For over 10 years now, TrustAfrica has joined with philanthropic partners who espouse the meaning of solidarity in setting up and running Zimbabwe Alliance as a collaborative funder-civil society framework supporting work towards democratization in Zimbabwe. Schooner Foundation was inspirational in the naming of the initiative and Wallace Global Fund has proven a steadfast partner in exploring the opportunities for advancing democratic participation and contributing to a vibrant civic space in Zimbabwe. Other partners such as IDEX now known as Thousand Currents, American Jewish World Service, and many others have joined at different stages, but these two have demonstrated what we call a solidarity partnership. In 2011, ZimAlliance supported technical expertise to support the landmark Constitution making process in Zimbabwe, which eventually gained support through a national referendum in 2013. Since then, ZimAlliance has supported electoral monitoring processes using the Africa-based Ushaidi platform developed in Kenya; seed funded several of the most prominent civic organizations operating in Zimbabwe today; and developed an emergency response fund to support human rights defenders at risk in Zimbabwe.
Since 2016, the ZimAlliance initiative has been able to support the growth and consolidation of the Citizen’s Manifesto convergence platform bringing together over 20 progressive civic organizations, community-based groups and unions driven by a shared vision of a Better Zimbabwe for All, and mobilized around a three-pronged agenda advancing participatory democracy, an inclusive economy and a new social contract. Citizens’ Manifesto has gained notoriety as one of the principled and formidable social movements of the time in Zimbabwe with innovative facets including the establishment of a Citizens’ Cabinet with civic and community leaders holding portfolios and advocating for a people-driven agenda across those portfolios and hosting the National Citizens’ Conventions with thousands of citizens locally and in the Diaspora annually since 2018, with the 1st being the final international mission of the late Former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.
In the last two years, Citizens’ Manifesto has developed an innovative community-driven and people-centered model called Community Assemblies. The Community Assemblies model is designed around deliberative and participatory democracy that catalyzes and nurtures vibrant locally rooted social movements and connects them into a national movement around a national convergence platform. Community Assemblies provide safe spaces for locally sustained community dialogue which enable communities to self-organize and develop social actions that resolve collective identified challenges.
In this last month, the most consolidated Community Assemblies have made headway in crystallizing community plans and advocacy plans. The two are based in mining communities in Zimbabwe where the mines have been abandoned, environmental degradation is a hazard and growing concern, economic and social service delivery challenges are rampant, and social fragmentation is high. During the latest Community Assemblies in June 2021 the pressing challenge both communities articulated was the Zimbabwean government’s securitized response to Covid-19. The heavy- handed lockdown measures and destruction of local markets in communities surviving mainly on the informal sector led community members to question the duty of the police force. A young man asked, “Are the police meant to beat us or help protect us from Covid-19?” Having platforms like the Community Assemblies has enabled generative dialogue and solution making. The community has been putting together petitions around their challenges and following up with their duty bearers.
Reflections from a Community Assembly member in June 2021
“Prior to the formation of Community Assemblies, we were polarized mainly due to politics and religion. We were also fearful because of the threat of political violence. However, we now know our rights and understand that we have a duty as responsible citizens to come together in our communities despite our differences and to come up with solutions to the challenges we face. Having no water, passable roads, reliable transport or clinics does not affect one party over another, or one church over another- it affects us all. We also have a responsibility to engage our duty bearers holding them to account on their pledge to serve the community. It’s Us and It’s Now. Community is the answer.”
TrustAfrica’s intervention in Zimbabwe has been centered on collaboration from the supporting institutions through the ZimAlliance to the implementing institutions through processes like the Citizens’ Manifesto. Partners who have been galvanized around the Citizens’ Manifesto are mobilizing around this power of convergence and collective impact strategy which brings together a diversity of actors to co-create solutions to the most pressing challenges of communities in Zimbabwe which can culminate in a national movement for transformation.
Click here for more information on the Citizens’ Manifesto
Click here for more information on the Citizens’ Cabinet