Citizens bemoan ‘shrinking democratic space’ 

Source: Citizens bemoan ‘shrinking democratic space’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe


RESEARCH and advocacy group, Sivio Institute, has accused the Zanu PF government of shrinking the country’s democratic space and curtailing public scrutiny by shutting out civic society groups from participating in governance issues.

In a survey report released last Friday, Sivio Institute said the majority of Zimbabweans interviewed were not able to participate in policy-making processes due to limited opportunities.

The institution found out that less than a third, (28%) of the respondents have been part of government-led consultations on policy formulation processes, while 55% believe the State has failed to create space for broader participation in the formulation of public policies.

About 45% of the respondents believe that there is room for them to make an input in public policy-making processes.

“Of the 685 respondents that have had the privilege of participating in policy-related consultations, 31% made input into improving service delivery, 28% into the performance of local authorities and 17% into the performance of local authorities and 17% into the performance of central government,” Sivio Institute said.

“Furthermore, there is limited national discussion and consultation on economic policy. Out of the 685 respondents who had been a part of government-led policy consultations, only 116 (17%) have been part of budget consultations and 61 (9%) have been part of discussions over broader economic policy.”

The researchers noted that 75% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the overall performance of government.

“They do not think that the government has adequately invested in broadening the scope for participation. Citizens feel that there is a higher probability of influencing local decision-making by central government.

“There is also a general dissatisfaction with the central government in terms of performance in managing the economy and loss of confidence in the policy changes that are being implemented. It is also important to note that the high levels of dissatisfaction are also evident in local service delivery.”

Law expert Alex Magaisa recently decried inactive participation of citizens in policy-making processes, saying it had resulted in bad governance.

“Take voting as an example, at age of 18, everyone is eligible to register as a voter. Voting is the primary way for citizens to express themselves politically and to choose their governors,” he said.

“It allows a chance for citizens to reward good governors and punish bad governors.

“However, the government has no real interest in citizens exercising this fundamental right. If citizens are going to vote at all, the government must not control how they exercise the right. Since it cannot ban people from registering to vote or from voting, it must find other ways to prevent people from voting. It does this by making it unattractive to exercise the right to vote. Historically, it has used violence as a form of coercive power,” Magaisa said.