Zimbabwe + 1 more

As went the Institutions, so went the Transition: lessons for Zimbabwe from Zambia’s 2015 Presidential Succession Politics



  • How did Zambia resolve the Presidential succession question?

  • What were the critical enablers of the peaceful transition and what role did they play?

  • What is the state of such critical enablers in Zimbabwe and can they enable a democratic transition?

  • What needs to be done to strengthen the transitional institutions?


Why is it that some post-colonial African countries experience constant successful democratic transitions from one ruler to another while others face blocked transitions? We argue that the democraticness of state and non-state institutions is the key differential factor. This is based on our comparative case studies of Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the former enjoy successful transitions because in practice it has more inclusive and independent institutions that support democracy than the later which has extractive and partisan ones. We demonstrate this through a macro analysis of the nature and state of critical enablers of a democratic transition in each of the two aforementioned countries.

In particular, these are the judiciary, political parties, military, media, civil society, election management bodies and informal institutions. From the premise of our argument, we recommend that democratic actors (civil society) in failed Zimbabwe must encompass programmes that are driven by the will to transform society from below. Any short cuts will be building on quick and soft sand and will fail the hard test of enabling a solid and durable democratic transition even at a critical juncture of what might appear a great opportunity.