The neo-liberal perspective wrongly reduces the crisis in Zimbabwe to a mere problem of governance and traces the genesis of that crisis to the year 2000, ignoring earlier antecedents that are equally significant. The fatal flaw in this neo-liberal definition of the Zimbabwe crisis is its focus on the symptoms of the problem, such as increased militarisation of domestic politics, party violence, shrinking democratic spaces, executive lawlessness, questionable electoral conduct and overall economic collapse. There is a need for a deeper analysis going beyond these symptoms of the Zimbabwean crisis. Indeed, the Zimbabwean crisis is a reflection of the risks involved in any African attempt to defy the “disciplining” forces of globalisation and neo-liberalism and is located within the broader context of African responses to globalisation, neo-liberalism and cosmopolitanism.
Taking into account all the risks and polemics involved in any analysis of contemporary economic, political and ideological history, this paper situates the Zimbabwe crisis within the current global environment, which is characterised by triumphant neo-liberalism and its concern with maintaining the status quo through aggressive “disciplining” of any alternative way of imagining the world. Any form of radicalism is quickly perceived as profoundly anti-systemic and anti-status quo, including those radical transformations that are “pro-people”.
The Zimbabwean crisis was provoked by a nationalist attempt to resolve a delayed national question involving land restitution in a former settler colony. Zimbabwe was trying to solve the intractable question of land at a time dominated by the aggressive and “disciplining” forces of neo-liberalism and globalisation. Such forces have no sympathy for any form of radical defiance of the post-Cold War neo-liberalist ideology. However, this paper should not be mistaken for an apologia for the contribution of the Harare government to plunging Zimbabwe into a crisis.