Download full version of article on Angola published in Portugese in: Justino Pinto de Andrade and Nuno Vidal: Civil Society, Democracy and Human Rights in Angola (Luanda & Lisbon: Angolan Catholic University and University of Coimbra, 2008)
David Sogge, Bob van der Winden and René Roemersma 1
Civil domains and arenas in Zimbabwean Settings. Democracy and responsiveness revisited
The authors employ a theoretical model, mainly based on Habermas’ public sphere, to regard civil society as a space, hence civil domain, rather than a set of organisations and actors. Although this is becoming more and more common in the theoretical discourse, in the everyday practice of supporting the Zimbabwean process most donors are still stuck in the ‘actors’ approach. Civil domains are nested in a larger sphere, the arena. Here the domains approach lends itself to an analysis of power. This two-sphere model is then used to try to analyse some of the constraints and possibilities of political development, and the prospect for responsive governance, in Zimbabwe.
We conclude that the civil domain in today’s Zimbabwe is highly constrained. Its prominent formal members, NGOs often equated with ‘civil society’, lack the effectiveness that donors and other international bodies say they want. Explaining these constraints is a balance of forces – economic, political and military - in a narrow and non-transparent ‘public arena’, that is strongly shaped by geo-politics.
We therefore argue that international development agencies, currently fixated on project-based development strategies (including support to NGOs as vehicles for delivery of relief and ‘development’ services and for ‘advocacy’) should put much greater priority on enlarging and protecting public domains and expanding and making transparent the public arena. The objective in the middle run is to enhance responsiveness of the Zimbabwean state to citizens’ needs, thus setting precedents for wider formal democracy in the longer run. But for the time being emphasis should be on popular leverage and a shift in the balance of forces in the arena.
We argue that in a country in crisis like Zimbabwe supporting civil society is not nearly enough to reach these goals. But moreover we can also learn from the ‘run up’ to the actual crisis: Zimbabwe is exemplary in the large amounts of donor money ‘poured’ into civil society over the last decades and the little results.
1 David Sogge is a self-employed analyst on development cooperation, Bob van der Winden a self employed organizational advisor and international cooperation consultant, both from Amsterdam, René Roemersma is coordinator of Worldcom foundation, working in theory and practice for communication in Development. This paper is based on a longer discussion paper, Civil Domains in African Settings: Some Issues, by David Sogge, commissioned in 2004 by Hivos and on Do not beat a drum with an axe, masters thesis (2004) by Bob van der Winden.