An extraordinarily lengthy 20-month farm labour struggle in Zimbabwe from 1998 to 2000 that became entangled in momentous national-scale politics provides insight into how electoral politics became a source of power, ambivalence and danger for these farm workers. This article analyses how leaders of this long struggle drew on electoral politics as a set of social practices, power relations and affective styles to make connections with extra-farm organisations, while compelling support among many of the farm workers. It examines how the farm workers' leaders were able to use some of the social networks and cultural politics associated with electoral politics in Zimbabwe to try to reconfigure the situation facing farm workers on a much broader scale. Both the labour struggle and emergent opposition politics in this context drew on the authoritarian style of electoral politics dominant in Zimbabwe. The linkages to wider networks within a political party, state bodies, and non-state organisations dramatically enhanced the sustainability and possibilities of this labour struggle. But they also brought hierarchies and the potential for violence. When the wider historical conjuncture shifted after February 2000, and national-scale politics began to focus on commercial farms, the ability to draw on diverse wider networks to enhance workers' demands was severely limited. This article thus provides insight into the cultural politics of opposition and ruling-party politics in relationship to farm workers during an important period in Zimbabwe's history.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2013.858542
Journal Journal of Southern African Studies
Citation
Rutherford, B. (2013). Electoral Politics and a Farm Workers' Struggle in Zimbabwe (1999-2000). Journal of Southern African Studies, 39(4), 845–862. doi:10.1080/03057070.2013.858542