Humanitarianism in Praxis? Probing Power Dynamics around Key Actors in Zimbabwe’s Forced Migration

  • Abigail R. BenhuraEmail author
  • Maheshvari Naidu


Globally, humanitarian organisations are ideally expected to render expedient and effective assistance to all (indiscriminately) vulnerable populations, ranging from victims of adverse natural hazards to those fleeing from intra-state or inter-state conflicts. Consequently, the role played by international organisations vis-à-vis creating structural justice in these contexts can be equated to restoring the displaced people’s capabilities. Capabilities are entrenched in the ability to do or be what one values in life while entitlements denote the resources that individuals should access through legal channels. Therefore, this paper intends to explore the differences between the application of the capability approach and entitlement approach and the role of international organisations (in praxis) in enhancing or hindering human capabilities. Using qualitative data from participants who work for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Zimbabwe, the paper discusses the assumed, conventional role of humanitarian institutions juxtaposed with the reality of their activities in alleviating challenges faced by the displaced communities in Zimbabwe. The findings of the paper indicate that effective interventions for the displaced communities are adversely affected by power dynamics around key actors in internal displacement. This connotes that the bid to remain politically correct hinders the NGOs from enforcing their mandated roles towards IDPs in Zimbabwe. Therefore, the paper reaches the conclusion that the Zimbabwean context of internal displacement has exposed the gaps created by the polarity between theory on displaced people’s humanitarian assistance and praxis in real-life contexts. This has particularly exposed the forced migrants to increased vulnerabilities as well as reducing the IDPs’ chances of gaining their capabilities.


Humanitarian organisations Capabilities Entitlements Operation Murambatsvina Forced migration Internal displacement 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KwaZulu-NatalSchool of Social SciencesDurbanSouth Africa

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