Episode 5: Zimbabwe, history and how decolonisation must include localisation and listening (Dr Nompilo Ndlovu)

About this episode:

In this episode, Dr Nompilo Ndlovu describes how Zimbabwe’s written history so often distorts the reality as understood by Black Zimbabweans and recorded in poems, songs and oral histories. She explores how Eurocentric understandings of Zimbabwe have been consolidated in written histories of the country, which trump lived experience. She describes how the hierarchy of whose voice matters means that Black oral histories are obscured by the White, written history in international spaces.

She describes the many issues that need to be taken seriously if development research is to be decolonised, how Black labour was ‘constructed’ by White colonialists, through ‘experiments’, the destruction of Black farms and livelihoods and used to justify oppressive working conditions, and how the experiences of South Africa and Zimbabwe (as former White settler colonies) generate a set of useful lessons for other countries. Nompilo counters the view that the exceptionalism of the ‘settler economies’ of former British colonies, South Africa and Zimbabwe have nothing to teach other countries, providing examples of what Africa can learn from Ethiopia (and her relationship with Italy), Ghana (and early independence) and South Africa (and Bantu education) versus Zimbabwe (and the ‘Cambridge’ system).

This is a rich and varied conversation that leaves the viewer wanting more – more stories of Gukurahundi, talking chickens and the impact of the Eurocentric ‘White gaze’. Nompilo speaks eloquently about the importance of listening, local knowledge and nuance – and identifies a set of practical steps for viewers to implement for progressive change.

Episode 5: Full Transcript

The Power Shift: Decolonising Development

Episode 5

Zimbabwe, history and how decolonisation must include localisation and listening. Dr Nompilo Ndlovu interviewed.

Kate Bird: [00:00:00] Hello, my name’s Kate Bird, and I’d like to introduce this episode of the ‘Power Shift: Decolonising Development’. Today we’re talking to Dr. Nompilo Ndlovu, a Zimbabwean, uh, oral historian. And this episode covers a lot of ground, including how White colonisers and Black Zimbabweans. View, record and remember history, the history of Zimbabwe differently.

It talks about evidence in research. About how Black labour and Black bodies were constructed by White colonisers through a process of research and creation of the idea of Black labour, about how many things need to be considered before development research can be decolonised.

Charmaine McCauley: Hi everyone. Welcome to ‘The Power Shift: Decolonising Development’, the podcast series seeking to bring together thinkers, practitioners, [00:01:00] and activists to share ideas, inspire, change, and identify tools for practical action. 

Hi, I’m Charmaine McCauley, a trauma informed body psychotherapist, director of Kokoro Therapy and lead facilitator of the groundbreaking training programme called ‘Racism in Real Time’. A programme that explores how BIPOC and White folks experience racialised interactions and provides them with tools to show up differently. 

I’d like to introduce my lovely and wonderful, my co-host, Professor Kate Bird, Director of the Development HUD Hub. Over to you. Lovely, Kate. 

Kate Bird: Thanks Charmaine. I’d like to introduce today’s speaker, Dr. Nompilo Ndlovu. Her PhD focused on mass violence, memory, and local transitional justice in post colonial Zimbabwe.

She’s an oral historian who applies gender frameworks to her work with communities in Africa. [00:02:00] She recently led on gender and marginalisation on a research project with me looking at poverty dynamics in Zimbabwe. 

For our listeners who don’t know much about Zimbabwe, it’s experience as a settler economy during the British colonial period and the racist laws that were put in place then including around who could farm which land have impacted on the country today.

This and the independent struggle and post-colonial socio-political conflict still arguably shape poverty and prosperity, the nature of the state and the political economy in Zimbabwe today. As a Zimbabwean member of the diaspora Nompilo is well positioned to explore the contested nature of coloniality and the flashpoints and the debates surrounding decolonisation.

Charmaine McCauley: So we’re going to now switch and we’re going to ask this lovely woman from South Africa. I think you’re from South Africa, is that what you said? 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Yes. I currently live in South Africa. 

Charmaine McCauley: Gonna now. Thank you. So we’re now we’re going to ask you some questions. Okay. [00:03:00] 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Alright. 

Charmaine McCauley: And excuse me if I mispronounce your name, forgive me for that Nompilo.

You’re an oral historian. How does your understanding and embodied visceral felt sense of Zimbabwe’s social political conflict differ from the way in which it has been written down by the former colonialists?

Nompilo Ndlovu: Okay. That’s interesting. Maybe I should just start off generally by saying that there’s so many different types of conflicts where Zim is concerned, and I’m sure globally, right? Right from the pre-colonial to the colonial and the post-colonial era, but you are right if it is written, if those accounts are written by a similar type of person or a similar type of representation, then what I find as an oral historian is that there’s, this is an oversimplification of complicated issues.

Normally when I do this as an oral historian, I do interviews and I try to figure out what are the peace and security issues around here? What’s the instability? What’s the war? You find that [00:04:00] people will just. The same phrases, they’ll say there’s ethnicity and especially where Zim is concerned . They’ll whittle it down to like Ndeble and Shona and that’s just about it. And it also oversimplifies larger issues. Do you know what I mean? Like even Gukurahundi itself, which in the post-colonial era is associated with being an ethnic conflict, it’s actually not necessarily an ethnic conflict. 

It’s more than that. It’s many things. It’s a type of post- cold War proxy cold war better, right? Where you have ZAPU representing Russia and then you have, you know, ZANU that , at that time, is closer aligned to the Brits. 

So Gukurahundi, even itself, it’s not even necessarily an ethnic issue. So what I find is that there’s oversimplification. Things get boggled down into words like ethnicity, which actually you’ll find in the local language, there is no translatable word for ethnicity. People generally don’t refer to themselves according to ethnic groups. And, an interesting issue about Zim, is that there are about 16 officially [00:05:00] recognised nationhoods. I don’t use the word nationhoods. And there’s more than that. There’s even more languages out of that.

So, the language or the group of people I come from uh, Amma, but, so it’s like a Khoi version of ‘people’, but they’re not even recognised in the language groups, right? So whenever you hear stories about Zimbabwe, you’ll hear, you know, without harm that, just, the Matebeleland and the, the Shonaland are at it again, the Ndebele and the Shona are at again. And the thing is that the issues are know bit more nuance than that. And the problem when somebody else writes it is that then they pick on on, on some issues, but sometimes they’re not even necessarily the most important nor the most truest and are not even necessarily represented like that because what happens to the mixed races in Zimbabwe, the mixed ethnicities or people. The Shona people who live in Matebeleland, and the other way around.

