Zimbabwe’s Political Elites And Ethnic Conflict

Zimbabwe’s Political Elites and Ethnic Conflict

Zimbabwe used to be one of Africa’s most prosperous states, backed up by a thriving tourism industry, a lucrative precious metals sector and a robust agricultural industry. However, most of these successes have dissipated under an unstable economic and social environment, which has been worsened by the existence of an intolerant regime, under the leadership of the current president, Robert Mugabe. This report narrows down Zimbabwe’s steady decline to bad politics, which hinge on ethnic conflict and people manipulation by the Zimbabwean elites. In the paper, I first outline the theoretical background of ethnic mobilization by exploring the concepts of instrumentalism, essentialism, and constructivism. In the same section of the paper, I also explore the elite predation model. This theoretical foundation provides the framework to explain how political elites in Zimbabwe have fanned ethnic conflict through political intolerance, restructuring of opposition politics, and the promotion of negative politics about nationalism and language differences. This paper also demonstrates how political operatives in Zimbabwe have manipulated people’s psyche and forced them to become intolerant of diversity through divisive politics that have centered on social and political balkanization. The key argument in this paper is that the elites have done so, not to protect, or promote the interests of the masses, but to get and protect power.

Research Questions

  • How have political elites in Zimbabwe perpetuated ethnic conflict
  • What is the goal of Zimbabwe’s political elites of engaging in manipulation and promotion of ethnic conflict?
  • Hypotheses

    H1: Political elites in Zimbabwe have perpetuated ethnic conflict by promoting political, racial, and ethnic intolerance among the people

    H2: Political elites in Zimbabwe manipulate their citizens and promote ethnic conflict to protect their positions in power

    Null Hypotheses (Opposing or Incompatible Answers)

    H1: Political elites in Zimbabwe do not have any method for perpetuating ethnic conflict

    H2: Political elites in Zimbabwe do not have a defined goal of manipulating citizens and promoting ethnic conflict

    Relevance of Case Study

    This case study is relevant to our understanding of social mobilization as a tool for political control. While it only outlines a prism of this topic, its findings help us to relate how the ruling elites use ethnic sentiments to preserve political power in Africa. The same insight would help us understand how elites use the same tool to solidify their political bases (even in western democracies, through classism, racism, and religious segmentation). Concisely, this case study could help us to understand the nature of some of the ethnic conflicts in Africa because as Herbst says, many African leaders have encountered the same problems in leadership, and often, they have resorted to using the same solutions to manage them (5). Thus, the principles of the Zimbabwean case study are not unique to the Southern Africa nation because they have tentacles in other parts of the global political governance system. Indeed, they could be useful in explaining how other regimes use different social, political or economic constructs to ascend to power.

    Theoretical Background

    Researchers have come up with different theories to explain the relationship between ethnic identities and political constructs. The instrumental theory is one such framework because it postulates that ethnicity is a social construct of political competition (Bergin 14). Comparatively, the essentialist approach views ethnicity as the fundamental building block of human societies through the assumption that identity could be defined and measured using ethnic-based metrics (Bergin 15). The constructivist approach is a bridge between the essential and instrumental theories because it argues that ethnicity is a construct of people’s heritage and current political circumstances (Bergin 18). Powerful elites often use the different theoretical frameworks of ethnicity for self-preservation.

    The elite predation model is another approach used by researchers to explain ethnic influences in politics. This model often views ethnic conflict as a top-down system where the people do not necessarily choose conflict, but the powerful elites choose to ignite it for their selfish interests (usually, to maintain power) (Fearon & Laitin 715). Leaders who feel like they are losing their influence, or power, often use this type of political strategy to maintain political control. By igniting ethnic hatred, they stand a chance of creating chaos and possibly maintaining the little influence they have left. Often, people who are gap against each additional act in concern and the primary inspiration becomes “security” (Fearon & Laitin 715). Consequently , they notice the opposing gathering as a risk to their safety and act appropriately (by fighting or even “eliminating” them). The particular Zimbabwean case examine demonstrates how strong elites used this specific type of wondering to increase to strength. They have got done thus using other ways. Several of them seem below.

