Mahmood Mamdani’s (Mamdani. 1996) classic thesis about citizens and subjects in late colonialism seems to have no greater application than to Zimbabwe, a country in which the voice of the citizen has been largely non-existent since the colonisation in 1897. The idea that citizens are at the heart of the state has never been a central notion for the state in either Rhodesia or Zimbabwe. The majority of the population were denied political voice of any significant kind virtually until the end of the settler state, forced into a brutal and bitter civil war after 1965, and were largely relegated to the minimalist role of mere voters since independence in 1980.
Surprisingly, studies have shown that Zimbabweans are a citizenry with high demand for democracy, high participation in elections, but very low demand for accountability. What might explain this? Is this “risk-aversion” (Masunungure. 2006), or is it something deeper in the Zimbabwean political psyche, what some might call Zimbabwe’s “political culture”?