So, when you say something is a Matebeleland issue, for example, then it already skews things. I’m giving that as an example. So you’ll find that usually when accounts are written, there’s an emphasis on the land issue – which by [00:06:00] the way is really important. But, an over emphasis on something also means that other issues are not being focused on.

There’ll always be an emphasis on the ethnic. There’ll always be an emphasis in Zim on the governance issues, which I suppose matter when we talk about development, because you talk about corruption and stuff. And there’s usually an emphasis on the resource crunch. Those are not necessarily bad issues, and they’re not necessarily untrue.

They’re just, as I say, oversimplified. And the history, the historiography of them is not taken far enough in advance. I’ve often heard of people, and my thesis was on Gukurahundi, so that’s why I speak to it a lot. And that account is the one that’s most associated with interethnic conflict because of its geography and because it represents some nationhoods more than others.

But you often hear an account telling you that it started in 1982 and then it ended in 1987, right? On paper you could find like at least 300 accounts, written – journal articles, books – that will say 1982 to 1987. If you ask the [00:07:00] locals, or even people who fought – pre-independence – guerillas – they’ll tell you that started way before Zimbabwe received independence.

They’ll speak about a time where ZAPU and ZANU, both freedom fighters – in Tanzania and Congo – actually started to kill each other. Or in Zambia, how they had conflicts between each other. Or they’ll speak about Intumbani um, before um, just after Independence in 1981, where again, the political parties were loggerheads. And so when we put and, and actually most people say, but Gukurahundi hasn’t ended, we see it even now um, say MDC political party is at loggerhead with ZANU PF.

So it’s always about the pursuit of one political party having dominance over another. And that in itself is a form of Gukurahundi, right? So, you’ll find local accounts just have a wider, they’re not bound in time. They don’t speak of conflicts within the confines of time. If you say to somebody today, are you living through Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe?

They could [00:08:00] tell you “I am”, and you could speak to somebody before Independence who could also tell you that they lived under Gukurahundi. And yet, if you read it in academia, and if people who have such a scientific lens of say, say exactly the is in which you record this as having it happened and you even find historians are debating to say, actually it’s not even 1982, it’s 1983 to 1986, 1987. And then actually, for people, their memories and their ability to trace the story is not time bound. And their issues, the issues that they talk about, are a lot more complicated. Things like tribe will come up. I don’t want to, I don’t want to take that away, but they usually won’t be the only factors.

So usually we won’t. So yeah, there’s just that over simplification. There’s also, I find there’s a focus on some conflicts over others. Usually when they’re written by colonising bodies or others. I use Gurukurahundi because that’s like the one everybody likes to talk about. And that happens to be what I researched. But I’ve always said to [00:09:00] people, it’s not the only conflict, and it’s not the most important one. It is one example of. 

But I do find that when things are written about, they tend to be a focus on some key events and people. Like Gurukurahundi, because then they can say 20,000 people died. But, actually, if you’re going to talk about Murambatsvina, where 80 people are displaced. It’s a conflict, right? If you’re gonna talk about the elections in 2018 where a couple of people were shot at, it’s a type of conflict.

So the issues then with the way that they’re said is that you find reporting, just becomes so minimal and I mean, there’s a classic example of this, a colonial example. In South Africa, when you study South African history or politics, there’s a whole sector or time dedicated to the Anglo-Boer war, right? From 1899 to 1902. So this is like the capstone like of, the colonialists in South Africa since 1652 when the Dutch arrived, right, until South Africa today. And they’ll say this is the big war. Others [00:10:00] even called it the Great South African War. But it really is just a war about the Dutch versus the British.

And actually if you trace the time from Shaka Zulu and the Great Mfekane, or movement, and everything, then the locals say “That’s not even the most important!” For there’s so many other wars that are not even recorded on paper because then I guess the colonisers got to call it the greater South African war.

And that’s what it became. That’s what they thought was the focus. It was a show power of imperialism against one superpower versus another. And then that became the Great South African War. But isn’t. And there’s also a question to say that, you also will find that then when we was talking about security matters, then, the absence of war, or negative peace, is often mis-confused in the developmental agenda.

So even when people are going into do development, they will say, Zimbabwe is currently at peace. We can work in this country. Botswana is a peace, we can work in this country. And usually like conflict is so much wider, right? You can have economic. …. you could have geographical [00:11:00] marginalisation and that being a type of conflict and stuff like that.

So even just the way that we see conflict being defined based on what we colonially understood it to be, where bodies matter or the count or the body count and where one person shot at another. And then you actually find that we have a lot more countries that are said to be at peace and development projects don’t work because the negative peace is actually a more toxic space than a place where there’s a clear war.

And so I also find that the absence of war has been misunderstood by the development community to mean it’s the right place to put a project in, and usually it isn’t. That project won’t last, because there are bigger issues at hand. Lastly, and I think I just really have to touch on this as an oral historian, I’ll touch on it more.

I know that when a colonialist retells you a story about a war, as you said, it’s in the written. You have to read these records that were written, the 1800s and stuff like that to understand what happened in that war, right? Generally. But if you ask, as an oral historian, “What is [00:12:00] your account of a war?”, somebody can actually sing a poem for you from beginning to end.

And that whole poem has told you about that war right then. And even if it’s five generations later…. my grandfather will teach me a song. I’ll teach my children a song. You’ll mention key people who fought a war. It’ll speak about Skaka Zulu. It will speak about Muzikela, where I come from. I’ll sing a song or I’ll analyse poetry, that tells you his totems.

So if you ask me to tell you that, that story, you might not find it written, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, right? And if somebody else comes And sees us only as an academic-size exercise and looks for a certain type of language and a certain format for where these wars are recorded and how they’re told then there’s a lack of creativity and there’s a lack of various accounts that you can get because, guess what? There’s always the written English account, which (academic account), which most people can’t access. And then there’s a lived account where people, when they’re sitting under trees, growing up in communities, are taught in various ways. [00:13:00] At the Matopos Hills in Bulawayo, there aren’t even songs.

They’re actually paintings and drawings. They’ve been there for hundreds of years. If somebody takes them and analyses them enough, they actually tell you which conflict was fought where, how, for what. You’ll see cows. You’ll see women and men being dragged. And yeah, so one of the issues is that we’ve also focused on the written, over other ways of finding out.

