Village Rhapsody: Why project managers fail in Zimbabwe

At the heart of all this is failure of monitoring and evaluation systems for national projects.


Today Zimbabwe is facing critical power shortages and load shedding is now the order of the day.

Many of the problems we face today in this country are due to failure to execute projects.

Be it health, social services or basic infrastructure development.

At the heart of all this is failure of monitoring and evaluation systems for national projects.

The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) paid over US$5 million to Wicknel Chivayo for the Gwanda solar project and nothing has been done to date but life goes on.

As the world moves forward, a lot of changes take place in all spheres of the economy, especially the way of doing business.

Due to technology and some free information from Google, competition is now stiff.

There are new ideas that come on a single day, and this is why some project managers fail to deliver.

The contemporary world is characterised by rapid changes with some causing a lot of disruption globally.

Project managers should invest in project risk management and adapt to the new environments to successfully deliver desired goals as they face continuous changes in the developing world.

Successful project managers should ensure all the stakeholders have an appreciation of what a project is.

Some people tend to use “project and programme” interchangeably.

These two terms dovetail, but have a different meaning despite that they are closely related.

A project is any development initiative that has the stipulated time frame and stages in which monitoring and evaluation occurs at every step.

But a programme like command agriculture is a continuous process with no specified time frame.

Therefore, project managers should not assume that beneficiaries have enough knowledge on how a project should be implemented.

According to the definition that is given in BS 6079 ‘Guide to Project Management’, a project is a unique set of co-ordinated activities, with definite starting and finishing points, undertaken by an individual or organisation to meet specific objectives within defined schedule, cost and performance parameters.’

But unlike projects, some scholars argue that a programme is a set of related measures or activities with a particular long-term aim.

Making this clear to relevant stakeholders in development projects can help project managers to meet desired goals in a stipulated time frame.

Poor communication especially in the digital era is a common cause of project failure.

Project managers should make sure that stakeholders and beneficiaries are fully aware of the project’s objectives.

Most importantly, to consider the methods and tools that people use to communicate and how effective these tools are.

During project implementation people should understand how to communicate and use the technology available to them.

It is important to evaluate the relevance of any project before implementation to avoid waste of resources.

Some project managers get too excited when they receive donor funds and rush to initiate projects that are far from being relevant to communities.

Project managers should never stop learning.

Some years ago, it was reported that Zimbabweans in Matebeleland North were using the bush to relieve themselves.

Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) decided to implement the blair toilets project to reduce open defecation in Binga.

However, a 2019 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) report revealed that most people had shunned the bush toilets due to cultural reasons.

According to their culture, the in-laws cannot share the same restroom with the daughter or son in-law, it’s a taboo.

For that reason, some converted blair toilets into granaries for small grains.

Project managers should be reminded that development projects are done for the people not to just please the donors hence relevance is key.

The project initiation is a critical stage that needs thorough research where project managers should look at some similar projects that were done before, taking into account that culture varies from time to time and from place to place.

For instance, when implementing similar projects, a clever project manager cannot replicate strategies that were used at the Zimbabwe’s ethanol blending project which was in 2013 nominated as one of the top five mega infrastructure projects in Africa according to the company.

The current fiscal and monetary policies can affect or spoil the desired results of a project.

Previous projects should create an agile mind-set to project managers who might be struggling to adjust to the current situation.

Construction project manager Shelly Gondo once said that project managers should have an appreciation of both the historical knowledge and the current economic situation especially in terms of currency for their projects to be successful.

In one of its objectives, the Project Management Institute Zimbabwe (PMIZ) claims to be promoting the project management profession through empowering project managers to deliver values to the Zimbabwean economy.

However, there is need for sound project management training institutions to capacitate project managers to deal with complex and ambiguous volatile environments.

We are living in a world characterised by conflicting ideas that can escalate to felt conflict.

The inability to manage conflicts at its early stages is also another reason why projects fail.

In project management, conflicts can rise due to different values and choices about a certain goal.

But project managers should always find ways to manage conflict in private to create health environments during development projects implementation.

Ex-post monitoring and evaluation is of paramount importance after project execution.

Project managers should do an interval assessment, going back to evaluate the key objectives of the project for future purposes.

  • Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his personal capacity.
  • For feedback email: [email protected] or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda1

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