In this literature review based paper we explored the concept of exclusion of local communities from accessing resources in forest protected areas (FPAs) in Zimbabwe. We discussed the colonial and post-colonial forms, causes and mechanisms of exclusion and their social, economic and ecological outcomes. We examined the range of powers embodied in and exercised through various mechanisms, processes and social relations and their impact on local communities' access to FPA resources and associated benefits along the historical trajectory of forest governance in Zimbabwe. Results showed that the forms and extent of exclusion changed over time in tandem with the shifting political and economic landscape. During the colonial period, it was total exclusion whereby people were evicted from forest land as well as being denied access to basic resources for their livelihoods. Local communities' access to low value FPA resources improved during the post-colonial period but access to high value resources like commercial timber as well as sharing income benefits derived from FPA commercial activities remained a pipe dream. Regulation, legitimation, force and markets constituted the mixture of the power elements that FPA governing authorities used to exclude local communities. These powers remained intact despite attempts at collaborative governance in the 1990s. However, from the year 2000, local communities expressed their dissatisfaction with the centralised exclusionary governance system by invading the FPAs rendering them ungovernable. There is therefore a need for policy reform within the FPA sector to improve the current dire situation.