the executive summary of the article was available here. The paper discusses the effect of the General Notice, the legality of any new requirements and whether the Framework and Processes pertaining to Indigenisation have been in any way clarified.


This paper proposes three interlinked areas of reform:

that Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans need to implement to form the basis of the kind of political settlement so desperately needed in Zimbabwe.

This is the second report on the issue of women’s participation in local governance. The first report, Phase I, examined women’s views on and understanding of local government. This report concluded that there was need to increase women’s participation. The current report examined the extent of participation between women in local communities and their local councillors.
For Phase II, a series of meetings were held between the women from four chosen communities and some of their local councillors. The findings of the previous research were made available to both parties, and the women were encouraged to present their reactions to the findings using a variety of interactive games and dramas. This was done in order to minimise confrontation and to facilitate open communication. The techniques seemed very successful, and were enjoyed by all. Following the presentation of the women’s reactions to the Phase I findings, the councillors were then encouraged to respond.
The women raised issues that had been covered in Phase I, mostly to do with the delivery of public goods and services in their communities. The following issues were raised:

  • Water and sanitation;
  • Roads;
  • Education;
  • Agricultural inputs;
  • Health;
  • Partisanship;
  • Youth unemployment;
  • Other issues, including unnecessary harassment by the police, domestic violence, ecological damage, and unlicensed outlets for the sale of alcohol.

It was unsurprising that these were all raised as important issues as these are concerns that have been raised in virtually all national surveys since 2000, and are commonly covered in the press and media. It was evident that the issues raised were common to all the communities engaged, but there also were obvious different areas of concern between rural and urban communities. For example, urban women were concerned about the imposition of pre-paid water meters, whilst rural women were concerned about discrimination in the allocation of agricultural inputs. All groups highlighted the problem of partisanship in local government, stressing that political affiliation was an impediment when approaching local government officials.
The councillors admitted and acknowledged the fact that all the problems which were presented by women through the different illustrations were real and a true reflection of what’s on the ground. However, they did point out that funding was a problem common to all councils in the current economic climate, and, whilst councils were keen to address all the problems, they were limited in what could be practically done. They also pointed out that there was also the problem of residents not paying their rates and levies, and also the poor levels of engagement by citizens. Councillors acknowledged the problems of partisanship, but also pointed out that councils frequently were not responsible for some of the goods and services delivered to communities. For example, ZINARA held the responsibility for road maintenance and the decision to implement pre-paid water meters was a central government policy. Furthermore, for urban councils, a major problem was the large increase in urban populations, for which there had been insufficient planning and was stretching the capacities of existing infrastructure.
The councillors were encouraged to outline their duties and responsibilities so that the women could have a better appreciation of and more realistic expectations of councils and councillors. This was only partially successful as some of the councillors did not use the opportunity to explain their roles and responsibilities, but rather spoke defensively about all the impediments they faced in trying to improve the goods and services that councils should provide.  
The report then covers the legislation that should govern local government, dealing with urban and rural councils, as well as traditional leadership.
Finally, the report details a number of recommendations that emerged from the consultation between the women and their local councillors, as follows:
·         Represent communities more strongly;
·         Develop better accountability;
·         Better induction for Councillors;
·         Unrealistic election promises;
·         Collection of revenue by central government;
·         Distinguish national from local problems.


There is an uneasy relationship between government and the NGO sector as a whole, but, for those NGOs and CSOs that take a direct interest in governance itself, the relationship is more than uneasy: it is downright hostile. This is scarcely surprising for the organisations that have concerned themselves with governance, human rights, and the rule of law have continuously exposed the government to international opprobrium since 1998. In fact Zimbabwean civil society organisations can take considerable credit for the sterling job that they have done, and this can be dramatically demonstrated by comparison with other countries in the region.

