Accepted paper:

The politics of sustainability: discourse and power in post-2000 Zimbabwean political texts


Tsiidzai Matsika (University of Free State)

Paper short abstract:

Language is power, discourse in times of crisis is always strategic. Generated meanings govern the logics, processes and relations underlying all the means to power.

Paper long abstract:

Sustainability is one concept that has been widely used in environmental, social, economic and political discourses. In contemporary Zimbabwe, sustainability has taken a wide range of meanings inter-alia because of its connection to economic development paradigms in the face of the economic crisis that characterises the post-2000 period. Central to sustainable development are political promises to eradicate poverty, protect the environment, address equity imbalances and safeguard national sovereignty. It highlights an interest in transitory movement(s), through lessons and experience, from problematic past and present into a better future. Discourses on sustainability entail grappling with complex intersecting socio-economic, ecological and political challenges that threaten human livelihoods and generate momentum. However, underlying discourses on sustainability are numerous conflicting assumptions and guidelines for action. Policy documents are some of the best sites to encounter the debates and antagonistic discourses around the unfolding crisis vis-à-vis the nature of the problem, possible sustainable solutions and the 'qualifications' of political parties and/or individuals who are best placed to solve the problem. Any negotiation of pathways to sustainability in dynamic, complex systems must be centrally about focusing on framings (that is through narratives) of systems and their properties - recognising divergent epistemological (ways of knowing) and ontological (ways of being) positions, associated with different characters and interests. This paper is concerned with exploring textualisation of discourse on sustainability, within an interdisciplinary approach and seeks to interrogate the political significance of varying interpretations especially in the context of the technology-driven changing face of political communication in Zimbabwe.

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Politics and International Relations
Normative politics in Africa