The local narratives other creative ways in art, in, in the simplest of things and the way people live, in the way people build their houses and the way that community organises itself. And when people don’t know enough nuance, then the easy thing is to simplify things and say is an ethnic conflict because you haven’t listened to the poems and you haven’t listened to the betrayals.

Because within that one ethnic tribe, the two brothers betrayed each other. 

Kate Bird: Can I jump in quickly, Charmaine? 

Charmaine McCauley: Okay. 

Kate Bird: Yeah, I just wanted to [00:14:00] comment on what you’ve just said, Nompilo. I find the way that you answered that question absolutely fascinating. And I think for our listeners and viewers to this podcast the way that you’ve just woven that story tells us a lot about whose story and whose evidence counts and how we recognise evidence as evidence, and how we recognise knowledge as knowledge. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Mm-hmm.

Kate Bird: So, those of us from the research community will know that what we’re talking about here is the epistemology of knowledge. So, so, So how do we know what is true? And I think what you’ve just said gets really to the heart of what we’re wanting to talk about here, which is about how those knowledges can coexist.

Nompilo Ndlovu: And also interesting, I guess I don’t want to interject you. I think also where do you find the story. Right? Because it’s not just the who and the how. Every time I tried to do interviews in my mother’s house or somewhere in Bulawayo City, I got a certain [00:15:00] kind of answer. It didn’t mean it wasn’t a good story. But when I went to the rural areas, where it happened, I also got a different kind of answer. Right?

Kate Bird: Yeah. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: So it was also interesting, the geographies of history. We’re telling you the same account, but yet. And I’m not saying geography…. and then remember there’s also Zimbabweans in the diaspora. So if you ask the diaspora version, then they’ll also tell you something else to tell you. It’s a human rights infringement and stuff like that.

So it, it’s also interesting the type of words and phrases that they use, but also, yeah. Where do you find the story? I never interviewed anyone in their home who was willing to tell me what happened. But what would happen is that when I started doing life with them, I said, “Can I escort you to a garden as you’re going to plant maize? Can I do this with you?” I once walked with a man as he was taking care of a goat, and stuff like that. I once had to go and sit in a bar. Then people start telling you the stories. When you’re sitting behind a table and you’re carrying your dictaphone, then you’re not really hearing the story. But when the women are by the river and they’re washing clothes, then they say “Okay, now you’re in the right place. [00:16:00] We’ll tell you. We won’t say this in our house, because we don’t want our children to hear it.” Or it’s a private space. But the well? The farm lands? They’re a public space. So, “We’ll tell you things in certain spaces, but not in all of them!” 

Kate Bird: So it’s partly about where you ask your questions, but it’s also about how you ask your questions. And I would say also, it’s who you are, when you’re asking those questions. Because if I went in and asked those questions, I would get a very different response to you going in and asking those questions. Because however, I might feel that those stories count. And however, I may feel that I’m approaching it in a humble and open way. I will never get the same stories that you will get. Never. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Perfectly. 

Kate Bird: Partly, I’ll be working through a translator but, but there’s also, you know, we have to come clean here. There’s the issue of race. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Yeah. 

Kate Bird: And that’s going to be embedded in how comfortable people are about being open and sharing their truth.

I just think [00:17:00] that one of the things we have to come clean about is the power and privilege that I have. And when I show up in a country like Zimbabwe, I work in many countries including Zimbabwe, that I will get a truth, but it won’t be the only truth and it won’t be the same truth that you get.

So when I then write up my truth, the truth I write up may be published and it may be published in the UK and it may be promoted and disseminated by, for example, the British Foreign Office or whatever. But that will only be part of the truth. And I think in this podcast, what we are wanting to get to is how that then frames what happens. So, so, But then it in, then it frames and informs what happens next. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: I remember when I did my interviews, they used to ask me, as you’re saying, “Which truth do you want?” They used to ask me. They used to say, “Are you here? Are you working for the government? Are you CIO? Are you working for the Zimbabwe government? Because if you are, we’ll tell you the kind of answer that will ensure we are safe [00:18:00] and we’re not politically….” 

“So, if you ask us “Is anything wrong?” They’ll say, “Everything’s fine. We don’t know anything. We or nothing.” And then they said “Are you here because you’re a donor?” Because I, I had to actually spend like weeks establishing their trust . And this is what they said, “In all honesty, if you’re a donor, we’ll tell you a different kind of truth. ‘We’re poor. We need money. We need a… this thing left us needing a certain kind of money. If you come here as an academic, show up to us, we’ll give you all the terms that you think you should be hearing.’ ” So they used to say that. They say, “We’ll up our English. We’ll even try to impress you with things we don’t necessarily understand.” 

So you are right, they are all truths. 

But in the end, I had to come there and say “I am a second generation whose family was impacted by this. I simply mean to write the story.” Even my thesis is written as an oral account. That’s all. “So tell me the version of truth that is truest to you. ” So, you are right, there are many truths that different researchers can get, myself included. And I always was pointed that I was a woman [00:19:00] and a daughter.

So sometimes I was told the truth that was suited to a woman. I often wondered if a guy was doing those same interviews, what kind of space they would occupy. I was often made to sit on the floor in the kitchen if I was interviewing men, right? And in my mind I was thinking “You know what? Qualifications. Something is wrong here.” But but I wanted the information. So I became a daughter or a child in the house. I wore long skirts and I was unassuming. So I’d get the information. 

Kate Bird: You’re now, I’ve done exactly the same in Uganda, and I’ve curtsied to men, which I would never do in the UK. Oh my God. But in order to get into the community and to get their respect, I was the humble, a humble daughter. 

But back to you, Charmaine, for the next question. Thank you. 

Charmaine McCauley: Now that was good. I really liked the lively conversation and the extension of that question, so I know it was really good. 

How can we reimagine the future based on what these oral testimonies taught you, particularly what you’ve just uh, this lively [00:20:00] conversation, how you’ve added that to what Kate had said. This becomes even more important because the colonial way of history is one in which bodies do not count because the in international development community don’t want to know about Black bodies and the realities of their lives.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention bodies and why I’m saying this, rather than people, I’m really interested in knowing about the living, breathing, beating hearts of expressions of existence as a human being that takes up space.

Nompilo Ndlovu: God, I think out of that’s like a particularly hard question. I was thinking about it earlier. I can’t even possibly imagine what the answer is, but I actually think that there are some spaces and context in which the Black body doesn’t count. 

