Succession Politics and State Administration in Africa: The Case of Zimbabwe
Review of Public Administration and Management

Review of Public Administration and Management
Open Access

ISSN: 2315-7844


Review Article - (2021) Volume 9, Issue 7

Succession Politics and State Administration in Africa: The Case of Zimbabwe

Chikerema Arthur Fidelis*
*Correspondence: Chikerema Arthur Fidelis, Department of Politics and Public Management, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe, Email:

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The paper is a critical inquiry on the influence of succession politics on state administration in Africa, with reference to Zimbabwe. The paper unpacks the interactive boundaries and conceptual overlaps of succession politics and state administration in Africa. Power transition in any political landscape promotes the remodeling of the political architecture and the functionality of the governmental apparatus of the state. This is because government performance is an outcome of political processes and dynamics that influence governance in a polity. Political leadership determines the composition of administrative structure. In case of a transition, political leaders supplant the administrative apparatus, to ensure ideological compatibility. Regular transfer of executive power is the major test of stability in a nation’s political system. However, in many African countries, leaders have shown a consistent trajectory of amending state constitutions to prolong their stay in power. This study was based on eighteen qualitative in-depth interviews conducted with key informants using the purposive sampling technique, complemented by extensive document review. Respondents were drawn from Members of the Executive, Members of Parliament, think tanks, Politburo, Central Committee, opposition parties, bureaucracy/permanent secretaries in government of they ministries academia and civil society in Zimbabwe. The findings of the study show that succession politics in Africa resembles executive dominance, egocentrism, excessive appointive powers, compounded by lack of institutional framework of succession that undermines professional independence of the bureaucracy which inhibits the pursuit of comprehensive governance. The findings also unequivocally isolates Zimbabwe as a victim of political, societal and historical factors that exacerbates the succession dilemma. In its recommendations, the paper argues that the succession challenge faced by the continent with reference to Zimbabwe will always hound succession trends and responsive administration, unless broad based reforms are instituted to dismantle the historical legacies embedded in the political systems.


Succession politics; State administration; Constitutionalism; Colonial legacy


Succession politics is understood to mean the process of changing leadership. It essentially includes the vacating of power by the old ruler, the choice of the new, and his or her legitimisation. Periods of succession are often tense times for all regimes, even where there exists established procedures and easy legitimisation. Times of succession are considerably more risky and precarious for tyrannical, authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. The discourse of succession presents a contested and topical issue in Africa with reference to Zimbabwe.

Afrobarometer surveys on political succession have shown that, leaders in African countries manipulate and exploit state apparatus to further their interests at the expense of promoting an efficient, effective and responsive governments characterised by peace, stability, democracy and growth of the political economy. According to the paper, the preceding view is compounded by muzzling of dissent cumulating in strong personalities and weak institutions. The argument of strong personalities and weak political institutions has wide application in Africa, since some leaders tend to view political leadership as a solo project rather than, a collective political process. Therefore, passing the button to the next leader in line has been a hassle, the result has been the personalization of states, governments and political parties by leaders in countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda and Zimbabwe is no exception [1].

Political and administrative organs are crucial components for the effective functioning and development of nations since there is a direct correlation between the configuration of the political architecture and the functionality of the administrative apparatus of the state. The political dynamics of a state influence changes in the administrative leadership, since the political architecture determines the turnover of administrative staff. The paper explicitly argues that, succession is not completely gloomy in Africa, few countries have established themselves as good examples of peaceful and orderly leadership change namely, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal, and Ghana. Despite the few good examples of routine elite circulation, it is apparent that, some incumbent leaders in most African countries have seized and captured power both from political parties and governments, stifling leadership renewal and reconfiguration of governance structures resulting in the collapse of administrative units and statutory state organs. Zimbabwe had known one leader since independence, until the November 17th, 2017 military aided transition. The paper there strongly argues that a proper succession plan, pertinence constitutionalism and ingrained succession norms are the mainstay and lifeblood to succession challenges in Africa.

Context and Historical Dimension of Succession Politics

Historically, the term succession was applied to monarchies, portentous and signifying the substitution and replacement of one sovereign by another. Hughes and May further aver that, in hereditary monarchies, there tends to be less frequent clashes over the authentic or legitimate heir or beneficiary. The proceeding affirmatives reverberated that, most monarchical regimes, traditional authority was recognized as legitimate by virtue of tradition, custom, and veneration of previous generations. Furthermore, traditional authority depends in one sense on the potency of habit and as embedded in an ancestral past .The current African leaders thus become the supreme guardians of tradition, the defenders of the age-old institutions that they control. Under this type of political system, laws and customs are handed down from earlier generations to validate the existing political structure. Thus, the transmission of authority is normally heritable in this type of regime. Status is normally inherited and is not due solely to an individual's personal merit. From the proceeding presumptions one posits that, in every single monarchical framework, a change in sovereignty also denotes a change in government for example the Kingdom of Eswatini and Britain. Therefore, succession troubles are nominal if any since they have a solitary succession framework that they have religiously followed and succession is usually pursued after the death of the leader [2].

The development of the progressive bureaucratic state seem to have transformed the picture to some degree, modern bureaucratic states have embraced a legal rational succession procedure. In this succession framework, authority is derived from a comprehensible system of rules that are universally acquiesced to the entire population for acceptance or rejection. Typical examples of such rules are the constitutions and legal systems of modern states. Modern administrative and bureaucratic structures are also typical of this form of authority, the law is sovereign, not individuals or groups of individuals laws. The institutions created by constitutional laws take precedence over the individuals and groups who happen to hold power at any given moment. Those in authority derive their right to govern from the provisions of the constitution and laws currently in effect. The rules governing succession or alternation of power are also defined by the constitution. Modern democratic states are the most striking example of this kind of authority in democratic systems and universal suffrage settles the question of how power is to be transferred. In this rational succession procedure, states become progressively bureaucratic, monarchs either become figureheads or disappeared, and government shifts to political parties and party coalitions.

