McDonald Lewanika

McDonald Lewanika

PhD Candidate

Department of Government

Connect with me

Key Expertise
Zimbabwe, African politics, Campaigns, Democracy & Civil society

About me

McDonald joined the PhD program in 2015 and is currently completing a dissertation on campaign strategies in competitive authoritarian regimes, using an over-time subnational comparative analysis of Zimbabwe elections as case material.

He taught in the LSE Government department and Summer school, receiving Teaching Quality scores of 4.7 out 5 for his teaching of both Democracy and Democratisation (GV245), and Building Democracy from conflict (IR210), well above the excellence threshold of 4.2.

McDonald aspires to use academic teaching and research to influence politics, democracy and governance policy and practice of states and non-state actors. He holds an MA International Development from the University of Manchester, and BA (HSS) International Politics and Diplomacy from the University of South Africa.

Research interests: African politics, elections and electoral campaigns | Political parties | African development | Civil society | Competitive authoritarianism | Democracy and democratisation

Download CV


Campaigning, coercion and clientelism: ZANU-PF’s strategies in Zimbabwe’s presidential elections (2008-13)

Why do competitive authoritarian regimes (CARs) campaign, instead of just relying on violence and manipulation to win elections? This study addresses this question through an analysis of how and why Zimbabwe's ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF), campaigned in Presidential elections in 2008 and 2013.

It finds that, overall, ZANU-PF’s electoral campaigns were an uneasy combination of legitimacy-seeking and non-legitimacy seeking, persuasive and coercive, and mobilising and chasing electoral campaign strategies. I argue that these strategies are deployed unevenly across space, depending on constituency type and timing. The findings challenge received generalizations about use of coercion, legitimising discourses, and persuasive and programmatic appeals by competitive authoritarian regimes like ZANU-PF.

The thesis uses nested sub-national comparative analysis incorporating national descriptive statistics with detailed qualitative analysis of presidential election campaigns at the national and subnational levels. It focuses on ZANU-PF campaigns across space (constituency types in different provinces) and time (two electoral cycles, including run-offs).


Job market paper

Persuading By Day, Compelling By Night: ZANU-PF Campaigning in ZANU-PF Aligned Constituencies (ZACs) in 2008 and 2013

This paper, one of the empirical chapters of my thesis, focuses on ZANU-PF’s 2008 and 2013 Presidential election campaigns in ZANU-PF aligned constituencies (ZACs). It shows, through examination of Mt Darwin constituency, how legitimacy-seeking bigwig visits and persuasive appeals at sub-national level occurred alongside of electoral manipulation, violence and intimidation. The chapter argues that in ZACs, ZANU-PF campaigned to reinforce its liberation war legacy as a credential for governing, to promote the party’s program, and to mobilise its members and ordinary voters to turnout on election day. Across both the 2008 and 2013 elections, ZANU-PF adopted a mobilising campaign strategy in ZACs, but where in 2008 it distributed largesse as reward for loyalty, in 2013, it did so to assure votes and turnout, and instituted mechanisms to monitor both. 

Selected publications

  • Lewanika,M. (2018). Charles Laurie, The land reform deception: political opportunism in Zimbabwe's land seizure era. New York NY: Oxford University Press (hb US $105/£ 75–978 0 19 939829 4; pb US $36.95/£ 26.49–978 0 19 068052 7). 2016, 398 pp. Africa, 88(3), 621-623.
  • Machingura, F., Lewanika,M. Mhlanga, B., and Msemburi, A. (2018) A collaborative rationality to leave no one behind early experiences on contextualising the health-related Sustainable Development Goals in Zimbabwe. Practice Paper. University of Manchester. Global Development Institute.
  • Lewanika,M. (2018). Zimbabwe’s 2018 Elections: Charismatic Appeals vs Performance Legitimacy. HBS Perspectives. Heinrich Boll Stiftung. Cape Town . South Africa. July 25
  • Lewanika,M. (2017) Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF’S continuing hegemony: meet the new boss, same as the old boss?. Africa at LSE. December
  • Lewanika,M., And Ndou, D.M. (2014). We the people: July 31 our version of events. Open Book Publishers. ASIN: B00L2EVRFA

Teaching record

  • GV245: Democracy and democratisation (2018-2019)
  • IR210: Building democracy from conflict (2017, 2018, 2019)