Controversial former University of the Witwatersrand SRC president Mcebo Dlamini was denied bail in .
Zimbabwe is by no means alone in being labelled a "failed state", so perhaps we can find explanations for the crisis in an analysis of the political economy of other problematic developing countries.
Up to 30 failed states exist in the world today.
Attempts to explain political developments in developing countries in the 1950s and 1960s generally did not account for political folly and bad governance. More recent efforts to explain this phenomenon - with dependency theory in the late 1960s, and neo-liberalism and neopatrimonialism in the 1980s - provided partial insights into why a number of African states were failing.
But reform processes advocated by international finance institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank often ignore the effect of politics on state performance.
In recent years there have been many instances of improved economic performance and better governance in several parts of the African continent. Strong pockets of prosperity are emerging in several African countries.
Nevertheless several of the reasons for state failure in Africa and elsewhere continue in the absence of the institutional infrastructure necessary for democratic systems.
Countries with limited means find it costly to maintain the counter-balancing elements associated with democratic systems, such as political parties, pressure groups, media organisations and educational and research organisations. So sustaining democracy becomes in part a function of the economic system's productivity.
These institutions might flourish while economic performance is strong, but can soon fade into insignificance in the face of economic decline.
That is clearly evident in Zimbabwe.
With its colonial history and highly distorted income patterns, Africa's patrimonial environment has frequently been accompanied by primary accumulation, which typically uses state power to create new economic classes and property rights through asset seizure.
This combination of patrimonialism and primary accumulation is almost always viewed negatively.
Experts argue that there is no reason to expect these destructive processes to cease, because they serve the interests of the political and economic elites that control state power.
These elites use the reforms that accompany each new attempt to introduce democracy to secure renewed legitimacy and to access the new assets that liberalisation policies make available.
l This is an edited version of part of an address to the Economic Society of South Africa Biennial Conference this month by Professor Raymond Parsons, Department of Economics, University of Pretoria and Overall Business Convenor at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). Full text on www.Sowetan.co.za