Most modern states have shifted from the traditional/ monarch monarchical succession frameworks to legal-rational succession frameworks. Also, the incidence of revolutions (Arab Africa) and electoral conflicts in countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and coups/succession conflicts in Madagascar, Nigeria, Sudan, State Central Republic and the DRC throughout the years raised the likelihood of entire framework change, which was for all intents and purposes inconceivable in conventional and traditional regimes. The net effect has been to reduce, but not eliminate, the significance of the individual leader in the modern political framework. At independence Charismatic leaders such as Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere, Kaunda, Mugabe and Banda took the reins of power of their respective countries but in the end, personalised power leading to imperial presidents, which have become now the main contention in succession politics in modern Africa.

The paper passionately asserts that, African nations, suffer from many deficiencies. There is serious shortage of legitimate governments, political stability, authoritative and effective administrations. The succession problem in Africa seems to be characterised by the nature of the postcolonial state and application of political power as a means of accumulation of riche, resulting in gradual attrition of the constitutive and regulative rules, institutional processes and mechanism for succession leading to political volatility, illegitimate governments and conflict. This ultimately affects the constitutive, facilitative and instrumental role of state administration.

The preceding affirmatives are upheld by Mohiddin, who echoes that, African politics ceases to be a legitimately composed aggressive and organised struggle for power; but turns out to be just a struggle between the individuals who have the power and need to keep it and the individuals who wish to take it from them and use it for their personal advantages. Considering this, the struggle between leaders resolves itself into one for the sole purpose to retain power and not as a competition for better policies and solutions to the peoples’ problems. It should anyway be noticed that, succession politics in post-Independence Africa has tended to be a result of rudimentary and crude political manipulations, revolts or military coups rather than the diplomatic application of the legal process. This is compounded due partly to the fact that constitutionalism is not well established in Africa; and partly due to the primacy of politics. In Zimbabwe while, the Constitution provides for elective congress for purposes of electing party leadership and/or leagale renewing their mandates, the paper points to the capture of congress through strong normative values, decimating the role of the “Elective Congress” as a democratic institution leaders had used it to “endorse themselves. The paper examines the constitutional framework and succession paradigms in Zimbabwe in juxtaposition to the tenets of democracy and good governance, for instance the entrenchment of constitutionalism and institutionalization of systems for regular political succession as key ingredients for stability and growth.

Conceptualisation of Successions Politics and Administration

Succession politics can be viewed from several definitional viewpoints and the meaning varies depending on the political persuasion. Succession politics has been largely defined as the transfer of political power from one person or group, government or regime to the other . Authors such as Igbuzo, Hughes and May co-relate and agree that, succession politics, in its comprehensive logic, is ‘the manner by which political power passes, or is traded, from one government or administration, to another’. In its narrow sense Hughes and May, emulate succession politics as the methodical arrangement for the transfer of tenure of important offices within a state, which offer latitude for change and coherence. Hughes and May further avers that, the degree to which power is traded successfully becomes a benchmark of political development and maturity of a state for instance in mature democracies like Britain, France, Germany and African countries such as Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa that have experienced smooth and seamless succession processes. Succession takes different forms, for Mwaura, leaders can be succeeded through.

Regular executive transfer- which occurs according to the relevance of established rules, constitution, laws, customs, which regulate succession and facilitate a peaceful and orderly transition. Irregular power transfer according to the key events to which leads to succession such as, assassinations, political murder, deposition, resignation and coup d’états’ the instruments for succession.Renewal of executive tenure or selfsuccession- which involves the search for regime legitimacy in elections, ‘constitutional’ amendments and centralized control of political parties and state administrative structures. Executive adjustments- involving succession of political and economic elites, through cabinet shuffles party (re) alignments and alliance shifts and the ethnic equation of governmental positions.

In other words, the paper typifies that; succession can be classified into methodical or systematic, jumbled or irregular.

The above submission is further echoed by who contended that systematic succession of national political leadership implicates observance to procedures, principles and rules of power transfer, or should at least accord with an ingrained political culture. The paper argues that, it is important that, most African polities should confront a more general problem, namely, how to organize their governments. It is Goldhammer’s disposition that,” without a lucid organization of the state, no political progress is possible, and every society needs to agree on a principle of political legitimacy”. Conversely, irregular successions’ that are on an increase in Africa involves failure to adhere to procedures or a crisis in the process of transfer, a phenomenon, which sees as being on the increase in sub- Saharan Africa usually in the form of military coups [3].

Zimbabwe seems to be one of the strongest cases where power revolves around the person of the president. The complete domination of ZANU-PF by the presidency and the primacy of one centre of power approach, has sustained patrimonialism in Zimbabwe .This in turn has resulted in the collapse of the administrative units of the state due to excessive political interference and control. The paper further argues that, the political systems and processes in most African countries revolve around the presidency. This is supported by Devanny and Jowell who advanced the notion that, succession politics is one of the most delicate issues in politics. To Devanny and Jowell, political leaders seem to have copiously debauched habits to handle succession, firstly arbitrarily extending office term limits, secondly and finally the revision of a country’s constitution to permit another presidential term.

It is from this perspective that, ZANU-PF seems to thrive on neo-patrimonialism, personalism and politics of patronage. It is evident that, the incumbent party seems to have used state resources to reward its supporters at the expense of implementing government programs and in most cases appointing party loyalists to strategic positions in most state institutions for example Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) employees at least 15% of serving and former security personnel are there to advance the interest of ZANU-PF. To this end, according to the paper, succession politics in Africa, resemble and reflect a complete negation and overlooking of the legal rotational succession framework that guarantees smooth and seamless power transition in Africa.

