Legal Ambiguity and Symbolic Structures: Nature and Impacts of post-2000 Local Government reform in Zimbabwe


Local government in Zimbabwe has gone through various phases of reform since the country’s independence in 1980. The Prime Minister’s Directive of 1984, a decentralisation initiative sought to correct the power imbalances of the colonial era and empower the rural communities towards inclusive development. Until 1980, the reforms in local government were oriented towards development of marginalised communities and decentralisation of power.

  • The post-2000, an era characterised by more intense political contestation has been a turnaround in the nature and scope of local government reform in Zimbabwe.
  • The post-2000 local government reforms while indicating progression in urban governance, the reforms also present a case of functional retrogression in urban governance.
  • Hence, the post-2000 reforms have been characterised by enactment of legal ambiguities and establishment of symbolic institutional structures of local governance.
  • Questions regarding this phenomenon proliferate to; how have the urban legal and institutional frameworks reformed in post-2000? Do reformed legal frameworks promote urban autonomy? What are the implications of the established local government institutional framework on urban governance?
  • This paper examines critically the legal and institutional local government reforms in the post-2000 period.

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