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
    • Womenโ€™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)
    • Journal of Development Administration (JDA)
Map of Zimbabwe showing provinces
  • History of Social Services and Social Work
    • 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 kiths and kins, 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.

Views of Professor Edwell Kaseke about 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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