New Thinking Blog

Building a Culture of Openness and Participation in Zimbabwe

The principles of openness, accountability and participation are grounded in the belief that democracy transcends beyond the ballot box. They are principles that enable citizens to be the center of legislation, service delivery and shaping policies that affect their lives. Government's New Dispensation Strategy Document highlights these principles as values and reforms they aspire to achieve.

For three decades Zimbabwe's political and administrative system was characterized by high levels of centralization and decline of the country's democratic life. This decline is reflected in the Mo Ibrahim Index that scores Zimbabwe 44 out of 100, ranking 39 out of 54 countries.

The current administration promised to usher new hope, to put in place citizen focused policies and measures as reflected in the strategy document. However, that hope is yet to be fully realized as the country continues to face numerous governance and socio-economic challenges such as, fuel shortages, high inflation and poor delivery of social services.

The 2013 Constitution established clear standards for reforms that can encourage more openness, inclusivity and participation. It makes a commitment to move towards participatory democracy, transparent governance and holding government to account.

'Towards an Open and Accountable Government: Context and Way Forward for Zimbabwe' spotlight publication is a partnership between NewThinking Development and Zimbabwe Institute. It provides an analysis of possible opportunities to advance open government reforms in order to achieve participatory democracy in Zimbabwe. These are reforms that encourage openness to allow citizens to be active participants in their country.

Importantly, the publication takes lessons from countries such as Nigeria, Ukraine, Paraguay and Brazil that are becoming global champions in implementing reforms that enhance inclusivity and participatory democracy. There is clear evidence that implementing open government reforms, saves government money, builds trust with citizens and business as well as improving service delivery. The examples serve as a critical resource for government reformers, civil society and private sector that seek to advance open government reforms.

The spotlight publication discusses critical steps that need to be taken by government and parliament in order to achieve openness, inclusion and participation in Zimbabwe:

  1. To strengthen and empower Chapter 13 institutions to become impartial gate-keepers of participatory democracy and protect citizen’s right to access to information;
  2. To establish a decentralization governance architecture that is inclusive and allows for equal participation of citizens;
  3. Establish a multi-stakeholder platform to drives governance reforms, which will include government, civil society, trade unions, parliament and private sector;
  4. There is need for high level political will-power to address grand and petty corruption. Parliament, media and citizens all need to be empowered to monitor, investigate corruption and for the judiciary to prosecute perpetrators especially politically exposed persons (PEP).
The challenges the country faces are daunting, but the solutions are clear and require political will power. The vision and recommendations presented in this publication provide a guide for government and other stakeholders to advance open and participatory governance. Implementing these reforms will mean moving from just shared intent to ensuring that the promise of democracy and efforts to strengthen and advance it, become the norm in Zimbabwe.



NewThinking Development partners with Zimbabwe Institute and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Southern Africa

We are pleased to announce a new partnership between NewThinking Development, Zimbabwe Institute and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Southern Africa to encourage open government reforms in Zimbabwe. The project seeks to encourage a partnership between government, civil society and private sector in Zimbabwe, to advance reforms on openness, participation and accountability.

This has the potential to transform the country through reforms, encourage citizen engagement and build both citizen and investor trust. Open government approaches have shown to build trust between government and citizens, save government millions of dollars and increase investor confidence.

Follow us for updates on the project and progress. Watch the space for the upcoming publication called, Towards an Open and Accountable Government: Zimbabwe Context and Way Forward.

NewThinking in Africa

Susan, a 15-year-old girl who lives in a small mining community called Shamva in Zimbabwe, stopped school because her father had been retrenched from the mine two years earlier. She lost her mother at the age of 10 because the nearest clinic did not have treatment for malaria. What makes it worse for Susan’s situation is that she lives close to a mine that is exporting millions worth of minerals that should be benefiting her. This is a familiar story for many families in Africa and the world, that requires NEW THINKING.

NewThinking is an organization whose approach is premised on the philosophy that lasting solutions to challenges must be designed, developed and implemented domestically. This ensures ownership, sustainability and offers the greatest chance to transform human lives.

NewThinking believes in partnerships and collective action between government, private sector and civil society to promote innovation and policy making that is citizen focused.

Technology, Transparency and True Leadership

We believe in the 3T - Technology, Transparency and True Leadership, for Africa to curb corruption, improve service delivery and end inequality. Moreso, guarantee better implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Agenda 2063 - giving young citizens like Susan a fighting chance.

The situation in Africa continues to deny young people in Susan’s situation the chance to show their full potential. They are born in poverty and have very little chance of escaping it unless they work 300% more than a child born in Germany or France. Yet Africa remains the richest continent, with trillions worth of natural resources and its greatest asset- a young vibrant population.

As Nelson Mandela once said, millions of people are trapped in poverty, it is time to set them free. To achieve Nelson Mandela’s dream to end poverty, citizens like Susan and her community need to be at the center of governance, innovation, policy making and service delivery.

NewThinking believes in leveraging on technology and the active participation of the private sector to address challenges. The coming of technology and internet has changed the way people interact, services are provided and how information is shared. We believe that 3Ts have the potential to re-engineer the current way of doing business by facilitating the adoption of more inclusive processes. The most important process is allowing citizens to play a bigger role on the development agenda and empowering them to access information and better services.


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