At the centre of Seen but not Heard: Capturing Women’s Voices on Service Delivery - a study by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) seeking to understand women’s views on their participation in local government - is the notion of citizenship and identity. Participation by women with structures of governance is often constricted and when this is coupled with the contested notions of citizenship and identity, in Zimbabwe, it becomes marred by the political processes in the country. 
This is based on the understanding that citizen participation is about power and its exercise by different social actors in the spaces created for the interaction between citizens and local authorities. However, the control of the structure and processes for participation - defining spaces, actors, agendas, procedures - is usually in the hands of governmental institutions and can become a barrier for effective involvement of citizens.[1]
While voters are vigorously engaged prior to elections and during the voting period, the process  of engagement ends soon after elections for most citizens and this contributes to a lack of accountability by government and public office bearers and abuse of office by some.
The majority of people live their daily lives at the local level where they engage with public services, markets and the political system. Their empowerment requires participation and accountability in local governance and decision making through effective and inclusive local citizenship. Supporting inclusion requires an understanding of existing power relationships and the practical obstacles to participation faced by poor people. [2]
By now, accountability is widely accepted as key to service delivery improvements. Accountability as a central theme of the debates on service delivery took root after the World Development Report of 2004 which identified failures in service delivery squarely as failures in accountability relationships (World Bank 2004). By showing how the ‘long route’ of accountability (via elected politicians and public officials through to providers) was failing the poor, the WDR argued in favour of strengthening the ‘short route’- direct accountability between users and providers.
In many African countries, ‘development’ still comes to communities as a gift from the ruling elite who decide where state-financed development projects are initiated. This is the nature of politics of development under the authoritarian presidential systems that reign in most of the countries.
The notion of “active citizenship” referred to in this RAU study is very important, and emphasises the great need to engage women in processes that would facilitate their agency. Here, and as pointed out earlier, Zimbabwe would seem little different from other developing countries, and, increasingly, development theory stresses the need for active involvement of women in development, together with a changed focus on the priorities in development to suit the needs of women.
It is assumed that citizen participation can improve service delivery outcomes.  This understanding is based on the belief that transparency and accountability initiatives lead to greater empowerment of poor people, greater awareness of rights by users and greater engagement in service delivery through the practice of citizenship. It can lead to a better match with local needs, improve service quality and access, and reduce corruption and resource misallocation.
However it is apparent that few public service reforms explicitly take into account the power relations that exist within households, even thought it is overwhelmingly women who access and use public services to meet household needs, despite differences in women’s societal position across regions of the world. Women tend to have greater responsibility in the household division of labour for education, health, clothing and food of the members.[3]
This RAU study sought to understand why women, being the majority of voters, were under-represented in the day-to-day activities of the councils. The study also examined women’s perspective on their understanding of the roles, responsibilities as well as the functionality of councils.
The RAU study was carried out in two phases. Phase I was primarily to understand what the women understood by the following questions;
(i)      Who is a citizen?
(ii)     How do female citizens want to be governed?
(iii)    How are they currently engaging with their local authorities?
(iv)    How do they want to be engaged?
(v)     How does service delivery impact social justice and how can female citizens hold their leaders accountable for service delivery?
Phase II was to give the women feedback on the findings of the focus group discussions (FGDs) held in Phase I and to give them a platform to present their issues to their respective councillors. This was also to observe if the women would be confident to raise all the issues they had talked about in the FGDs. It was also to highlight to the women and the councillors the legal definitions of the roles and responsibilities of councillors and councils.
Women when asked about their rights as citizens, indicated that they were well versed with their right to education, health, participation in politics, the right to support a political party of choice, the right to access clean water and electricity, right to life, right to shelter,  vote, and the right to freedom of movement.  However the women cited that although these rights existed many did not enjoy them as many violations still existed.
The study also made it clear that service delivery had a huge impact on the lives of all women in the different communities. The challenges were felt by women across the political divide and what came out clearly is that there is a critical need for leadership that addresses all the challenges faced by the community. It also became evident that it is very important to provide a platform for the women to interact with their leaders so that they could articulate their grievances in a space which they felt was safe and none threatening. It was also important for councillors to explain to the women what their duties were and how women could continue to engage with them.
There is a need for existing participatory mechanisms to improve the quality of citizen participation in local government.
*Report and research undertaken by Caroline Kache, Researcher at RAU.
Assistance with the literature review - Tony Reeler, Senior Researcher at RAU.

[1]  A Review Of Parliamentary Scorecards In Africa, Hon. John Bosley, ACBF Working Paper No. 14, September 2007

[2] Empowerment Through Local Citizenship, Catherine Dom (Mokoro) OECD

[3]  Invisible Agents: Women in Service Delivery Reforms, Eleanor MacPherson

In this brief article Derek Matyszak looks at the legal issues around the arrest of a Prosecutor-General, and not Mr.Tomana in particluar,and suggests that legislative change is required to attend to this situation.

In the past decade, liberation movements have come under increasing scrutiny from political scientists for their adherence to a sense of entitlement to government, and a generally hostile attitude towards opposition groups.
This paper is provoking a discussion that starts with the question: Is there a propensity amongst former liberation movements for resorting to violence in dealing with challenges to their rule, and is this a feature of the ideological make up of liberation movements.

In this opinion editorial Derek Matyszak looks briefly at the Constitutional Court's recent judgment on Child Marriage, and while appaluding the removal of odious laws around child marriage from Zimbabwe's law, takes issue with how this was achieved, the reasoning of the Deputy Chief Justice, who wrote the judgment, and suggests a dangerous precedent has been set.