Zimbabwe


Country Information

Flag of Zimbabwe
  • Profile
    • Population: 14.5 million
    • Over 99% of Zimbabweans have a rural musha (permanent home) or munda (farm), 70% stay in rural areas mostly while 30% stay in urban areas mostly. Urban dwellings are not considered permanent homes.
    • A person from Zimbabwe is a Zimba or MuZimba (singular) / MaZimba (plural) in Shona language. Different names or variations will be used in other languages
  • Training institutions of Social Work (7)
    • University of Zimbabwe, Department of Social Work
    • Bindura University of Science Education, Department of Social Work
    • Women’s University in Africa, Social Work unit
    • Africa University, Social Work unit
    • Midlands State University, School of Social Work
    • Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Social Work unit
    • Reformed Church University, Social Work unit
  • Organisations and associations of social work
    • Council of Social Workers (CSW)
    • National Association of Social Workers of Zimbabwe (NASW-Z)
    • Association of Student Social Work Students (ASSWS)
    • Association of Schools of Social Work (ZASSW)
    • Institute of Women Social Workers (IWSW)
  • Publications
    • African Journal of Social Work (AJSW)
    • Journal of Social Development in Africa (JSDA)
    • People Centred- Journal of Development Administration (JDA)

Social Work in Local Languages

Shona LanguageEnglish Translation
Batsiridzo yeMagariroSocial Work
Mubatsiridzi weMagariro (plural Vabatsiridzi veMagariro)Social Worker
Mubatsiridzwi (plural Vabatsiridzwi)Community Member, Service User, Family Member, ‘Client’
Batsiridzo Support, help
MagariroSocial, economic, political, environmental, spiritual life
Translations by Matindike, S (2016).

Other languages will be added as they become available.

The following definition is a translation of the ASWNet definition.

Batsiridzo yeMagariro zvinoreva chidzidzo neunyadzvi hwekushanda nevanhu. Nyanzvi idzi dzinobatsiridza vanhu kurwisa zvinonetsa mumagariro vavariro iri yekuti varikubatsiridzwa vagone kuzvibatsira, vabudirire, vabatane uye vasunungurwe muzvinetso. Vabatsiridzi veMagariro vanozendama nekukoshesa ruzivo neunyanzvi zvagara zvirimo nechekare mumhuri nemunzvimbo uye mukuita basa ravo vanoremekedza zvakatikomberedza nenyikadzimu.

Cite as Mugumbate, J. (2016). Zvinoreva Batsiridzo yeMagariro/Definition of Social Work (Translator). Harare, African Social Work Network (ASWNet).

The following is a translation of the international definition was approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly in July 2014. Translation by S. Matindike, 2016.

Basa reBatsiridzo yeMagariro rinoitwa nenyanzvi dzakadzidza dzinokurudzira shanduko nebudiriro, kubatana, kupa vanhu masimba nekuvasunungura. Zvinokosha mubasa rekubatsira vanhu kuvabata zvakafanana zvine rukudzo, kodzero dzevanhu, kuonera pamwe nekukoshesa kusiyana kwevanhu . Basa rekubatsiridza vanhu munezvinonetsa muupenyu nekuita kuti vanhu vararame zvakanaka zvinoda ruzivo rwunobva kuzvidzidzo zvine chekuita nevanhu, ruzivo rwavo vabatsiridzwi uye kushanda neutungamiri hwevanhu.

Cite as Matindike, S. (2016). Zvinoreva Batsiridzo yeMagariro/Definition of Social Work (Translator). Harare, National Association of Social Workers Zimbabwe (NASWZ).

