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Nyakudya, Morris (2003) Beyond the usual suspects: The role of civil society, farmers and donors in Zimbabwe political liberalisation. CCS Grant Report : 1-37.

This paper seeks to investigate the role of civil society groups in Zimbabwe’s political liberalisation, specifically their role in the rejection of the draft constitution of February 2000. Stacey and Aksartova (2001) note that an important lesson stemming directly from recent transitions to democracy in Latin America and Poland was the crucial role-played by civil society. With the result that one of the dominant political developments of the 1990s was the mainstreaming of civil society as crucial to democracy (Putnam 1993, Hagenius and Uggala 1996). Beckman (1993) contends that the “liberation of civil society from the suffocating grip of the state has become the hegemonic ideological project of our time” (20).

Using this a soundtrack the paper explores the essence of constitutionalism in special circumstances, expressly: the role of civil society in transition from a de-facto one party state to a plural and open democracy. It will be argued that in such a moment of ‘madness’ (Tarrow 1987) constitution making is not merely about ‘turf wars’, advancing a pro-ally agenda, neither is the exercise simply the highest legal act. A constitution lays the foundation for a new dawn, a new political consensus. The fundamental undertaking is to provide ‘’an opportunity to reach political settlement on key questions in the Zimbabwean body politic’’ (CDD 2000: ). This points to the importance of the character of the political temperament/principal protagonists and the constitutional outcome. This paper therefore pays special attention to the political climate or the immediate conjuncture at the launch of the process.

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