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There
are calls for more focus on the notion of the state as an object of
ethnographic study following world events such as September 11, 2001 and the
2008-9 global financial crisis (see Bouchard 2011). The notion has been central
in explaining how people have historically organised their own affairs. From
classical theorists to contemporary scholarship, there have been views as
divergent as attributing political, social and economic organisation of affairs
of the people to supernatural beings such as gods and cults on one hand and on
the other hand to markets, supra-territorial intuitions states and other such
governance actors (ibid). Even this distinction is problematic in that other
scholars view the state and the market for instance as some form of occults or
supernatural beings (see Comaroff & Comaroff 2000). There are also various
other representations and expressions of occultism responsible for social,
economic and political organisation of the affairs of the people such as those
found in capitalist popular culture such as particular types of music (ibid). For
social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes the state, an invention by human beings,
was depicted as below ‘god’ and above human beings- or in the image of the
Biblical sea-monster named Leviathan (Bouchard 2011).

As discussed above, the function of
the state is to organise the affairs of the people and for social contract
theorists Hobbes and John Locke to avert a war of all against all (natural
state of mankind) given that the inherently conflictual interests of individuals
(ibid). Today’s scholarship still grapples with concerns raised by Locke that
surrendering common interests to a common power (the state) may result in that
state abusing its power and thus becoming a dictatorship (see ibid). Giddens
(1985) for instance alludes to the notion that the modern state has the
tendency to penetrate everyday social life of its citizens. Further than that
the state is often a violent entity especially in contexts where the army is
not professionalised (ibid).

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 Scholarship
on the Zimbabwe state has highlighted the centrality of various forces that include
Britain, the military (including veterans of the liberation war), the business
(including white commercial farmers) sector and the civil society in patrolling
the precincts to state power. For instance Stiff (2000) exposes Britain’s hand
in the birth of Zimbabwe where from 11 December 1979 to 18 April 1980, British
representative, Governor Lord Soames acted as a midwifery authority and thereby
safeguarding the imperialists’ economic, ideological and cultural interests by
presiding over the soon to be independent nation. In view of this, it is not
farfetched to conclude that Lord Soames’s task was to give orientation to the
soon to be ruling ZANU PF and Mugabe’s administration on how to continue to
safe guard Britain’s interests, that had been long undermined by the
administration of Ian Smith who in 1965 had unilaterally declared political
independence from Britain, and were imminently under threat of Patriotic-Front
Zimbabwe African People’s Union (PF ZAPU) and Joshua Nkomo whose stance to
continued ownership of land by the white minority was suspicious in the eyes of
the imperialists (see Gaidzanwa 2017). In agreement with the foregoing,
Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2017:2) states that Mugabe was thus the ‘point-man’ of the
British, and thus to an extent a puppet.

Highlighting
the point raised above Moorcraft (2011) gives an account on how the Zimbabwe
military is the war machine patrolling access to power during the past years of
Mugabe’s reign. This particular role of the military has not only been
historical, as depicted through the role of the military in eliminating PF ZAPU’s
support base through persecution of its leader Joshua Nkomo and an unprovoked
military war campaign on unarmed citizens in Southern region of the country
from 1982-1985 (Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2017) and through military involvement in 2008
elections (Moorcraft 2011), but also futuristic as gleaned from the so called
military intervention in the political affairs of ZANU PF that resulted in the
November 2017 coup d’état. It can be
argued that the coup d’état has
revealed an important character of the Zimbabwe military; that it is an
undisciplined rogue force holding civilian elected authority as subordinate to
it with regards to appropriation of state power.

While Gupta
(1995) found inspiration to make the state the object of ethnographic study
from how the state was implicated in daily discourses, the same could be said
about Zimbabwean scholars who have gone beyond the abstract notion of the state
and beyond obsession with personalities such as Mugabe to look at state actors/institutions
that have usurped state power in the process denying or displacing civilian
authority. Bratton and Masunungure (2011), in addition to highlighting the
centrality of the military in determining access to state power, highlight how
civil society has also emerged as an important stakeholder post mid 1990s. The
emergence of civil society as an important player is attributed to the manner
in which the military through its relations with ‘elected’ civilian authority
consolidated its grip on state power as shown below:

In consolidating state
power, the (civil-military coalition) violently suppressed political
opposition, engaged in predatory corruption, and challenged the economic
interests of commercial farming and business elites. In so doing, leaders
undermined the rule of law and alienated the labour movement and civil society
(from accessing state power), which went on to form a rival opposition
coalition (so as to gain access to state power) (Bratton &
Masunungure 2011: i).

A key obstacle that has characterised initiatives of
counter-hegemonic CSOs is internal and external capture through agenda setting
and funding. This challenge is likely to continue being faced even in the new
role of cueing the coup envisaged for CSOs in this discussion.

Capture
of these CSOs can also be analysed at four levels: first by the local elite
cabal which has turned civil society to upward class mobility vehicles (see
Petras 1999, Alexander 2006, Masunungure 2011), by the business sector for instance white
commercial farmers, by donors and by the regime itself.  In highlighting this challenge and with
regards to financing and to a lesser extent agenda setting Lee (2011) states
that counter-hegemonic CSOs are a creature of the international donor community
which provides most of the necessary material resources. All these instances
partly explain why CSOs have failed to deliver on the regime change agenda and
highlight such issues as capture as responsible for their ultimate folding. 

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