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Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: H
From 2000, ZANU(PF) suffered repeated electoral defeat in the cities and lost control of municipalities to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). This turned urban governance into a battlefield, as ZANU(PF) dramatically recentralised powers over local authorities, developed ‘parallel’ party structures and used militia to control central markets and peri-urban land. Taking the case of Harare and environs during the period of Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government (IG), this article explores contestations over urban authority, focusing on the office of councillor and urban spaces dominated by ZANU(PF)-aligned militia. I argue that surveillance was central to ZANU(PF)'s strategy for urban control and to the politics of patronage. Inconvenient councillors were disciplined by threats and enticements from the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and were also vulnerable to suspension, while ZANU(PF) militia made political loyalty a condition of access to market stalls, land and housing cooperatives. Dominant political science characterisations of the African postcolonial state and ethnographic accounts of precarity and vigilance mislead in this context if they fail to capture the disciplining roles and social reach of a centralised partisan state security agency and militarised party structures that suffuse work and social life within local government institutions and contested city spaces. Analyses of power-sharing need to reach beyond the national stage not only because conflict over local authorities can undermine transitional political processes but also for the light they can shed on the changing character of the state and its relationship to reconstituted ZANU(PF) powers.

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