State administration

On the other hand, state administration in a polity is determined by the politics of the day. How public decision and policies are made is influenced by those who control the levers of power. The paper avers that, state administration is the engine and the life blood of government programs whose role is to fulfil and attain the aspirations of governors and the governed. It is from the forgoing that, the term state administration is located within the context of administration, despite the differing definitional perspectives. According to Maphunye the word ‘public’ basically implies the act and management of public space and activities. Sear contends that, approaches to public administration is a duality with two, however firmly related activities, for instance public administration deals with the administration or management of issues which basically have to do with society, politics and its sub-parts which are fundamentally not private, commercial or individualistic. Maphunye alludes that public administration the arguably is the machinery of governmental administration and operates within the confines of government realm. Maphunye locates public administration as a route for executing government strategy through entities created by statute, with the competence to carry out internal and external management and executive activities with responsibility assigned to them, which may be categorized as national, provincial and local tiers of public administration. Maphunye additionally characterized state administration as a politico-regulatory structure with the ability to convey administration to people in general in a way that goes past the Weberian criteria of a trained and insightful bureaucracy that simply translates enactment and arrangements from a bureaucratic perspective. It is the subordination of administrative structures and the overlooking of constitutional mandate by the political structure that have negated the design of strong democratic administrative structures in Africa [4].

Models of Political-Bureaucratic Relations

Collaborative model

The collaborative model is categorised by low role separation between political and bureaucratic elites, with high levels of bureaucratic autonomy. It is particularly associated with progressive states and governments that keenly stimulate socioeconomic development through market-oriented policies such as the Asian Tigers Botswana and China The close relationship between political and bureaucratic leaders, together with the independence given to a highly accomplished and meritocratic bureaucracy, is seen as crucial to the use of industrial policy in the developmental states that leads to economic transformation.

The model is characterised firstly by, principal group or “cadre” of developmental elites comprising of senior politicians and bureaucrats, secondly, by high degree of bureaucratic influence in proposal and design of policies. Also, an esprit de corps among the political and bureaucratic elites based on development intentions, collective class and education credentials of political and bureaucratic elites. Finally articulate and meritocratic bureaucracies, movement between bureaucratic and political positions and a bureaucracy incorporated within governing political party. The close working relationship implied in this model expedites the remarkably high degree of influence bureaucrats have in making policy in this arrangement and in the day-to-day running of the country. Politicians often act more like adjudicators or arbiters, in that they incline to arbitrate and mediate in the policymaking process, rather than taking a more dominant role [5].

Collusive model

The model is characterised by a close relationship between political and bureaucratic elites based on low role separation. This model is in sic with patrimonial predatory states, with lows bureaucratic independence and sometimes practically nonexistent. The collusive relationship nurtures patronage networks used to extract party allegiance. This is more rampant in predacious states, such as Zimbabwe. It is also associated with some more democratic countries, such as Mexico, where politics is dominated by a patronage system The relations are characterised by, firstly, control of the state apparatus by a small assemblage of politicians and bureaucrats linked through personalistic links. Secondly, those in strategic political and administrative positions have access to the main means of securing personal affluence in the country thirdly the government bureaucracy is used largely for rent-seeking resolves and finally, employment in the public service is based on allegiance to politicians leading to enormous and inept bureaucracies.

The paper stresses that patrimonial states in Africa, resembles “overgrown” bureaucracies incorporated into rent-seeking governments and pervasive corruption that are widely seen as a central cause of the post-independence economic stagnation across the continent. The problem, however, is more to do with the lack of bureaucratic autonomy. A key feature of the collusive model is that engagement in the bureaucracy is centred on personal or political allegiance. The patronage system in the collusive model entails that the employment contract is centred on a personal or political allegiance to an individual. In systems with an established civil service, this contract tends to be between an individual and an institution. It is also worth noting that because there are often political cliques and conflicts within patronage systems such systems are “often quite muddled. The model tends to promote a strong patrimonial and patronage system, which normally results in the non-circulation of leaders due to a captured bureaucracy.

Intrusive model

The intrusive model is premised on much higher degree of separation between political and administrative spheres. This model is predominant in more rule-of-law-oriented politically impartial bureaucracies, often institutionalised during colonial rule, as in the case of India. While there is high role separation between politicians and bureaucrats, levels of bureaucratic independence are often low because of political intrusion in the day-to-day work of civil servants. The relationship between political and bureaucratic elites also tends to be more diverse, varying across countries and within countries. The model is characterised firstly, by bureaucratic power and procedures often sturdily influenced by colonial systems. Secondly, epitomised by more rule-of-law-based politically impartial bureaucracy, thirdly defined by more frequent political change concomitant to competitive polls. Lastly, fervently premised on, significant political meddling in bureaucratic work, particularly in recruitment and career progression in the bureaucracy and active participation of political stakeholders in society that influence policymaking [6].

The model depicts low bureaucratic autonomy, which is an off shoot of power struggles between political and bureaucratic elites. Politicians have generally been able to affirm their control over the civil service. This control often occurs through political intrusion in civil service recruitment and promotions, as Ayee discusses in the case of Ghana. Bureaucracies do, however, endeavour to resist such political control. Many countries with intrusive political-bureaucratic relations have established checks in place to limit political interference in civil service recruitment and promotion. However, it is important to note that tensions between politicians and bureaucrats in these countries may also arise because political elites undermine civil service procedures for rent-seeking purposes. Furthermore, the more open nature of political systems in many of these countries means that additional actors, such as elite classes, unions, civil society, and donors, influence policymaking and political-bureaucratic there interactions.

