South Africa and Zimbabwe: Democracy in the Littoral Zone

Looking beyond routine explanations of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, this paper examines mainstream understandings of Southern African politics and the language that produces them. It uses historical sociology to offer an alternative explanation of the development of the region and highlights the overlapping sources of authority that predated the state system. Drawing on the insightful poetry of Douglas Livingstone (and his own peregrinations in the region), the argument suggests that instead of an ontology based on state boundaries the region should be considered a ‘littoral zone’ in which authority and control move back and forth between different social bundles. Imaginative interpretations, rather than the ‘weasel words’ cult democracy, could help secure rights in Zimbabwe.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: democracy, littoral zone, South Africa, Zimbabwe