I absolutely know that, know that to be true. But I find in the Southern African context, and I I do history and politics and development [00:21:00] within the Southern African context. I actually find this to be the contrary. African bodies do count. They actually count, but not in the way that we think they should. They count a stories of conquested people. 

Charmaine McCauley: Yes. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: A subjected people. So what you always do is, for example, you will retell a story of conflict and how the coloniser would’ve won, but they will count the number physically. I’m just using the expression in a more literal way. I know it means a lot more than that. 

The bodies will count because we want to show that “We were imperialists. We were strong.” Therefore, “On this day we killed as many people and yet they had been regimented. They had been……” So, I find they, the African body count for all the wrong reasons. It counts cause it justifies the making of the Black body. You want to justify that actually. For example, in the minds. They always needed to justify the making of migrant labour or Black labour. They needed to justify it. [00:22:00] You have to work hard to burn people’s farmland. Take away people’s cattle. Take away any of their mining rights. Pre-colonial. Bring people from everywhere. Their bodies don’t NOT matter. But in order to make their bodies count, you need to justify why they should be working in the mines from eight in the morning until 10:00 PM and living in compounds, right? So instead in that case, it’s not that the body doesn’t matter, the body starts to matter, right?

So there’s known evidence of tests that were done by the medical fraternity. Put these guys in unbelievably hot conditions, to represent what it is being under the mine. Take them out, put them in unbelievably cold conditions because this is what life on top of the mine looks like. And stuff like that. 

And what was done when you were making the Black body as labour? That it was said that the European body in the South African mine couldn’t work a long-hour day because their body was designed a certain way. It had a different work job. They became the supervisors. They…. and yet they were higher paid, because they’re using the intellect.

[00:23:00] But if you start making the Black body count, you do it in this way. You say, “We’ve done research on these guys and actually we find they can work for 16 hours. So it’s okay for them to be in the mines for that long.” Right? Because you make the body. So you make it count for all the things that don’t matter.

You always find an over fix fixation of colonial history on the making of the Black men into a civil person. Be Christianised. Wear a suit. Wear that. So you find that the stories are not mentioning the Black body. They’re over mentioning them. But they’re mentioning subjugation and taking away of your social, your cultural, your political things into becoming something else.

And I think that’s the problem with the Southern African story. It’s the one story where the Black body isn’t excluded. It’s over included in order to justify things that at any given point are not justifiable.

Yeah. So this is my thought. I mean, you, you, You actually raised the labour for the [00:24:00] mines. You, you raise labor farm workers. You raise civil servants. You have a certain type of education to make sure that you have a certain type of people. So I think in that regard, the Black body has always counted. But it has always been counted as a sign of control and a sign of what progression looks like at the hand of a European.

Today, many bodies are excluded from this narrative I’m talking about. Funny enough. The stories of women, and I don’t want to use the term, I want to use it in, in, gender is so wide, so I don’t even want to be this limiting but you will find even historically that the LGBTQIA bodies don’t count. They’re not there. So it’s not just about the issue of race anymore. 

You also find that poor bodies, in terms of class – whatever, poor and wealth means – don’t count. Nobody ever takes time to listen because they’re poor. So therefore you find that those bodies are excluded, they’re under [00:25:00] represented.

There’s a whole lot of other bodies that, that don’t count. And my fear is that in my work, even in development, the over-focus on the Black body means that there are other……. isn’t that, that the Black body hasn’t counted, it has counted too much, to the neglect of who are we leaving out of the conversations?

And maybe that always matters. And I can never figure out quite who, but smaller tribes will never count. Who else doesn’t count? People who don’t speak English in a developmental research won’t count. They’re an inconvenience. Do you know what I mean? You want to interview people and get quick answers.

Other than our research, Kate, which we did, which was generous in that we took time to have translators, we took time to have language scripts. Many developmental researchers don’t do that. They’ll say, which is the community where they can find people that can speak, who can…… and so [00:26:00] let people who speak a certain language may count over others. In an African community, whilst the body counts, the child doesn’t count. The child is silenced. Their voice is not heard. Even where I come from, ageism is a thing. So development is what my elders perceive it to be. Politics is what my….. So even when I try and say in this “Uhuh! Don’t bring your education here, you don’t count. You’re not a man. You’re not old. You don’t have grey hairs. Worse, you don’t have children. You’re not married. You REALLY don’t count.” And married women never count even when they’re 70. It becomes interesting when we talk about stories of bodies that count and that don’t and why some stories make it into the stories and why some never do.

But my interest of late is who, who are we not representing. And what are we missing out on. More than who has been over….. who has been represented all the time in the….. 

Kate Bird: Nompilo, sorry, I’d like to, I’d like to jump in here actually, because what you’re [00:27:00] talking about whose stories count and how they’re represented leads in nicely to my next question, which is, it is about how some commentators say that the settler economies of South Africa and Zimbabwe have such different stories, such different histories to other countries in Africa and the Global South in general.

That there’s nothing that can be learned from them. That the stories that you’ve been telling me have nothing to tell us globally about development or about colonialism or the decolonisation agenda because they’re exceptional. There’s something exceptional about. This is often said, oh, South Africa, Zimbabwe, they’re, they’re so different.

We, we can’t have case studies on them because they’re so different. I wonder if you’d like to respond and identify experiences from Zimbabwe or South Africa or both that are useful for elsewhere in our discussions about [00:28:00] decolonisation. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Can I just ask something in your question?

Is the idea that these stories are exceptional or is that when they say they don’t count? Or is it that we’ve heard this so many times, so what’s different or what’s new? What saying? 

Kate Bird: No, I think it’s that they’re actually seen as being exceptional. I think that, that it’s seen that the the settler, that the experience of having White settlers in your country has created such a different geography, such a different set of laws, such a different experience of coloniality that it is such…. it’s light years away from the experiences of, for example, Uganda. You can’t compare the experiences of Zimbabwe with the experiences of Uganda because in Uganda, all you really had was the colonial administrators and a few traders and whatever. There weren’t many White people living there. And therefore the experiences and lessons from Zimbabwe have nothing [00:29:00] to tell, I don’t know, Uganda or any of the other countries in Africa or even in Asia. Okay. That, that are useful in this process of decolonisation. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: I know why you said the two stories are exceptional. I’ve also heard it before. I absolutely know why. I think whenever we are development practitioners, all stories matter. Right? Because actually if we want to talk about exceptional, to me, the Ghanaian story of independence in the 1957 is exceptional. Right? It’s different. Right? I could pick out things we understand…..