Integrated model

The integrated model of political–bureaucratic relations is characterized by clear role separation between politicians and bureaucrats and there is high bureaucratic independence. This model is linked with advanced democracies, such as the UK and the USA, which have strong political institutions. The model is characterised firstly by a clear separation of roles and hierarchy between politicians and bureaucrats. Primary responsibility of bureaucrats is to advise political leaders and implement decisions made by these leaders. It is characterised by the rule-oflaw- based politically neutral civil service and finally by the meritocratic recruitment and promotion in the bureaucracy. Countries that adopted this model for instance, USA and Britan, have a higher ratio of political appointments in the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is largely based on values of merit and political impartiality. This differs considerably from countries (Zimbabwe, Rwanda, South Africa and DRC) who adopted the collusive model where appointments are based on political allegiance are institutionalized. The paper asserts that in this model, it is important to apprehend that, politicaladministrative interface tend to promote symbiotic relations between the two agents to achieve the common good. Politicaladministrative interface is vital for effective public sector governance, where the administrative organs are comparatively apolitical and minimal of political patronage.

Political parties that make government when voted in power have a bearing on the governance of the polity. Appointments of senior government officials pivots on the government of the day and, the appointed always imitate the political trajectory of those in power. Succession politics therefore, should take a governance approach premised on responsiveness, responsibility, economic development and political security. The paper strongly argues that, the adoption of collusive model in Africa with reference to Zimbabwe undermine and overlook the development of a strong and responsive public administration, . Moreover, there is bewilderment between policy pronouncements which are the preserve of politicians and policy implementation which is considered as the purview of public administrators. Professional public administration seems to have been subordinated by politics in Zimba. This has resulted in the collapse of administration units and statutory state organs.

The above context shows that, despite the popularity of the ideals, objectives, policies of government, the progressiveness of plans for national development and the abundance of national resources the country has, without an efficient administration nothing can be achieved. A competent public administration seems to evade waste, correct mistakes, limits the magnitudes of incompetence, or irresponsibility while implementing laws and public policies. Thus, public administration acts as an instrument for translating plans, laws and policies into reality. This is an argument advanced by Dimock who argues that, “in a democracy there can be no successful planning without a clear, efficient and impartial administration”. Moreover, Dimock, notes that “in the modern world bureaucracy is the chief policy maker in government; it is a source of facts and experience as well as of ideas and solution of public problems. Implying that, bureaucracy needs high degree of autonomy and role separation to widen space and freedom to participate in policy making by giving advice to ministers and providing them with the necessary information, relevant for policy formulation. It is within this context that, State administration should have for instance, high standards of professionalism, efficiency, economical, development oriented, impartial, fair, and equitable and be without bias. Furthermore, state administration should be accountable, cooperative and transparent as the bastion of a responsive government. Often, political agents in control regularly take for granted and underestimate the role of administrative units, forgetting that what they need to be done will be carried out administratively. Therefore, the transition from a parliamentary to presidential system in Zimbabwe, led to the usurpation of both the political and administrative roles of government by the political leadership as espoused by section 89 and 90 of the Zimbabwean Constitution. To this end therefore, the paper advocates for symbiotic and collaborative Political- Administrative interface that promote seamless leadership succession and effective state administration in Zimbabwe [7].

Post-independence governance systems in Africa and colonial legacy

Many African countries gained their independence after a protracted liberation struggle. It is understandable and worth noting that after the decolonisation process, African nationalists inherited the post-colonial state with all its colonial coercive apparatus and legacies (all state institutions for example the police, army, secret service, arbitrary laws such as “The Law And Order Maintenance Act” and bureaucracy). More so, they became the rulers and masters of their peoples and countries and were pre-occupied by continuity with some changes. Colonialism significantly impacted on the political and economic conditions of contemporary Africa. Postindependence African states resemble a western model since African Liberation Nationalists adopted the more centralized and authoritarian system of administration of their colonisers. Post-independence African political systems seem to be characterized by ethnic based exclusion and marginalisation. African states turned to one-party system, and though opposition parties emerged they are highly restricted in their operation. The present study acknowledges that Africa experienced brutal, exploitative and oppressive form of colonialism. It is also obvious that colonialism has left negatively impacting legacy on the African continent. This paper, therefore, reveals how the legacy of colonialism impacted on post-independence Africa’s institutions and systems of governance in view of the present succession and state administration anxieties.

The present paper notes that colonialism had considerable influence on shaping the political aspect of the African continent. Colonisation is a practice of political domination, which involves the subjugation and oppression of one people to another. Colonialism involves political and economic control and dominance over a dependent territory. The term colony comes from the Latin word Colonus, meaning farmer. This concept of a colony entails that the practice of colonialism usually involved the transfer of population to a new territory, where the settlers lived as permanent inhabitants of the jurisdiction while maintaining political allegiance to their country of origin. The impact of colonisation in Africa seems to be the most important factor in understanding the present condition of the African continent and of the African people. Therefore, a scrutiny of the phenomenon of colonisation is necessary to appreciate the degree to which it influenced and impacted on political developments of Africa.

Colonial administration through council, chiefs, local courts and local native council was a ridicule of popular government. Tyranny and semi-totalitarianism were entrenched and inculcated into the political arrangement of Africa using the colonial and administrative authoritative apparatus that were intended to keep Africans in a subordinate position. The present political arrangement of the continent is by all accounts the immediate impression of the colonial political framework. Expansionism incredibly impacted governmental issues of the continent by supplanting indigenous foundations by "bizarre and strange administration "As indicated by Farah and Mazongo, Africa had democratic culture in the pre-colonial time which late time which later destroyed through the impact of subjugation, imperialism, and neo-expansionism. Wyk curiously noticed that the "contemporary state in Africa is a remnant of a colonially imposed framework". African states embrace the colonialists' unified state framework which created ethnic and tyrant based political culture [8].

It is worth noting that colonialists were neither interested in promoting flourishing democratic systems in Africa nor prepared African states to administer themselves effectively in the post-independence era. Instead, they abused and dumped them. Also, it is plainly noticed that "the colonial state in Africa was a tyrant bureaucratic contraption of control and which was not planned to be a school of democracy". This demonstrates the way that the state was utilized as instrument of exploitation all through the colonial period. Thus, at independence African leaders inherited colonially instigated institutions and systems of government which were seen by Bayeh as a "negligence or malpractice." For Bayeh it is because of this malpractice that African leaders have been exposed, inter alia, to evils of defilement and dictatorship since the time of independence.