History of Social Services and Social Work

Map of Zimbabwe showing provinces
  • Customary indigenous phase: Social services were, since time immemorial, provided in the community. Providers of social services include the family (immediate family, larger family and tribal family), community (immediate village, surrounding villages and leaders) and society (spiritual leaders and political leaders [Monarchy]). These are termed African social services here but others call them ubuntu social services, meaning people’s social services. These services were provided based on the philosophy that every human being deserve to live like a human being, and that every human being has a responsibility to serve others.
  • Missionary phase: However, the arrival of ‘kneeless’ people, meaning white people, they added other modes of social services including (1) services were provided in institutions such as churches, homes, schools or hospitals). These were called mission stations because they were run by missionaries. (2) new providers of social services emerged, these were missionaries. This period started in 1859 with the establishment of Inyati Mission by the London Missionary Society led by Robert Moffat. These are called western-church services here, but others call them missions or colonial-church services. These services were provided to entice people to the western religious philosophy, and to keep people away from their own ways of life, that is why they were colonial in nature.
  • Colonial-Missionary phase: Later, beginning 1890, government social welfare was introduced when the first colonial government was put in place. Most ‘legless’ people arrived at this time resulting in establishment of urban settlements where they lived. Most government services offered at this time were for their kith and kin, and a few blacks in urban areas who were working for them. These services included disability support, boarding schools, old people’s homes, clinics and hospitals, social welfare grant, clothes and blankets and others. The missionaries worked with the colonial government. In 1936, the white colonial government hired social service workers from Britain to improve this kind of western social welfare. Their services were provided to maintain white dominance – to ensure that every white person was capable and productive and to ensure that black labour was available for the white colonialists. The under underlying value was social control. Hence, these are termed western social welfare or colonial social services.
  • Private welfare and insurance phase: Colonialist introduced private enterprises including mines, farms, services, factories and retail businesses. These enterprises used forced or hired labour. The enterprises preferred a capitalist society, so did the colonial government. Government allowed the capitalists to look after the welfare of their ’employees’. This included providing a social support program that included food, education (schools), health (clinics), recreation (sports facilities), transport (company trucks or buses), bereavement (burial support) and shelter (houses, usually very small and not family friendly). By providing welfare, the capitalists intended to attract labour, and more importantly, to keep the wages very low. Their welfare philosophy was purely capitalist and colonialist because white workers were paid handsomely, they did not need welfare. Related to this form of private welfare, was private insurance. This was provided by private insurance companies who collected money from workers to compensate them in the event of sickness, unemployment, injury or death. This kind of welfare is termed private welfare and it has continued unto this day.
  • African philanthropists phase: From the early 1930’s, black philanthropists like Mai Musodzi Chibhaga Ayema (1885 – 1952), Baba Jairos Jiri (1921 – 1982) and Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo (1917 – 1999) started to provide social services in urban areas after realizing the multiple challenges black people were facing in these new communities. They both challenged discrimination of black people. They combined African social services with missionary in several ways. Mai Musodzi, described as ‘a Rhodesian feminist and social worker’ focused more on improving housing, health and income, especially for women in Mbare, Harare. Baba Jiri focused on education, skills and income for people with disabilities in Bulawayo. Baba Jiri’s model of disability and rehabilitation has been described by the acronym TO-PARENT and his charity model is known by the acronym HOPESS. Joshua Nkomo was the first black professional social worker in Zimbabwe and a pan-Africanist who led the armed struggle for liberation of the country alongside former President Robert Mugabe. He was a political organizer and a trade unionist. He attended Adams College and the Jan H. Hofmeyr School of Social Work in South Africa where he met Nelson Mandela and other future nationalist leaders. At the Hofmeyr School, he was awarded a B. A. Degree in Social Science in 1952 becoming one of the first social workers in Africa and the first in Zimbabwe. By the time he died, he was Zimbabwe’s vice-president, deputising Robert Mugabe. It can be safely said that his kind of social work was more structural, more political and more nationalist, perhaps, the highest form of radical social work.
    • At this point there were 4 sources of social services and welfare (1) African social services (2) western-church services (3) western social welfare (4) private welfare (5) urban decolonial philanthropists services. Public social services did not exist.
    • Colonial social work phase: In 1963, a missionary, Ted Rogers founded the first college of social work, now the Jesuit School of Social Work (the School is currently run by the Midlands State University). However, social work services offered by the trained social workers was based on the colonial social work syllabus, colonial values, colonial trainers or teachers and colonial literature. The training did not adequately recognize African social services and the works of African philanthropists. Professional social work was therefore started in Zimbabwe at this stage. However, gaps remained. For example, discriminatory social welfare persisted.
    • Independence phase: The liberation struggles that started when whites entered Zimbabwe, were not only focused on independence and liberation e.g. land repossession but also equality and justice. These are also the ideals of social work. The freedom fighters were quite aware of discriminatory social welfare, and they fought to dismantle it. At the attainment of independence in 1980, the new government expanded social services, social welfare and social work to the majority black people, and started to include social and community development. Non-government organizations offering social services increased after independence. In the 90s, community-based organizations increased too, so did private insurance. The training institutions for community development increased, and intakes for student social workers increased. This was followed by the increase of social work training institutions between 2012 and 2020. The government dismantled colonial social services but did not dismantle western social work. In the 2000, the call to indigenise social work increased with a call for developmental and African social work.
    • Indigenous-Developmental phase: Presently, there are 4 sources of social services and welfare, these are: (1) family and community (2) public social services provided by the national and local government (3) non-government social services provided by religious organizations, voluntary organisations, social responsibility programs of public and private enterprises, and international organizations (4) private insurance.

