Public policies are instruments through which the essential decisions of political authorities are executed (Dye as quoted in Zhou and Zvoushe, 2012). They provide mechanisms for the government to communicate their response to the demands of their citizenry. Public policies thus serve as conflict management tools at the domestic level by balancing competing values and interests. These domestic policies cover a wide range of areas such as land, defence, tax, labour and investment issues.
Internationally, public policies are the means for nations to market themselves to the world. It is generally agreed that people want governments that ensure their political and socioeconomic security. Governments therefore are expected to listen to the needs of the ‘people’ and propound policies that speak to these needs. The question is how and when these needs can be made known to the policymakers. This paper will give a background of policy making in general then show the state of policymaking in Zimbabwe currently. It will go on to discuss how citizens in Zimbabwe can acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in policymaking.
1.1 Citizen participation in policymaking
Pal as quoted in Zhou and Zvoushe (2012) observed that hidden agendas usually influence policy decisions. This may be because the ruling elite represent the needs of the rich who may have funded their campaigns. This may be the reason why Cyril Ramaphosa in South Africa was appointed as the deputy president. In Zimbabwe, Ndebeles, Ndau and Tongas felt marginalised by the ruling party mainly made up of the Shona tribes (Mandaza (1986) in Zhou and Zvoushe (2012)). Participation was defined as the organised efforts to increase control over resources and regulative institutions in given social situations, on the part of groups and movements hitherto excluded from such control (Stiefel and Wolfe: 1994:5). This definition brings forth the element of deliberate efforts to gain authority over social entities by people who may otherwise be excluded. The World Bank (1995) defined participation as a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them.
Lisk (1985) further defines participation as the involvement of the broad masses of population in the choice, execution and evaluation of initiatives that are designed to bring out significant expansion in the living standards of people. He also observed that the concept of participation relates to the involvement of the general populace to influence decision making in favour of popular needs and objectives. Citizen participation in policymaking would thus be the process and activities through which residents of a country exert their influence concerning the government’s strategic direction. Makumbe (1996) also viewed beneficiary citizen participation as only being meaningful for the masses if they are effectively involved at the various levels of the development process.
2.0 Status of Zimbabwean ordinary citizens in policy making
Zimbabwe fought for democracy and all eligible votes must be counted and count. It has, since independence in 1980, held national elections at least every five years and in one instance (2008) after three years due to the harmonisation of all electoral processes in the country. The Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (2013) reports that “voter turnout has slowly been decreasing. It was 94 per cent in 1980, 84 per cent in 1985 and 47 per cent in 1990. Even in 2000, when there was increased competition on the electoral field, voter turnout was only 52 per cent.”
This voter apathy is attributable to allegations of vote rigging and a general feeling that the outcome of the elections has done nothing to improve the socioeconomic outlook of the country. At 82 per cent of urban polling stations ZESN observers reported that potential voters were turned...
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