University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series > ZANU’s post-1980 legitimation strategies: post-liberation demobilization via development discourse (with book launch)

ZANU’s post-1980 legitimation strategies: post-liberation demobilization via development discourse (with book launch)

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Based on Sara Rich Dorman’s recently published Understanding Zimbabwe: from liberation to authoritarianism, this paper looks at how post-1980 ZANU ’s legitimation strategy focussed not on ‘liberationist’ discourses but instead focussed on societal demobilization. It argues that the politics of post-liberation societies are shaped by the experience of warfare, by the transformation of relations between guerrillas and civilians, and by the organization and power relations within the movement. In Zimbabwe, as in other African states which underwent negotiated transitions rather than victories through ‘the barrel of the gun’, the pressures on nationalist movements generated forms of coalition-building that translated into demobilized and quiescent political cultures after independence. The limited form of pluralism which typifies these political systems helps explain the particularity of the durable authoritarian—but not totalitarian—rule that follows. Nationalist movements generate particular kinds of discourses and norms of political behaviour. It is these norms which valorise unity and challenge democratic movements outside the liberation movement, which shape political understandings and expectations in the post-independence period, enabling and legitimizing the Mugabe regime’s dominance. Nevertheless, the historical evidence shows that movements did not always conform to these expectations, being instead heterogeneous and complex, which is also reflected in the post-independence

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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