Important personalities in the development of social work in Zimbabwe

In this section, we provide brief biographies and describe the contribution of 18 people in the development of social work in Zimbabwe. We are mindful that this list will be contested by others, and the significance we will give or not give to each of the people mentioned here may not be viewed differently, but we have worked hard to create a list that traces the history social work in Zimbabwe covering the phases that were alluded to earlier. What is important is not the ranking necessarily but the roles played by these people and what they keep doing today.

Cite as this information as:

Mugumbate J. R. and Bohwasi P. (2021) History and development of social work in Zimbabwe. In V. Mabvurira, A. Fahrudin and E. Mtetwa (Editors). Professional Social Work in Zimbabwe. Past, present and the future, p. 1-28. Harare: National Association of Social Workers.

Mai Musodzi Chibhaga Ayema (1885-1952) – the ‘mother of Zimbabwean social services’ and a pioneer of women’s rights

She  was the mother and one of the founders of Zimbabwean social services although she did not have a social work qualification. Like Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912) and Mary Richmond (1861-1928), the founders of social work in Britain and Jane Adams (1860 –1935), the founder of social work in USA, Mai did not have a social work qualification but did great social work and inspired generations. Together with her siblings, they became orphans after Chimurenga 1 of 1896, a war to repel colonialists led by the British South Africa (BSA) Company, the same war that resulted in Mbuya Nehanda (her aunt), Sekuru Kaguvi and other leaders being hanged by the white colonialists. Mai founded Harare African Women’s Club in 1938. She served Native Advisory Board and the National Welfare Society’s African committee where she advocated for rights of black people. Mbare, Zimbabwe’s oldest suburb for Black people, has a Recreation Hall renamed Mai Musodzi Hall in her honour. In 2008, a book titled Elizabeth Musodzi and the Birth of African Feminism in Early Colonial Africa was published by historian Tsuneo Yoshikuni. Like Jairosi Jiri, she became a social reformer, do-gooder and philanthropist of good standing of her era. The famous street in Mbare, Ayema, was named after the Ayema family.

Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo (19 June 1917 – 1 July 1999), first black professional social worker in Zimbabwe and a pan-Africanist

The first trained black social worker known more for liberation and nationalism than social work, Nkomo was born in Bukalanga or Bulilima, now referred to as Semokwe Reserve, Matabeleland South and was one of eight children. After primary school, he did a carpentry course at the Tsholotsho Government Industrial School and then attended Adams College and the Jan H. Hofmeyr School of Social Work in South Africa where he met Nelson Mandela and other future nationalist leaders. It was at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work that he was awarded a B. A. Degree in Social Science in 1952. He became a highly influential Zimbabwean, revolutionary leader who led in landmark trade unionism and the first political movement against the oppressive minority government of Southern Rhodesia. He was jailed for ten years by Rhodesia’s white minority government. He joined the trade union movement for black rail workers and rose to the leadership of the Railway Workers Union and then to leadership of the Southern Rhodesian chapter of the African National Congress in 1952 (later the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress). He served as the president of National Democratic Party (NDP), Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) and various government portfolios including Vice President of Zimbabwe and ZANU PF under Unity Accord with Robert Mugabe from 1987 until his death in 1999.