I’m just like, ah, and in the Ethiopian story, and just them never being colonised and their interactions with the Italians is so exceptional, right? And then if I talk about like Angola and Mozambique, and they’re lusophone nature. So I almost feel that if we approach development in that way, we would get to a place where we are missing out on the many nuggets.

As exceptional as South Africa and Zimbabwe are, there [00:30:00] are things to be learned from them. For example if we talk about the African Union. Let me just talk about the African Union as an organ that is at the forefront of, anti-conflict, a peaceful continent. A continent that’s developing, progressing. A continent with good financial stability. Right? As agents of development. Because there are many agents of development…. Studying South Africa and Zimbabwe would be important for their developmental agenda. There’s no way that you would leave them out cause of the exception. You almost want to wonder, Ghana, Nigeria, all these guys had independence by 1957.

What does their development trajectory look like? And then you also want to ask questions like South Africa 1994, Zimbabwe 1980, Namibia, 1990. South Sudan is a different character as well, but it’s 2010. And then you also want to think what are the characteristics of the babies of the continent, right?

Because we have the grandparents and then we have the babies, [00:31:00] right? And if I have to as a continental region, draft out a developmental agenda, how can I give one agenda – the same – when actually, they’re at different points in their history. One of the things about Zimbabwe and South Africa is that they infrastructurally well developed. Right?

They really are. But that has to do with the settler nature of the colonies and the amount of time and the gold and stuff like that they lived, right? So your approach to development, infrastructure in a country like that might not necessarily be the same when you talk about infrastructure in a different context.

Not that one needs more than others, but what I mean to say is that those exceptionalities are good. Because it means that if you are going have a developmental agenda for the continent, you can try to figure out what different parts need, what different regions need without actually making them uniform.

The Zimbabwe in South Africa story matter because whatever Zim was known as a bread basket and everything that’s South Africa is [00:32:00] in SADEC, is that they are stories of a region. If you remove the story of Zimbabwe and South Africa, you deplete the bigger story of the SADEC region.

It’s about 15 to 17 countries in SADEC. Remove those two stories – exception and all – then you have totally misrepresented the region. If you remove those stories, you take away the stories of the British South Africa company. 

Cecil John Rhodes. Right? Nobody loves Cecil John Rhodes in Africa right now. His history seen as bad history. To the imperialists it’s seen as good history. But we want to figure out what was that? What is a multinational company? How is it when somebody makes that kind of money through key resources in a country? What is Anglo America? What is de Beers, right? Other countries don’t have those stories. You’re right. 

Exceptional South Africa has it. They have gold and they have diamonds, but they’re still worth studying. What does it mean for this country if they’re an industrialised country? Their money came from the mines. We need that resource and we need that experience [00:33:00] because it’s one of the few regions that actually has a diamond story at the helm of ….. not development for the people, but for whatever development came out of it.

We need those stories to understand what Black labour meant. Right? We need those stories to try to figure out what does Bantu education mean? What is it when in South Africa you do a whole education system that is simply for the Bantu, literally where you say it’s inferior education because it’s supposed to create domestic workers and stuff like that.

Versus in Zimbabwe where Garfield Todd and them brought in the….. what’s the British model of education? What is it? We write Cambridge, right? The Cambridge model, two neighbouring countries. There’s a generation in one that’s simply taught by colonisers – Bantu education – and there’s another one that’s taught the Cambridge system. They’re neighbouring countries. Right?

They have similar colonial journeys, and yet the educational [00:34:00] system is different. I find that fascinating. Why would I not study that? And why would that not make those countries so not only interconnected, but also so different. You just can’t talk about South Africa as politics without talking about Zimbabwe.

Once Zimbabwe and freedom fighters fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe, they handed over the guerillas. Their guns and stuff to the ANC to say, “Continue! We’re in this together!” But at the same time, every time there was no peace in Zimbabwe, the national party government from South Africa was coming to destabilise the country to help the Zimbabweans to say they can’t get independence.

So those countries will always matter. It has too many lessons that has lessons of industrialisation. It has lessons of multinationals, it has lessons of education systems. It has lessons of different ways of subjugating people. And it has lessons for, for newer post-colonial countries.

Imagine me saying Zim is post-colonial in 1980 and [00:35:00] somebody else from Ghana saying they’re post-colonial 1957. And imagine just the learnings that can be obtained from using both case studies without leaving out the other. 

Charmaine McCauley: So thank you. Thank you. Yeah. So I’m just going to, and the next question actually is really a nice follow on from what you’ve already been talking about of how you can use different experience from different cultures to inform what you want to do next.

So from this one, our question is from your experience, where would be a good starting point to decolonise development research?

I like your face! 

Nompilo Ndlovu: There, there is no decolonial research at this point, right? Because most people that can afford to fund research are what? Big academic institutions, universities, big intergovernmental organisations, SADEC and them will commission research. A whole lot of different groups, USAID, [00:36:00] Sida. They can all commission different types of research.

So the problem is that research needs funding. And funding is commissioned by a certain type of people, right? They don’t always mean to be Eurocentric, I’m sure. I think they have good intentions, but unfortunately it comes with a certain lens. So by the time research is happening on the ground, all the biases, the ideas have already impacted the research.

So even if you use locals regardless of what script they’re using, or where they’re going, the idea of that research being decolonial is already….. that is following a blueprint, that may have worked somewhere else. Because the thing is who funds, gets the kind of research that they want to push their agenda. Right?

So, the single answer to your question is simply data. The answer is data. What goes into feeding the data that the developmentalists looking for? What kind of data [00:37:00] are they looking for? Who’s feeding or producing the knowledge. So even if I write it sitting in Africa and I send it through to some big company out there, big institution, I’m feeding them what I’ve gotten from the field. How they interpret it and how they analyse it, is anothe r matter altogether, right? Where is it going? Where does this data come from? Who is engaging that data? How is it processed and disseminated? 

So for me, if by the time we’re done with that data, and its amazing as its, and it goes into a journal article or ultimately influences policy and practice, which we want. The issue is that the data, who commissions it, how it’s done, where it goes, who uses it. And unless that is decolonised, then research can never be decolonised. 

