Does freedom lead to development? This notion, strongly argued by Amartya Sen two decades ago, built on the idea that democracy was gaining ground across the world, an idea that seems no longer as evident as it was then. John Gay tested Sen’s theory in 2003, and concluded that the belief in democracy was a “virtuous” cycle for those experiencing the benefits of democracy, whilst those not benefiting were more likely to be part of a “vicious” cycle, and leaning towards support for anti-democratic rule.
We tested this finding for Zimbabwe using the Afrobarometer data for 2017. Developing an equivalent measure of Gay’s “Sen Score”, we examined whether Zimbabweans still believed in democracy and were not in favour of autocracy, but also whether they still had political trust in the state, worried about corruption, were socially and politically active, and affected by political fear.
We found some support for Gay’s thesis, but the major factor differentiating Zimbabweans is whether they are rural or urban. Paradoxically, rural Zimbabweans are more likely to be those in the “virtuous” cycle, and this is most likely because they have been and are the major beneficiaries of government largesse. This raises the question about how deeply democratic are rural Zimbabweans, and would removing the immense patronage of the state shift them into a “vicious” cycle?
This policy brief explores the challenges faced by youth as a result of the deteriorating socio-economic and political violence and effects of exclusion. It also highlights the importance of understanding youth social networks in building resilience in relation to addressing the challenges of unemployment. The challenges are made worse by the contextual environment where policymaking is characterised by a top-down approach, tokenistic to youth issues, and best described as creating a charade that youth are the future of this country. This kind of approach aims at managing youth and promise them a future whilst justifying their exclusion and failure to address youth vulnerability largely caused by unemployment.
In a research project, Active engagement, social innovation and resilience among young people in Zimbabwe, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) sought to understand everyday experiences by youth, and how they are adapting and coping with the socio-economic and political environment can inform the development of new initiatives. These initiatives are leading towards resilience to vulnerabilities caused by unemployment, and understanding these should inform policies on youth. The research is anchored around the understanding that Zimbabwe, like other developing countries faces a demographic youth bulge, which if not adequately addressed, can result in young people engaging in violence.
It is a frequent assertion that the staunchest defenders of democracy come from the middle classes, underlining the advantages of education and formal employment. However, recent work in Zimbabwe suggested that this might be the case for the country. Examining active citizenship amongst Zimbabweans, RAU‟s analysis indicated a group of citizens that could be described as “disconnected democrats”, urban, educated and employed, but largely non-participant in the socio-political life of the country. Gender was not a factor, as also suggested by other work in Africa that showed women being little different to men in their political attitudes. However, class and gender were not an explicit aspect of this research and hence it was decided to look at women, class and active citizenship. Two hypotheses were advanced in order to test these relationships:
Middle-class women will be more likely to support democracy and opposition political parties;
Middle-class women will be more likely to show greater agency seen as higher frequencies of social capital, political participation, and political efficacy.
The middle class has been a growing class within Africa over the past 10 years with growthranging from 4.4% to 6.2% owing to their growing economies. After a period of substantialdecline from the 1990s, there were signs of this being the process too in Zimbabwe following the period after the signing of the Global Political Agreement between the warring parties, Zanu PF and the MDC when the US dollar became the official trading currency. Since 2013, this trend seems to be in reverse with the dramatic decline in the economy and the closing of many companies and businesses, and the massive informalisation of the economy.
Women‟s participation in the political arena has always been fraught with tension and even the right to vote was a hard-fought battle across the world. That struggle took over a hundred years with New Zealand being the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1893. However, it still did not allow them to stand for parliamentary elections. A year later, the colony of South Australia gave women, both, the right to vote and the right to stand for election. In contrast, women in Saudi Arabia were only accorded the right very recently – in 2011 and women eventually got the opportunity to vote in their elections this year (2016).
There is continuous discussion about the need to engage the youth in the national narrative and address the needs of this increasingly large demographic. Most discussion focuses on livelihoods, and too little on the young as citizens, a not trivial issue in this patriarchal and age-dominated society. The present policy brief, based on several year’s work by RAU, examines agency in the youth and some of the impediments to this.