The place of ‘traditional’ social security in modern era: lessons from Buhera District
Social security has always existed in Africa. Traditionally communities had ways of protecting members against resource and social challenges caused by death, sickness, old age, disability or hunger. These were organised around the family, kinship, clan and community. Viewed in the context of Western social security, these are referred as traditional social security systems. This paper adopted the ecological systems theory to examine traditional social security systems. The theory identifies five environmental systems that individuals interact with namely the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem and the chronosystem. Data were collected from a rural community of Usavi Village in Buhera District of Zimbabwe using focus group discussions and key informant interviews with older persons, village heads and chief of the community. Thematic analysis was employed in analysing all data. Findings show that traditional social security was highly valued. The chiefs’ granary (Zunde raMambo), remittances, savings and lending schemes, family guardian and burial societies are some of the traditional social security mechanism in existence. Organised around kinship and community ties, these traditional mechanisms function in similar way as modern social security systems in that they are protective, promotive, preventative and transformative. The social security systems in Buhera were useful in alleviating societal social ills such as death, ill-health, and drought in communities. They were an important part of the modern social security system which encompasses government social assistance, non-government support and private sector support services. However, factors such as urbanisation, industrialisation, westernisation, poor economic performance, epidemics and natural disaster can function either as opportunities or threats to their existence. This paper calls for incorporation of traditional social protection systems in modern social security policy frameworks and programs so as to protect and strengthen them.
Keywords: social security, traditional social security, social protection, kinship ties, urbanization, industrialization