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Accepted Paper:

Active and dissident citizenship in Zimbabwean civil society  
Farai Chipato (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses the promotion of active citizenship among donor funded NGOs in Zimbabwe. It argues that attempts to create more responsible citizens provided some opportunities for to put pressure on government officials, but also allowed the government to shut down confrontational dissent.

Paper long abstract:

Zimbabwe has experienced a prolonged series of political and economic crises over the past 25 years, as the government has grown increasingly authoritarian in the face of sustained opposition from political parties and civil society. In this context, NGOs and their international funders have made significant efforts to support a culture of democracy among Zimbabwean citizens, moving from a focus on registering and turning out voters in the 2000s, towards deeper conceptions of citizenship and civic engagement in the 2010s. During the period between the 2013 and 2018 elections, this new citizenship approach solidified around the concept of active citizenship, understood as a more responsible attitude of the citizen towards local government, with donor funded NGO projects aiming to construct more productive Zimbabweans to address the crisis in governance and political representation at a national level. This paper draws on fieldwork interviews with NGO and donor representatives, as well as participant observation in the urban civil society to space, to argue that this conception of active citizenship created opportunities for civic engagement, but also allowed for the shutting down of more confrontational activism, and other more dissident forms of citizenship. Thus, the active citizenship paradigm provided the tools for government officials to tame and control dissent, rather than empower citizens to create radical change for Zimbabwe's future.

Panel Poli24
Trials and transformations: the futures of citizenship in Africa
  Session 1 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -