Power as it relates to negotiation

Each student will conduct a search online Library resources to find 1 recent peer reviewed article (within the past 3 years) that closely relates to Power as it relates to negotiation. Your submission must include the following information in the following format:

Key Term:
Power as it Relates to Negotiation
DEFINITION: a brief definition of the key term followed by the APA reference for the term; this does not count in the word requirement.

SUMMARY: Summarize the article in your own words- this should be in the 150-200 word range. Be sure to note the article’s author, note their credentials and why we should put any weight behind his/her opinions, research or findings regarding the key term.


Write a full paragraph responding to each of the following questions:

1. Explain why you selected this particular article among all the articles you could have chosen on your selected term.

2. Explain why you agree or disagree with the author’s key positions in the article.

3. Explain how the article was easy or difficult to understand and why?

4. What did the author do well in your opinion? Explain.
5. Describe what you believe the author could have done better in your opinion?

6. What else should the author have included in the article and would the article benefit from a different perspective (such as from a different nationality or different industry or experience perspective). Explain.

7. What other sources or methods could the author have used to improve the research in the article? (Hint: look up the types of qualitative and types of quantitative research methods).

8. What information / in-depth study / or further research should the author focus on as a follow up to this article and why?

9. Explain what audience would gain the most benefit from your selected article and how they could apply it in their professional lives.

10. What did you personally gain from this article and how has it shaped your thinking on the topic?
11. What are the conflicting or alternative viewpoint to the author’s position? Or What additional research backs up and confirms or adds to the author’s position? (Hint: this will require you to find another peer-reviewed article that challenges, confirms, or adds to, or provides a different perspective to your chosen article.
REFERENCES: All references must be listed at the bottom of the submission–in APA format.

Be sure to use the headers in your submission to ensure that all aspects of the assignment are completed as required.

Journal of Southern African Studies, 2013

Vol. 39, No. 4, 903–920, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2013.858539

Testing Ties: Opposition and Power-Sharing

Negotiations in Zimbabwe*

Thys Hoekman (University of Oxford)

This paper analyses the dynamic relations between Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC-T party,

civic organisations and western governments during the country’s 2008 power-sharing

negotiations. Because of the high stakes of the negotiations, civic organisations and western

governments tried to influence their historical ally, the MDC-T; they wanted the opposition

party to adopt an intransigent stance in its negotiations with ZANU(PF) in order to gain

further concessions. The MDC-T largely rejected these influences, however, in part due to

pressure from Southern African leaders. Aiming to gain regional legitimacy, the party felt

compelled to actively reject western influences to counter its construction by ZANU(PF) as a

‘puppet of the west’. Yet the inability of western governments to affect the MDC-T’s position

during the negotiation period went beyond the opposition’s desire to improve its standing

within the region. Through the analytical lens of nested games, this article reconstructs how

both the MDC-T and western governments view the relation between short-term divisions of

power and long-term democratisation in Zimbabwe. This reconstruction demonstrates a

disconnect between donor countries and the MDC-T in the assumptions, short-term priorities

and long-term objectives driving their decisions. This article further discusses the MDC-T’s

decision to sideline civic organisations from the negotiation process, and demonstrates that

this decision proved particularly harmful because of strategic errors made by the MDC-T in

the process of exclusion.


On 15 September 2008, four men put their signatures on a piece of paper and changed the

course of Zimbabwe’s history. A power-sharing agreement was signed, breaking the political

deadlock created by that year’s contentious presidential election. It was agreed that Robert

Mugabe, the country’s ruler since 1980, stay on as president, despite the violent tactics he

adopted to ‘win’ the 2008 elections. Yet at the same time – ground-breaking for Zimbabwe –

an opposition leader became Prime Minister, control of ministries was split across the three

political parties,1 and constitutional reforms were set out.2

*I owe many thanks to Professor Jocelyn Alexander for her insights, eye for detail and enthusiasm; to the participants in the October 2012 workshop in Oxford on politics, patronage and violence in Zimbabwe; and to three anonymous JSAS reviewers for their valuable comments and criticisms. 1 The three negotiating parties were: the Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) – ZANU(PF) –

which is led by Mugabe and has been in power since Zimbabwean independence in 1980; the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and the smaller opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change-Mutambara (in this paper referred to as MDC-M to facilitate its distinction from the larger opposition party, though its name is contested). The MDC-T and MDC-M both originate from the MDC, the opposition party that was founded in 1999 and split in 2005.

2 Zimfa, ‘Global Political Agreement’, http://www.zimfa.gov.zw/2013-02-06-14-24-29/category/3-global­ political-agreement#

q 2013 The Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern African Studies

904 Journal of Southern African Studies

But the impact of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA), brokered by South

African President Thabo Mbeki, is much more complex than the steps outlined in the 30-page

document. A power-sharing agreement creates shifts within and between political parties,

affects relations between state and civic organisations, influences ties with foreign actors, and

reshapes political constituencies. Anticipating the enormous impact that it would have on

Zimbabwe and the wider region, a host of actors tried to, and indeed did, influence the

crafting of the GPA. This article traces the influence of foreign actors and civic organisations

on Zimbabwe’s main opposition party during the negotiations.3 More specifically, it

reconstructs and explains the positions of Zimbabwe’s principal civic organisations and

western governments, and assesses their ability to influence the negotiations through their

historical ally, the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T).

Civic leaders and western governments were unsupportive of any power-sharing deal that

enabled Mugabe to retain his extensive executive powers. During the negotiations, they

implored the MDC-T leadership to sign an agreement and join government only if the other

parties agreed to, inter alia, a ‘people-driven’ constitutional reform process, a new structure

of government that curbed Mugabe’s presidential powers, and a ministerial allocation that

shifted power to the MDC-T. Yet the party ended up signing a deal that transferred relatively

little power to Tsvangirai as new Prime Minister, and that failed to set out the desired

constitutional reform process; the most powerful ministries (with the exception of the

Ministry of Finance) remained under ZANU(PF) control, and even where the MDC-T did

receive concessions on paper, Mugabe had already started violating the agreement before the

new government was finally installed in February 2009. Though a supportive international

and civic community are vital to the success of a power-sharing set-up – and crucial to the

continued survival and future success of the MDC-T as a political party – the MDC-T

rejected civic and western influence by signing a seemingly unfavourable agreement.

To a significant extent the MDC-T was pressured into the arrangement by the Southern

African Development Community (SADC), and specifically by Thabo Mbeki. SADC

facilitated the negotiations between the Zimbabwean political parties and had the power to

provide legitimacy to a newly negotiated political dispensation where the ballot box had

failed to do so. Southern African leaders aimed to restore regional stability following the

tumultuous elections, and believed that this stability was best achieved by creating a

government of national unity in which Mugabe retained a respectable (and powerful) role.4

Regional leaders demanded that the MDC-T reject western opposition to a unity government.

Having been successfully framed as a ‘puppet of the west’ by ZANU(PF) for nine years, the

party felt the need to actively reject western influences in an effort to gain regional

legitimacy, and felt forced to make significant concessions.

This article will zoom in on the actors who, unlike SADC, had surprisingly little influence

on the negotiation process. It will look first at civic actors, whose mobilising power and

strong historical ties to the party could have been used by the MDC-T to exert pressure on

ZANU-PF and demonstrate to SADC that its demands for further concessions were legitimate

and supported by the Zimbabwean people. As will be demonstrated, however, the MDC-T

leadership consciously sidelined civics throughout the negotiation process, and in fact

misinformed them on the progress (or lack thereof) made in the ongoing negotiations. This

strategy – largely informed by the MDC-T’s fear that civics would turn popular sentiment

3 The term ‘civic organisations’ is used here, in line with its common usage in the Zimbabwean context, to refer to organisations working broadly in the democratic governance arena, with a strong historical alignment to the MDC, including student, women’s, workers’, religious, youth and human rights organisations.

4 For further details on Mbeki’s driving forces and mediation efforts, see B. Raftopoulos, ‘The Global Political Agreement as a “Passive Revolution”: Notes on Contemporary Politics in Zimbabwe’, The Round Table, 99, 411 (December 2010), pp. 705 – 18.

Testing Ties 905

against the agreement if they knew of its actual contents – has reconfigured the relations

between the party and civic organisations in profound and lasting ways.

I subsequently discuss the attempts by western governments to convince the MDC-T

leadership not to sign an unfavourable power-sharing deal. Importantly, western influence on

the MDC-T was marginal not just because of SADC’s powerful position. Using Schedler’s

conceptualisation of elections as a two-level nested game, the last section demonstrates that

the positions of the MDC-T leadership and western governments were informed by distinct

assumptions, short-term interests and long-term objectives.

The analysis offered here is significant for various reasons. Within scholarship on

Zimbabwean politics, the relations between the MDC-T and civic and foreign players have

received scant attention. Understanding the impact of foreign pressure on Tsvangirai’s MDC

is particularly important because it is often described as problematic, for example in

weakening the party leader’s receptiveness to domestic input.5 The alleged western

‘stranglehold’ on the MDC-T also plays into Mugabe’s well-known references to the

opposition leader as an ‘imperialist puppet’.

