This article critiques Zimbabwe's refugee policy and practice context, with a focus on the ideological underpinnings of aided income generation activities in Zimbabwe's Tongogara refugee camp. We apply the lenses of Joan Tronto's political, or democratic ethics of care, and Fiona Robinson's critical ethics of care, to conduct an ideology critique of the aid agencies' expressed goal of refugees' economic ‘self-reliance’. We demonstrate that their underlying assumptions about ‘dependency’ and ‘autonomy’, in conjunction with Zimbabwe's policy of refugee encampment, are at the heart of the income generation activities’ lack of sustainability. We argue further that all caring relationships are characterised by unequal power relations, and that this needs to be acknowledged in order to enable a shared commitment to equal participation, in a partnership towards agreed-upon development goals. Moreover, the ideologies of autonomy and self-reliance must be replaced with a policy commitment to fostering interdependence as the ontological condition under which income generating activities can evolve into sustainable livelihoods. We recommend that the critical ethics of care and the radical-democratic practices for which it calls, provide an apt framework within which to reconsider the policies governing refugee support and practices, so as to foster a caring context for human wellbeing.