AfREC Postgraduate Fellow Andrew Mashingaidze, a PhD candidate in the UWA School of Social Sciences (discipline of Political Science & International Relations) recently returned from a fieldwork trip in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Below, he shares some reflections on the trip with AfricaNarratives. Some of Andrew’s previous research can be found here.
“Like any other PhD student, my first year as a doctoral student at UWA involved reviewing extensive literature in order build a theoretical framework for my research. My PhD project explores the growing relationship between China and African political parties and the research aims to identify the impact of the relationship on governance in Africa.
My fieldwork research came in two parts. The first part took me to Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2019 before proceeding to Zimbabwe, my case study. In South Africa, I conducted interviews with academics and journalists. My goal was to obtain different views and insights from experts that would help to inform my analysis and I initially spent three weeks moving between the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. I have to say, as a former student at both universities, getting to walk down the lecture corridors and library again brought back vivid memories of my undergraduate and graduate years!
One thing that was of particular significance during my stay in South Africa was the seminar series convened by the Centre of Africa-China Studies. These interactions not only provided me with a platform to network with academics and graduate students with research interests in China-Africa relations, but also gave me an opportunity to meet and arrange a follow up interview with several southern African diplomats and other policy practitioners that were relevant to me research project.
I then spent two months in Zimbabwe where I conducted interviews with officials from political parties, diplomats and other experts. Although my stay in Zimbabwe was productive, it presented challenges unique to doing research in a securitised environment. In particular, gaining access to and establishing trust with political party officials for research purposes was difficult. As a junior researcher, I also found myself nervous and not knowing whether I was asking the right questions that would inform my study but at the same time that would not get me flagged as a security threat. However, there is always a first time for everything and I am glad mine went well.”