In the absence of dialogue, Zimbabwe degraded to the level of a failed state characterized by mistrust of the government or state apparatus (especially the police and Office of the President and Cabinet), the politicians, the Church and even among the ordinary citizens themselves, there was no one to call a neighbor. The military assisted transition saw the people coming together regardless of their political, religious, racial and other social backgrounds marching together and calling for a new political dispensation; Zimbabwe began its journey into anew era. Behind the scenes, dialogue took place between the former president and the “founding fathers” of the new republic mediated by the Church and diplomatic delegation of the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC). Key to the ushering in of a new political dispensation was not only the military intervention, but the opening up to dialogue. It is, thus, important for the nation to continue to cultivate this culture of involving people across the divide in articulating and creating “The Zimbabwe we want”.
The cover page of the 2018 Annual Report of Silveira House is not only a colorful image but a work of art demanding deeper interpretation than the viewer’s first impression. From the top, there are faces of people with names (private and public identities), representing very crucial elements of the Zimbabwean society. They include spokes-persons and commissioners of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), private and public media, some members of Community Share Ownership Trusts across the country, the majority of the 2018 presidential candidates sitting side by side during a multi-party interface with the electorate, members of the Zimbabwe Heads of Churches and Denominations (ZHOCD), traditional leaders such as the chiefs, representatives of civil society organizations, and grassroots men and women from cities and villages around the country. All of them in their different capacities represent the collective interests of Zimbabweans which they bring to the table (covered with white cloth), a symbol of a nation’s peace offering. The images collectively express the union of hearts and minds, a fusion of horizons, a willingness to engage one another, and the openness to listen and to be heard. Is it because we trust each other once more? Are we ready to serve the nation with integrity? What brought or brings us together? All of these questions find incomplete answers but meaning in the openness to dialogue.
The theme of this edition of the Annual Report is “Zimbabwe is Open to Dialogue” which sums up the work of Silveira House over the past year. It is also an invitation to the reader to engage in meaningful dialogue with real men and women across the divide through reflecting on their experiences and testimonies of their encounters in the space-time we call “the new Zimbabwe.” The 2018 Annual Report offers the reader an insight into the internal struggle of a faith (based) organization operating in a rapidly changing environment, upholding its counter-cultural values in dialogue with diverse entities across the world. This struggle is, however, not unique as similar traditions such as the national education system undergoes its own reformation while Silveira House takes a lead in the area of technical and vocational skills training. Reflections on efforts to accompany the poor and unemployed among youth testify to our preferential option for the poor in places like Hopley, Matobo, Binga, Mutoko, Bindura, Zvishavane, Chipinge, Umzingwane, Murehwa, Marondera, Mbire, and Uzumba among other districts of Zimbabwe. The report also demonstrates how Silveira House is following up on key issues such as social accountability, corporate social responsibility, community development, peace and conflict resolution through national dialogue and policy advocacy albeit the struggle to maintain a healthy balance in its involvement with various entities on the full length of the spectrum of the Zimbabwean Society.