Zimbabwe xxx

In Angola, the churches provided a public space for a discourse of peace to emerge in times of war, as Comerford has compellingly argued [vi]. Here we can expand the ‘public space model’ beyond civil domains to embrace the ‘arena model’.Yet the public space transcends national frontiers. Much space is today found outside the country, in the diaspora in South Africa, U. A ‘public arena’ is a complex whole of ‘antagonistic cooperation’ [vii].Coerced by or colluding with forces abroad, many African leaders have squandered public goods and public trust.Sovereign powers and surpluses have been transferred abroad, open political competition outlawed and space for active citizenship reduced to nothing.The arena model allows analysis of the intrinsic power relations in day-to-day struggles.Power relations inside the different organisations figure in the arena model.Here civil society is cast as a hero, who routinely calls a villainous state to account. Questions have arisen about the effects of NGOs not only as substitute providers of basic services, but also as vehicles of public politics, effectively substituting for opposition political parties [ii]. Some argue that the whole concept of ‘civil society’ as promoted by outsiders does not match African sociological or political realities, and can ultimately weaken, rather than strengthen the power of common citizens. How closely does the idea of civil society correspond to the ways Africans themselves go about their associational life and politics? Where Africans could organize to transform the political order – the ending of minority rule in southern Africa being a major case in point – rights and collective self-esteem have advanced.

Those are of great importance in accounting for what is really going on in the complex African context.

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It is conventionally seen as a collection of various kinds of non-profit bodies separate from the state and business sector.

These have external as well as domestic dimensions; in a continent where power is highly extraverted [v], relationships with foreign actors are commonly decisive.

Hence when talking of governance, democracy, and respect for human rights it is important to keep in mind differing levels – global, national, regional and local – and the interplay among them.

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