In this policy brief we assert that Zimbabwe is mired in a fragility trap driven by weak legitimacy which, in turn, leads to capacity failures in a feedback loop that prevents the development of state resilience. Our analysis of the core CIFP indicator clusters concludes that, while state capacity is low and deteriorating in the country, ultimately political will and governance and economic structural and dynamic factors create a perverse incentive structure for Zimbabwean political elites to pursue policies that lead to personal or political benefit over the amelioration of deteriorating conditions on the ground for the country’s broader population. Our analysis aligns with the stated policy goals of our end user, USAID, and aims to provide evidence-based analysis of the fundamental drivers of fragility in Zimbabwe and propose a range of policy options for the mitigation of state fragility in the country. In addition to the identification of governance and economic issues as the primary drivers of weakness, we discuss the impact of the environment, demography, and human development factors in the country as second order drivers that exacerbate the effects of our primary cluster groups. To address this “problem from hell” the authors acknowledge that traditional statebuilding options alone are unlikely to create lasting change in Zimbabwe; we thus propose a range of policy options for the end-user that are aimed at building the legitimacy and capacity of the state concurrently in order to address the immediate needs of the country and build the resilience of the state in the long term.

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