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Abstract

This article argues that despite presiding over a failed economy, the Zimbabwe African Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) led by Robert Mugabe, has willing and enthusiastic supporters. There are claims that the large crowds witnessed singing and dancing at ZANU PF rallies are mobilized by force because the attendees do not benefit anything from supporting the regime. In a divergence from the consensus of the literature, this article surfaces other explanations than coercion for the huge turnout at rallies, rented crowds, handouts, and well-articulated election manifestos. The psychological dimension, especially the fundamentalist mindset created by instrumentalist nationalism, is one such other perspective to clarifying why this is the case. It might also explain why some Zimbabweans are so susceptible to compliance with power relations that subordinate them. Thus, a psychological dimension is added to the level of analysis beyond the often resorted to socio-economic and political explanations for political mobilization. Willing and enthusiastic support is not to be necessarily judged by ZANU PF’s winning or losing elections, or the number of supporters it has, but more by the effervescence observed at rallies and other political activities. The article interrogates ZANU PF’s instrumentalist nationalism through both religious and non-religious lenses, such as the education system, media, church platforms, music, history and culture, galas, and its usual political campaigns.

Author Bio(s)

Joram Tarusarira is Assistant Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is also the Deputy Director of the Centre for Religion, Conflict and Public Domain at the same university. He attained his PhD from the Institute for African Studies at the University of Leipzig (Germany), where he was a German Research Foundation doctoral candidate of the Research Training Group, “Religious Non-Conformism and Cultural Dynamics.” His research interests, in which he has published journal articles and book chapters, include religion in conflict and its transformation, religious non-conformism and cultural dynamics, religion and civil society, social movements, and post-conflict reconciliation. His academic background is in the following disciplines: philosophy and religious studies, adult education and development studies, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation studies. He is the author of the book ‘Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-Conformism in Zimbabwe’, Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

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