hang-ups must cease
NATHAN Shamuyarira put me out of style this week!
I spent my Sunday afternoon writing about tribalism only to reluctantly
press the 'delete' key after I read the shocking comments made by Shamuyarira.
There I was, going on and on about how people should forgive and forget
but how can they when such upsetting comments are still coming up in
2006? We are in 2006 right? I had to check the date in case we had somehow
been drawn back in time.
Tribalism in Zimbabwe is a very sensitive topic which needs to be handled
with care. I had a deja vu moment when I was researching about
this all important subject. Reading about the Rozvi, the Mutapa Empire,
Tshaka Zulu, Lobengula, etc reminded me that we are a nation that has
come a long way.
But where do you
begin with such a diverse subject? Just like racism, tribalism will
always be there so long as the world continues to have people of different
colour, languages, living in areas with different resources.
We cannot change history — it’s done, it’s gone. Some
people choose to be angry about it everyday while others move on --
it's a free world, but please do not spoil it for some of us who would
rather look ahead instead of crying over spilt milk or picking on healed
I am Shona, half of my relatives are Ndebele. Until recently, they never
visited Mashonaland although we made endless trips to Matabeleland.
When I was a toddler I was almost killed in Filabusi. Everyone has a
story to tell.
In my history class in high school, we once had the longest debate ever,
it went on for weeks. The subject in question was Lobengula. Was he
wrong to sign a bogus agreement that he did not understand? Would things
have been different if he hadn't? We argued until the cows came home
but no-one won. If your friend was on the other side then it meant no
talking for those weeks of continuous debate.
For the first time,
all we wanted was have another history lesson. The syllabus was put
on hold- this was serious business. I had never seen such passion amongst
a group of teenagers. Despite some quite strong facts and opinions,
I wonder if we really knew what we were arguing about. I will be the
first to put my hands up and say it is above me.
Following my article last week, on how we should stand by each other
as Zimbabweans, I got a number of people saying they felt New Zimbabwe.com
was promoting tribalism. I personally don’t know what informs
this kind of perception, except maybe that the editor is Ndebele.
Some of us don’t see everything in black and white or in this
case in Shona or Ndebele terms. It is, therefore, not an issue for me
if all the writers are Ndebele or not. Remember those days when all
the high density suburbs of Bulawayo were covered with SABC satellite
dishes? That was not the case in Harare or Mutare. Why? It's not rocket
science. The Ndebeles were fed up with ZTV producing Shona programmes
one after the other.
Yes, we know that two thirds of Zimbabwe is Shona but that does not
give us the right to marginalise the rest. How come more Ndebele people
can speak the three languages- English, Ndebele and Shona whilst the
Shona only learnt English?
This goes further even among the Shona. We have heard of the Muzenda
jokes, passed them on in our emails, laughed during drinking sessions
and so on. The jokes tell a more underlying story – a burning
hatred for the people of Masvingo.
Take one student who comes from Masvingo to study at a university in
Harare. For the entire duration of the course, that person will be singled
out and made the subject of crude jokes. But if you happen to work for
a boss who is from Masvingo, then you might experience some payback
time as the whole place will slowly turn into Karanga land.
So who is the culprit? It's easy to criticise everything that our government
has done but moving the national radio stations to Gweru was probably
a smart move. Zimbabwe is so centralised that you cannot avoid dealing
with Harare. If you ask someone from Mutare, I'm sure they will tell
you they too suffer some kind of bullying when they interact with a
Harare person. How many of us have laughed when they hear a person with
a deep Manyika accent speak? It's hilarious and I can even laugh just
thinking about it. But this could easily upset some people.
If it’s any consolation -- it is the same all over the world.
There will always be a group of people who think they are superior.
If you speak to someone who lives in New York then they look down on
people who live outside the Big Apple, even worse if you are from the
In Britain, there are some accents from the North that even the Queen
needs an interpreter. Believe it or not, some towns in Britain are known
to be 'Ndebele towns’. It may be because one Ndebele person, like
Peter Ndlovu, settled there first then brought in his whole clan but
there is nothing wrong with that -- it is the labelling that I have
a problem with. I have never heard a town that is over-flowing with
Shonas being called a 'Shona town’. The question is, are the Ndebele
singling themselves or is it the Shona singling them out?
On a typical weekend, you can get a call saying, 'oh there is a Ndebele
party over there and there is a birthday party over here'.
Could it be that there are more people not used to living together with
the other tribe and now in foreign countries we find ourselves forced
to live in the same communities?
I deliberately chose not to write about what happened in the past, like
saying they did this and we did this to them because at this point,
it will not achieve anything. I will leave Nathan Shamuyarira and the
likes of Prof. Jonathan Moyo to spar over that one.
Our problems are nothing compared to other nations like Nigeria and
Sudan, but Zimbabwe is a young vibrant nation with people who pride
themselves in being educated and innovative.
That could be the case but it can easily go to the dogs if we do not
use common sense and compassion in dealing with each other. The media
is a very powerful tool and unfortunately sometimes it is used to score
personal differences but we should not be caught up in personal vendettas
that do not concern us. After all we are ONE people.
new weekly column appears here every Wednesday. You can e-mail her at
email@example.com. Her new
book, Parallel Lines, is available at many good bookshops
and you can also order it online from AMAZON
DEBATE ON THIS ARTICLE ON THE NEWZIMBABWE.COM FORUMS