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Discontinuity without change? the place and discourse of colonial memory in Zimbabwe’s post- Mugabe Zanu-PF politics.

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Zimbabwean politics are notably complex and difficult to understand, even by scholars with a strong interest in African affairs with a long institutional memory of the historical determinants of the independence and post-independence struggles within Zimbabwe. Through the lens of political culture and functional theory campaign communication, this qualitative inquiry titled “Discontinuity without change? The place and discourse of colonial memory in Zimbabwe’s post-Mugabe ZANU-PF politics” scrutinizes the colonial narratives in the political discourses in Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU (PF) following the Robert Mugabe era intending to understand how colonial memory shapes the party’s the ideological foundations and policy directions. The study draws on eight speeches delivered by former president Robert Mugabe during the 2002 elections, as well as speeches by his successor and current president Emmerson Munangagwa during the 2018 election campaign. It also incorporates insights from key informants within ZANU (PF), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), Zimpapers, and Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) to explore the role of media in influencing the nuanced interplay between historical legacies, political discourse, and contemporary governance. By examining the ebbs and tides of electoral politics in Zimbabwe spanning nearly decades through the prism of post-colonial memory, the study concludes that while Mnangagwa’s ascendance as President hinted at a departure from his predecessor’s politics, there is a notable continuity in the streams of colonial memory that informed ZANU-PF electoral strategies. This underscores how political discourses and power dynamics during elections are deeply entrenched within the broader context of Zimbabwean politics and pan-African pursuit of of self-determination (Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo), identity and independence. Despite certain shifts in Mnangagwa’s ‘New Dispensation’ that deviate from Mugabeism, the persistence of colonial memory underscores its pivotal role in shaping the principles and practices of representative democracy within Zimbabwe. The media’s influence in (re)shaping post-Mugabe discourse sheds light on the implications of memory appropriation in contemporary Zimbabwean political communication.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.