On Wednesday, Robert Mugabe, the autocratic President of Zimbabwe, was ousted and placed under house arrest by the country’s military. While Mugabe’s fate remains uncertain, the apparent coup may bring about the end of a 37-year dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. But this wresting of power shouldn’t have been necessary—it was supposed to happen ten years ago.
In 2008, international sanctions forced Mugabe to draft a democratic constitution. Danish filmmaker Camilla Nielsson obtained unprecedented access behind the scenes of a democracy-in-the-making. Her documentary Democrats, excerpted above, follows the two top political operatives steering the constitutional process: Paul Mangwana, representing ZANU-PF, Mugabe’s party; and Douglas Mwonzora, a representative of the opposing party, the Movement for Democratic Change. Filmed over the course of three years, Democratsoffers a firsthand account of the fraught and sometimes violent process of chartering a constitution—or, as a constituent puts it in the film, “giving my country a new life.”
Of course, that new life never came. Although Mugabe did eventually ratify the constitution, he never implemented democratic laws. Meanwhile, unemployment in Zimbabwe hovers at 90 percent and the economy continues to collapse. The fate of country hangs in the balance.
Democrats is banned by Zimbabwe’s Board of Censors.