    Political Intolerance

    For a new long time, Robert Mugabe developed the particular trustworthiness of being a new revolutionary leader inside his country. Through the years, he has attempted to make Zimbabweans believe that he or she works for their particular needs by producing endless speeches approximately his opposition in order to neo-colonialism wonderful proposal for self-dependence. On the other hand, a deeper interrogative of his politics philosophies demonstrates he or she has presided over the government that provides consistently used cultural mobilization to reduce political dissent in addition to to maintain strength in the as soon as prosperous nation. Considering that his rise in order to power, in the particular 1980s, Mugabe provides always strived in order to portray himself since a diplomat in addition to not necessarily new leader (Laakso 1). However, a further assessment of his / her transformation and function in Zimbabwean national politics shows that this has been mainly shaped by the particular must remain inside power. This reality is evident in the response to politics dissent from a new rival party referred to as ZAPU, which becomes support from your “rival” ethnic group inside the country. Right here, it truly is pertinent in order to understand that Mugabe’s ruling party is usually called ZANU. This largely gets assistance from the the greater part ethnic group : the Shona human population (most of ZAPU’s support comes coming from a minority Ndebele population) (Laakso 1).

    Any time the Ndebele portrayed their dissatisfaction together with Mugabe’s style regarding leadership (through the particular ZAPU party), Mugabe reacted by inciting the people to increase against one another. Within other words, this individual made his Shona ethnic group think that the Ndebele people were the particular enemy (Muzondidya & Ndlovu-Gatsheni 275). Proof of this truth comes from their use of politics and military pressure to quell pouches of uprisings through the ZAPU politics wing of management. The police utilized excessive force in order to quiet dissents from your Ndebele population. They did so indiscriminately, in no way drawing a variation between the politics players and the particular larger Ndebele individuals (Muzondidya & Ndlovu-Gatsheni 275). Such sorts of actions help to make us question the difference between legitimate plus illegitimate violence, because described by Evans et al. (173) because the activities from the Zimbabwean authorities could easily end up being misconstrued as “thuggery. ” In some other words, it has been as though the program was fighting 1 ethnic group with regard to the preservation associated with power by an additional. This action shows how Mugabe great group of elites used ethnic discord and manipulated individuals to preserve their own political power to day.

    National politics of Language plus Nationality

    The effects associated with ethnic mobilization inside Zimbabwe also occur with an interrogation associated with language and identification formation in the particular Southern African country. The Zimbabwean politics elites have frequently popularized the national politics of nation-building via ethnic mobilization techniques. Zimbabwe is really a varied country where individuals speak different dialects and originate from various cultural affiliations (Ndhlovu 1). Nevertheless , the particular ruling elites have got made it appear as if the 2 major ethnicities : Ndebele and Shona drive the plan of nation-building inside post-colonial Zimbabwe (Muzondidya & Ndlovu-Gatsheni 275). In other terms, smaller ethnic organizations happen to be relegated in order to become “spectators” within nation-building projects. This particular exclusionary philosophy offers contributed to their own marginalization and the particular progress an unparalleled constriction of academic and economic possibilities for those who are not recognized as liberators (Muzondidya & Ndlovu-Gatsheni 275). This type associated with politics has additional advanced the ethnic thinking that characterizes national politics in Zimbabwe.