In addition, the article builds on the power-sharing literature by exploring the often

overlooked process that lays the foundations for unity governments – the period of

negotiations. Academic interest in power sharing has recently rekindled, not least because its

uses have changed dramatically over the years. In 2008, a unity government was formed in

Kenya. For the first time, power-sharing was used to stop post-electoral violence and break

political deadlock in a non-civil-war context.6 The appeal of a power-sharing solution is

undeniable: it provides all parties with access to power, and thereby helps to encourage

participation, establish legitimate rule, and foster co-operation and reconciliation.7

Additionally, political leaders with access to power are expected to moderate their views

and be more open to long-term institutional reform and democratisation.8 Experiences in

Kenya and Zimbabwe demonstrate, however, that power sharing tends to postpone rather

than resolve conflicts.9

The use of power sharing to overcome post-electoral deadlock warrants further attention, in

part because of its recent successive application, suggesting the possibility of increased future

use. Some academic work on this form of power sharing exists. Mehler, for example,

demonstrates that power sharing in Kenya has been problematic because it was an elite-brokered

deal, long-term perspectives were insufficiently considered, and underlying causes of conflict

were overlooked.10 Many issues remain unexplored, however, and it is because of this that

Mehler ‘invites researchers to provide more in-depth case studies, as variations are so


Studies comparing the Kenyan and Zimbabwean cases demonstrate that the diverging

historical evolution of civil – military and intra-elite relations in these countries created a

distinct context of power-sharing negotiations.12 In Kenya, a history of relatively inclusive

single-party rule and of dynamic coalition building, combined with the complicity of all sides

in post-electoral violence, gave rise to a ‘politics of collusion’ in the unity government.13

5 S. Chan, ‘The tragedy of Tsvangirai’, Prospect, August 31, 2008. 6 A. Mehler, ‘Peace and Power Sharing in Africa: a Not So Obvious Relationship’, African Affairs 108, 432 (July

2009), pp. 453 –73. 7 N. Cheeseman and B-M. Tendi, ‘Power-sharing in Comparative Perspective: the Dynamics of “Unity

Government” in Kenya and Zimbabwe’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 48, 2 (June 2010), pp. 203–29. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Mehler, ‘Peace and Power Sharing in Africa’. 11 Ibid., p. 472. 12 Cheeseman and Tendi, ‘Power-sharing in Comparative Perspective’. 13 Ibid., p. 212.

906 Journal of Southern African Studies

This was not the case in Zimbabwe, where the extensive militarisation14 of Zimbabwean

politics gave individuals within the security forces a crucial role in the negotiations, and

where extreme party polarisation, the opposition’s monopoly on ‘victimhood’ and a

preponderance of coercive power on one side led to a ‘politics of continuity’, making

prospects for reform bleak.15

Building on this body of literature, this article provides insights into how competing

interests within and between the international community and civic organisations can shape,

limit or bolster the position of opposition parties. Academic work on power sharing too often

aims to demonstrate its unsustainability, and thus undesirability, yet viable alternatives are

scarce in practice. Rather than highlighting the deficiencies of the power-sharing model, this

article proposes the need for further research into the factors that prevent opposition parties

from extracting concessions that could foster democratisation. In Zimbabwe, not only

historical processes but also shifting short-term considerations drove the decision-making of

the opposition, civics and international community. This article demonstrates that power-

sharing negotiations test and reconfigure relations among participants. Caution must be

exercised by political and civic leaders to prevent short-term considerations from causing

long-term harm.

Civic Organisations and the MDC-T: A Shifting Relationship

Zimbabwe’s power-sharing negotiations were an elite-driven process. Over the course of

several months, ZANU(PF), the MDC-T and the splinter opposition party MDC-M worked

secretively to reach consensus on a new structure of government, timelines and mechanisms

to draft a new constitution, and on matters of land reform, transitional justice and various

other thorny issues. These issues had long been at the core of the combined struggle of civic

organisations and the MDC-T and civics consequently implored and expected the opposition

party to demand significant concessions from ZANU(PF). After providing a brief history of

the relationship between the MDC-T and civic organisations, this section outlines the position

of civics on the power-sharing negotiations and explains why and through what process the

MDC-T leadership decided to marginalise civic influence during the negotiation process.

Zimbabwe has historically had a robust civic community. This community is diverse,

ranging from humanitarian to governance-oriented organisations, and from community-based

to national initiatives. Many organisations, such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions

(ZCTU), originate from the 1980s, when they worked closely with ZANU(PF).16

Interestingly, civic groups gave birth to the MDC in 1999. As an association of labour,

student, human rights and women’s groups, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)

was a particularly important civic organisation in the MDC’s early years.17

Significantly, the party – in alliance with civic organisations – successfully campaigned

against a new constitution proposed by Mugabe in the constitutional referendum of 2000,18

and the ethos of working in consultation with civics remained very much part of the MDC

culture. In the decade following 2000, the party relied heavily on civic organisations to

14 ‘Militarisation’ in the Zimbabwean context refers to the incremental appointment of (often retired) military leaders to state institutions and ZANU(PF) structures and the concomitant blurring of divisions between ZANU (PF), the military, and the state (Ibid.).

15 Ibid., p. 220. 16 M. Tsvangirai, At the Deep End (Johannesburg, Eye Books, 2011). 17 A. LeBas, From Protest to Parties: Party-Building and Democratization in Africa (Oxford, Oxford University

Press, 2011). 18 B. Raftopoulos, ‘The Crisis in Zimbabwe, 1998 – 2008’, in B. Raftopoulos and A. Mlambo, Becoming

Zimbabwe. A History from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008 (Johannesburg, Weaver Press, 2009), p. 210.

Testing Ties 907

provide legal counsel in case of incarceration, when organising protests, and in assisting with

political campaigning.19 Given this extensive co-operation, a large number of unionists,

student leaders, and other activists have over time come to work for the opposition party.20

Civic organisations have suffered a myriad of problems since 2000. Given their strong

alignment to the MDC, many organisations were exposed to repressive government

legislation and state-sponsored violence.21 Many have similarly been weakened by a

deficiency in internal democratic practices, a lack of autonomy from international donors, and

the country’s economic decline and contraction of the formal sector.22 By 2008, organisations

such as the NCA, ZCTU and the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) were in

many ways shadows of their former selves. They lacked the mobilising power they once

had.23 Still, through the financial support of donors, a plethora of organisations working on

democratic governance remained active.24 In the 2008 elections, organisations such as the

NCA, ZINASU, and ZCTU openly supported and actively campaigned for the MDC-T.25

It has long made sense for civic organisations to be closely aligned to the MDC-T, as their

political priorities largely coincide. Until the 2008 negotiations, the MDC-T consistently

campaigned for policies to improve the situation of students, women and workers, for

example. In 2006, the party published the Road Map to a New Zimbabwe, which outlined its

solution to the Zimbabwean crisis. The document detailed the need to negotiate an interim

government with Mugabe, and laid out the necessary conditions for the MDC-T to participate

in this interim set-up. The Road Map identified a ‘people-driven’ constitution26 as paramount

to solving the crisis, considering the existing constitution a major impediment to democratic

consolidation. The MDC-T explained that ‘in our view, the act of making the Constitution

itself, is perhaps more important than the actual Constitutional document’.27 The party

contended that a non-partisan and non-elite constitution-making process by the people was

crucial, in complete agreement with the position taken by the NCA. In the Road Map, the

party went on to explain how negotiations for an interim government were to take place,

stating that ‘in our view, there will be three critical parties at the negotiating table. That is:

civil society, MDC and ZANU PF’.28 The document justified the central role of civic

organisations, and is worth quoting at length:

The success of negotiations and transitions elsewhere, not least in neighbouring South Africa illustrates pivotally that no progress can be made without the majority of citizens. Participation of the broad civil society therefore is absolutely critical. . . . Wide stakeholders support and input would ensure that negotiations are accountable to the population at large. . . . It is quite clear that there will be a heavy contest of what is Civil Society and who constitutes the same. Clearly there is no question that organisations such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe Crisis Group and the Churches, will form a key component of what we perceive Civil Society to be.29

19 LeBas, From Protest to Parties. 20 Interview, Clever Bere, president of Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) in 2008, Harare, 11 August

2011. 21 E. Masunungure, ‘Zimbabwe at the Crossroads: Challenges for Civil Society’, Open Space (June 2011),

pp. 124 –37. 22 Ibid. 23 Interviews, Brian Raftopoulos, Director of Research and Advocacy, the Solidarity Peace Trust, 2 August 2011;

Clever Bere, Harare, 11 August 2011. 24 Masunungure, ‘Zimbabwe at the Crossroads’. 25 Ibid.; Interview, Munjodzi Mutandiri, National Constitutional Assembly regional co-ordinator, Johannesburg,

8 September 2011. 26 A ‘people-driven constitution’ is one drafted through a process of public participation facilitated by nationwide

outreach meetings, in contrast to a process that privileges the role of politicians or lawyers. 27 MDC-T, Road Map to a New Zimbabwe (Harare, 2006). 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid.

908 Journal of Southern African Studies

It is impossible to read this document without a sense of irony following the 2008

negotiations. When civic leaders a priori rejected the new constitution in 2009 because the

process was not people-driven, the MDC-T told these civic leaders to wait for the result rather

than dwell on the process.30 Similarly, the MDC-T failed to insist on giving civic

organisations a seat at the negotiation table in 2008, explaining that it was impossible to

choose civic representatives, and arguing that civic involvement in such sensitive political

negotiations would be counter-productive. Why and how did this change of heart take place

in only two years?

The Value of Civic Inclusion and Early Signs of Exclusion

The first co-ordinated expression of discontent over civic exclusion from political

negotiations came in 2007. In this year, Mbeki officially became involved in the Zimbabwe

crisis after oppositional and civic leaders were assaulted at a prayer rally organised by the

Save Zimbabwe Campaign.31 The Campaign incorporated church groups, trade unions, civic

organisations and both the MDC-T and the smaller MDC-M. Mbeki was appointed to

facilitate political negotiations between the opposition and ZANU(PF), which led to the

drafting of an interim constitution and amendments to electoral laws.32 Civic bodies were

excluded from these negotiations and expressed concern upon reading the newly negotiated

constitutional draft. The NCA was shocked by the ‘appalling’ constitution, which kept in

place a powerful executive, the death penalty, and other provisions that the opposition had

long fought against.33 The MDC-T showed that, as a political party, it had a greater

willingness to compromise than many civic players. Despite these problems, civic

organisations largely still supported the MDC-T in the 2008 elections, providing open

endorsement and helping with political campaigning.

