Political society

The Role of Civil Society in Transformative Leadership

Ronald Zvendia
Transformative leadership is leadership that brings about positive radical change. In a development context, it is leadership that brings about widespread and demonstrable improvements in people’s lives, as evidenced by increased incomes, longer life expectancies, comprehensive social safety nets and universal access to basic services. Transformative leadership is the pathway by which Zimbabwe can address the challenges of weak governance, high levels of corruption and inefficient growth common to most African countries. Achieving transformative leadership is an enormous task, requiring high-level commitment from political, bureaucratic, business, religious, traditional and civil society leaders.

The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has released the Africa Capacity Report (ACR) 2019 titled “Fostering Transformative Leadership for Africa’s Development” covering the capacity dimensions of transformative leadership based on 46 African countries. Among the areas covered by the report is civil society, which is a social sphere made up of organized groups and institutions independent of the state that plays a key role in negotiating with the government on behalf of the people to meet their needs and to his rights.

The ACR 2019 measures and examines capacities regarding the development agenda in African countries and addresses the capacity dimensions of transformational leadership. It examines key elements of transformative leadership in Africa, highlights leadership capacity gaps in achieving sustainable development on the continent, and identifies strategies to address them.

According to the Africa Capacity Report, Zimbabwe’s Africa Capacity Index (ACI) stood at 46.1 in 2019, indicating that the country falls within the range of average capacity for transformative leadership. .

Civil society has contributed to the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe despite multiple obstacles. Since pre-colonial times, organizing and mobilizing people has been essential to advancing the interests of citizens.

Trade unions in large parts of the country rallied popular forces in the anti-colonial liberation struggle. However, after independence, many of them saw their transformative power transform into transmission belts for the policies of the ruling parties. They gave up basic freedoms in exchange for secure status, jobs for their members, and privileges for their leaders. The debt crisis of the 1980s and the subsequent push for economic liberalization led to massive job losses in the formal economy and a sharp decline in union membership. As governments introduced labor law reforms, unions saw their influence further diminished, putting employees in a more precarious position.

The rise of political liberation has resulted in a positive trend. Not only did this reduce the unions’ dependence on the government, but it also paved the way for the emergence of new independent unions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, unions played a key role in mobilizing mass protests and strikes that led to the overthrow of authoritarian regimes and ushered in democratic transitions. They also organized strikes and demonstrations which paved the way for the creation of a political space where other social and political groups could organize demonstrations and form political coalitions.

Trade unions continue, with varying degrees of success, to protect the economic and social rights of workers and to be a political force in many countries. The Zimbabwean trade union movement has become an important countervailing force against anti-labour legislation. It has helped secure direct short- and medium-term benefits for workers and has pushed the frontiers of politics and politics in the direction of social transformation for the benefit of people. Trade unions remain one of the few social organizations in Zimbabwe with a large constituency, nation-wide structures and the potential to mobilize members on social and/or political issues; these elements enable them to play a leading role in both the public and political domains in a way that is crucial for the vitality of democracy.

Despite these strengths, some academics and citizens maintain the view that unions and their leaders are weak due to internal problems. Some union leaders have also been accused of being partisan and co-opted by governments while others are seen as too inclined to strike and avoid hard work.

Other members of civil society have also made important contributions to democratic governance in Zimbabwe. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have improved the environment for meaningful political engagement. In parts of Africa, CSOs have fully integrated development policy frameworks and processes that were previously the exclusive domain of the state. For example, CSO policy influence has been particularly pronounced in macro-level policy processes initiated by donors, such as the International Participatory Structural Adjustment Review Network and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. .

Civil society activities have shifted from purely service delivery initiatives to active public policy advocacy work due to global initiatives such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the Sustainable Development Goals. These platforms have encouraged and defined the interface between government, donors and civil society organizations. They have helped amplify the voice of the public and its demands for accountability in government decision-making. Based on the belief that effective checks on government would prevent the re-emergence of authoritarian rule, CSOs built a grassroots capacity to control the exercise of power by local office holders and monitor the performance of government bodies individuals, as well as the executive and the government. legislative branches.

Civil society leaders in Zimbabwe are making important contributions to human development. CSOs in Zimbabwe have become increasingly innovative in supporting the transformation of the continent’s public services, such as healthcare and education, and in empowering citizens. Civil society leaders are also actively working to ensure transparent, peaceful, free and fair elections in several African countries, including Zimbabwe, and have extended democracy-building activities to direct engagement with political parties, in particular during the elections.

Nevertheless, civil society leadership in Zimbabwe remains on the periphery of policymaking. There has been a lack of consistency in the level of direct involvement in the political process and organizations that have made significant differences in political outcomes are more the exception than the rule. More worryingly, consensus between governments and civil society organizations remains elusive, even on such fundamental issues as fiscal prudence, the protection of key aspects of economic policy from direct political pressures, and the institution of banks central and other independent holdback bodies.

Based on the findings of the African Capacity Building Foundation survey, the Africa Capacity Report 2019 recommends that CSOs take the following actions:

Promote the succession of internal leadership through inclusive capacity building involving young people.

Lobby political parties to prepare young people for political leadership positions and support them with ongoing capacity building when they come to power.

Invest in the development of networks within civil society and other forms of leadership and encourage the institutionalization of mentorship and capacity development to strengthen leadership.

Also, engage in the transformative leadership agenda in Africa by building constructive state-society relations. Civil society leaders should approach political leaders to create space for constructive engagement and dialogue.

Strengthen their advocacy role and continue to pressure governments to recognize the needs and rights of disadvantaged groups, from women to young people to people with disabilities.

Establish peer learning platforms that periodically bring together opinion makers in key sectors, leading experts and practitioners, and young people with demonstrable leadership potential to deconstruct complex challenges and find solutions .

Promote the expansion of organizations offering leadership training programs and refocus them on demand-driven issues.

Promote leadership diversity by encouraging the participation of people of different ages, skills and learning habits.

In conclusion, the essential role of capacity building in Zimbabwe and the socio-economic transformation of the country has been reiterated in policy statements, strategies and evaluations. Commitments have however not been translated into widely available and well-developed capacity development models as well as actual funding for capacity development interventions. Thus, transformative capacity remains the critical missing link.

  • Zvendiya is a research and innovation analyst at the Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC). — [email protected] com. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of IPEC or its affiliates. These weekly New Perspectives articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, independent consultant, former president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and former president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — [email protected] or mobile: +263 772 382 852.