From Bayeh’s view one can posit that, what African states inherited from their colonisers was their undemocratic and authoritarian rule, as the very purpose of Europeans was to exploit the resources of Africa through employing undemocratic systems of administration which were forcefully imposed from the top. In other words, colonisers failed to consider the interests, needs as well as realities of African people. The study notes that the colonial experience of post-independence African leaders greatly impacted their way of administration in such a manner those they turn out to be highly tyrannical. Brutality and exploitation of the colonialists’ system of administration was inculcated and imbedded in the mind of anti-colonial leaders of the time who later become leaders of independent African states. Moreover, the notion of ethnicity left behind by the colonial powers has impacted on the overall political system of African states.

The colonial administrators and political elites made decisions on behalf of the indigenous population without consulting them. Inheriting from this monopolized and authoritarian system, African political parties become a top-down organisational structure and therefore tend to be autocratic Salih contends that "African political parties started in the nondemocratic based setting of colonial rule which was neither just nor authentic." This demonstrates that African party framework has acquired the undemocratic colonial tradition. Even though multi-party framework was presented in Africa, it was not genuinely exercised. Thus, democratising Africa turns out to be very challenging in this contemporary period. African rulers are likewise known to be profoundly adulterated, which could be followed back to the legacy of expansionism. Colonial powers' abhorrent socio-political culture created the propensity for debasement and corruption in public administration of contemporary Africa.

Against that background, one can deduce that the existing corrupt and undemocratic behaviour of the contemporary leaders of Africa is the continuation of the policies and administration of imperialists. It is obvious that authoritarianism, tyranny, and corruption are some of the most attributing factors for poverty and state mis-governance, which in turn, leads to a corruption creating vicious cycle. This situation is true in Africa and it is attributed to the far-reaching effect of colonial legacy. In many of African countries, leaders enjoy political power as a means of accumulating wealth and power consolidation. Thus, the state has got its instrumental and sentimental value for the wealth of the few leaders. Hence, the greedy, selfish, and rent-seeking nature of contemporary African rulers is also traced back to the deed of colonisers.

Nationalist leaders should have sort to break with the past but it appears that some African Heads of States’ primary target was focused more on accomplishing power and less on making a good and just society. It is from this leadership disposition that some African countries have come to occupy a precarious middle ground between tyranny and outright authoritarianism and thus compromising majority rule system. Following the level of post-liberation disillusionments in terms of leadership and development, it is clear that there is no assurance that dynamic and progressive liberation movements which fought for freedom majority rule government and social equity and justice will fundamentally encourage and foster a democratic and constitutional culture when in power .However, more than 23 years after the last independent state (South Africa), contemporary African leaders seem to be engrossed into the realities of colonialism and that colonial legacy be perpetuated and promoted through the proliferation of patronclient and patrimonial political systems in most African countries and this tends to make it difficult for Africa to redesign and reconfigure its institutions of governance. Consequently, colonial legacy turns out to be an albatross on the failure of Africa to re-design and reconfigure its institutions of governance after more than 60 years of independence.


This section outline the methodology employed in deriving themes and also presents and analyses the findings from the eighteen qualitative in-depth interviews conducted. The data presented here is a triangulation of views obtained from indepth interviews and documentary review with the view of obtaining a balanced argument. This approach is particularly supported by Chakunda who asserts that, triangulation is fundamental to establish a true and balanced argument through interrogation of multiple and dependable sources of data to establish authentic information. The analysis was based mainly on how succession patterns influence the efficacy of state administration.Thematic method as applied to this paper included six key procedures namely, transcribing implying acquaintance and preparation of data for analysis through transcribing on how succession patterns influence the efficacy of state administration. Coding and reduction, meaning the generation of initial codes by documenting where and how patterns occur for example spsa1 codes on major themes and spsa2 on sub-themes. Indenfying overarching themes, referring to the searching of codes among codes and merged codes into overarching themes for accurate analysis of the data for instance merging of major themes (spsa1) and sub-themes {spsa 2). Reviewing the themes which involved reviewing themes after merging major themes (spsa 1) and sub-themes (spsa 2). Naming the themes involved characterising and naming of themes for instance some on how succession patterns influence state administration in Africa, some of the major themes emerged includes; inheritance of traditional succession model, colonial legacy and perpetuation of patrimonialism. These are presented and discussed next namely, the inheritance of the traditional succession model, unwillingness of African leaders to relinquish power, colonial legacy.

The inheritance of traditional succession models

Succession politics has become a topical issue and a perennial challenge to the African continent. In this study, respondents had different perspectives on how succession patterns and frameworks prevailing in the continent influence the efficacy of state administration. The members of the Academia, Executive and Bureaucracy concurred that, the inheritance of traditional succession model had a bearing on the succession challenges facing the African continent. Accordingly, one member of the executive noted that:

“In pre-colonial Africa, succession was guaranteed and appointment issues were handled by spirit mediums in line with the different systems pertaining to each culture and tribe during the pre-colonial era like in the American systems, where each battalion has its own Chaplin. Africa tradition had two major models of succession, namely the collateral system (which rotates among family in Shona culture) and the Primogeniture (a chief begets a chief or Induna iyazali Induna in Ndebele culture)”

The above views are supported by Chirikure who posits that rotational political succession, sometimes known as collateral succession in historical/archaeological Shona states such as Mutapa and Torwa, followed the system of ‘houses’, which were essentially ancestries that inclined from the initiators of explicit political entities. Based on the preceding views, Mutapa kings were selected from the progenies of Nyatsimba Mutota, the founder of the Mutapa state. Nyatsimba Mutota had several sons, each of whom was given a district to rule in the state. The lineages of these sons, over time, became households of power (dzimba dzoushe in Shona, from which future kings, provincials and district leaders were and are still being drawn. Upon the death of the founder, political succession alternated around these ‘houses’, beginning from that of the first son to that of the youngest. Furthermore, spirit mediums associated with departed kings or chiefs (mhondoro) played a vital role in royal induction, national prayer, deposing a cruel leader and, among others, communicating with Mwari and ancestors.

