Founded in 2014 the Zimbabwe Historical Association (ZHA) is a national body of historians affiliated to various history departments in the country’s universities and colleges. As part of its mission, the association seeks to promote historical studies on or connected to Zimbabwe. It encourages and seeks to support scholarship and other writing inspired by and in the spirit of historical analysis across the disciplines. Our major objective is to promote historical research and studies with a view to positively shape and/or contribute towards key discourses, debates, narratives and developments in Zimbabwe. History provides an important framework to think about, write about, and try to understand the ways in which the past shapes, connects or disconnects with the present in terms of, but not limited to, memory, heritage, identity and belonging, political, social and economic histories in Zimbabwe and its position in the region and beyond.
The objectives of the Association are as follows:
- To encourage collaborations and interactions among historians in the country and beyond on various institutional (departmental) events, projects, consultancies, and research publications.
- To canvass historical research for seminars, workshops, consultancy, conferences.
- To run a journal that would publish historical researches as well as other multi-media platforms such as bolds (blogs?), website and social media presence.
- To engage with relevant stakeholders in improving historical studies at all levels, from primary, secondary to tertiary education. We also seek to add our voice in curriculum formulation and review of education in Zimbabwe.
- To create local, regional and international partnerships with other associations, funding bodies and networks which promote the work of the association.
- The ultimate objective is to utilise the ZHA platform to consolidate a Zimbabwean Studies Association that will provide a platform for other academic associations to speak about national academic matters with one voice.
Membership is open to any person interested in historical studies and to date three conferences have been held. The next conference with be held this year from the 16th to the 18th of August 2018 at the University of Zimbabwe. But the association seeks to expand its activities beyond just organising annual conferences. The executive committee has pursued the establishment of a local journal but are still working on this. Going forward, we will utilise regional and international partnerships to guide the association on the process of doing this, even if it involves registering it with reputable international publishing houses. We also want the association to be able to raise funds for the development of its projects and members. This includes, sourcing research funds for some postgraduate students, on a proposal based competitive basis, for their own research. At the conference, we also want to provide, however modest, a graduate best paper price to encourage quality papers amongst graduate students. The association may also provide an opportunity to raise crucial research funds for its professional members working at different academic institutions to conduct research leading to journal articles or books. Also, it will be useful in creating a database for organisations and scholars seeking local collaborators on projects, large and small.
Summary of the tasks immediate tasks ahead
- Professionalising the organisation: The organisation needs to be registered with structures that are standard, functional and professional
- Leadership: Leadership must be visionary and ready to take the Association to greater heights. But the leadership should be constituted at the different structures of the association. We can have an executive committee as provided for by the constitution. But we can also have local point people at the different history departments in the country. They could help coordinate ZHA interests at a more local level. Within the departments, there could be a student representative who could be part of the national student ZHA subcommittee with a national leader of its own. They could also take part in different capacities, for example, assist in running around when organising activities. They could represent the interests of students in the association as well and make the organisation more vibrant. They could even constitute an important source of funds through mobilising their constituencies to contribute to ZHA subscriptions.
- Newsletter: This is an urgent need. A newsletter is important for marketing not only the Association but also its members and their scholarship. It brings greater visibility to our intellectual contributions. The secretary must be mandated to oversee the Newsletter collecting information from members. Such information can include publications by members, reviews, achievements, book launches, abstracts, job adverts, conferences and workshops.
- Blogging and ZHA website: For global visibility of members it is critical that we begin to blog some of our research findings. We propose that in the initial period specific members be mandated to write on the blog. This could be coordinated through departmental ZHA point people across Zimbabwe and in the diaspora.
- Fundraising: It is critical that the Association be serious about fundraising. If the Association is to be relevant, it should, for instance be seen assisting MA students with stipends for fieldwork or even scholarships for its member students. But charity begins at home. We must all start by paying in our membership fee so that the association can meet its financial costs with regards to registering and other miscellaneous costs. We must also establish a fiscal year for the organisation, for example, 31 March of each year. This will help us set a deadline by which all membership fees will be paid in. However, in terms of grant and project funds application, this would be an ongoing activity by the executive as they come across or seek such opportunities for their members.
- Membership beyond University boundaries: We need to expand membership to include everyone interested and involved in historical studies.
- Partnerships: This includes local and international organisations. Examples may include such local organisations as SAPES Trust, the Agrarian Institute, Weaver Press, the National Museums and Monuments, Ministry of Culture, etc. Internationally, examples could include other historical associations, the British Zimbabwe Association, OSISA, among others.
- Bank account: This of paramount importance for safekeeping of ZHA funds and accounting purposes.
- ZHA representatives at college and university history departments: We propose that ZHA must have a point person at each of its member departments. These individuals are crucial representatives of the association that can help it disseminate information timeously and in an organised manner. They could, as AOBs in meetings, just put in a word or two about upcoming events, opportunities or even reminders about membership fees in line with fiscal deadlines. Their departments, if they wish ZHA assistance/support with their own activities could communicate through their local representative to the broader association. The vision of ZHA is to be national, encompassing all history-teaching departments in the country, therefore such organisational structures could be important in terms of administration.
- Promote the discipline of history in schools. If secondary schools want to run a national essays competition, or national history debate amongst their O and A levels, designated ZHA representatives could play an important role. We could use universities in different regions to host regional competitions were university and college lecturers as well as teachers could take part in this community outreach. It could be held once a year regional with national finals once a year on a rotating basis. Funds for such a project can be sourced through various platforms that can be later discussed, including a modest ministerial contribution, at the behest of ZHA, or through other organisations and the schools themselves. A History competition sub-committee could become responsible for how this is organised.
- Funds permitting, history refresher courses for interested high school teachers could become part of the programme. Through ZHA structures, details of such a programme could eventually be worked out.
- Journal: it is imperative that the Association comes up with a Journal that has credible and strong researches.
Currently there are few bona fide members because subscriptions are not paid up. There is a ZHA WhatsApp group with 175 participants but only 11 people have paid their subscriptions. Subscription is 15 usd per year and for Masters students and undergraduates it is 5 (10?) usd. Now, I know that we don’t want to remain as just a WhatsApp group. As important as that platform is in terms of keeping colleagues connected and engaged professionally and socially, we also crucially need to put working structures on the ground that produce tangible measurable results. We must expand beyond the successes made since inception in 2014.
- It is proposed that an emailing list be created where only bona fide ZHA members will be included. We must also have ZHA representatives that push the association’s interests on the ground, at different History and Economic History Departments at all tertiary institutions in the country. Only then can ZHA be operationally efficient. People want to invest in a system that is organised and which delivers tangible results, and these structures are part of that. A local ZHA representative can perform the following tasks:
- Encourage, even collect ZHA subscriptions from interested colleagues and students in his department. (Note, this is voluntary, not compulsory, but even then, timeous payment is crucial for administrative purposes and crucial to the success of the organisation.
- ZHA point persons can collect, only on a voluntary basis from colleagues at their institutions, information about scheduled seminars, past seminars and papers presented, honours, MA and PhD dissertation abstracts that have resulted in the graduation (without the grades), details about recent publications in the form of articles, edited books and monographs, death notices and recent hires, coordinate the contribution of members to the ZHA blog and distribute the ZHA newsletter.
- If a specific institution is hosting the ZHA conference that academic year, the ZHA point person will assume the rule of lead organiser, and through their department, in consultation with the ZHA executive, then coordinate the process.
- Submit well-written and selected essays/articles from MA and PhD students for the national student prize at the ZHA conferences.