Inclusion and Exclusion: NGOs and Politics in Zimbabwe
Dorman, Sara Rich
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The thesis explores the changing relations between the Zimbabwean state and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) after independence. It focuses on debates over the role of NGOs in democratization in developing countries, using Zimbabwe as an example. The thesis argues that the study of democratization is best accomplished through detailed empirical case studies, relying on historical narratives and participant-observation research. Such research reinforces our understanding of democratization as a complex and dynamic process. The thesis proposes a framework for understanding state and society relations in Zimbabwe, emphasizing the ruling party’s use of coercive and consent-generating mechanisms to establish hegemony over the new nation. It examines the changing relationship between NGOs and the state after independence, when the ruling party’s efforts to include most groups within its nationalist coalition extend to NGOs. Case studies of NGO coalitions show how activist NGOs fail to mobilize others owing to the unwillingness of many NGOs to challenge the ruling party’s control over policy-making. The establishment of the National Constitutional Assembly by some NGOs, churches and trade unionists set the stage for an increasingly tense engagement between NGOs and the state after 1997. The constitutional debate opened up the public sphere in new ways. As the ruling party attempted to retain control over the political sphere and the constitutional debate, NGO politics became increasingly polarized. The emergence of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and the prominence of NGO activists within its leadership, led to further conflict. After losing the February 2000 constitutional referendum, the regime sanctioned violent attacks on white farmers, businesspeople, and NGOs. While the ruling party attempted to shore up its support through nationalist rhetoric and financial incentives, groups perceived to oppose the state were excluded and vilified.