Jairos Jiri (1921 – 1982) – a ‘father of social services in Zimbabwe’ and a pioneer of disability work

Born in 1921, Baba Jairosi Jiri was not a trained social worker but is one of the early (do-gooders), people who provided social services at a national scale using the values of unhu that forms the bedrock of Zimbabwean traditional social functioning (Mugumbate, 2020). The legend learned about traditional forms of social assistance from his parents and community. He perfected these values with work that he did as a general hand at a rehabilitation facility in Bulawayo. The facility catered for world war veterans, most of them whites. He founded the Jairos Jiri Association for Disabled People in 1940 initially using his own labor and resources. In 1982 when he died, he was honored with National Hero of Zimbabwe status but his family opted to be buried in his rural home village of Bikita instead of at the National Heroes Acre in Harare. Later, the government of Zimbabwe honored him by awarding him the Jairosi Jiri Humanitarian Award given to people who contribute significantly to helping others, for example, those who helped cyclone Idai Victims in Chimanimani in 2019. Further to this recognition, he received numerous other awards nationally, regionally and nationally.

Ted Rogers (1924-2017) – a founder of social work education in Zimbabwe

A Jesuit Priest, Father Rogers arrived in Zimbabwe in 1960 and worked as a teacher at Musami Mission. Two years later he started the St Peter’s Community Secondary School in 1963 in Mbare, then Salisbury Township. Like Mai Musodzi and Baba Jiri before him, he had no social work qualification. In 1964, he founded the School of Social Work with the support of many friends, donors and officials in both municipal and the colonial government.  The School operated first from Morgan High School and later in Kambuzuma before establishing a campus near Harare town centre. He became the first Principal in 1964 until 1985 when he was succeeded by Father Joe Hampson in 1986. In 1988, the first non-Jesuit Principal, and first black Director of the School of Social Work, the late Professor Edwell Kaseke was appointed up to  March 2009 (Chogugudza, 2013). 

Josphat Mathe – 1947-2013 – a champion of professional associations and social work regulation

An illustrious professional, practitioner, and teacher at the School of Social Work (February 1986 to June 1988) before moving to do community work with children focused NGO-Redd Barna in Zimbabwe and Norway. Co-founder of the NASWZ in its second resurrection by a group of social work lecturers in 1986, with Matemavi as President. Joe Mathe took over the Presidency of NASWZ in 1990 there-on and fundraised for the revitalisation of NASWZ and he helped to set up its first ever secretariat. He gave up the Presidency to Helen Tapfumaneyi in 1995 to focus on the negotiations with government and the work that needed to be done to complete the social work law that recognized the social work profession. The pinnacle of Joe’s service has been in his unrelenting commitment to the development and promotion of social work institutions and bodies and the promulgation of the Social Workers Act. He used to organise weekend social dialogue fora in Bulawayo under the auspices of the Social Workers Association – whereby professionals, including lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers and city leaders would come together to debate on topical social issues. He had NASWZ matters at heart to the extent that him and Hall paid NASWZ dues to the IFSW in 1986 and 1987 respectively

Brigid Willmore – active in community organizations

One the three founding NASWZ executive members (with Mathe and Hall) and a treasurer of NASWZ in 1988. She is one of the critical social work elders to actively organize to speak about NASWZ. Was the first editorial assistant and then full editor of the Journal of Social Development in Africa in 1988. She tragically died in a car accident with her mother and niece on route to South Africa (Jackson, n.d.). 

Edwell Kaseke (1954 to 2017) – a founder of deconolised developmental social work, a mentor, leader, researcher, and teacher

Often referred to as the face of social work in Zimbabwe the late Edwell Kaseke generated publications that have benefited the profession immensely. He graduated with a Diploma in Social Work in 1979 and a BSW in Social Work from the School of Social Work and was offered a scholarship to attend the London School of Economic to complete the Master’s Degree in Social Planning. He returned to the School of Social Work to teach in 1985 and later attained a PhD from the University of Zimbabwe. Kaseke rose to become the first non-Jesuit and first black Director of the School of Social Work. In 2009, Kaseke went to Witwatersrand University (2009) in South Africa as the Head of Social Work Department. He taught, contributed to social development literature, presented at conferences, nurtured the Council of Social Workers as a Board member and represented the profession in a variety of ways through membership to a variety of Boards nationally, regionally and internationally.

Rodrick Mupedziswa – (19—to date) a founder of deconolised developmental social work, a mentor, leader, researcher, and teacher

Rodreck Mupedziswa is one of the only three luminary professors of social work to have emerged as a direct crop from the Ted Rogers School of Social Work as it was affectionately known. Together with other lecturers from the School of Social Work, he was influential in the formation of the interim NASWZ in 1988. He taught at the School of Social Work where he stayed until 2008 when he left to Head the Botswana University School of Social Work. He was awarded a scholarship (on merit) to study for the by the City of Harare Scholarship Fund (1981) for Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree at the University of Zimbabwe and later a British Foreign and Commonwealth (Chevening) Scholar (1984 – 1985) for a Master of Science degree (Social Planning) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University of London. Former and longtime editor of the follow academic protocol when using abbreviations all the time.

