The Battle for Zimbabwe in 2013: from polarisation to ambivalence

Julia Gallagher

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On the face of it, the triumph of Robert Mugabe and ZANU(PF) in the 2013 elections came as a shock, not least to opposition MDC activists. However, after a period of introspection, many have begun to construct a coherent and wide-ranging account of the result which explores opposition shortcomings, and the revived relationship between the electorate and Mugabe’s ZANU(PF). This article, based on interviews with political activists conducted three months after the election, outlines and attempts to explain this account. It explores the way in which a politics of polarisation that dominated Zimbabwe in recent years appears to have given way to a politics of ambivalence: where Zimbabweans once viewed their political landscape as one populated by antinomies, they now see their state and its relation to themselves in more complex and ambiguous ways. As a result, Zimbabweans’ conception of the state is increasingly coming to resemble Mbembe’s formulation of states as contemporaneously ‘organizers of public happiness’ and wielders of arbitrary violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-49
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Modern African Studies
Issue number1
Early online date12 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

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