The involvement of human rights, governance, religious and student organisations in fact

proved highly valuable to the MDC-T when, less than a month after the first round of

elections, a total of 105 civic groups from 21 African countries came together in Dar es

Salaam to discuss the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe.34 In a rare display of civic unity,35 the

participating organisations called for the removal of ‘biased’ Mbeki as mediator and for more

active African Union involvement. Civic organisations demonstrated their potential value in

exerting pressure on regional leaders, most of whom had expressed little interest in listening

to the MDC-T (for reasons discussed below). Shortly following the elections, a Chinese cargo

ship reached South African shores with weapons for Mugabe’s regime. While Mbeki failed to

intervene, collaborative action by the media, trade unions and human rights organisations

prevented the ship from off-loading.36

The MDC-T nevertheless neither fought for direct civic involvement in the 2008

negotiations, nor allowed civic organisations to influence the party’s position significantly.

This was in part because civic involvement could have decreased the chances of reaching

agreement, as many civic players were uncompromising in demanding particularly a people­

30 Interview, Munjodzi Mutandiri, Johannesburg, 8 September 2011. 31 Interview, Tendai Biti, chief MDC-T negotiator in 2008, Harare, 29 August 2011. 32 Ibid.; Interview, Welshman Ncube, chief MDC-M negotiator in 2008, Harare, 31 August 2011. 33 Interview, Munjodzi Mutandiri, Johannesburg, 8 September 2011. 34 African Emergency Summit, Communiqué of The African Emergency Summit on Zimbabwe (Dar es Salaam,

21 April 2008). 35 Interview, Elinor Sisulu, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, South Africa, in 2008, Pretoria, 8 September

2011. 36 D. Matyszak, Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Government (Harare, Research and Advocacy Unit,

2009); ‘Civil society’s triumph on Zimbabwe’, BBC News Africa, April 25, 2008.

Testing Ties 909

driven constitution and transitional justice.37 MDC-T insiders further highlighted practical

objections. They argued that involvement is meaningful only when people are aware of the

intricacies of negotiations,38 that it would be impossible to decide which civic actors to

include,39 and that civic leaders lacked analytical capacity anyway (with a few notable

exceptions, such as NCA director and constitutional expert Lovemore Madhuku). These

arguments contradict the party’s standpoint in 2006. During the 2008 negotiations, the party

conceptualised civic involvement in terms of costs and complications, where it could have

considered civic organisations’ potential to bolster the party’s position. This way of thinking

was influenced by the mediator, Mbeki, and the other negotiating parties, all of whom insisted

on civic exclusion, as MDC-M negotiator Misihairabwi-Mushonga argues.40 In contrast to

the other parties, however, the MDC-T could have benefited from active civic involvement.

The party sidelined civic organisations because of its own inexperience with negotiations, a

misjudgement of its capacity to negotiate effectively with ZANU(PF), and a fear among the

party leadership that its decisions would lead merely to civic opposition, where the party

already had little manoeuvring space in the negotiations.41

The Process of Exclusion

While the MDC-T’s decision to exclude powerful civic voices is problematic, the process

through which this exclusion took place proved particularly harmful. As will be discussed

below, the party provided incomplete, distorted and at times outright false information to

civic organisations at large regarding the negotiations, and even worked actively to create

divisions between civic actors. The party aimed to maximise much-needed civic support

during these trying times by making the ongoing negotiation process seem more favourable

than it was, and by supporting some individuals within civic organisations to stand up against

more sceptical members.

As the negotiations progressed, the MDC-T leadership increasingly made concessions

that it knew would be difficult for civic leaders to accept. Regardless, Tsvangirai periodically

briefed a large civic contingent with a very optimistic attitude, presenting a favourable

account of the negotiations. These briefings were chaired by the Crisis in Zimbabwe

Coalition, and generally attended by 40 –50 civic leaders representing a wide range of

organisations.42 Tsvangirai’s optimistic presentation ‘was a recruitment exercise to get more

and more people supporting that going in was the way to go’, claimed an MDC insider close

to Tsvangirai and present at the briefings.43 Tsvangirai ambiguously assured civic actors that

a ‘people-driven constitutional process’ had been agreed to, not mentioning that this process

would involve a parliament-appointed group of politicians. On other issues, the MDC-T

leadership lied outright. According to both party insiders and various civics present at the

briefings, the party leadership promised that the MDC-T would not join government without

37 Interview, Otto Saki, senior democracy and governance adviser at USAID, Harare, 24 August 2011. Saki was interviewed in his personal capacity.

38 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, adviser to Biti and Tsvangirai in 2008, Harare, 23 August 2011. 39 Interview, Washington Katema, Fellow of the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in Zimbabwe. Harare,

29 July 2011. Katema was interviewed in his personal capacity. 40 Interview, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, MDC-M negotiator in 2008, Harare, 1 September 2011. 41 According to anonymous MDC-T insiders close to the negotiators, and interviews with: John Makumbe,

associate professor at the department of political and administrative studies of the University of Zimbabwe, Harare, 1 August 2011; Lovemore Madhuku, president of the NCA, Harare, 2 August 2011; Mcdonald Lewanika, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Harare, 11 August 2011; Munjodzi Mutandiri, Johannesburg, 8 September 2011.

42 Interview, Macdonald Lewanika, Harare, 11 August 2011. 43 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011.

910 Journal of Southern African Studies

certain conditions being met, such as the release of political prisoners, yet did exactly that.

The party also maintained until the end of negotiations that Mugabe’s role would be

ceremonial, that Tsvangirai would become Head of Government, and that the MDC-T would

get a favourable ministerial allocation. When asked why Tsvangirai presented the

negotiations in such a positive light, MDC-T insiders explained that the party had difficultly

‘managing the victory’.44 As the party had won the elections, people expected Tsvangirai to

govern – the party dealt with these expectations by keeping them high.

Clearly such a strategy was unsustainable. Civic leaders felt excluded, and organisations

such as the NCA and ZINASU argued openly and organised demonstrations against the

agreement once the contents became clear.45 The MDC-T was in a quandary, as it needed

civic support to signal to the Zimbabwean people that the agreement deserved a chance. Yet

three of the most powerful organisations with active grassroots membership were highly

critical: the NCA, ZINASU and ZCTU.46 They a priori denounced any constitution that came

out of the process outlined in the GPA. The MDC-T saw a new constitution, even if sub-

optimally crafted, as the key to decreasing executive power and furthering the

democratisation process. Given that a new constitution would have to be ratified by

referendum, however, the views of these civic organisations posed a problem.

When Tsvangirai failed to keep his promise to arrange the release of political prisoners

after entering government,47 critical voices became louder and more public. The MDC-T

privately pressured the leadership of particularly the NCA and ZINASU not to voice these

opinions publicly, and to use backdoor channels instead.48 When these organisations failed to

do so, the MDC-T lobbied donors not to fund such organisations on the grounds that they

undermined the same constitution-making process that donors endorsed.49 Several donors

indicated that this indeed was part of why they stopped their funding, a choice that deepened


The case of ZINASU is particularly interesting, as its board was internally divided by the

GPA. The majority of the board, including the president, opposed the agreement, but several

dissenting voices were supportive. The MDC-T was aware of these internal divisions and, in a

desire to weaken ZINASU’s critical public stance, appealed to dissenting board members to

use the Prime Minister’s newsletter to speak out against the rest of the board. In reaction to

this, the NCA offered those board members who were critical of the GPA space in its

newsletter. This public display of division weakened ZINASU’s position, led to internal

conflict and eventually split of the organisation. Both sides lost much of their funding and

effectiveness as a result.51

Whether they supported or opposed the GPA, many civic leaders described the power-

sharing negotiations as an important juncture in the relationship between the MDC-T and

civic organisations. The process left a sense of betrayal: the MDC-T had used civic

organisations to campaign, and members had run significant risks in the process, and then it

44 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 45 Interview, Clever Bere, Harare, 11 August 2011. 46 ZCTU, ‘Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions maintains that GNU is a subversion of the constitution’,

16 September 2008, available at http://www.kubatana.net/html/archive/lab/080916zctu.asp?sector¼ lab& year ¼ 2008&range_start ¼ 31; Interview, Claris Madhuku, director of Platform for Youth Development Trust, Harare, 29 July 2011.

47 Matyszak, Power Dynamics. 48 Interviews: Clever Bere, Harare, 11 August 2011; Munjodzi Mutandiri, Johannesburg, 8 September 2011;

Lovemore Chinoputsa, secretary general of ZINASU in 2008, Harare, 17 August 2011. 49 Interviews: anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011; Clever Bere, Harare, 11 August 2011; Claris Madhuku,

director of Platform for Youth Development Trust, Harare, 29 July 2011. 50 Interview, anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011. 51 Though assigning blame differently, the leaders of both factions explained the process as outlined here

(interviews: Lovemore Chinoputsa, Harare, 17 August 2011; Clever Bere, Harare, 11 August 2011).

Testing Ties 911

made concessions on issues at the core of their combined struggle. ‘They blatantly spat in our

face’, said NCA regional co-ordinator Munjodzi Mutandiri, when talking about the

compromises made by the MDC-T on the constitution-making process.52 While the

negotiations drove a wedge between the MDC-T and certain civic groups, the GPA

simultaneously promoted civics’ partisan dependence by stipulating the creation of various

institutions (such as the Constitution Select Committee) containing civic representatives

directly appointed by the political parties.53

Western governments were similarly unsuccessful in significantly influencing the MDC­

T during the negotiations, though for distinct reasons, as discussed below.

The West: Puppet Master or Sounding Board?