    Structure associated with Opposition Politics

    Few individuals could dispute the particular fact that ethnic divisions characterize Zimbabwe’s political landscape. Whilst ethnic manipulation offers mostly been connected with the judgment party ZANU, lately, opposition politicians have got manifested the exact same problem (Laakso 11-12). Tribal considerations possess played a substantial role in exactly how the opposition programs to oust Mugabe from power. They have got reinforced the truth that tribal arithmetic is important inside selecting a great leader for the particular country by choosing a good opposition candidate that will subscribes towards the exact same ethnic affiliation because Mugabe – the particular Shona. This innovator is Morgan Tsvangirai. He is the particular candidate for the particular vibrant MDC celebration, which is the formidable opposition celebration in Zimbabwe (Laakso 11-12). He has been selected to operate towards Mugabe due to their ethnic background, plus not necessarily because he was the most competent candidate to operate. This tactic of the particular opposition reinforces the particular belief that just the Shona ethnic group is match to rule Zimbabwe. The same technique exemplifies the concepts from the elite predation model, which display the way the ruling top notch use ethnic mobilization skills to obtain power for self-preservation. If service had been the main concern for the resistance par not just select a candidate that fits the ethnic profile of the Shona; instead, it would focus upon presenting one that is most competent. This is an additional example of how adjustment continues to spur ethnic divisions in Zimbabwe.

    Treatment of the White-colored Minority

    The ethnic separate pitting Zimbabweans against each other is an old problem within the country. Right now there have been attempts from the government to mitigate this issue by developing a government that seems all-inclusive breaks. However, these efforts are superficial within the sense that they have failed to unite the individuals under one coverage of nationalism. White colored people that comprise the small population in Zimbabwe have suffered under the exact same ethnic politics associated with Zimbabwe that have got relegated minority tribes in the united states to “second-class citizens. ” The treatment of a few white lawmakers displays this fact since the ruling African elites have often influenced their people to spew hate to people that are not really considered one associated with their very own. Some white colored lawmakers, such while Edy Cross, Senator David Coltart, plus Ben Freet possess experienced this sort of treatment whenever they have tried to express their sights about the country (Laakso 11-12). Politicians have always reminded them they are “outsiders, ” although they are either third, or fourth generation immigrants in Zimbabwe.

    Instead of building consensus and extending inclusion across almost all racial and ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, the political elites have constantly perpetrated ethnic hate to cement their jobs in power. This strategy largely explains the economic ruin associated with Zimbabwe, which happened when Mugabe great accomplices convinced individuals that they want to raid white-colored farms and revert the land returning to the indigenous individuals. The raids happened, but, over time period, it became clear that the elites desired to keep the land to on their own because landless Zimbabweans never benefitted through the exercise. This particular event also heralded the decline from the Zimbabwean economy since the farms were no more productive. Generally, the negative politics associated with ethnic mobilization are usually largely responsible with regard to this situation and it has worsened race and ethnic relationships in the once prosperous nation.


    Liberal viewpoints on political governance support the primary argument with this papers because they show that elite adjustment often builds upward to ethnic discord. The important thing characteristic associated with such conflicts will be the exploitation associated with people’s fears with regard to the advancement from the self-interests of the ruling elite. Dependent on a wider understanding of a brief history of Zimbabwe, we find that the discord pitting different ethnic groups against 1 another has been around given that the colonial occasions. The antagonists are the ones that have changed (a shift from colonialists to the lording it over regime) because the same politics associated with balkanization that happened during the colonial times is perpetuated under the current regime.

    Works Cited

    Bergin, Melanie. “Intractable Concepts and Conflicts: Evaluating Power Posting Agreements in The african continent. ” Ruor , Web.

    Evans, Peter, et al. Bringing the State In . New York, Cambridge, 1985.

    Fearon, James, plus David Laitin. “Explaining Interethnic Cooperation. ” The American Political Science Evaluation , vol. ninety, no. 4, 1996, pp. 715-735.

    Herbst, Jeffrey. “States and Power within Africa. ” Princeton University , Web.

    Laakso, Liisa. “Opposition Politics in Indie Zimbabwe. ” African Research Quarterly , vol. seven, no. 4, 2003, pp. 1-19.

    Muzondidya, James, and Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni. “Echoing Silences: Ethnicity in Post-Colonial Zimbabwe 1980-2007. ” African Journal on Conflict Resolution , vol. 7, no . 2, 2007, pp. 275 – 297.

    Ndhlovu, Finex. “The Politics of Language and Nationality in Zimbabwe: Nation Building or Empire building? ” South African Journal of African languages , v

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