Nigel Hall (19—) – an international social worker interested in indigenization and professionalization of social work

Founding executive member and secretary of NASWZ, he took over the treasurer post after Edwin Mapamba. Nigel worked closely with Joe Mathe and is one of the groups of three (Mathe & Wilmore/Mupedziswa) who drafted the notes and principles that led to the present-day contents of the Social Workers Act. Nigel was a President of IFSW for Africa Region, He became IFSW Human Right Commissioner and IFSW Publications Officer. Nigel played other significant roles as editor of the JSDA and AJSW as founding editor. Nigel is now based in the United Kingdom and retired from active practice.

Stella Tendai Makanya

She was part of a very strong team of lecturers put together by Father Ted Rogers between 1985 and 2000 comprising Kaseke, Mupedziswa, Nigel Hall, Trish Swift, Bridget Wilmore, Joe Mathe, Helen Jackson, Veronica Brand Sr, Andrew Nyanguru, and Fr Joe Hampson. She took active part in the advocacy and political discussions around the state of the social work profession until the formation of NASWZ in 1988 together with other participating lecturers.

Andrew Nyanguru (1953 – 2014) – everyone’s friend, a community worker interested in aged reform

Professor Andrew Nyanguru attained a Bachelor of Social Work General Degree in 1980 and a Master of Social Work Degree in 1985, both from the University of Zimbabwe’s School of Social Work. He earned Professorship from the National University of Lesotho in 2006. At the time of his death, he had 27 publications, mainly in the area of gerontology and 8 more papers were undergoing pre- publication peer review. Upon completion of his first degree, he joined the then Department of Social Services (DSS) in 1981 as a District Social Welfare Officer at the Highfields DSS office and rose through the ranks to become Drought Relief Provincial Head for the Mashonaland Region from 1983-85. Nyanguru left the public service to join the School of Social Work, then an Associate College of the University of Zimbabwe as a lecturer. He taught on different programmes, that is the Certificate and Diploma courses and the Bachelor and Master’s degree programmes. He was also Director of Fieldwork in the 1990’s. Nyanguru later joined the National University of Lesotho where he was one of the people who introduced social work training and education in the country. On his return from Lesotho in 2010, he briefly taught at Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE) where a social work programme had just been introduced. He re-joined the University of Zimbabwe from BUSE as a permanent full-time Associate Professor with immediate tenure at the School of Social Work on the 1st of July 2010. He was subsequently appointed Director of the School until December 2011 when he was re-assigned to full time lecturing and research.

Ancelm Mukweva – the Commissioner for Refugees

Director of Social Welfare and played a significant role as the Commissioner for Refugees during a time when Zimbabwe was a host to refugees from neighboring countries, including the Mozambican Refugees in Zimbabwe. Other refugees were largely from the apartheid war that was taking place in South Africa and Zimbabwe was host to South African urban refugees. Namibia was also going through some transition and urban refugees were recorded. The largest number of refugees both urban and largely rural was from Mozambique. Commissioner Mukwewa was responsible for the support and protection of more than 200 000 refugees at one time, with Tongogara holding the largest number of people in one concentration with 100 000 inmates with the other 4 camps contribution the remaining 100 000. Commissioner Mukwewa was a man and professional with 200 000 social problems that needed his attention all the time every day of the time. He handled the Refugee influx professionally with the support of UNHCR.

Helen Tapfumaneyi

Helen was part of the illustrious NASWZ founding team of 1988, then working as a Director of Zimbabwe National Army Social Welfare Services and leading a strong Social Service team that included Jones Muguse, Major Machiridza, and Major Chabata. Helen rose to take over Presidency of NASWZ from Joe Mathe (1990-1995) to lead the most successful executive of NASWZ covering from 1990 – 2000. Helen is now practicing social work in the United Kingdom.