In Zimbabwean politics, few things are as sensitive as the influence of ‘the west’. For years,

Mugabe has blamed poor economic performance and social ills on the UK, the EU and the

US. The UK’s failure to pay for the allegedly promised land reform, the American

bankrolling of the MDC, and western sanctions against Mugabe’s regime have become

central to the discourse of ZANU-PF and the state media.54 The basic tenets of this message

reverberate strongly with regional leaders, many of whom have come to work on the

assumption that the west has significant influence over Zimbabwe’s opposition. The power-

sharing negotiations demonstrate, however, that ‘the west’ has had minimal influence on the

MDC-T, but none the less played a complicated and paradoxical role.

Nicholas Cheeseman warns that ‘there is no such thing as a coherent “international

community”’; rather, there is a set of competing actors with diverse interests and the overall

impact of the international realm on the development of African democracy is a function of

their messy interaction’.55 This is indeed the case if we include the role of Southern African

leaders in our analysis, yet meetings with western donors revealed a cohesive set of views,

which is confirmed by the accounts of meetings between American diplomats and MDC-T

figures revealed through Wikileaks.56

The MDC-T: A Puppet of the West?

In its earlier years, the MDC received financial aid from abroad, particularly from

Scandinavian governments.57 The level of financial dependence in later years is difficult to

ascertain, mainly because of the sensitivity of the issue. Wikileaks cables suggest, however,

that the US occasionally offered assistance through umbrella organisations, though the extent

of direct financial aid seems limited.58

During the negotiation period, the MDC-T leadership and western diplomats interacted

frequently. Tsvangirai briefed the wider western diplomatic community, and met separately

52 Interview, Munjodzi Mutandiri, Johannesburg, 8 September 2011. 53 Interview, Otto Saki. 54 H. Chingono, ‘Economic Sanctions: A Panacea to Democracy and Good Governance in Zimbabwe?’,

Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations, 9, 1 (April 2010), pp. 192–216; B-M. Tendi, Making History in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: Politics, Intellectuals and the Media (New York, Peter Lang, 2010).

55 N. Cheeseman, Democracy in Africa (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), p. 18. 56 The arguments put forward in this section are based on seven meetings with anonymous sources from four major

donor countries, corroborated by other sources where possible. 57 S. Chan, Southern Africa: Old Treacheries, New Deceits (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011), p. 176. 58 C. Dell, ‘Mutambara Backs Tsvangirai for 2008’, Wikileaks (12 April 2007), http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/

04/07HARARE311.html, accessed 5 February 2012.

912 Journal of Southern African Studies

the American and British ambassadors in particular, who also spoke with the MDC-T

negotiators. Additionally, there were strong personal connections linking organisations such

as the US Agency for International Development and the MDC-T, both drawing personnel

from a common pool of people.59 Persistent rumours regarding US influences went around

during this period, for example alleging that Tsvangirai’s frequent toilet visits during the

negotiations were used to call the US ambassador, James McGee, for advice, according to

MDC-M insiders Mushayi and Mushoriwa.60

In reality, however, it is clear that the MDC-T largely redirected its diplomatic efforts

away from the west and towards African governments during the negotiation period, owing to

SADC’s crucial role as facilitator of the discussions.61 As a result, ‘the current influence of

the west is at its lowest ever’, one diplomat observed about the post-2008 situation.62 The

MDC-T used western diplomats as a sounding board, listening to their points of view, and

inquiring about how their governments would react to a unity government. This was also

useful for western governments, who felt isolated from the negotiations and wanted

information. Diplomatic and MDC-T informants consistently argued during interviews that,

while western diplomats tried to influence the MDC-T, they had minimal impact. Wikileaks

cables provide further insight. In his reports to Washington following the elections,

Ambassador McGee wrote that, ‘we don’t believe there is anything we can do, either

privately or publicly, to influence the GNU negotiation process’.63 A few months later, his

writings demonstrated a lack of awareness of detail regarding the negotiations and the MDC­

T’s strategy. Only days before Tsvangirai joined the government despite many outstanding

issues being unresolved, McGee reported that ‘we see no signs at this point that . . . the MDC will sign an ill-advised agreement that will not give the MDC a fair share of power’.64 More

generally, the fact that western governments were disappointed with the MDC-T’s decision to

sign and join the government is testimony to their limited leverage. ‘Our initial impression is

that this deal has holes in it big enough to drive a tank through’, McGee wrote.65

What Western Governments Wanted

Donors realised – given Zimbabwe’s history, the role of the military and regional politics –

that negotiations were necessary, but insisted that these should take place on the MDC-T’s

terms.66 ‘Zimbabwe has reached a tipping point’, outgoing American ambassador Dell would

tell the party, and a genuine transition to democracy depended on the MDC-T’s persistence in

the negotiations. The general assessment of the western diplomatic community was that

ZANU(PF) was on the verge of collapse. The party had received a major electoral blow,

59 Interviews: Otto Saki, senior democracy and governance adviser at USAID, Harare, 24 August 2011 (Saki was interviewed in his personal capacity); Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011.

60 Interviews: Miriam Mushayi, MDC-M back-up negotiator in 2008 and director of planning and implementation, Harare, 3 August 2011; Edwin Mushoriwa, MDC-M secretary for information and publicity in 2008 and deputy president of MDC-M, Harare, 3 August 2011.

61 S. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, ‘Angola – Zimbabwe Relations: a Study in the Search for Regional Alliances’, The Round Table, 99, 411 (2010), pp. 631– 53.

62 Interview, anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011. 63 J. McGee, ‘ZANU-PF and MDC Discuss GNU’, Wikileaks (11 June 2008), http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/06/

08HARARE500.html, accessed 14 March 2012. 64 J. McGee, ‘Zimbabwe – State of Play’, Wikileaks (21 January 2009), http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/

09HARARE48.html, accessed 14 March 2012. 65 J. McGee, ‘An Imperfect Deal but the Only One on Offer’, Wikileaks (12 September 2008), http://wikileaks.org/

cable/2008/09/08HARARE828.html, accessed 14 March 2012. 66 While the veracity of the verbal claims of western diplomats regarding their positions in the negotiations could

be questioned (given a possible desire to appear correct in retrospect), the views expressed here are corroborated by a variety of sources, including MDC-T members and Wikileaks.

Testing Ties 913

enjoyed very little legitimacy, and was incapable of running the country for much longer.

Inflation reached a peak, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans fled to neighbouring

countries and soldiers were seen looting stores in Harare. Western diplomats recounted that

the MDC-T was thus advised to drag out the negotiations, as ‘no deal is better than a bad

deal’.67 MDC-T insiders close to the negotiators remember diplomats arguing that the party

risked ‘resurrecting a dead animal’ by signing a deal. Western countries further considered

Mbeki’s mediation efforts biased, and advised the MDC-T to push for his replacement, for

example by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.68 Western governments wanted the MDC­

T to join an agreement only if ZANU(PF) was genuine about power sharing, if there were

enough guarantees to ensure a transition, and if Mugabe’s exit was ensured.69

Diplomats also contend that they recommended that the MDC-T negotiate clear

implementation strategies that included time frames, insist on provisions for transitional

justice, ensure more powers for the Prime Minister (for example to chair cabinet), and refuse

to join a government without full control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The eventual

compromise contained none of these provisions.

MDC-T insiders recalled that their head negotiator, Tendai Biti, agreed almost entirely

with western diplomats over the necessary conditions to join. Yet Tsvangirai, exposed to

more pressure particularly by Mbeki and SADC, is said (by diplomats and MDC-T insiders)

to have been less insistent than western diplomats hoped. Because of Tsvangirai’s difficult

position, diplomats tried ‘to bolster the resolve of a man who had been through hell and who

was a notoriously bad negotiator’, and told him ‘to hang in there and get more concessions’,

according to a western diplomat based in Harare at the time. The US advised the party to

strengthen its position of negotiation by reaching out to former ZANU(PF) member Simba

Makoni, and to work with civic organisations to ‘mobilise large numbers [to] signal

domestically and internationally that Zimbabweans have had enough’.70

The Paradoxical Impact of the West

Western involvement often had a paradoxical impact on the negotiations. This impact must

firstly be understood in light of the sensitivity of western involvement across the region.

ZANU(PF) has invested years of sustained intellectual and political labour to propagate what

has been termed ‘patriotic history’.71 This version of history distorts African liberation

history to argue that the Zimbabwean liberation and revolutionary struggle is still going on.

By propagating this patriotic history using the state media, public intellectuals and the

country’s school system, ZANU(PF) has been quite successful in constructing the MDC as a

western puppet party that is the antithesis to the country’s continuing revolutionary


During the negotiation period, the MDC-T leadership consequently felt compelled to

travel extensively throughout Southern Africa to convince governments that their party was

67 Interview, anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011. 68 J. McGee, ‘Tsvangirai Outlines 100 Day Plan’, Wikileaks (30 September 2008), http://wikileaks.org/cable/

2008/09/08HARARE885.html, accessed 14 March 2012. 69 This view was expressed by various western diplomats and MDC insiders close to the negotiations. 70 J. McGee, ‘Zimbabwean Insiders Brief Ambassadors McGee and Bost on Political Stalemate and Economic

Collapse’, Wikileaks (26 November 2008), http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/11/08HARARE1056.html, accessed 14 March 2012.

71 See Tendi, Making History in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and T. Ranger, ‘Nationalist Historiography, Patriotic History and the History of the Nation: the Struggle over the Past in Zimbabwe’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 30, 2 (2004), pp. 215–34.

