from Africa in Transition

“Africa: Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa – Violence and Transition in Post Settler-Colonial States”

July 25, 2013

Blog Post

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

South Africa

Elections and Voting

Kenya

This is the title of a short, thoughtful–and thought-provoking–article by Brian Raftopoulos, Solomon Mungure, Nicky Roussea, and Masheti Masinjila that originally appeared in Solidarity Peace Trust blog and has been reprinted in “African Arguments.” The authors look at the similarities and differences in the forms of governance and the nature of violence in three of the most prominent former “settler-colonial” states in Africa.

For me, a central insight is that the forms of violence that characterized colonial rule and the anti-colonial struggles “haunt” politics and violence in these three countries even today. Zimbabwe is the most affected, South Africa the least, and Kenya is in between. In Zimbabwe and Kenya the violent anti-colonial struggle played a central role in achieving independence. In South Africa, however, the military wing of the “struggle” played a much smaller role than internal protest and regional and international pressure in ending apartheid and the advent of “non-racial” democracy. It should also be recalled that Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, was one of the founders of the ANC’s military wing, but he had little or no direct contact with it during his twenty-seven years in prison. Out of prison, he was the champion of a nonviolent transition to “non-racial” democracy.

The authors conclude that in Zimbabwe, a consequence of colonialism and the anti-colonial struggle is that “legitimacy and sovereignty lie not in elections but in the legacy of the armed struggle.” The state is conflated with the ruling party, Zanu-PF. The Zanu-PF-dominated military also now has a major stake in the national economy and mineral resources, because of the state-sponsored land redistributions. In Kenya, colonial “indirect rule” emphasized ethnicity. Governance in Kenya accordingly has often revolved around ethnic balancing. Ethnicity plays an important role in violence when that balancing fails and in the aftermath of elections.

In South Africa, where democratic institutions are strong and, unlike in Zimbabwe and Kenya, elections since 1994 have been largely peaceful, “free and fair,” the governing Africa National Congress–the inheritor of the liberation movement–has accepted electoral losses. But, current protests in South Africa, especially since 2007, are returning to the repertoire of anti-apartheid protest.

This article is especially timely in the aftermath of the 2013 elections in Kenya, where the consequences are still being played out, in anticipation of the Zimbabwe elections at the end of this month, and for providing a context for the current wave of demonstrations in South African townships and work sites.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Politics and Government

South Africa

Elections and Voting

Kenya

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