Arkmore was a Good Governance Specialist with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) between 2011 and 2013.
What is your work background?
Before I became a Progressio development worker, I worked as a Research Programme Officer at Silveira House, a Jesuit society owned Leadership and Development Centre, located 21km east of Harare. My main responsibilities were to assist in programme formulation and implementation through carrying out needs assessments, monitoring and evaluation of programmes. However, the other component of my work involved compiling quarterly newsletters, policy documents and annual reports; writing project proposals and conducting research and analysis on the effects of social and economic policies on the lives of the poor for advocacy and lobby purposes, among others.
What inspired you to become a Development Worker with Progressio?
Becoming a development worker has been one of my biggest achievements in my career. It was an upward movement from working for a local development institution to an international one. Becoming a development worker provides a double opportunity: to give and acquire skills, knowledge and experiences both from the placement station and from other development workers. In fact, I interacted with Progressio (Zimbabwe Office) when I was still at Silveira House. We jointly organised a Trade and Development, Agro-biodiversity and Food Sovereignty conference in August 2006 – a discussion forum on the regional Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) policy and its effects on indigenous agriculture knowledge systems - which culminated into a publication: Food Security and the Challenge of GMOs. These initial interactions inspired me to be part of Progressio.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I have enjoyed bringing new dimensions, skills and knowledge to the partner organisation.
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
Firstly, being accepted as a person by the partner organisation made me very happy. Secondly, I was very excited and my confidence increased when my partner organisation accepted my ideas, skills and knowledge. But what has been equally exciting is how the participating communities have begun to realise their role in governance. I was excited when a traditional leader in Chinhoyi Diocese, for example, asked a member of parliament: ‘Where have you been over these years? If it was not for CCJPZ, were you ever going to come here and discuss our problems with us? The people who voted you into power are not fools’. Such ‘little’ voices have been inspiring. But they have to be kept alive to motivate others to speak; otherwise they can be manipulated and silenced forever.
And the biggest lesson?
Change of attitudes does not occur overnight. It’s a process. It’s gradual. It starts when communities appreciate the value and relevance of an intervention, then they reflect before they start to take any action. All this takes time, but we need to respect that because communities have other personal things to do before they can be involved in popular development processes. However, some donor partners do not understand this. They demand ‘big’ impacts over a short period of time. Yet the mere existence of a development programme in an area or community, especially in politically polarised countries like Zimbabwe, is in itself a huge impact. It follows that the participating communities we are working with are not interested in dealing with ‘national’ governance issues that do not have a direct impact in their lives. That is why they inform discussions on seemingly small poverty eradication governance issues close to them, such as distribution of farm inputs, obtaining national registration documents, having a good road that links to main service centres etc. The lesson is that we need to create community pressure groups that take care of community based governance issues before they develop into a national critical mass that will be able to engage national governance issues.
What is the biggest change you have witnessed since starting your placement?
At the community level, I have realised people beginning to speak up. Imagine, we are coming from a situation where some communities were even afraid to demand transparency and accountability from a harmless institution like a local school development authority; a situation where most of the communities said: ‘the government would do everything for us’. I remember one of our participants in Hwange Diocese telling us to accompany them to see their councillor ‘because we are afraid to meet those people’. Now, we have a situation where participating communities have realized their role, have gathered courage to interact with their leaders in order to demand good governance. We have helped some of them to develop advocacy strategies: identifying pertinent governance issues, doing research on identified issues, stakeholder analysis and planning for meetings and engagements with relevant authorities. As I write, about five communities have set dates to gather information on governance challenges and use it to back up their demands when they meet their local leadership. At institutional level, there is more interest in producing results and tangible impacts thereby moving beyond ‘workshops’. Programmes are becoming more focused and resources are now being used efficiently and effectively. In the past, there has always been a determination to cover the whole country, even with little resources. The programmatic approach has become more intensive.
What is the biggest development challenge facing the country and the area in which you are working?
Poverty has increased, not only because of poor rains, but largely because leaders are not responsive. They scramble and kneel down for voters during elections, but become very absent in their communities after being elected. When they are seen, and if somebody demands something, they intimidate and frighten them. One empowered community member met an MP driving his beautiful car and asked him why the project of building bridges on a local road had never kicked off as he promised during election campaigns. The MP just peeped through the window and said: ‘you disrespectful man, how can you say that to an honourable and respected person like me. You don’t have manners. I am your boss and you don’t have to talk to me like that’. The MP then closed the driver’s window and drove away. Indeed, most citizens don’t have enough confidence and have little knowledge on their rights to development. Referring to an assistant District Administrator who had come for a meeting with constituents in place of an MP (who gave an excuse not to come at the last minute) one traditional leader colloquially said: ‘It’s improper to tell the boss that you are not properly dressed’. In spite of their inefficiency, which has increased people’s poverty, Zimbabwe’s elected leaders have not been very helpful to the people who elected them and at the same time, the electorate has not been demanding basic services from them. There is a crisis of governance in African in general, and Zimbabwe in particular.
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
What strikes you most about Progressio’s Development Worker model?
Sharing and obtaining skills, knowledge and experiences.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a development worker?
You will not be a very effective development practitioner if you don’t become a development worker.
Where do you see yourself once your placement has ended? And in what ways is this placement with Progressio assisting you to get there?
I may not be able to define exactly, but I am aiming for an occupation that would give me the opportunity to shape international development policies and the taste or priorities of donors. Having been closer to the poor, I have realised most calls for proposals are predetermined and are not very relevant to the needs of the community. Because I have been involved in fundraising for my placement organisation, I have found myself twisting issues to fit the context of each call for proposal. However, this has been one of the greatest injustices to some participating communities because they would participate in something they don’t like much. Certainly, Progressio has helped me to realise this dream because it gave me the opportunity to interact directly with the poor and the marginalised. I have lived with many of them, shared food, hopes and dreams. I have listened to them, I have talked to them and realised that if decision making on allocating resources remains a privy for those who have not lived with the poor, we will continue to focus on irrelevant projects that do not eradicate poverty.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Jotsholo Parish is one of the Action for Better Governance (ABG) participating communities located in Hwange Diocese but is in Lupane West Constituency according to civil language. During the first ABG workshop, participants from Jotsholo were asked to identify the most pertinent governance issue in their area they would want to confront. Resultantly, they committed themselves to challenge human rights abuses and ‘poverty creating’ practices common in their area in the form of a Witch Hunter, known as Tsikamutanda in Shona, who confiscated people’s big and small livestock after exorcising ghost and goblins. The Witch Hunter came in the Parish, connived with the police and the traditional leaders to conduct cleansing ceremonies for each homestead. By February 2010, there were four Witch Hunters in the parish. Everybody was forced to participate in the cleansing ceremonies and if somebody was found to be a witch, he or she would pay at least cattle to the Witch Hunter to remove it. Since most of the people in the area were found to be ‘witches’ most of them, including the poor paid in the form of cattle. However, one of the Witch Hunters was given a 16 year old girl for marriage after the family of the girl requested the Witch Hunter to restore their goblins he had initially exorcised. But the ABG participants mobilised other members of the community and went to the Police to report the matter. They also wrote a report to the Diocesan Bishop who responded by writing a Diocesan Pastoral Letter condemning the actions of Witch Hunters. By July 2011, all the four Witch Hunters had been arrested and locked up in Hwange. Certainly, the ABG participants showed how they can be able to monitor the rule of law, human rights situation as well as taking action against practices and actions that undermine human good governance.