72 Ibid.

914 Journal of Southern African Studies

not a ‘western stooge’.73 It was not particularly helpful from this perspective that the US

publicly opposed the negotiation process,74 taking on a ‘public lecturing attitude’ that was

disliked in the region.75 According to MDC-T insider Benjamin Nyandoro, within the party

‘there was a push to fight the perception that the MDC is an agent of the west. The west was

saying “no”, so it was difficult for us to also say “no” to the agreement’.76 After the signing of

the GPA, it took the parties five months to negotiate the allocation of ministries and other

outstanding issues. MDC-M members close to the negotiators observed that the general

perception within the negotiation room was that the MDC-T’s intransigence was a result of

western pressure.77 Indeed, when Biti wrote a letter to Mbeki expressing his discontent over

the outcome of a SADC summit, the mediator’s acrimonious reply was telling:

It may be that, for whatever reason, you consider our region and continent as being of little consequence to the future of Zimbabwe, believing that others further away, in Western Europe and North America, are of greater importance. In this context I have been told that because leaders in our region did not agree with you on some matters that served on the agenda of the SADC Extraordinary Summit Meeting, you have denounced them publicly as ‘cowards’. . . . All of us will find it strange and insulting that . . . you choose to describe us in a manner that is most offensive in terms of African culture, and therefore offend our sense of dignity as Africans, across our borders.78

Such statements help us to understand the need for the MDC-T to challenge their construction

by ZANU(PF) as ‘western puppets’ within the region.

Donors have historically had close relations with both the MDC-T and civic

organisations, which created another complicated dynamic. Donor countries actively

encouraged the party to use civic organisations to strengthen their position during the

negotiations, which, as explained, the MDC-T did not do. Once the agreement was signed,

donors found themselves in an awkward position. Hoping to make the best of the unity

government, they now supported the GPA and the MDC-T in the new government, several

diplomats explained. Yet at the same time, donors funded organisations that were sidelined

and weakened by the MDC-T, and that now openly opposed the GPA. A high-ranking official

from a donor country explained that, though other factors played a role in their decisions,

donors stopped their funding to ZINASU and the NCA in part because these organisations

opposed the constitution-making process that donors supported. This argument contradicts

donors’ standard approach that countries need a strong, diverse and non-partisan civil society

to act as a watchdog of the state.

During the negotiation period, the MDC-T had high expectations of the western

assistance that would be received after joining government. These high expectations can be

explained in several ways. The MDC-T was firstly ‘naive’, in the word of diplomats, having

no experience with formal donor relations. Secondly, the willingness of donors to assist

depended on the new government’s progress in implementing the GPA, which proved to be

highly dependent on ZANU-PF. During the early negotiation period, the US ambassador met

with Tsvangirai and explained that ‘the US was prepared to provide all types of assistance as

soon as Tsvangirai was in place as leader of the government’.79 But since Tsvangirai did not

73 Interview, Thamsanqa Mahlangu, chairman of MDC-T youth assembly 2006 –11 and MDC-T MP, Harare, 30 August 2011.

74 ‘Diplomat: U.S. No Longer Supports Zimbabwe Power-Share Deal’, CNN, 21 December 2008. 75 Interview, Elinor Sisulu, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director South Africa in 2008, Pretoria, 8 September

2011. 76 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 77 Interviews: Miriam Mushayi, Harare, 3 August 2011; Edwin Mushoriwa, Harare, 3 August 2011. 78 T. Mbeki, ‘Re: Constitutional Amendment No. 19, Letter to Morgan Tsvangirai’, 22 November 2008. 79 J. McGee, ‘Tsvangirai Tells Ambassador Talks Are on Course’, Wikileaks (5 August 2008), http://wikileaks.

org/cable/2008/08/08HARARE661.html, accessed 14 March 2012.

Testing Ties 915

actually become leader, the expected funds never came.80 It is ironic that while western

governments did not want the MDC-T to sign, the party’s willingness to join the government

was bolstered by high expectations of western aid. Specifically, the MDC-T was in part

willing to accept a disadvantageous ministerial allocation that left them largely with

ministries in charge of service delivery, because it expected significant donor assistance with

water provision and energy generation, amongst other areas.81

The MDC-T and the GPA Negotiations: An Inside Perspective

‘Tsvangirai was sent to get milk from a bull, and came back with half a cup. Some insisted that they wanted a full cup. But you see, someone is milking a bull!’82

The previous section can lead to the misleading conclusion that the MDC-T wanted to adopt

the policy recommendations made by western governments, but was simply unable to do so

because of the west’s controversial role in Zimbabwe and SADC’s pressure on Tsvangirai.

Viewing the GPA formation process from an internal MDC-T perspective demonstrates,

however, that the MDC-T and western governments fundamentally differed in their

assessment of and stakes in the negotiations. This section uses Andreas Schedler’s

conceptualisation of elections as a two-level nested game to enhance our understanding of the

strategies employed by the MDC-T during the negotiation period, and to show that the party

leadership and western governments worked under different assumptions and were driven by

distinct short-term interests and long-term objectives.

The MDC-T and the Two-Level Nested Game of Democratisation

Elections can be conceived of as a one-level game, in which parties compete over political

power. This conceptualisation becomes more complicated in transitional settings, where

incumbent authoritarians organise elections not to contend openly for power, but as a means

to legitimise their continuity in office.83 Mugabe’s post-2000 Zimbabwe can be described in

such terms.

The 2008 elections can be conceptualised as a two-level game. The first game, consisting

of electoral competition, is ‘nested’ inside the second game of political reform. Opposition

parties not only hope to win parliamentary seats (the first game), but compete also to achieve

institutional change, consisting of amended electoral laws, constitutional reform or other

changes to the ‘rules of the game’. This second game is a meta-game in which the first game is

nested. These two games interact and take place simultaneously.84 During elections, the

incumbent party often goes to great lengths to avoid losing in both games, for example by

engaging in voter intimidation or electoral fraud. Paradoxically, the legitimacy of the

elections is contingent on the opposition party’s participation. The threat of an election

boycott thus gives the latter leverage. However, the opposition will also be tempted to

participate and potentially win parliamentary seats and demand long-term reform.85

80 Interview, Fortune Gwaze, MDC-T technical adviser to the negotiators and MDC-T policy co-ordinator in 2011, Harare, 24 August 2011.

81 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 82 Interview, Fortune Gwaze, Harare, 24 August 2011. 83 A. Schedler, ‘The Nested Game of Democratization by Elections’, International Political Science Review, 23, 1

(2002), pp. 103 –22, p. 103. 84 Ibid., p. 110. 85 Ibid., p. 113.

916 Journal of Southern African Studies

Table 1. Contrasting western governments and the MDC-T through a two-level nested-game framework

Western governments MDC-T87

Underlying ZANU(PF) will collapse without a assumptions quick deal

The MDC-T will be swallowed by

ZANU(PF) if Mugabe retains power

Short-term Mugabe must go priorities The MDC-T must have a senior

position in the negotiations and


Long-term New constitution and free and fair objectives subsequent elections

Non-partisan military

Reformed ZANU(PF) or MDC-T in power that engages with the west

Position in the MDC-T must prolong negotiations negotiations and specifically demand control of

key ministries, clear implementation

mechanisms, transitional justice, a

powerful Prime Ministerial position

ZANU(PF) might collapse without a deal

The Zimbabwean people expect the

MDC-T to solve the economic and

humanitarian crisis

Protect MDC-T structures and


Maintain popular support

Retain SADC legitimacy

Gain a foothold in government

New constitution and free and fair

subsequent elections

Non-partisan military

MDC-T in power, potentially bringing on board ZANU(PF)

moderates or defectors

The MDC-T should get cabinet

positions and Tsvangirai executive

powers, but an agreement needs to be signed before MDC-T loses legitimacy in the eyes of SADC or the Zimbabwean people

The Zimbabwean case confirms that opposition success in elections, which started with

the MDC’s successful campaign in the constitutional referendum of 2000, sparked a struggle

over long-term reform. When the incumbent party refused to cede control, as it did in 2008,

it risked having to make sacrifices that would weaken its long-term standing. In the struggle

that ensued, both parties were aware that decisions over immediate divisions of power would

have an influence on long-term reforms. For this reason, Schedler writes ‘if you want to

comprehend the strategic interaction between incumbents and opposition from an external

observer perspective, it is only by being attentive to both levels of the democratising game

that we can decipher the rationale for actions that otherwise may look idiosyncratic, irrational

or, at the very least, suboptimal’.86

This theory can be used to enhance our understanding of the strategies employed by

(opposition) parties during elections. It allows us to analyse whether the party in question

competes for gains mainly on one level rather than the other, and to study how it

conceptualises the relationship between the two levels. In doing so, we gain a better

understanding of the decisions a party takes.

As Table 1 suggests, the negotiation positions of the MDC-T differed from those

proposed by western diplomats only in part, because it needed to retain legitimacy in the eyes

of SADC. The MDC-T had short-term interests that western governments did not share, and

its priorities were informed by distinct assumptions about the situation the party faced. Most

importantly, western donors assumed that the dire economic situation, the outbreak of cholera

and the party’s reliance on violence were quickly weakening ZANU(PF). They anticipated

that ZANU(PF) would give the MDC-T more concessions if the latter dug its heels in, and

86 Ibid., p. 111. 87 The MDC-T was internally divided. The assumptions and priorities mentioned here reflect those of Tsvangirai,

and informed the party’s final decisions.

Testing Ties 917

they were under the impression that ZANU(PF) would collapse before too long.88

These assumptions, combined with the west’s short-term priority of ensuring Mugabe’s

political exit,89 led donors to recommend that the MDC-T be intransigent in the negotiations.

