Zimbabwe can be described as a country at cross-roads. Pre-colonial Zimbabwe had a vibrant open or market-oriented economy with a capitalist governance.
After independence (1980), Zimbabwe adopted a communist- oriented approach to governance and led to more state power and influence on the economy and institutions.
Whilst, market liberalisation brought about some positive improvements, the political and economic instability has derailed the gains. In the private sector there are a lot of state owned companies or where the state owns majority shares paying lip service to privatisation. There are also regulatory bodies to police the sector. Through the indigenisation policy the state or native individuals get 51% shareholding, whilst the private investor gets the remainder, and this has impeded foreign direct investments (FDI) into economy. Most of the parastatals are monopolies and are involved in shady deals and corruption and enjoy impunity as the judiciary is hijacked to make judgements that favour the state and its affiliated companies. Apparently, there is no institution in Zimbabwe that have the tenacity to effectively police the actions of the state. Even the regional body-SADC has become a teethless dog, on governance and several other issues. SADC and South Africa in particular is complacent to take Zimbabwe head on because of hidden agendas such as economic gains. South Africa has gained enormously in bilateral trade in the context of political and economic instability in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe the state regards the community as peripheral, therefore without any significant contribution to make. Even the members of parliament that should represent and fight for people’s interest are not doing so. Human and property rights are not well articulated in the new constitution and in most cases rights are violated. For example land is nationalised and the state has power to evict people and grab land, as has been the case during the infamous land invasions of the early 2000s.
The Lands Act (1982) gives power to chiefs over land occupation and use and households and individuals have to ascribe to chief’s orders. More than 70% of Zimbabwean population live in state-controlled communal areas. The state is embroidered in profligacy as there is unprecedented corruption by state duty bearers such as legislators who mismanage state-allocated Constituency Development Funds. The people aligned to the ruling regime give bribes to judiciary officials and get lip service in return. There is deep mistrust and scepticism between state and civil society. Some civil society voices are silenced by the state providing them priviledges, others are arrested and leaders of restive civil society imprisoned.
Third sector space and civic agency
There are many civil society organizations (CSOs), and they occupy the “Third Sector” domain of the welfare triangle and have different objectives. The influence of these organizations represent the interest of their sector such as farmers associations, and private companies associations. The civil society organisations are governed by the private voluntary organization (PVO) act. The state has power to police CSOs and deregister them in case of any interference in state affairs. This constrains CSOs’ space and room to manoeuvre. There are also civic groups that are sympathetic and hence biased to the state. The state uses the police, army and judiciary to clip the wings of CSOs. The third sector space in Zimbabwe is becoming smaller by the day and there is not enough civic agency to fight back and reclaim the lost space.
Power and resistance operate differently in Africa, as compared to the western world. Informality has been “legitimised”as the formal and is central to the way both state officials and the citizens exercise civic agency. The notion of “active citizenry”, to rise again and take rightful space in Zimbabwe has become only imaginary. The rights of the citizenry are trampled on as at when the state so desires, as the institutions only exist on paper and are in state of disarray and dysfunctional. Therefore for change to happen, it requires the will power of an “activate citizenry”, to reclaim its space and power in the “Third Sector.”