Local protection in Zimbabwe


By Richard Horsey

The Zimbabwe case study examines the protection implications of the multiple crises that the country has been going through in recent years: economic, social and political. It looks at how communities perceive the threats that they face, and the steps that they take to protect themselves from these threats.

Zimbabwe has gone in a few years from being one of the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa to one of the least developed. While the unity government installed in 2009 has succeeded in halting the economic decline and providing temporary relief from the political crisis, Zanu-PF continues to control most of the levers of power and violence, and the future remains uncertain.

The study found that individuals and communities have developed sophisticated strategies for responding to the various threats that they face. These strategies are not always very effective, since there is often no good solution for responding to grave threats. And in some cases, the strategies themselves lead to other problems, or ‘secondary threats’: impossible trade-offs must often be made. Coping strategies are sometimes illegal, immoral, or otherwise ‘negative’ in some normative sense.

A key finding was that the impact of external protection interventions was relatively minor compared with actions taken by the affected communities and individuals themselves. The report therefore concludes that it is vital for external protection actors to be sensitive to the local context, and to identify and support appropriate local protection strategies as much as possible.