Tsvangirai and others within the MDC-T, however, were unconvinced that an

uncompromising attitude would necessarily lead to more ZANU(PF) concessions and

Mugabe’s downfall.90 Indeed, very few concessions were made by ZANU(PF) during the last

months of negotiations, and the western assumption that extreme economic hardship would

lead to Mugabe’s fall can be questioned, as it seemed to underestimate the ability of the ruling

elite to survive and of people to adapt their own survival strategies to increasingly dire


Importantly, though the MDC-T did see some of the same potential upsides to

intransigence as the west did, it faced huge short-term costs that the west did not. The first

short-term cost was that intransigence led to increased SADC pressure and to a loss of

regional legitimacy.92 There was also a strong sense within the party that it would lose

popular support if it did not reach a relatively quick agreement. ‘We were afraid of being

misread as serving small internal interests and not the important bigger picture’, one MDC-T

insider argued.93 Over the years, the party had gained widespread support by marketing its

leader as the ‘man of the people, man for the people’.94 The negotiations posed a threat to this

image. For months, people waiting for a government to be formed saw the conflict over

ministerial allocations as an expression of elite greed while people continued to face huge

problems on the ground. Around December 2008, Mugabe violated the GPA by ordering the

arrest, abduction and in some cases severe torture of over a hundred civic activists and

journalists, including prominent human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who – like more than

a dozen other activists – was tortured and held in custody for months.95 The MDC-T came

under increased pressure to reach an agreement so as to end the wave of arrests.96

Paradoxically, these same arrests were yet another expression of ZANU(PF)’s insincerity

about partnership.97 The MDC-T raised Mugabe’s violations at a SADC summit, but SADC

effectively ignored these issues, pretending in its external communication that the only

obstacle to the formation of government was the division of a single ministry.98 The smaller

MDC-M faction also maintained that the MDC-T’s intransigence was caused by its

unfounded preoccupation with individual positions of power.99 As a consequence of these

factors, ZANU(PF) could very effectively use the state media to frame the MDC-T as

responsible for the lack of progress, saying it put new issues on the agenda every day.100 ‘We

could not be the spoilers in the eyes of the people of Zimbabwe’, MDC-T’s then election

88 Interview, anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011; B. Raftopoulos, Elections, Mediation and Deadlock in Zimbabwe? (Fundación Real Instituto Elcano, 2008).

89 Cheeseman and Tendi, ‘Power-sharing in Comparative Perspective’, p. 204. 90 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 91 Raftopoulos, Elections, Mediation and Deadlock, p. 5. 92 See Chan, Southern Africa, p. 230, for a description of SADC pressure on Tsvangirai. 93 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011. 94 E. Masunungure, ‘Voting for Change’, in E. Masunungure (ed.), Defying the Winds of Change – Zimbabwe’s

2008 Elections (Harare, Weaver Press, 2009), p. 66. 95 ‘Jestina Mukoko released’, Pambazuka News, 6 March 2009. 96 Interview, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Harare, 5 August 2011. 97 Matyszak, Power Dynamics, p. 9. 98 MDC National Council, Resolutions of the 7th MDC National Council (Harare, 14 November 2008); SADC,

Communiqué of the Extra-Ordinary Summit of the SADC Heads of State and Government (Sandton, 9 November 2008).

99 Interview, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Harare, 1 September 2011. 100 Interview, Fortune Gwaze, Harare, 24 August 2011.

918 Journal of Southern African Studies

director Dennis Murira explained.101 People expected the MDC-T to find a solution, and the

fear of losing popular support was a very real concern within the party.102

It should not be forgotten that MDC-T members were in real physical danger during the

negotiations, a threat which they believed would largely disappear when they signed. Not

only had hundreds, if not thousands, of MDC-T activists been arrested, beaten and tortured

following the March elections, but almost all high-placed party members had had to flee the

country at some stage, and several were incarcerated and physically assaulted by the Central

Intelligence Organisation and police. Twenty MPs had been jailed, including MDC-T

secretary general Tendai Biti, and many party members (particularly youth) had been

murdered.103 Whereas certain donor countries (and specific individuals within the MDC-T)

favoured public demonstrations and intransigence, others assumed that this would provoke

further violence from ZANU(PF). ‘I cannot be the president of a country of dead people’,

Tsvangirai was quoted as saying within his party.104

An MDC-T insider in direct contact with American diplomats explained that ‘the

Americans didn’t understand we had to save our party’.105 Another argued that ‘issues that

were important to the Americans were not necessarily the most important issues to the

common person on the ground’.106 Towards the end of the negotiations, for example, Mugabe

refused to swear in Roy Bennett, a white Zimbabwean farmer, as the MDC-T’s deputy

minister of agriculture, and indeed wanted him arrested. While US diplomats opined that such

a flagrant breach of the agreement should motivate the MDC-T to refuse to enter government,

it was difficult for the party to explain on the ground that it was refusing to enter the unity

government and begin to work on the country’s problems because one white man was not

allowed to become deputy minister, particularly when the party had been willing to enter

government earlier despite the continued incarceration of dozens of political prisoners.107

The division between US diplomats and the MDC-T is noticeable in the language of the

American ambassador in one of his memos to Washington, in which he argues that the MDC­

T can exert leverage in the negotiations by ‘simply refusing to participate in a government

with ZANU-PF, and leaving it to ZANU-PF to deal with Zimbabwe’s myriad problems’.108

To the MDC-T, there was nothing simple about refusing to participate. A party insider

contended that Ambassador McGee ‘simply didn’t really understand the context and the need

to have an inclusive government’.109 Another party member explained that the MDC-T ‘had

to be pragmatic’,110 where the west could be principled.

The MDC-T and western diplomats also differed in their assessment of what would

happen if the opposition entered government in a junior position. Donors feared that ZANU

(PF) would swallow the MDC-T, by co-opting the opposition’s corruptible members and

pushing others out of government over time.111 Indeed, the final agreement ominously

allowed Mugabe to strip MDC-T ministers of portfolios and kept in place not only a largely

unreformed security sector, but also, inter alia, ZANU(PF)’s monopoly over television and

101 Interview, Dennis Murira, MDC-T election director in 2008, Harare, 12 August 2011. 102 Interviews: Fortune Gwaze, Harare, 24 August 2011; Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 103 Interview, Thamsanqa Mahlangu, Harare, 30 August 2011. 104 Interview, Solomon Madzore, secretary general, MDC-T youth assembly 2006 –11, Harare, 11 August 2011. 105 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011. 106 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011. 107 Interview, Benjamin Nyandoro, Harare, 23 August 2011. 108 J. McGee, ‘Welshman Ncube on SADC Negotiations’, Wikileaks (2 July 2008); http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/

07/08HARARE582.html, accessed 14 March 2012. (Emphasis added.). 109 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011. 110 Interview, anonymous MDC-T insider, Harare, 2011. 111 Interview, anonymous western diplomat, Harare, 2011.

Testing Ties 919

radio broadcasts.112 Mugabe’s lack of sincerity when signing the document indicated to

western governments his intention to continue to weaken the opposition.

The fear of being swallowed was on the MDC-T’s mind as well, yet individuals within the

party also saw the benefits of gaining a foothold in government, even in a junior position.

‘We went from minus 50 to plus 5’, said Benjamin Nyandoro, then adviser to Tsvangirai.

The party had been unable to translate electoral success into state power during three

consecutive elections; the open announcement by Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission that

Tsvangirai had won against Mugabe in 2008 was momentous.113 Even though the GPA did

not push ZANU(PF) into a marginal role in the unity government, ‘any power shared is power

lost to ZANU(PF)’, according to political scientist John Makumbe.114 Indeed, Mugabe

himself told his party that he felt ‘humiliated’ for allowing the MDC-T into ‘the very heart of

government’.115 The agreement, though far from perfect, allowed some re-engagement by

donors with the Zimbabwean government, enabled the MDC-T to gain governing experience,

made Mugabe accountable in a SADC framework (at least in theory), and permitted the

MDC-T to engage internationally as a member of government. It also allowed the party to

monitor ZANU-PF from up close. As MDC-T Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s

Office, Jameson Timba, explained:

Shaka is a famous Zulu king, who had a powerful, long spear. He threw his spear from afar, sometimes killing several people at once. But sometimes, he would miss and not even hurt one. He decided to change his weapon, and invented a short spear, ideal for stabbing from up close.We also changed our weapon. We are no longer throwing a large spear from outside, hoping to kill ZANU (PF) at once. We are now up close, stabbing ZANU(PF)’s malicious practices one by one.116


Because of its high stakes and drawn-out nature, the 2008 negotiation process provides

interesting insights into the dynamic relations between the MDC-T, civic organisations and

western governments. As this article has demonstrated, the MDC-T’s sidelining of leading

civic organisations was particularly problematic because of the strong historical relations

between the two and because of the strategic errors made by the party in the process of

exclusion. In the difficult post-election period, the party opted to misinform civics regarding

the ongoing negotiations, afraid that critical civics would turn popular sentiment against the

agreement if they knew of its contents. Once the agreement was signed, the MDC-T made the

decision to fuel internal divisions within critical civic organisations. While potentially

weakening resistance to its decisions in the short-term, the MDC-T thereby harmed its long-

term relations with important historical allies within the civic community.

The article subsequently argued that, in response to the very effective framing of the

MDC-T as a ‘puppet of the west’ in Zimbabwe’s state media and more broadly in the region,

the opposition felt compelled to reject western influences, in an effort to gain regional

legitimacy. Yet the inability of western governments to influence the MDC-T went beyond

the latter’s desire to improve its reputation within the region. The analytical lens of nested

games facilitates a reconstruction of how western governments viewed the

relationship between short-term division of power and long-term democratisation in

Zimbabwe. It reveals a gulf between donor countries and the MDC-T in the assumptions,

112 Matyszak, Power Dynamics, pp. 33–5. 113 Interview, Fortune Gwaze, Harare, 24 August 2011. 114 Interview, John Makumbe, Harare, 1 August 2011. 115 T. Ranger, ‘Zim power deal a mix of fire and water’, The East African, 5 October 2008. 116 Interview, Jameson Timba, Harare, 24 August 2011.

