A tale of triumph and tragedy

Mary Ndlovu’slong awaited story of the Zimbabwe Project Trust (ZimPro)has brought to the surface long forgotten (or ignored) facts, figures, statements, attitudes, opinions and conflicts that overwhelmed the men and women who tried to re-build what war had wrecked.

Judith Todd, the first home-based director of the Zimbabwe Project (ZimPro) with historian and author Lawrence Vambe in London in 2007.
Judith Todd, the first home-based director of the Zimbabwe Project (ZimPro) with historian and author Lawrence Vambe in London in 2007.

“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,”writes Edwin Murirwa, 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.

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 in-country 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.

Canada-born Ndlovu 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 Emmerson Mnangagwa, 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.

My hope is that a Zimbabwean paper (perhaps this one) will seek permission from Weaver Press and the ZimPro trustees to run that story in full. The rest of the book, I found hard to take –TMI – complicated by 56 acronyms.

The story of ZimPro’s work and what it meant to abandoned combatants after Independence when most politicians in the ruling party were busy climbing up greasy poles and acquiring property at advantageous rates, needs re-telling not once and again but again and again. In particular, how so many Zanu (PF) sycophants tried to discredit Todd and several of her key assistants during Gukuruhundi, when the conscience of a nation, the British government and the entire Commonwealth was sacrificed on the altar of expediency?

AGAINST THE ODDS – A History of the Zimbabwe Project Trust by Mary Ndlovu

Published by Weaver Press /ZimPro $20 in Zimbabwe / £28.29 in UK 403 pages

Post published in: Arts

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