Phillip Bohwasi

He is qualified with a Diploma in Social Work (UZ-1987), a Bachelors of Social Work Degree (UZ-1990) and a Masters of Policy Studies (UZ & Fort Hare, 2000). Phillip Bohwasi was part of the most successful NASWZ executive led by Joe Mathe as President during the (1990-1995) and Helen Tapfumaneyi (1995-2000). He was a Vice President of NASWZ (1995-2000). He drafted a winning proposal that earned NASWZ the consultancy status to a UNICEF study on National Safety Nets for Children.  Part of the executive committee that opened the first ever secretariat and office and recruited a National Coordinator for CSW. Phillip Bohwasi has taken several positions in the process of strengthening social work institutions and when the Social Workers Act. He became the Chairman of the regulatory authority, the CSW for 10 years from 2006 and is a lecturer of social work at Africa University now since 2017. He is the Founding Executive Director of Zimbabwe Opportunities Industrialisation Centres (ZOIC), a community social work and entrepreneurship development agency he founded in 1998. Phillip Bohwasi is a former Vice Chairman and founding Board Member of the Zimbabwe Micro Finance Institutions (ZAMFI). He has built a career based on economic and social justice for small business development, he is an academic, an entrepreneur, a senior social worker and a political worker. Phillip Bohwasi has held prominent positions as a Founding Board member to a number of civil society organisations and social welfare-oriented agencies. 

Edwin Mapamba

Edwin is a founding member of the first ever National Associating of Social Workers of 1988 and continued to take posts in the subsequent executives. Edwin Mapamba is now late.

Samuel Mhiribidi
Samuel Mhiribidi is a former senior civil servant and a current senior
social worker. He graduated with a Masters degree in Social Work and
joined the civil service and rose to the ranks of Deputy Director of Social
Welfare responsible for Child Welfare and Deputy Director responsible for
Rehabilitation and Drought Relief. He was appointed a Commissioner for
Refugees (1991-1995). He was appointed Director of Social Welfare (1995–
2001). Mr Mhiribidi joined University of Zimbabwe (UZ) School of Social
Work as a lecturer (2003-2012).

Claudia Madzokere

She was an experienced practitioner and a lecturer at the School of Social Work. She passed on in 2005/6.

Dr Charles Dziro (1967-2020)

He was an academic and experienced practitioner interested in social work professionalism and maintenance of ethics. He contributed to the NASWZ and the CSW. At the CSW he was Acting Registrar by the time of his death. He taught at the University of Zimbabwe for more than a decade. Dr Dziro was born on 3 May 1967 in Mashoko, Bikita, Masvingo. He completed his university education at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in 2005 and Masters of Social Work (MSW) degrees in 1999 and 2005.

Views of Professor Edwell Kaseke on Zimbabwean social services and social work

Professor Edwell Kaseke, founder of the African social developmental model, had this to say about social services and social work in Zimbabwe:

“Zimbabwe was colonised by the British in 1890 and the colonial government immediately adopted a policy of racial segregation. The policy of racial segregation promoted the supremacy of the white population whilst marginalising the African population. For instance, the colonial government adopted what is referred to as the ‘white agriculture policy’ designed to promote agricultural activities undertaken by the white settler community by providing them with extension services, land and credit facilities. The same services and facilities were not made available to the African population. In fact, the African people had their land appropriated under the Land Apportionment Act of 1930. In pursuance of the white agricultural policy, the colonial government enacted the Maize Control Act of 1931 which stipulated that African farmers were not to receive the full market value of their crops.

Thus white agricultural policy had the effect of destroying African agriculture and by so doing destroying the African population’s source of sustenance. The resultant problems of landlessness, impoverishment and overpopulation forced rural people to migrate to urban areas in search of income-earning opportunities. Unfortunately, the urban areas were not ready to receive such as an influx and migrants had difficulty in securing employment, shelter and food. These people easily became destitute in the urban areas and were subject to the intervention of social workers. Unfortunately, the task of social workers became that of repatriating the urban destitute to their rural homes. Of course, this did not solve the problem of poverty, if anything, it only aggravated the problem. In this respect, social workers were simply operating as agents of social control.

It should be noted that as far as the Africans are concerned, land has cultural, social, economic and political significance. It is the land that defines the identity of the African people and provides the link between the living and the dead. It is also for this reason that the land issue was the rallying point for the war of liberation. It is, therefore, not surprising that many African people are still bitter that they were forcibly removed from the land of their ancestors. They are also still bitter that about 4,600 white farmers from the white population, which constitutes about 0.8% of the country’s total population, own about 43% of the land in Zimbabwe. This has sharpened the racial divide in Zimbabwe. However, unlike the situation in Western countries, the colonial legacy in Zimbabwe has resulted in a situation where the minority white population dominates the majority African population. The majority population has political power whilst the minority population has economic power. The minority therefore uses their dominant economic power to resist redistributive policies.

