Solving the 'State's Dilemma'
: the dynamics of exit, voice and loyalty in Zimbabwe (2000-2008)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Zimbabwe’s crisis was not just about values or votes, but about institutions: their performance, outcomes and about the distributional advantages that flowed from them. During this period, institutional rules were fiercely contested, and the referendum result was an important expression of preferences for institutional alternatives that could generate different political outcomes. The contestation was also about institutional alternatives and legacies, in other words, about institutional stability or change. Institutions matter, for they are the 'rules of the game' (North 1990: p. 3), and they have important distributional consequences (Knight 1992). This dissertation examines the strategic institutional reforms in the print media and commercial agriculture sectors, as well as the issue areas of freedom of expression, assembly and movement, political violence and impunity.

The 2000-2008 period of Zimbabwe's history was unique, for ZANU-PF faced both unprecedented domestic opposition and the challenge of four national elections (parliamentary and presidential) (the 'hurdles') during this eight-year period (the 'hurdle race'). Together with ZANU-PF's own decisions to participate in the electoral processes, these realities created a very specific collective action problem for the senior members of ZANU-PF. Known as the 'State's Dilemma', it is the challenge of retaining needed support for the status quo in the face of collective dissent, when the interests of the state's supporters may align otherwise (Lichbach 1995: pp. 256-258).
Using the theoretical framework of rational-choice institutionalism, this dissertation contributes to the Zimbabwean literature through its identification of, and explicit focus on, ZANU-PF's collective action problem. It reveals the importance of strategic institutional reform in altering the dynamics of exit and voice, with their implications for stability or change (Hirschman 1970, 1978, 1986). It thus contributes to the explanation of the outcomes of this period. The dissertation's findings are of interest to the larger study of liberation movements.
Date of Award1 Jul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJohn Meadowcroft (Supervisor) & Brian Salter (Supervisor)

Cite this