Under this succession system, rotation inferred that when a new leader ascended the sovereignty, they did not move into the homestead of their predecessor instead, they ruled from their own household, which became the axis of authority, thus reducing succession conflicts since there is no loss of privilege and material. In the event of succession, capitals within the state shifted the eminence of entities such as provinces and districts changed subject to political configuration of the day [9].

However, two members of the opposition and two of think tanks challenged the above conception by a member of the executive. The members of the opposition and think tanks agreed that, despite clear succession patterns in the pre-colonial society, there is a tendency by leaders to smuggle traditional succession norms in modern bureaucratic state for example that, power is not abandoned or relinquished unless death befalls. One member of the opposition avers that:

“Succession models in modern Africa were cut and pasted from a traditional perspective by politicians to suit their egocentric perceptions. Political leaders in Africa seem to view themselves as the only sacred specie that can rule in perpetuity. The current succession frameworks in Africa are remincesnt of the traditional succession framework.

The paper averred that, the inception of modern bureaucratic states seems to have changed the complexion of politics, succession patterns and frameworks in the continent. Hughes and May, concurs with members of the opposition in that, the growth of the progressive bureaucratic state has instigated a legal coherent succession procedure. In this succession framework, authority is derivative of a comprehensible system of rules that are universally submitted to the all-inclusive population for recognition or refutation. Typical examples of such rules are the constitutions and legal schemes of contemporary states. Modern governmental and bureaucratic structures are also emblematic of this form of authority. Institutions, laws, and legal mandate are the only source of legitimacy in a legal-rational succession framework.

In the same context, members of the executive, Politburo, Central Committee and Academia interviewed, strongly argued that traditional succession models can be a panacea to African’s development and political problems. For them, the models promote continuity and stability in a polity, since authority was recognized as legitimate by virtue of tradition and customs, rooted in an ancestral past. A Politburo member argued that:

“When modern legal rotational succession models were translated in Africa, the continent struggled to adapt since the models were alien to Africa’s political culture. The modern models undermine the revolutionary spirit and Africa’s development trajectory, since development dictatorship guarantees continuity and stability”.

In analysing the overall responses on the inheritance of traditional succession frameworks, 70% held the view that, succession challenges faced in Africa are due to the transplant of traditional succession models. These were mainly the executive members, 2 politburo members, 2 permanent secretaries 1 think tank, 2MPs and 2 members of the academia. To this category of respondents, it was not about the length of time someone is in office, but about the embedded leadership norms and values exhibited by a leader in fulfilling the aspirations of the people. According to Chirikure, modern succession models involve loss of power, material and influence a situation that exacerbates the succession challenge and non-circulation of elite in Africa.

However, 30% of the respondents differed widely with the above views arguing that the current conception and trends of succession model in modern bureaucratic states are now hinged on the analogue and similitude of both constitutional and normative values. The category include members of the opposition, 1 MP, 1 think tank, 2 members of the academia and 1 permanent secretary. This category of respondents argued that, modern states need now to adopt and adapt to the rotational legal succession model. This is supported by Ojo who alluded that, contemporary governmental and bureaucratic arrangements are classic procedure of the legal rotational authority. Furthermore for Ojo, the institutions, laws, and legal order are the only source of legitimacy and law is supreme, not individuals or groups of individuals. On the basis of the above two schools, this paper argues that the current conception of succession patterns and frameworks should largely reflect the legal rotational succession which strongly advocates for the respect of presidential term limits, independence of the judiciary and oversight institutions as opposed to centralism and non-succession. The views of the first category are thus in contravention of the latter and spirit exhibited in the Constitution.

Colonial legacy

The section focuses on how colonial legacy influences the succession patterns and the efficacy of state administration in Africa. Think tanks and the Academia outlined that, the history of the continent was defined by the philosophy of communalism, where society owns the means of production as an entity. The sentiments were supported by who strongly asserted that, execrably, the conclusive effect of colonisation has deflected the conditions of Africa and has not recuperated from the overwhelming effect of colonisation much after independence. The colonial state conveyed together radicalised and ethicised power. Clearly, this might be the antecedent of the stateless country eminent in present day African states. In a sense, the post-colonial administration turned out to be extensively increasingly absolutist and despotic despite the influential legacy of the Westminster model .According to the think tanks and Academia, the Westminster model was characterised by a ceremonial president, executive Prime minister, Parliament and the Judiciary. Accordingly, a member of the opposition parties averred that:

“For instance, in Zimbabwe the Westminster model did not fit the political system, leading to a transition from an executive Prime minister to an executive President through Amendment Number 7 of the Lancaster House Constitution in1987”.

The Westminster model according to the paper, seem to have all the tenets of promoting democratic governance premised on the concept of separation of power and constitutionalism. The Academia and think tanks agreed that, it was better for African leaders to have assimilated and incorporated the positive variables before transplanting the system totally during the years of decolonisation. One lecturer from the University of Zimbabwe interviewed, alluded to the preceding by asserting that:

“At independence, colonial legacy influenced state formation. Instead of propagating new governance systems, institutions, laws and structures. The political leadership, due to the independence euphoria and the triumph over white supremacy had little time to redesign governance structures that mirrored the aspirations of a new state .Due to lack of sovereign experience the leaders resorted back to defacto one dominant party state which was a major feature of the colonial state.”

