Johanneke Kroesbergen-Kamps (Unsplash)

Battles over democracy are manifested in contestations over legal frameworks and within judicial institutions. Lawfare refers to the strategic use of law and legal institutions by actors in civil and political society to advance their political goals. We focus on one aspect of lawfare, ´street level’ lawfare, instances where the law is mobilized discursively in the press or on the streets to raise attention and persuade a democratic deployment of the law. Comparing Zambia and Zimbabwe, we ask why, despite a far more authoritarian political trajectory, legal strategies have been more effective in struggles for political space in Zimbabwe than in Zambia. We analyse how lawfare for political space has played out historically. Further, we ask how people engaged in legal mobilization remain motivated focusing on their background and formation. Finally, we discuss their support networks, from international donors and national and transnational civil society linkages.