But if you don’t have the money, you are not doing your own agenda. You are doing what you have, what you and, and [00:38:00] learning from the process. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I’m part of a research team. I loved that research team, Kate. Absolutely. The field work was amazing. But the truth is that it’s somebody’s agenda. If you, if not YOU, if perhaps PEOPLE had asked to say, what do you think a local agenda would be? You might find in any research, you would get a totally different type of answer.

Let me explain it to you. I’m gonna explain it to you in two ways. Firstly, There’s a story in the rural areas where they, whenever people are doing research to find out which households are poor or which ones are which ones should get food aid and which ones shouldn’t, they’ll tend to go to houses to say, ask them how many blankets the women in the house has, right?

And in my culture, anytime there’s an elderly woman, my grandmother, so we gave her blankets and my cousin saw my grandmother and gave her blankets. By the time my grandmother died, she had over 97 blankets, right? So if a research group would’ve gone to that rural… they’d say she’s wealthy. She’s wealthy. She has more than five blankets. Because according to the developmental agenda, the [00:39:00] wealthy ones have blankets and those who don’t, so those who don’t have blankets. But if somebody had looked into her bank account, they’d have realised she doesn’t have one.

She doesn’t have this, she doesn’t have that. The blankets are something that you do to honor somebody. They’re not a symbol of wealth. So, you might find somebody else, who will get food aid, when there are no blankets in the house because they’re younger and they haven’t earned their grandchildren rights to getting blankets. But in the developmental agenda they ‘need’ because they don’t have a blanket and a wheelbarrow. But they have….. they have other things. Right? They have children in the diaspora. 

Maybe that example doesn’t make sense. Let me give a more relevant one. My PhD, I ask people what has happened to somebody who has killed and seeks release? 

So, there’s an official story of a Gurakuruhundi soldier who shot a man. As you were shooting, the man fell into a disused mine in Bhalagwe. As you’re shooting another soldier came by and happened to say his name by mistake, the name of the soldier. So, [00:40:00] whoever he bayonetted and killed, and shoved into the mine heard the name. Let’s use a hypothetical name, John. As he was dying, he screams “John!” all the way in, as he falls in the mine. That soldier has never been able to function, after that. He dreams that voice every day. He dreams that voice of the person that he kills saying his name and falling into a mountain. He’s dreamt this over 30 years, right? He lives with the trauma, even though he was on the job doing what he had been told to do. So in order to sort it out the country really doesn’t have enough psychologist. I think Zimbabwe is a total of 15 psychologists and it was 17 million. So he used what he knows best to deal with trauma. He went to a traditional healer to say, “Please help me! I’ve never been able to live out the trauma.” Everyone in Gukurahundi has trauma. The soldiers who did that. And the people who lived on the other end and the next generation. So a lot of people still go to traditional healers today to say, “Help us to heal. Do some kind of ritual, help us to heal.” The ritual that ensued, [00:41:00] was that a chicken was brought from Mozambique and the chicken spoke in the voice of the man who had died.

So the chicken actually said to this guy (it was shouting at him the whole time), shouting, “Why did you kill me? Why did you kill me? Why did you take me from where you took me? Why am I here? Take me back to exactly where you found me, then I’ll help you!”

We’ll do a ritual. So the chicken is talking. They go to the place and they get there, and the chicken says, “That’s not where you took me from. You took me from my home area, in the rural area. By the time you brought me to this disused mine, you brought me to kill me. Take me to my original place, then I will tell you what you should do so that you never have those dreams again. Because I obviously did something to make sure you torment it.”

As they’re trying to get to the rural area the chicken, had told him, “Daybreak must come out. If the sun comes out, then the ritual cannot be completed.” But they’d gone to the wrong place. They eventually went to the right place or so the story goes. And the chicken keeled over and said, “You didn’t get me there in time. I gave you clear instruction. It was a ritual to be done by night. Now it’s by day, so I’m sorry I can’t help you.” Of course, the [00:42:00] traditional healer was overseeing. 

At that meeting, apparently, with three prominent academics in Zimbabwe. Very well known academics, whom I won’t mention. And I was personally told this story by people who say they’ve heard it on good authority, someone who was there.

That story rarely appears in academia. It doesn’t. I tried to write it in my thesis to say, “this didn’t happen to me, but this story has come up a lot. What are people looking for, as restitution after trauma? They’re looking for certain rituals and stuff to be done, and you have all sorts of stories that come out, like chickens that are talking in the voice of people who were killed and stuff like that.”

My supervisor, whom I love to bits, was like, “I can’t allow you to write that in an academic paper.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “It’ll ruin your academic career.” I said, “No, I didn’t hear the story from one or two people heard it from the whole neighborhood. They know about the talking chicken. And the ritual.” And he said, “I can’t allow you to write that story.” But the truth of the [00:43:00] matter is that if you to do the research property, and that is the data that you have been given, that is what was said was done.

And that was what that man needed a ritual to….. then that is the data. I couldn’t use. I actually published it in my thesis and I’m converting my thesis to a manuscript as I speak with I.B. Tauris. But the truth is that data in most places will be seen like I’m cooking ideas in my head or it has no relevance or, and stuff like that.

So I sometimes think the decolonial agenda….. people will have to be okay with listening to stories about talking chickens and everything else that comes with it. 

Kate Bird: I think that’s lovely Nompilo, because I think the story of the talking chicken is getting to the heart of a bigger story, isn’t it? Which is about the clash of realities, if you like. You’ve got our reality as academics and researchers and the kind of the [00:44:00] epistemology and the ontology that the idea of what’s our worldview and what is our idea of what constitutes evidence and knowledge, and that is clashing with the reality of the people that we go to talk to.

And in their reality, they have a reality in which – as you’ve described – The resolution of trauma can only happen , in this case, through a particular ritual. So, I think that’s that really draws up for me this clash of realities and how it’s only the dominant reality that’s permitted. The dominant reality and the reality that is sanitised and that fits within a kind of positivist agenda.

And and others are dismissed as, I don’t know, stories of witchcraft or stories of belief. A story of religious belief doesn’t have a place when we’re talking about development because, we can talk about religion, but that has to be in a paper about religion. We can segment that off and talk about cultural beliefs and traditional beliefs, but then, that will have a particular framing.

It doesn’t have [00:45:00] a place in what we’re talking about here. So it’s that segmenting of reality, which I think is really interesting. 

So, I mean, we’re, we’re drawing to a close of our discussion now. I’ve found this so rich and and interesting. But I’d like you to have a moment of reflection now and would like to give our listeners a sense that practical and positive change is possible.