The preceding views were echoed by Tendi, who observes that when Britain granted independence to most of its African colonies in the 1950s and 1960s, it endeavoured to hand down Westminster's parliamentary system as an institutional legacy. For Tendi, in post-independence Africa, the Westminster model in most of the colonies vanished and was transplanted during the decolonisation progressions in Africa. In view of Tendi’s preceding dispositions, the Westminster model of governance unsurprisingly malformed in the vast majority of former British colonies in Africa and single-party dominated rule (South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and military coup d'états ( Nigeria, DRC, Ghana) became the custom, since the system of the colonisers was impracticable in many former African colonies. A member of the think tanks interviewed argued that:

“The African politicians envy white supremacy, notably, the manner in which they dominate the legitimacy use of violence through the police and army, silencing dissenting voices, that the way they manipulate the judiciary system to pass judgement in their favour and also the way they arm twist the legislature to make laws that promote their interest. The supplanting of the Westminster model, resulting in the creation of an all-powerful presidency’s office, that, formulate, implement, monitor and evaluate policies. The adopted the presidential system that promoted democratic centralism and competitive electoral authoritarianism.”

The paper argued that, the collapse of the model in most former British colonies in Africa heralded the prevalence of presidential systems of government where presidents are elected directly by the people offering stable and decisive government. Nonetheless, concentration of excessive powers in the presidency inculcating dictatorship mentality has become a major hindrance to leadership change in Africa despite democracy activists insisting on presidential term limits. The respondents agreed that , colonial legacy had a profound effect on state formation in Africa, which arguably influenced succession patterns, trends, framework and the efficacy of state administration. The advocates of competitive electoral authoritarianism and presidentialism argued that, incumbent advantage led them to maintaining their consistence in winning elections in their respective countries. The main voices in this category were the members of the executive, Politburo, 1 MP and 2 Permanent secretaries. The support of presidentialism by this category, signify the emergence of imperial presidents who are the law to themselves, thus disregarding the independence of the judiciary, the oversight role of the legislature and other oversight bodies.

On the other hand the other category of respondents which comprise of the Academia, think tanks, opposition parties, 2 MPs, 1 permanent secretaries and civil society members argued that, colonial legacy remains undisputable and will remain an albatross to the succession challenges bedevilling Africa. There are advocating for the dismantling of the institutional legacy that was imitated and inherited by the political leadership in Africa. Based on the triangulation of view, the research established that, colonial legacy had a profound effect on the development of the political architecture of the continent. The first category seems to favour the perpetuation of a culture of centralism which is against the redesigning and reconfiguration of governance institutions, systems and structures, as any change in the status qou will threaten their source of political survival. It is from the above analysis that the research notes that political colonial legacy fermented the challenge of non-succession and non-circulation of elite resulting in centralised state source of the administration that promote exclusive governance structures and systems in Africa for instance removal of presidential limits in Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe’s intention to remove clauses on term limits, running mates.

Unwillingness of African leaders to relinquish power

The section focuses on how unwillingness to relinquish power influence succession frameworks and the efficacy of state administration in Africa. Fundamentally, respondents argued that, politicians in Africa has shown a consistent analogue and similitude of violating, amending state and party constitutions to prolong their stay in power resulting in what Fombad refers to as the Constitutional coup or a third term calamity. A member of the legislature argued that:

“Succession is difficult in Africa because leaders are not prepared to leave office or do not imagine that any other person can come into office. Normally, African presidents are hesitant to relinquish power. Only in case of health incapacitation and/or when death befalls as in the traditional setup. Mostly, power transitioning periods have resulted in chaos, coup d’états, because of poor succession planning on who takes over next. Also, the truth about African politicians is that, they are unprepared to relinquish power.”

The above submissions are supported by Igbuzor, who underlines that human resources and leadership define the accomplishment or failure of organisations and nations since, everything rises and falls on leadership. Accordingly, Igbuzor suggests that political leadership is imperative for the effective and competent functioning and progress of the state. Therefore, political succession is of intentional significance in the survival and existence of a polity. Furthermore, political succession, therefore, pivots on the solidity, survival and improvement of nations which makes it intentional to note that in every nation, change is unavoidable. Respondents strongly argued that, despite the acknowledgement of the significance of methodical transference of power from one person to another by political stakeholders in Africa, the veracity in many countries is that many political successions are devoid of the rules and procedures of succession resulting in political volatility and legality issues for instance the legitimacy crisis in Zimbabwe (Mnangagwa ascension to power). The respondents’ views were buttressed by Jinadu who alluded that, smooth and unified political succession entails observance to rules and regulations. When religiously followed over a long period of time, it becomes embedded into the political culture of the organisations and nations. A good example is the succession process in rotary club where the successor is known over one year in advance. Consequently in Africa, several factors including ideals, structure of politics, incongruities in the political system, power fights, dictatorial political philosophy and fragile institutions make smooth succession difficult. Zimbabwe resembles a good example of a country that lacks observance of rules, immoderate determination to cohere to power for life, frail and compromised opposition and feeble and ineffectual mass and egalitarian organisations and institutions [10].

On the same context members of the Academia argued that, pre-colonial Africa was defined by immaculate aesthetic, social harmony and autonomy informed by the philosophy of communalism. The academia strongly blames the attitude and calibre of leaders Africa has, who despite the adoption of legal rotational succession model still disregard and overlook constitutionalism. One member of the academia interviewed acknowledged that:

“Discussion around succession was taboo within and outside ZANU-PF and anyone perceived to threaten the late Mugabe’s position (even in the second republic) was/is labelled the enemy of the state who is against the norms and values of the liberation struggle. The norms and values of succession were or are not institutionalised; leaders and bureaucracy are recycled despite non-performance or lack of competence”.

The preceding argument finds expression in Mpondi who argues that calls for leadership transformation, progression and power transitioning has divided political parties in the case of Zimbabwe. The purgative and riddance of rebellious voices in Zimbabwe's two main ideological groups and/or political are the parties resembles a revolution gulping its own children, or the case of a hen ingesting its own eggs. The history specialist and moralist, Lord Acton, wrote in 1877 that:

“Power will in general degenerate, and absolute power taints/or corrupts completely. Great men are often terrible men.” Without balanced governance, the executive branch of government will dominate administration structures”.

