An exploration of the tractability of the objectivist frame of disaster risk in policy implementation in Zimbabwe
Van Niekerk, Dewald
Van der Waldt, Gerrit
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Despite the growing evidence pointing towards disaster risk as a social construction, the objectivist frame still dominates the conceptual frameworks constructed around disaster risk in Zimbabwe. As disasters continue to occur with increasing regularity and ferocity, the usefulness of the objectivist frame of disaster risk in minimising the devastating effects of disasters is questionable. This article investigates how framing affects the tractability of the objectivist frame of disaster risk in Zimbabwe by using the Tokwe-Mukosi flood disaster of 2014 as a case study. The research utilised secondary data and semi-structured interviews with senior managers and specialists in disaster risk management in Zimbabwe to explore factors affecting the tractability of the objectivist frame in implementation. The results of the study suggest that tractability of the objectivist frame is mainly affected by its limited understanding of the causes of, and solutions to, disasters. The frame ignores rival frames crucial in disaster causality, such as the constructivist frame, and in ‘ignorance’ it harbours ‘latent’ failures which only become apparent on the occurrence of a particular major disaster. Moreover, the objectivist frame of disaster risk requires significant administrative and technical expertise and funding to be tackled effectively, which are not readily available especially in developing countries. The frame is also reactive in dealing with disasters, which makes it prone to ‘policy surprises’, leading to ‘policy disasters’ where disasters are viewed as direct consequences of policy choices. The article concludes that for Zimbabwe to achieve its goal of minimising the impacts of disasters, greater efforts must be made in reframing disaster risk by integrating the objectivist frame with the social constructivist frame.