Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access


Owen Seda, Nehemiah Chivandikwa


This article is a critical reflection on possibilities for social transformation and democratisation that can be possibly realised through collaborations between young people in civil society, African traditional religion and the Christian movement in contemporary contexts. In this context the focus on young people as key agents of change is informed by the frequent observation that young people are often the major perpetrators (and victims) of political violence and yet the least beneficiaries from the political spoils. The article analyses a project in the use of applied theatre to address political violence and torture that was conducted by the University of Zimbabwe's Department of Theatre Arts and Amani Trust some time between October 2001 and March 2002. The article uses that project to investigate and to illustrate some of the opportunities that can be harnessed by religious arms of civil society to strengthen peace in disadvantaged rural communities, such as we find in contemporary Zimbabwe, and which often bear the brunt of social unrest in times of political uncertainty. The study approaches time as a social construct that determines human agency and decision-making in order to adopt the biblical concept of ‘kairos’ or the ‘kairotic’ moment. The ‘kairotic’ moment referred to in this paper is the period between 1999 and 2008 when the Zimbabwean polity faced one of its severest national crises following protracted political contestation. This resulted in unprecedented levels of political intolerance, and state-sanctioned violence and torture in the country’s post-independence history. This level of political violence was perhaps second only to the infamous Gukurahundi massacres, which took place in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces during the mid-1980s. We also view the kairotic moment as a critical moment for making a fundamental decision. It is full of both promise and danger, so much so that whether the moment ‘reaps’ hope or danger depends on how the moment is seized. We ask: Did civil society seize the moment to reap hope? In other words, we analyse whether various arms of Zimbabwean civil society took advantage of the ‘pregnant’ or kairotic moment to liberate itself. The authors adopt existing discourses on civil society and liberation theology to argue that whenever the time is ripe for meaningful intervention, there in fact exist immense opportunities for different branches of civil society domiciled in both traditional African and modern Christian religions to harness applied theatre in the service of peace and democratisation in the face of political adversity and uncertainty.



liberation theology; kairotic moment; violence; civil society; applied theatre

Full Text:



Boff, L. and Boff, C. 1987. Introducing liberation theology. London: Burns & Oates.

Bracking, S. 2005. Development denied: Autocratic militarism in post-election Zimbabwe. Review of African Political Economy, 32 (104/105): 341–357.

Edwards, M. 2000. NGO rights and responsibilities: A new deal for global governance London: NCVO.

Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (Translated by Q. Hoare & G.N. Smith). New York: International Publishers.

Haynes, J. 1996. Democracy and civil society in the Third World: Politics and new political movements. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kaldor, M. 2003. Civil society and accountability. Journal of Human Development, 4 (1): 5–27.

Makumbe, J. 2009. Theft by numbers: ZEC’s role in the 2008 elections. In Masunungure, E. (ed.), Defying the winds of change: Zimbabwe’s 2008 election, 133–148. Harare: KAS.

Matyszak, 2009. Civil Society and the long election. In Masunungure, E. (ed.), Defying the winds of change: Zimbabwe’s 2008 election. Harare: KAS.

Muskus, E. 1995. Liberation theology: its origins and development. Retrieved from www.affinity. (accessed 23 September 2016).

Raftopoulos, B. 2000. NGOs, the state and politics in Zimbabwe. Harare: Baobab Books.

Sachikonye, L. (ed.). 1997. Democracy, civil society and the state: Social movements in Southern Africa. Harare: SAPES Trust.

Schwedler, J. (ed.). 1995. Towards civil society in the Middle East. Boulder: Lynne Riener Publishers.

Seda, O. and Chivandikwa, N. 2013. Theatre in combat with violence: The University of Zimbabwe Department of Theatre and Amani Trust Popular Travelling Theatre project on political violence and torture – some basic and non-basic contradictions. In Barnes, H. (ed.),Matatu: Arts activism, education & therapies: Transforming communities across Africa, 15–28. Amsterdam: Rodopi Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.