Making sense of African thought in social work practice in Zimbabwe: Towards professional decolonisation

06 Nov 2019

The problem with current social work practice in Africa is that following its development in the West, it came to Africa grounded in values and ideologies stemming from capitalism, social Darwinism, the protestant ethic and individualism, all of which are un-African. Western ideas permeated social work institutions despite the ethical conflicts between traditional African cultures and values and the Western Judeo-Christian norms on which social work was based. Despite the political independence of most African countries, the profession has remained stuck in Western methods, values, principles and standards. Some of the traditional social work principles seem alien in African contexts. The social work principle of individualisation, for example, is un-African as it promotes individualism and yet life in Africa is communal. The content used in social work education and training in most institutions in Zimbabwe originated from elsewhere outside the African continent and as a result does not respect Africana values, beliefs, mores, taboos and traditional social protection systems. As it stands, social work in Zimbabwe in particular is a ‘mermaid’ profession based on Western theory but serving African clients. If social work in Africa is to decolonise, practitioners should have an understanding of and respect for African beliefs and practices. This is mainly because there is no clear separation between the material and the sacred among indigenous African people. This article therefore challenges African scholars to generate Afrocentric knowledge that should be imparted to African students for them to be effective in the African context. Afrocentric social work should be based on, improve and professionalise traditional helping systems that were in place prior to the coming of the Whites to the African continent