The paper contends that, the propensity and appetite for absolute power seem to have been inculcated into Zimbabwe’s political landscape for quite a long time without guaranteeing viable limitations on control of power along the way. Because society created and sustained this culture of centralism, executive dominance, encouraged a trend of monopolistic power, abuse of executive authority and ultimately this was responsible for the cult of the ‘Big Man’, the unchallengeable leader in Zimbabwe.

Mohiddin concurs with the Academia in that a major challenge threatening good governance in Africa with reference to Zimbabwe is how to compel or limit executive power and balancing its discretionary authority and power while not attenuating its ability to fulfil its legitimate responsibilities or its political obligation. concurs with Mohiddin and the Academia by expressing that:

“Robert Mugabe did not allow opposition, the late President used more (pliably) brutal tactics, opposing forces were usually struck by a coalition of political and military leaders (who stand) equipped and eager to employ viciousness to effect the treacherous vision of the regime and perpetuate his control of the state”.

On the contrary, members of the executive, 1 MP and politburo members diverge from the MP’s and Academia’s views on unwillingness to relinquish power. Their main contention is that during the formative stages of most African states, the incumbent government enjoyed a high degree of goodwill from citizens. Because of the role they played in the liberation struggle they continued enjoying benevolence from the citizen because of the incumbent advantage. A member of the executive asserts that:

“Most European governance models had no term limits, and this was ingrained in most modern African political systems. When first generation leaders, ascended to power, they were very young and managed to attract the goodwill of the masses. The consistence in winning elections led to the argument that there was no elite circulation or succession”.

The paper contents that, despite incumbents parties continue winning the elections as argued by a member of the executive. The research established that, since they enjoyed the incumbent advantage, the leaders managed to spread their tentacles in all institutions of the state. The above triangulation, 80% of the respondents argue that, African leaders disregard and overlook the constitutional clauses, which guarantees a two five year terms for the president. They attacked democratic centralism and developmental dictatorship which ferment stagnancy in succession and abandonment of regeneration of governance structures. There major voices in this category were the academics, thinks tanks, civil society, opposition parties, 2 MPs and 1permanent secretary. Masunungure laments how Mugabe overlooked the resolve of the people in the 2008 synchronised elections. The leader‘s affinity to power led to government supported viciousness code named, CIBD, an acronym for Coercion, Intimidation, Beating, and Displacement, which was a dreadful battle that embraced tormenting, incinerating, kidnapping and killing of citizens. According to this category of respondents, this culture of violence and dictatorship was used as a trump card to either sabotage and postpone leadership renewal and succession.

On the other hand are proponents of democratic centralism and developmental dictorship. The category does not subscribe to democratic principles that promote credible, free and fair election, which results in seamless power transition. They view leadership as a sole project of their party not a collective procedure. Their scope of rationality seems to be constrained because of the role rendered during the decolonisation of Africa with reference to Zimbabwe. The major advocates in this category were the executive and politburo members. The sentiments of this category are captured in an expression by Matemadanda as headlined in the, Standard Newspaper of 15 December 2019 that ZANU-PF will rule by hook and crook. The Secretary of Commissariat was cited saying:

“This is a revolutionary party that liberated this country, and the only one that can defend the revolution, therefore, we will fight to defend that course by any means necessary. Every election is a process to defend the revolution against Western imperial powers working in cahoots with local puppets. We will use any means necessary to defend the revolution. Elections will not remove ZANU-PF from power. If elections fail, we will use any other means necessary. You are the voice of this country, you are the way of this country, and you are the future of this country. Only ZANU-PF can defend Zimbabwe’s integrity and sovereignty.”

The secretary for Commissariat’s perspective aptly captures Mugabe's views after his defeat by Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 March harmonised elections:

“ZANU-PF struggled for you, for your prerogative, land and a bright future. This legacy ought to not just be outdone by the stroke of a pen at the voting booth because I am not getting critical or elementary goods… Otherwise a candid X would have returned the nation to 1890”.

It is the same mentality that is expressed by the proponents of democratic centralism and developmental dictatorship, who strongly believe that the incumbent revolutionary parties have the mandate to administer the country by any means necessary. On the basis of the diverging schools of thought, the paper established that, the current succession models in bureaucratic state largely reflects and respect the legal and constitutional transition based on constitutionalism on paper. The views of the second category are in contravention to the culture of constitionalism, which normally results in delayed or postponed succession in some countries or chaotic and violent power takeover [11].


The paper examined the impact of succession politics on state administration, unpacking the relational boundaries and conceptual overlaps of political-administrative interface in that is Africa. The paper concludes that state formation in Africa has been a victim of colonial legacy and traditional succession model whose influence led to post-colonial administration which are progressively absolutist and autocratic in nature. The adoption of a collusive model anchored on a patrimonial system resulted in a small clique controlling the apparatus and institutions of the state for personal gain. The bureaucracy is captured and used primarily for rent-seeking purposes. The paper concluded that, succession politics and state administration are victims of historical, political, traditional and societal factors that moulded political systems, governance structures and succession patterns in Africa. For, Zimbabwe the paper concluded that, the succession dilemma will always hound succession trends and responsive administration, unless broad based reforms are instituted to dismantle the bush legacy imbedded in the political system, which has emasculated succession procedures.


Author Info

Chikerema Arthur Fidelis*
Department of Politics and Public Management, Midlands State University, Zimbabwe

Citation: Fidelis CA (2021) Succession Politics and State Administration in Africa: The Case of Zimbabwe. Review Pub Administration Manag, 9:293

Received Date: Jun 09, 2021 / Accepted Date: Jun 22, 2021 / Published Date: Jun 29, 2021

Copyright: © 2021 Fidelis CA. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.