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Key findings
  • More than half of Zimbabweans (59%) say the government must be accountable to its citizens, even if this slows official decision-making processes.
  • Pluralities say that voters should be responsible for making sure that the president, members of Parliament (MPs), and local government councillors do their jobs.
  • Almost two-thirds (65%) say that MPs should make laws even if the president does not agree with them.
  • Seven of 10 Zimbabweans (71%) say the president must always obey the country’s laws and courts even if he or she thinks they are wrong.
  • A majority (58%) believe that Parliament should ensure that the president explains to it on a regular basis how the government spends taxpayers’ money.

Accountability is often described as a cornerstone of good governance, but a more accurate image might be a whole wheelbarrow of building blocks – the president, government agencies, Parliament, the judiciary, opposition parties, the media, and voters all holding one another accountable to form a foundation for democracy.

According to the World Bank, accountability requires both answerability and enforcement (World Bank). Answerability refers to the obligation of public officials to provide information about their actions and to justify them to the public and to those institutions of accountability tasked with providing oversight. Enforcement suggests that the public or the institution responsible for accountability can sanction the offending party or remedy the contravening behaviour. Different institutions of accountability might be responsible for either or both of these aspects of accountability.

How do Zimbabweans perceive their institutions of accountability? Afrobarometer survey data suggest that accountability is firmly anchored as an essential tenet in governance, even if its implementation might sometimes slow governmental action. Majorities of citizens endorse checks on government power by other government branches and the media. However, most Zimbabweans say that in practice, the country’s elections do not enable voters to remove non-performing leaders from office.

Stephen Ndoma

Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa