Zimbabwe: DDR by Trial and Error

Part of the Rethinking Political Violence book series (RPV)


This chapter builds strongly on the work that has already been done on Zimbabwe where the problem of reintegrating war veterans remains politically salient. The British-crafted Lancaster House Agreement and novel transitional independence process omitted DDR to avoid a burdensome post-liberation role for the decolonizing power. The post-colonial Zimbabwe state lacked a real comparative template on DDR and innovatively embarked upon DDR of freedom fighters alongside military integration. It conducted DDR on a trial-and-error basis comprising a series of four reintegration initiatives, during which the state expended considerable resources and authorities learnt from past flaws and failures. These four approaches ranged from an impromptu “disarm, pay and scatter” of ex-combatants; comprehensive short and long-term DDR to long-term and lifelong reintegration support. Instructively, the Demobilization Directorate that managed the second demobilization and reintegration programme of 1981–1983 ingeniously cajoled government departments to offer ex-combatants public sector employment to facilitate their long-term reintegration. This was in addition to a comprehensive two-year scheme. However, unanticipated reintegration problems occasioned destitution among many politically significant liberation war veterans. Their groundswell of discontent exploded in the form of rolling protests for official recognition and welfare support in 1997, which threatened the legitimacy of the liberation movement-cum-government. Strong state agency resulted in the cornered and cash-squeezed government fashioning the third reintegration scheme of 1997 that involved lifelong support for veterans and some benefits for their dependents. The government subsequently discovered the war veterans as a political football in the internal wars against a formidable opposition and mobilized them in its violent 2000 parliamentary election campaign and the land grab of white commercial farms. Lifelong war veteran benefits accruing from the third reintegration initiative of 1997 were eroded by the attendant economic downturn resulting in the government embarking on renewed efforts in 2014, including the establishment of a dedicated ministry for war veterans welfare.

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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Freelance Peace and Security ResearcherJohannesburgSouth Africa

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