A book on “A history of Zimbabwe Project Trust” by Mary Ndlovu (2012), “Against The Odds”, takes you through the history of Zimbabwe from 1978 to 2010.
1978: In Rhodesia, the Internal Settlement led to the creation of a coalition government. Smith had, however, neither capitulated nor abandoned his belief in white superiority, and thousands of people fled across the country's borders. In England, a group of missionaries, supported by the Catholic Institute for International Relations, formed a steering group that was to become the Zimbabwe Project. Originally an educational fund to support exiled young Zimbabweans, it shifted focus toward humanitarian assistance to refugees in the region.
1981: The Zimbabwe Project Trust, a child of the war, came home, and its director, Judith Todd, started mapping the route that it would follow for the next thirty years. ZimPro - as it came to be known - began its work with ex-combatants, assisting with their education, skills training and co-operative development, and producing a news bulletin. In terms of funding, courage, and creative programming, it became a giant in the country's development landscape, but it has had to negotiate many political, financial and philosophical minefields on the way. Against The Odds offers a rare insight into workings of an NGO on the frontline. With a cast of larger-than-life characters, it also offers a drama of Zimbabwe's first thirty years and provides insights and lessons which will benefit everyone concerned with development, and provide historians with another important lens through which to view the past.
1981 to 2010: to find out more you have to read the book.
Some of the summaries of the book are as follows:
John Saxby in his review of Against the Odds: a history of Zimbabwe Project by Mary Ndlovu says:
What could ZimPro, an NGO, reasonably expect to achieve in a policy environment which was at best unhelpful, sometimes actively hostile (with respect to ex-combatants in the 1980s, for example); or in a nationwide recession which was triggered by ESAP and extended into the economic implosion of the 2000’s; or indeed within a global pattern where small businesses fail more often than not? What might ZimPro reasonably hope to achieve with only the limited money, people and skills of an NGO to deploy in such circumstances?
‘Doing less’, or ‘Concentrating rather than dispersing efforts and resources’, may seem like self-evidently wise counsel, but there are precious few examples of successful practice against which to compare ZimPro’s shortcomings. This very important book provides an analysis, which is, at once particular – a history of ZimPro – and a story of an NGO relationship with government, its donors and its client base. In this respect this is an important book from which everyone working in the NGO field can learn.
AGAINST THE ODDS – A History of the Zimbabwe Project Trust by Mary Ndlovu Reviewed by TREVOR GRUNDY
Mary Ndlovu, in this much needed, and long awaited story of the Zimbabwe Project Trust (ZimPro), has lowered into the depths of Zimbabwe’s muddy waters, not Lytton Strachey’s “little bucket” but, rather, her own rather large container. It has brought to the surface, long forgotten (or ignored) facts, figures, statements, attitudes, opinions and conflicts that overwhelmed men and women who tried to re-build what war had wrecked. Writes Edwin Murwira, Chairperson of the ZimPro Board of Trustees in the foreword to a book that is certain to find its way onto the shelves of serious students of African affairs - “The fact that Against the Odds is not an encomium to ZimPro is what makes it a more profound and interesting read, and a work from which we can all benefit.” But in many ways Against the Odds is most certainly an encomium to ZimPro.
And if there’s a single hero in the story of this largely philanthropic undertaking that has never before been so closely observed, it is Judith Todd, ZimPro’s first Zimbabwe –based director. Although the blueprint for ZimPro was put onto the drawing board by the German Jesuit Dieter Scholz in London in 1978, the rocket didn’t leave earth until Judith’s return home after years of exile in London with her husband, the late Richard Acton. Todd was the human dynamo behind ZimPro and its attempt to provide meaningful work for former combatants. The author heaps well-deserved praise on this remarkable woman, the daughter of Sir Garfield Todd and her mother Lady Grace whose work in the field of Rhodesian/Zimbabwe education cries out for a book all of its own. “Could any other individual have performed the miracles that she (Judith Todd) managed to conjure?” asks Canada-born Ndlovu.
She lists what she calls several post Independence “miracles" worked by Judith - the recruitment of President Canaan Banana as supporter of ZimPro, along with Frederick Shava, then Minister of Manpower Planning and Development and even the Intelligence Chief EmmersonMnangagwa, who many tip to be the next Zimbabwean fuehrer, once Mugabe parks his clogs. The story of ZimPro is a tale of triumph and tragedy. The former because it met strong international worldwide support immediately after Independence: the latter because as years passed it was the victim of violence between warring politicians with Judith Todd often caught in the middle. The first 100 pages of this remarkable book shed fresh light on this intriguing period of Zimbabwean history.The rest of the book, I found hard to take ……………………………….
Life in the spotlight, and the big issues confronting a prominent civil society organization
‘Against the Odds’ unpacks a particular Zimbabwean experience in compelling fashion but also, as suggested above, it is a case study both informed by and illuminating wider themes of contemporary civil society. Several examples show something of the immediate context and content of the book, as well as its broader relevance. Preserving organizational independence in a highly politicized setting. Within a year of its establishment in Zimbabwe, ZimPro found itself engulfed in a bitter conflict over its political independence and relations with the national government. At issue was its distance from, or alignment with, the ZANU government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe or ZAPU, the opposition party led by Joshua Nkomo.
It was a highly charged time, and any organization closely involved with ex-combatants (as was ZimPro) would have found it extremely difficult to maintain a non-partisan position. Ndlovu devotes a chapter to a storm that nearly sank the organization. Members of its steering committee, a body located between the Board of Trustees and the staff, argued that Judith Todd, ZimPro’s Director, was a ZAPU sympathizer and a security risk. They sought to remove her as Director, and to reconstitute the management committee to include representatives of government ministries. The account describes behind-the-scenes conversations with government ministers, and a clutch of ministerial messages to ZimPro about Ms Todd’s position. The question was finally resolved in her favour early in 1983 by none other than Robert Mugabe himself, who confirmed that she was not a security risk.
Ndlovu’s last chapter ends the book on a note of measured hopefulness: against the odds, ZimPro has survived, mainly because enough people within Zimbabwe have had the necessary commitment and smarts, and friends outside the country as well, to ensure its survival. For them, Mary Ndlovu’s book will be invaluable. More than a tribute, it is a reservoir of lessons learned and to be learned. If we know who we are and where we’ve come from, that knowledge can only help us on the road ahead.
The Monopoly Role of the GMB prominent in Food Security
Paper Prepared for the Zimbabwe Project Trust Dialogue on Land and Resource rights