920 Journal of Southern African Studies

short-term priorities and long-term objectives driving their decisions. It will be interesting to

see how western positions in the Zimbabwean case compare with positions taken in instances

of power-sharing in countries of greater economic or geopolitical importance, just as it will be

relevant to analyse how the MDC-T’s assessment of the relative importance of and links

between short-term gains and long-term reform relate to decisions made by opposition parties

elsewhere when facing similar strategic dilemmas.

In describing why the MDC-T was relatively unreceptive to influence from its historical

allies, this article has highlighted that not only historical processes but also changing short-

term considerations drive decision-making. As power-sharing negotiations unfold, the

relationships between actors are tested and reconfigured, indicating the importance for

national politicians, regional leaders, civic organisations and donors to act as watchdogs of

such processes, and to be aware that the short-term interests sometimes driving decisions may

have long-term costs.


St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 62 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6JF, United

Kingdom. Email: thys.hoekman@oxon.org

Copyright of Journal of Southern African Studies is the property of Routledge and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

Civic Organisations and the MDC-T: A Shifting Relationship
The Value of Civic Inclusion and Early Signs of Exclusion
The Process of Exclusion
The West: Puppet Master or Sounding Board?
The MDC-T: A Puppet of the West?
What Western Governments Wanted
The Paradoxical Impact of the West
The MDC-T and the GPA Negotiations: An Inside Perspective
The MDC-T and the Two-Level Nested Game of Democratisation


Let’s Write a Readers Theatre Script: The Power of Negotiation Claudia Christensen Haag

Negotiating writing Readers Theatre scripts with students helps promote language and literacy development while building critical thinking and engagement.

Alonzo (all student names are pseudonyms) turns slowly toward the audience. Wiping imaginary sweat from his brow, he lets out a deep sigh. “Oh brother,” he exclaims in his newly acquired English, “this could take 10 years!” With a sheepish grin on his face, he turns his back to the au- dience, picks up his prop—a ruler with a hand- drawn cardboard ax attached—and begins to chop down the class- created floor- to- ceiling kapok tree. As he feigns sleepiness, he slowly drops the ax and lies down beneath the tree. Our ESL class performance of our student- created script for The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (1990) is under way.

The idea of using drama (e.g., story enactments, choral reading, Readers Theatre) with students is not new. Historically, drama has been used by many ed- ucators to expand both language and literacy devel- opment (Edmiston, 2014; Martinez, Roser, & Strecker, 1999; Wolf, 1994). Drama has been highlighted for its ability to help with fluency development (Griffith & Rasinski, 2004; Young & Nageldinger, 2014). However, drama is so much more. Through dialogue around drama, the give- and- take that happens while creat- ing and enacting a dramatic piece changes students and teachers as they get to experience the world from a different point of view (Edmiston, 2014).

Many educators report that they are not using drama in the classroom because of time issues. Although I respect my colleagues’ position, I chal- lenge their thinking and propose that we revisit the attributes of drama to not only foster engagement in language and literacy development but also pro- mote the use of drama in any discipline to bring the current curricula to life.

Drama provides many benefits. One of its most underappreciated features lies in issues of equity and participation. All students, not just the highly verbal ones, get to show what they know. Drama can

also be an effective tool for teachers working with English learners as it gives students opportunities to use words as well as actions, gestures, and props to relay meaning. “For English learners, the benefits are magnified because drama provides alternate ways of showing and knowing the world” (Haag & Compton, 2015, p. 137). In this article, I take one slice of drama, Readers Theatre, and couple it with teacher/student negotiations in an ESL classroom to create an actual script with students from a piece of literature. I use examples from my pull- out ESL classroom, where I worked with four to six students at a time, but this same practice could be taken into the regular class- room during a teacher’s small- group time.

As those who already use Readers Theatre in the classroom know, there is an abundance of commer- cially prepared scripts for teachers in a variety of genres. Although these ready- made scripts provide practice with fluency, they lack the vital component of scriptwriting in the classroom, where teacher and students negotiate and help create the text. What might this script negotiation look like? The next sections take a look at the process.

Step 1: Choosing Picture Books for Creating Scripts An important scaffold into writing a Readers Theatre script with your students involves selecting that “just right” text. See Figure 1 for a list of books that beg to be dramatized. First, it is important to consid- er your curricular needs. Both fiction and nonfiction texts work well for this endeavor. However, using


The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 pp. 115–121 doi:10.1002/trtr.1696 © 2018 International Literacy Association

Claudia Christensen Haag is an associate professor in the Department of Reading at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, USA; email chaag@twu.edu.



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

picture books that have strong visual features and text that can easily be adapted into dialogue helps support the composing process. For example, if your content area includes understanding and celebrat- ing different cultural fables, an excellent text would be A Chinese Zoo: Fables and Proverbs by Demi (1987). Because fable is a universal genre, it lends itself to strong cultural engagement and has a built- in sche- ma that many students have already experienced. A fable also works well for a first scriptwriting process as it tends to be short and has a complete setting and story line. Additionally, fables often have an abstract moral that lends itself to critical discussions, which give students the opportunity to question and prob- lem solve as they discuss meaning.

Step 2: Reading Aloud to Immerse and Choose Texts In this step, teachers should do a first read- aloud to let students enjoy the language and genre and be immersed in the texts. These interactive read-

aloud experiences help in building story grammar and structure and unpacking new vocabulary. In my work with A Chinese Zoo, I read and reread several of the fables over a two- or three- day period for 10–15 minutes per day to immerse us in the cultural nuanc- es and structure of a fable and to have critical con- versations to take us into deeper meaning about the morals shared. These discussions focused not only on the meaning behind the morals but also what the morals might look like in our own lives.

Once we enjoyed and discussed the text, we could start the negotiation process of deciding on which fable to use for creating our scripts. With my blend- ed third- and fourth- grade group, we ended up with two different fables being selected for consideration: “The Dragon King” and “The Blind Mice and the Elephant.” My students began to share quick reasons why their fable should be used. Martha chose “The Blind Mice and the Elephant” because she thought it would be interesting to write lines about how each of the mice described the elephant from their differ- ent points of view. Jerry thought it would be funny

Figure 1 A Sampling of Books That Beg to Be Written Into Scripts

Fables/folklore A Chinese Zoo: Fables and Proverbs by Demi

Fables by Arnold Lobel

Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young

Multicultural variants of folklore: Cinderella tales: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story From China by Ai- Ling Louie, The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe, The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo

Fiction Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto or Chato’s Kitchen by Gary Soto Informational texts

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Whose Tracks Are These? A Clue Book of Familiar Forest Animals by James Nail Websites/ drama resources

Story Drama: Creating Stories Through Role Playing, Improvising, and Reading Aloud by David Booth

Author Online! Aaron Shepard’s Home Page: http://www.aaronshepard.com (scripts and tips on using Readers Theatre)

“Science Books+Readers Theater”: http://www.melissa-stewart.com/pdf/ReadersTheater.pdf (informational science book suggestions for Readers Theatre)


Click to access ReadersTheater.pdf



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

to have the elephant talk back to each of the mice as they ran across him. Asael campaigned for “The Dragon King” and thought we could write the script to show the king being bossy, and Carla added that she wanted to have the artist poke fun at the queen’s beauty before agreeing to paint her picture. After a short debate, “The Dragon King” won the vote.

Step 3: Writing Scripts and Negotiating the Story Writing a script based on a high- quality picture book is not as challenging as one might think. However, it is a balancing act between teacher and students and will look different depending on students’ ages and developmental levels. With my first- grade group, we first reread the selected fable and developed a class story map to keep track of our players—the key char- acters, settings, and events (see Figure 2).

After completing the story map, during the next few days, we took time to reread the author’s ver- sion of the fable, stopping after each event to begin the shared writing of our script on chart paper. The story map, posted nearby, allowed my students to cross- check to ensure we were capturing all key events. It was interesting to see how quickly the stu- dents took to changing third- person to first- person pronouns as we created each character’s lines. Writing this first script took a week of 15–20- minute meetings to create, but the impact was evident. Each time we added a new line, we first reread the previous lines together chorally. The ability of Readers Theatre to enhance engagement, fluency, and comprehension through the built- in repeated reading practices (Young, Stokes, & Rasinski, 2017) was apparent throughout our scriptwriting process. By the time the script was completed (see Figure 3), not only were all students confident in their read- ing of the lines, but they had added intonation and phrasing to make their characters come to life. They had also become a community of learners who val- ued one another’s contributions.

My older third- and fourth- grade group had more freedom in the writing process. Instead of my writing the script as the group verbally nego- tiated lines, they chose a group scribe and com- posed their own scripts on chart paper laid across our guided reading table. Their ownership was clear; however, it often led to some disputes over a character’s lines. For example, when trying to capture a scene in “The Dragon King,” Asael and

Carla discussed how we might build more humor into our script through an argument between the king and the artist. Instead of having the king ask the artist to paint his wife’s picture and the artist agreeing, as our original fable had told it, Carla fol- lowed through with her plan to have the artist first question the queen’s beauty.

We had just been covering how authors often use figurative language to get a point across, and a new favorite phrase was the need to wear “rose- colored glasses” to make things appear better than they are. Carla suggested that the artist ask the king if his wife was truly beautiful or if the artist needed to wear rose- colored glasses when painting her picture (see Figure 4). This negotiated story line was quickly included in the script. Asael came back with the idea that this comment would be seen by the king as an attack on his queen, and he would need to put the artist in his place. Thus, the entire group had a five- minute conversation about how to capture an argument. In the midst of stretching our negotiating skills, I realized the need to step back in my facilitation of the discussion and let the group figure it out. As Figure 4 shows, Carla used her line about the need for rose- colored glasses, and the ar- gument scene, complete with Asael’s suggestion of “Am not”/”Am too,” won the day. A lesson I learned was to not give up too soon, as the power lies in the negotiations and the working together to make a script come to life.