The implementation of the economic structural adjustment programme in 1991 accentuated the problem of poverty in Zimbabwe. The poor performance of the economy and a growing debt burden forced the government to accept the International Monetary Fund and World Bank prescription for ailing economies, that is, structural adjustment. Structural adjustment entailed restructuring of the economy in order to achieve sustainable levels of economic growth which would ultimately improve the standards of living. The structural adjustment programme has impacted negatively on the welfare of the people. Of particular concern is the worsening of the unemployment problem. Both the public and private sectors have been retrenching their workers on a larger scale. A total of 60 000 workers had lost their jobs by the mid 1990s (Kaseke, 1998). The liberalisation of the economy is forcing local enterprises to compete with their foreign counterparts resulting in them being driven out of business. Apart from worsening the problem of unemployment, structural adjustment has also resulted in high inflation and steep price increases. Added to this is the burden of cost recovery occasioned by the need to reduce the budget deficit which means people now pay for social services.

Professor Edwell Kaseke, (9 October 1954 to 28 August 2017)

When social work was introduced during the colonial period, it represented a wholesale transfer of social work models from Britain. Social work was introduced initially for the benefit of the white settler community. The idea was to enable the white settler community to enjoy the same services enjoyed by their kith and kin in Britain. It was only felt necessary to extend social work services to the indigenous population at a later stage. However, when social work services were introduced to the indigenous population, they were inferior and only served to perpetuate their marginalisation. The intervention strategies were mainly directed at the urban population at the neglect of the rural population. There was therefore a deliberate neglect of the rural population on the assumption that their needs were simple and easily satisfied within the traditional structures.

The intervention strategies were remedial in orientation and only offered palliative measures. The intervention strategies assumed that social problems were caused by the failure of individuals to adjust to their environments, particularly within the context of rural-urban migration. It was believed that new migrants in the urban areas had problems of adjusting to their new environment.

Casework was used as the main method of intervention, the focus being on enabling the individual to realise adequate social functioning. However, this mode of intervention did not enhance adequate social functioning as it assumes that the individual is to blame for his/her problems yet in many instances the problem can be attributed to the environment. This is why Kaseke (1991:44) argues that, ‘social work has not been able to differentiate between individual and social causation.’ Consequently, inappropriate intervention strategies have been applied with too much emphasis placed on helping individuals cope with their social problems and thereby suggesting that there is nothing that can be done to alter an individual’s circumstances.

Social workers have however, been frustrated to discover that the social problems they are handling emanate from ignorance and underdevelopment yet they are unable to address these problems. As a result, social workers have been dealing with symptoms rather than the root causes of the problems. This realisation has made Ankrah (1986:63) to conclude that the residual model of social work is a ‘deficient vehicle, not only to change the material welfare of poor rural people, but to address the larger issues of social development.’ Thus in order to change the material welfare of the poor, there is need for intervention at both the macro and micro levels.

At independence, it was felt that social work in Zimbabwe needed to transform itself so that it could contribute to the material welfare of the poor. For instance, traditional practice of providing public assistance to destitute members of society has failed to make an impact on the amelioration of poverty. This is because social workers have tended to provide public assistance as an end in itself rather than as a means to an end. Consequently, public assistance has failed to improve the circumstances of the beneficiary populations. The issue of exit strategies for the recipients of public assistance has not been given sufficient attention. Although there have been attempts to introduce community development as a vehicle for promoting development at local level, these have not been successful owing to the failure by government to empower communities for self-reliance. It should be appreciated that self-help initiatives are successful in instances where deliberate efforts are also made to build the capacity of communities for self-reliance. Local development efforts need to lock into a national framework for social change and the social development model can provide such a framework.

Thus the social development model represents a shift from the residual model. A social development model sees the role of social work as that of facilitating social change and ultimately enabling individuals to realise their potential”

Excerpts from Kaseke, E. (2001). Social development as a model of social work practice: the experience of Zimbabwe. School of Social Work Staff Papers. Harare, School of Social Work.


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