Dominant Power Politics and Democratic Consolidation in Zimbabwe Circa, 1980-2017 A.D

Okpe, Emmanuel ; Odeh, Godwin Onuh (2021)


This paper examines issues in principles and practices of democratic consolidation in Zimbabwe. The political system in Zimbabwe theoretically upheld a multiparty system and has held periodic elections since 1980 but undermined reforms that could have put democracy and politics on a progressive trajectory. This is not peculiar to Zimbabwe alone but is a general political culture on the continent. Gleaning on evidence from diverse sources, the paper finds that the separation of powers in Zimbabwe existed on paper but in practice, the ruling party makes all the decisions. Part of the implication of this is that the House of Assembly became a rubber stamp for executive decisions, while cabinet members just pandered to the executive. This culminated in a deadlock over constitutional reform between 1999 and 2000. The deadlock further degenerated into authoritarianism as then-President Robert Mugabe hung to power and undermined a series of organised protests. The inability to de-militarize Zimbabwean political mobilisation techniques and the management of state institutions brings the nature of the inherited structures bequeathed to the people by the retreating colonial settler state into a sharp focus. The crux and summary of the argument are that both government and politics in Zimbabwe were centred on Robert Mugabe, a single political father figure, who refused to relinquish power to the people and got enmeshed in the web of autocratic rule. Therefore, the paper theorises that Robert Mugabe succeeded in allotting power to himself and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) while undermining the task of consolidating democracy in the country. This paper concludes that Mugabe remained a traditional autocrat and a strongman who ignored protests and disaffections that would have helped in deepening democracy and strengthening the dynamics of the politics of Zimbabwe. The paper recommended that democratic guidelines, protocols and terms of presidency need to be drawn to prevent a recurrence of Mugabe’s years in the post-Mugabe era.