You’ve you said at the beginning of that particular answer that at the moment, because of the route that funding for research comes through, where funding comes through, and also where the key questions are derived from, who’s asking the initial research question and how that’s framed, and also who’s doing the analysis of the research. Because those are held, if you like, in, in Eurocentric spaces, that currently there is no decolonised development research. 

Casting the net wider [00:46:00] beyond just research, but thinking about the decolonisation agenda in its broadest sense, can you suggest to our listeners and viewers a practical step that they could take that would be a positive step, that would support a progressive agenda of decolonisation? What’s a practical step they could do tomorrow morning? In their lives, in their work.

Nompilo Ndlovu: That was the other very difficult question. I couldn’t quite figure out what that ONE THING is. 

Especially because development, peace and security, all those things are so intersectional that, it’s like a bit of a it’s a big elephant actually. It’s what do you, maybe there’s just chew it a bit at a time.

Can I have three and I’ll say them quickly and not one. 

Firstly, the issue with decolonisation is seen as an academic exercise. We’ve had it at UCT [00:47:00] “Fees must fall!” “Rhodes must fall!”, I was literally in the university at the time, and how the whole decolonial agenda was seen as something that was for the confines of academia.

And can we actually read African authors and our….. and not have everything come from like Oxford and stuff like that. So the issue, first of all with decolonising is that it’s been associated with an academic um, exercise and then…. so we now need to make it inclusive, to understand that everyone and anyone can understand what decolonising is.

The second thing is, let’s decolonise the terminology. There are very many people who use the word decolonise and who cite Franz Fanon and all the good guys. There are very few people who actually know what it means. Myself included. But having had (I know what it means), but I just mean, we use it.

But I’ve really come across – when I’m doing field work research – as a practitioner. When I was asking about Gukura, one of the questions was, “Do you think Gukurahundi is a genocide or not?” The simple answer is, if it’s not, what else could it be? I was trying to figure out the different [00:48:00] things that it could be. And there were a lot of people who we’ve never heard that word before.

We, we don’t actually know what it is. If you ask question on feminism, on gender, there’s some people, it’s not a, it’s not a lack of intellectual ability. It’s not. It’s just that we are taking academic terms into day-to-day life. So the people who don’t know what, I asked are they feminist stories that come out of the Gukurahundi history? Are they gendered stories? 

I had to read. I literally had to undo that whole script, because it had words, which made so much sense to me, but which on the ground as a practitioner, as somebody doing development, just….. 

So, let’s decolonise the terminology and simply ask people, “What does Gukurahundi mean to you?”

And people answer all sorts of different things. It means a storm, it means an army. It means….. then you’ll start to understand what they’re telling you. You remove the big jargon. There’s is words that we think are obvious to us, but words like development, gender they don’t necessarily mean anything [00:49:00] in certain places. And so we need to stop being academic. And I’m not even talking about intellectual, but I mean need to stop being people that have a certain discourse and assuming that it’s a global discourse because it usually isn’t. 

The second thing is that, and I’ve already said it earlier. Emphasis on local knowledge and traditions is absolutely important. Knowing that one tradition is not the same as another. So in, in one space you could have 29 traditions, and that’s okay. And tradition doesn’t necessarily even mean, I’m talking about rural rituals and stuff like that. I just mean that the way people understand things, the way people do burials. The way people do, um, births. It’s, it’s a tradition of a family. We just need to take time to learn those traditions because we do development when we understand the context better and when we let the underrepresented speak for themselves.

And the last thing…. so I said decolonise the terminology, use local knowledge and learn local traditions. 

But I also think what [00:50:00] can really work is that the decolonised agenda now needs to be transformative. And creative. And sustainable. It doesn’t help to learn decolonisation to learn it. to understand what it means. If it can’t transform a society or a community, then what exactly is it doing? Is it just producing knowledge but not doing anything? It’s not creative. 

We have so many agendas. Some more decolonial than others. They mean well. We’ll say, you know, have this. You know, local people know how to farm. They’re farmers. And a whole lot of fertiliser and stuff is given.

That’s not necessarily a decolonised agenda to say we are giving them what they want and what they said they want. It lacks creativity and not having a community of like 10,000 farmers amongst 12,000 people. And then actually, what do you do with that? Because you try to follow decolonial idea and you try to listen to the people, but the idea doesn’t transform their lives.

It actually just resulted in mass production of everything. So for me, if it’s not [00:51:00] transformative, if it lacks a certain type of creativity and, and if all that it does is that it lasts a lifespan of three or four years before the next cycle is there, then for me it’s also not decolonial. Decoloniality is not just moving within the same ideas of what development is. It means even taking risks that have never been taken before. And that can be decolonial. 

Kate Bird: Thanks, Nompilo. 

What I take from what you’ve said here is that for somebody, whether they’re in the development sector or an interested member of the general public to support the decolonisation agenda, they actually have to do some work on themselves and and they need to accept.

The idea of transformation and positively to contribute to transformation. And that this is a questioning approach. You have to be, you have to question yourself and the roles that you are [00:52:00] playing. So it’s both creative, but it’s also reflective and reflexive. It’s open. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Your words are better than mine!

Kate Bird: No, I’m just trying to kind of bring it together and I’m trying to do some active listening here. So it’s being open and respectful. And I think at the heart of it’s humble. It’s about humility…. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: And it’s about unlearning. Because if you decolonising, you’re unlearning yourself. Right? 

Kate Bird: Yeah. So if you approach this with humility, then you’ve got a bit of a chance. You’ve got a chance. But it’s a journey. It’s a process.

Nompilo Ndlovu: Yeah. Yeah. 

Kate Bird: Charmaine, would you like to have a word on that before, before we close today’s session because you’re a real expert on all this. 

Charmaine McCauley: Because I’m coming from a quite a different slant, let me say from the two of you. My, my sense, and I think I agree with you, Kate, when you say it is about first step is the internal sense of who you are.[00:53:00] 

And I think if you have no idea or you don’t have to have an idea about who you are, then I think the whole terminology of decolonisation makes absolutely no sense. To me when I was first introduced to this with Kate, I too struggled with that word. I had to go look it up. I’m a pretty smart person. I thought what the hell? What are you all talking about? This and this developmental stuff? And because it’s not my field, and I think for to, with Nompilo what she’s saying to the average person like myself, it doesn’t resonate. It’s it, for me, it feels like a very cold academic world that I now have to fit myself into.

