Michael Aeby: The Zimbabwean Inclusive Government: An Inquiry into the Determinants of Transitional Power-Sharing Mechanisms

PhD-Project, Department of History

The PhD project constitutes an in-depth case study on transitional power-sharing that seeks to develop an analytical framework which identifies determinants of success for the usage of power-sharing mechanisms for peace-making and assesses their significance by analysing their bearing on the Zimbabwean transition and comparative cases of power-sharing in Africa.


Drawing lessons from South Africa’s and other successful transitions to democracy, peace-makers have promoted power-sharing to resolve violent political conflicts in Africa. Most importantly, in an attempt to contain the country’s escalating political crisis, in 2008 the Southern African mediators brokered an “Inclusive Government” in Zimbabwe, consisting of the long-standing nationalist regime and former opposition movement. The increasing popularity of power-sharing solutions, however, has triggered a controversial scholarly debate about the viability of these mechanisms.

Objectives and research questions

The study, firstly, seeks to develop an analytical framework for the assessment of conflicts where power-sharing might be applied, secondly identify and assess the determinants of power-sharing mechanisms and, thirdly, analyse the Zimbabwean transition in its historical context and in comparison with other cases of power-sharing in Africa. The questions include: What factors are vital for effective power-sharing? What significance do they have? What has their bearing been on the Zimbabwean transition? In how far has the Zimbabwean transition differed from other cases of power-sharing with regards to these factors and what are the implications?

Methodology & empirical research

After developing a preliminary analytical framework based on a review of power-sharing literature, the study applies the scheme upon the Zimbabwean case and others in order to assess the significance of the various determinants. The empirical part involves the analysis of a wide range of sources, including: qualitative interviews with politicians and civil society representatives conducted in Zimbabwe and South Africa; documents published by political parties, governments and intergovernmental bodies; as well as local and international news reports.


The study provides for a better understanding of the determinants of success of both the Zimbabwean transition and power-sharing mechanisms more generally, while the analytical framework put forward facilitates the assessment of conflicts where power-sharing might be applied.


Supervisor: Prof Patrick Harries

Funding: FAG; SSJRP; Tomcsik-Foundation

Collaboration: University of Zimbabwe, Department of History; University of the Western Cape, Centre for Humanities Research

Duration: September 2011 – August 2014

Download Poster: The Zimbabwean Inclusive Government (2012)

Keywords: power-sharing; transitional governance; Zimbabwe; South African peace-making

Contact: michael.aeby-at-stud.unibas.ch