Although both age groups decided to use the same fable for their scriptwriting, the final scripts were very different. This illustrates the ability of a quality text to work on many different levels. The first- grade script followed a very literal interpre- tation of the original story, whereas the older stu- dents’ script involved much more adaptation, hu- mor, and figurative language (see Figures 3 and 4).

Step 4: Practice Once our scripts were completed, they were typed up, and we discussed who would play each part. For the first- grade group, I typed the scripts and ran off copies for the group to practice. For the older group, the students took turns typing their handwritten ver- sion, adding their own script nuances for character actions (e.g., typing “ZZZZ” for a character sleeping).

I observed as students began to talk about how they wanted to enact the script, and they often nat- urally blended Readers Theatre with drama by add- ing actions, gestures, and props to convey meaning.



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

Figure 2 Story Map of “The Dragon King”

Note. The color figure can be viewed in the online version of this article at http://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com.



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

One negotiated prop entailed helping unpack the meaning of the moral “No great thing is created suddenly.” Donnie, one of my first graders, came up with the idea of having several crumpled, half- drawn sketches placed around the artist’s desk. As a group, we discussed how the artist might point to the floor and all of his practice sketches, then end with a swing of the arm and a snap of his fingers to show how he could now paint the picture “fast.” As he practiced his line, along with his props and gestures, I had a front- row seat to see the impact of these negotiated transactions not only on a stu- dent’s confidence and engagement but also on lan- guage and literacy competence. Donnie, who had been labeled “at risk” following formal reading as- sessments, came skipping into my room during our week of practice to announce, “Guess what, Mrs. Haag, I’m a reader!” When I asked what made him say this, he pointed to our script and said with a big

grin, “Because I can read this!” (Williams & Haag, 2009, p. 169).

Step 5: Presentation and Reflection We decided to video record the final presentations so we could watch them. By this time, many of the students had memorized their parts because they wanted to enact the story line. I was invited to be their narrator. The students went beyond a purist stance to Readers Theatre, exhibiting their own cre- ative license to use props and memorize their lines, and this promoted ownership of the process.

In a video- recorded interview, I asked students what their favorite part of this process was. Asael simply said, “It’s the practice.” He enjoyed playing with the language of the script, often ad- libbing new lines (to the surprise of his fellow actors), but he re- minded me that it was the process, not the product,

Figure 3 First- Grade Readers Theatre Script of “The Dragon King”

The Dragon King A Chinese Fable

Adapted by 1st Grade ESL Class Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a dragon king who had a beautiful queen. He called a dragon artist. King: I want Artist: Yes your majesty. I will draw a beautiful picture. Narrator: The queen said Queen: I am so excited!! I will tell the whole castle about my picture. (Runs off) Narrator: And she ran off to tell the whole kingdom. Months went by. In the meantime the king was getting tired of waiting for the artist to paint the picture. King: Narrator: The King went up the hill and he knocked on the door. King: (knocking Artist: (draws picture quickly) Here is your picture your majesty. King: If you could draw that fast why did you keep me waiting so long? Artist: (shows other pictures) See all these pictures? I had to practice and practice so that

Narrator: The King went back and showed the picture to the queen. King: Do you like your picture, my queen? Queen:


Note. Students adapted this script from Demi (1987).



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

Figure 4 Third- and Fourth- Grade Readers Theatre Script of “The Dragon King”


ADAPTED BY 3rd-4th Grade ESL Class

Narrator: Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom in China, there lived a dragon king and Queen. King: HONEY, I think you are so beautiful. Queen: Oh! Thank you, darling! King: I KNOW!! We need a picture of you on our Great Wall of China!! Queen: Oh: DO you really think so? King: Y Queen: ted that I am going to tell all my friends around the kingdom. King: COURT ARTIST I NEED YOU!! Artist: (Enters room and bows) Do you need ME your majesty? King: I because it is going to be hung on our great wall of china. Artist: SHOULD I WEAR MY ROSE COLORED GLASSES WHEN I PAINT HER PICTURE?(holds up glasses) King: You are paid to paint, not make jokes or insult people. Artist: Hey wait a minute, now you are insulting me!! King: Am not Artist: Am too King: Am not Artist: Am too!!! Queen: Honey, is everything alright? King: Oh yes of course my dear! Our wonderful court artist has just agreed to paint your picture. Artist: (cups hand to audience) Beauty really IS in the eyes of the beholder!! (slips glasses on). Dear Queen, do you have a picture of yourself that I might borrow? Queen: Oh it just happens that I have a few right here(shares several shots in a photo holder) (hand on hip, smiling)? Artist: (holding out hands) oh, no, no, no the pictures are just fine!!! I think I must be leaving now!!! (Exits quickly) Narrator: So the dragon artist went to his studio high in the sky to try and paint a rosy picture of the queen.

SCENE II Narrator: As you can see, the Dragon King waited patiently, that was only for the rest of the

fingernails. (King drumming fingers on chair) by the fourth month, his toe tapping had formed a giant crack through the castle floor. By the end of the year, well you can just imagine what happened. With all his anger, passion and fury, the

studio. King: (knocks loudly) COURT ARTIS ORRRRR BEFORE I BREAK IT DOWN!! Artist: ZZZZZ (laying down and snoring) HOLD YOUR HORSES! ZZZZZ King: Artist: I-I- -RIGHT THERE!! (gets up and opens door) HELLO YOUR MAJESTY! WHAT DO YOU NEED? King: Artist: (sits at artist table and rapidly paints a pic and hands it to the king your majesty! King: Artist: Oops, I forgot to use my rose colored glasses. (Does another picture rapidly while wearing glasses). King: (puzzled expression, scratching side of his head) if you could paint such a wonderful picture in a flash, then why DID YOU KEEP ME WAITING A WHOLE YEAR? (yelling) Artist: Come with me your majesty (points to all pictures scattered on the floor) I had to

The moral of our fable is: No Great Thing Is Created Suddenly!

Note. Students adapted this script from Demi (1987).



The Reading Teacher Vol. 72 No. 1 July/August 2018 literacyworldwide.org

that made the biggest impact on his engagement and learning.

Concluding Thoughts (So What?) These steps for writing a Readers Theatre script are meant to be lived through and adapted (for a suggest- ed timeline and schedule, see Figure 5). This process sounds time- consuming, but once I found some bal- ance in our schedule and learned to bring in more student voice and choice to the negotiations, I found it to be time effectively spent.

The power of drama lies not only in developing students’ reading and writing abilities but also in promoting a wider lens of our human experiences, as it places us in different contexts and lets us use “thought, feeling and language beyond those usu- ally generated in typical classroom interactions” (Edmiston, Enciso, & King, 1987, p. 219). If teachers give students opportunities to engage in Readers Theatre and scriptwriting through negotiation, I be- lieve they will see the power in this often- neglected modality and will bring both drama and scriptwrit- ing into their classrooms.

R E F E R E N C E S Edmiston, B. (2014). Transforming teaching and learning with active

and dramatic approaches. New York, NY: Routledge.

Edmiston, B., Enciso, P., & King, M.L. (1987). Empowering readers and writers through drama. Language Arts, 62(2), 219–228.

Griffith, L.W., & Rasinski, T.V. (2004). A focus on fluency: How one teacher incorporated fluency with her reading curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 58(2), 126–137. https://doi. org/10.1598/RT.58.2.1

Haag, C., & Compton, M. (2015). Tangled in Charlotte’s web: Lessons learned from English learners. In F. Boyd & C. Brock (Eds.), Social diversity within multiliteracies: Complexity in teaching and learning (pp. 127–143). New York, NY: Routledge.

Martinez, M., Roser, N., & Strecker, S. (1999). “I never thought I could be a star”: A Readers Theatre ticket to fluency. The Reading Teacher, 52(4), 326–334.

Williams, J., & Haag, C. (2009). Engaging English learners through effective classroom practices. In C. Rodriguez- Eagle (Ed.), Achieving literacy success with English language learners (pp. 159–174). Worthington, OH: Reading Recovery Council of North America.

Wolf, S.A. (1994). Learning to act/acting to learn: Children as actors, critics, and characters in classroom theatre. Research in the Teaching of English, 28(1), 7–44.

Young, C., & Nageldinger, J. (2014). Considering the context and texts for fluency: Performance, Readers Theatre, and poetry. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(1), 47–56.

Young, C., Stokes, F., & Rasinski, T. (2017). Readers Theatre plus comprehension and word study. The Reading Teacher, 71(3), 351–355. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1629

L I T E R AT U R E C I T E D Cherry, L. (1990). The great kapok tree: A tale of the Amazon rain

forest. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Demi. (1987). A Chinese zoo: Fables and proverbs. New York, NY:


Figure 5 Suggested Timeline and Schedule for Negotiating Scripts

Timeline Weekly (10–20 minutes daily for a 3–5- day period, depending on the text) Week 1: Reading to immerse and choose texts

■  During this first week, share a variety of quality texts that fit your curricular goals. ■  Use an interactive read-aloud format followed by discussions for deeper comprehension

and vocabulary development before selecting a text for scriptwriting. Let students discuss text selection for scriptwriting and vote.

Week 2: Writing the script

■   Create a quick story map or outline and begin to outline the character and narrator parts. With primary groups, you may use a shared writing format; older groups may wish to select a scribe or take turns writing.

■  During the next few days, facilitate discussions and the writing process. After each added line, chorally reread the entire script for repeated reading practice and to ensure flow of the story.

Week 3: Practice and present

■  Days 1–4: Students select parts to read and practice, giving one another tips on how to read the lines for best effect. If the group wishes to add props and enact the script, discuss and decide on best options.

■  Day 5: Share the presentation with the rest of the class or other classes, or video record it for the group’s enjoyment.

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