And if I don’t assimilate into that world, then therefore my experience as a Black woman, my experience as a woman who was brought up first in England and then in Canada, and all my lived experience actually has no meaning. And it doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t contribute [00:54:00] really to this thing of decolonisation. But I have to adapt. 

And I learned the word, but still the word and who I am, there’s a gap there. There, there’s a space that is very difficult for me to fill. But if I go with more, what Nompilo was saying, in that, let’s get away from these abstract, hard, cold words that really, if we’re trying to emulate, we can’t because it’s too far, it’s too far from my heart expression.

It’s too far from the brutality that I felt. It’s too far away, and it’s as if I have to travel away from myself to catch up to an academic world that has almost no bearing on me, except for the research that gets thrown out there. Example what Nompilo says I need to read the research. But it doesn’t help me. It’s isn’t like a far away distant land, and yet if we go with more, with what Nompilo is [00:55:00] saying, I want something that that I can eat.

I want something that nourishes me. I want something where there’s a felt sense that godammit, I get the pain. I understand I am there, I’m transported. Into Zimbabwe, Uganda. I want to be transported into that world because if I’m not, for me, it’s not so much about humility, it’s about do I have compassion for those who are living?

And for me, if I don’t have a sense of compassion and my body and my world has already been turned away, the transformation that you’re asking for me to do will be dead on the ground, right? So for me, it’s about how do we bring the lived experience alive? How do we bring it so that I don’t feel disconnected from those who are suffering?

I wanna feel that we’re together because if I can step into that wound with [00:56:00] another person and step into that and come out of the shadows, then that’s where the humanity, the love, the breath of whatever you want to call the universe, God, in all different ways. Then I can be with you. I want to be with you.

But when I read the research, it segregates, it separates me from you. And I really believe that it’s an artificial separation. I don’t actually think it is, but I think decolonisation in academia sets up to wipe out the separation. So for me, it’s I, I want to feel you, I want to be in the wound. I want to know what was that like for you?

So that if I want to help, I can taste it. It’s visceral. It’s going be my food, and I’ll be inspired then to work with you. I’ll have your front and I’ll have your back, and we together will do what we need to do. 

So that’s my sense of where I come from. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Can I [00:57:00] just…. is it also possible that decoloniality means so many different things to different people and that should be acceptable, right.

To say what is decolonial to me is not decolonial and actually all those realities 

Charmaine McCauley: Yes. 

Nompilo Ndlovu: Version of de and it’s absolutely fine. 

Charmaine McCauley: Yeah. And is there a place where we all can have, what you had said before, Kate that all experiences count. All experiences can contribute and that we don’t partial out, we don’t make one experience more important than the other. 

Kate Bird: I think so, but I think we do need to be careful here because I wouldn’t want to end up in a situation where this is a kind of a mishmash of post-modernism and anything counts and everything’s great.

Because what we’re talking about here is a structural harm. And we’re actually talking about a process of transformation to, to recreate the world, starting from where we are now and acknowledging history, [00:58:00] but recreate the world in a way that, that structural harm is substantially diminished.

And if we can get to eradicated, that would be great. So while I can accept that, that every voice matters and everyone’s opinion matters and all of that kind of stuff, all I can say is to an extent, because what we’re looking at is progressive change. We’re looking at a transformation, a process of transformation.

So if people can buy into that, then great but if they can’t buy into it, a positive transformational change where there is a power shift. And some people will lose power as a result of that power shift and they might not like that. So there is, there are going be winners and losers from this shift of power 

I think. I think we need to acknowledge that upfront. It’s not going be, not everyone’s going to be smelling roses out of this process of change and some people are not going like it. 

Charmaine McCauley: I wasn’t saying that it’s going be roses. Absolute, absolutely not. Because when you shift, there’s gonna be a lot of people that are going to like, I don’t like poop. I don’t wanna poop. 

Kate Bird: [00:59:00] Exactly. 

Charmaine McCauley: That’s exactly it. 

No, I think we’re all in agreement in a way we’re just saying it very differently. But I’m definitely, yeah, when you make that shift, some people are gonna come back fighting because they don’t want to have to lose. That shift of power that they’ve had for so long. 

Kate Bird: And we can, exactly. And we can expect some shape shifting to go on here, because I think what we can expect is that there’ll be a power transformation, but actually it’s just shape shifting around preservation of the status quo. So I think it’s going to be very interesting to see this conversation evolve over the coming weeks and months, Charmaine, as we take this conversation forwards, and as you and I both learn in the process of talking 

Charmaine McCauley: Absolutely.

Kate Bird: To our expert guest speakers and Nompilo, I’d just like to really thank you for the contribution that you’ve made today. It’s been so rich and um, interesting and warm and I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, and you [01:00:00] are going to be really at the top of the list to invite back for another discussion because I felt that we really didn’t have long enough to discuss all the things that I feel are bubbling out of you. I really think I’d like to continue this conversation.

For now though, I’d like to thank you very much. For your contribution. And I’m quite sure that our listeners and viewers in the days to come are going to be reflecting about the things that you’ve said. And I think it’s going to be stimulating some thought and hopefully some change, both personal change, but also hopefully some change in the way they show up in their professional lives.

So thank you very much and for our listeners and viewers, please do have a look at the show notes below which will tell you a little bit more about Nompilo and where you can find out more about her work and more about The Development Hub and also more about Charmaine’s organisation Koko ro Therapy.

So thank you very much and goodbye. 

Charmaine McCauley: Yeah, thankyou.

This weeks guest:

Dr Nompilo Ndlovu

Dr Nompilo Ndlovu is a gender expert and specialist in marginalisation, exclusion and intersecting inequalities. She oral historian with over 10 years’ experience applying gender frameworks to her work with communities in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa. Her Ph.D. (Historical Studies) focused on mass violence, memory and local transitional justice initiatives in post-colonial Zimbabwe. Her wider research interests include socio-economic-political relations (with a focus on exclusion and marginalisation), conflict, peace, trauma, restorative justice and leadership.

Nompilo is a Senior Associate at The Development Hub. She is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Cape Town, South Africa and has policy and research affiliations with a variety of institutions such as the South African Commission for Gender Equality, the African Leadership Centre, the International Oral History Association, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the ODI, the African Union and the United Nations. She is also an alumnus of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy; the Canon Collins Trust; the African Leadership Centre where she completed the Peace and Security Fellowship for African Women; as well as a Women’s Funding Network Bridge Builder.

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