Tribalism: UK has become Zimbabwe’s tribal tower

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By Nomazulu Thata                                                                            

The MDC sings from Zanu PF’s hymn books without shame when it comes to tribalism. How do you replicate a party you are opposing in all aspects of its operations? MDC is comfortable with tribal allocation of party positions determined by ethnic demography. Nothing challenges these tribal outfits and tribal inclinations: ability, capability and competence all become irrelevant as tribal make-up and displays of ethnicity take precedence in all political decisions.

Of all things that Zimbabwe’s societies find discomfort to talk about is tribalism in societies. Families have mingled and intermarried: Shona- Ndebele mixed marriages in this region predate colonialism by design or default.

Marriages of mixed tribes began long back when King Mzilikazi arrived in today’s Zimbabwe in 1835. It is not possible to say who is distinct Ndebele and Shona today because of tribal mixed marriages that have interplayed for over a century. We still have these intermarriages today as we speak.

The hatred between Shona and Ndebele still exist and it is naked, raw, and uncouth. This is  a cause to be concerned about because we live in the afternoon of our lives and to think that we are leaving behind children who have inherited ethnic divides that hold on to deep-seated tribal hatred and tribal intolerance is disturbing. It is evident to this day that Zanu right from its inception till today was premised on tribalism. Zanu PF government has never quelled tribal hatred that poses a real threat to future stability of Zimbabwe and they still refuse to treat the peoples of Matabeleland as full citizens. It’s all-in paper and never in practice.

Our government has never officially addressed tribalism since independence but quickly gave white Rhodesians a hand of reconciliation. A gesture of nationhood and the spirit of togetherness was not extended to Zapu and the peoples of Matabeleland. It is Zanu’s cynicism that nurtures tribalism to its advantage instead; the roots of endemic tribalism are the brainchild of Zanu that still regards the peoples of Matabeleland as separate persons and troublesome presence.

The genocide of early independence of 1980 and its breath-taking acts of violence was premised on tribalism. The magnitude of hate that accompanied the Gukurahundi atrocities makes it difficult to forgive and forget. The Gukurahundi atrocities were revenge of atrocities committed by Mzilikazi’s Nguni settlers in the territories of Mashonaland. This is how hate can irrationally manifest itself to create future conflicts dating back to 1835. There is no justification to inflict acts of violence on generations who have vague connections to South African ancestry.

(This is the where Dr. Nkosana Moyo lost confidence with voters in the regions of Matabeleland when he brought this issue in his campaign message, vaguely supporting reasons for Matabeleland genocide of 1980s: his utterances provoked threads of tribal animosities that should never be carelessly spoken about by a political candidate in the hope of winning Mashonaland vote)

Tribalism is practised in most political platforms and institutions and churches. Tribalism is present in Zanu in as much as it is present in MDC parties. Zanu PF incorporated a small number of people of Matabeleland not because they were balancing diversity and ethnicity but for reasons mostly personal, certainly not ideological. A good example is Enos Nkala who left Zapu to join Zanu because of his known vendetta with Joshua Nkomo: It is said Joshua Nkomo made his sister pregnant and did not own up to marry her, but married Mafuyana. Zanu PF has never been a political party of Ndebele’s except those who had questionable default reasons that saw them accommodated in Zanu before and after independence. How did Phekelezela Mpoko, Reverend Canaan Banana and Obert Mpofu join Zanu PF?

Coming back to my point as to how tribalism is playing out in political parties in Zimbabwe today, it begins with Zanu PF that allocates political positions purely on tribal lines. It is the president and two vice presidents; always one VP will be from Matabeleland. According to Zanu’s way of thinking, if the population of Zimbabwe is composed of two thirds Shona, one third Ndebele, then one VP is enough tribal balance. Certainly, this tribal thinking spills down to opposition parties equally. MDC-T found a VP in Ndebele speaking Thokozani Khuphe, it was a convenient choice back then. When Tsvangirai was about to die, he made sure the party remained in the hands of Shona speaking people; the rest is history unfolding.

The choice of leadership of MDC in its formation in 1999 was defined on tribal lines. Gibson Sibanda was supposed to be the president, but they consciously chose Morgan Tsvangirai so that the newfound party gets accepted in areas with larger demographics. When Ncube and Gibson Sibanda split from the main MDC, they tried to get Mutambara on board, who was of Shona tribe; the trick did not work, it became a tribal party that had no base in the regions of Mashonaland, and it is for this reason that MDC-Ncube collapsed, now in eternal political dustbin. The Zimbabwean politics is still very tribal in every respect and that is a fact.

The shenanigans in MDC going on today because of tribal settings and positions should be a story for another day. The MDC sings from Zanu PF’s hymn books without shame when it comes to tribalism. How do you replicate a party you are opposing in all aspects of its operations? MDC is comfortable with tribal allocation of party positions determined by ethnic demography. Nothing challenges these tribal outfits and tribal inclinations: ability, capability and competence all becomes irrelevant, tribal make-up and displays of ethnicity take precedence in all political decisions.

Yes, it is true that these two ethnic peoples hate each other from the bone going out. I have lived in the UK for about six years: my shock has always been tribalism practised openly from both ethnic groups. I have been warned about speaking Shona by Ndebele people. ‘Shona is a language of the oppressors’, l am reminded. Again, if I spoke Ndebele with a Shona speaking person trying to find out if he/she comes from Zimbabwe like me, I will be looked down at and am told in no uncertain terms that he/she does not understand Ndeere language. Ndeere is a derogative use of word isiNdebele but will not think much about using such denigration to pull down your own, in a foreign country: it is out of good sense.

I have wondered how it is possible that the British, the colonisers of southern Africa who changed the lives of millions of people in this region forever would still be preferred and accepted ahead of our own African brothers and sisters.

How many wars did the BSAP fight with Matabele and Shona peoples? The British colonialists, in the process of colonialising the region and setting up boundaries for their convenience, realising that there existed irrevocable animosities between the Shona and Matabele peoples, they problematised the conflicts between the two ethnic groups to their favour. This is how simple this region was colonised by the British: divide and rule them. Hence Leander Jameson made demarcations between Mashonaland and Matabeleland.

Zimbabweans have found a home in the UK. Zimbabweans were applauded and adored by former Prime Minister Tony Blair as reliable and hard-working people. The NHS is the main provider of jobs to Zimbabwean Diasporas. Evidently, colonial animosities of the British government and the British people against black Zimbabweans ended in 1980 immediately after independence. Hence the presence of Zimbabweans in UK is accepted, their skills appreciated. This relationship between Zim-Diasporas and the British government is applauded for giving Zimbabwean diasporas a home and jobs to looks after their families.

I am sure everyone is now waiting for my obvious question: Why have our tribal or ethnic groups not found one another: just like the British and black Zimbabweans? Why do we bring tribalism and ethnic tensions from Zimbabwe to play them embarrassingly so loud and obvious in the UK? Ethnic Shona and Ndebele communities live separate from each other and there is no love lost between the two groups. The ethnic divide, the separation of both cultures is even worse in the UK than in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans look down upon each other on grounds of ethnicity in the second Millennium.

There are groupings in Matabeleland that want nothing less than a cessation of Mthwakazi from Zimbabwe. Little is known if this wish is a tribal sentiment supported by most of the population of this region. Hence, a referendum is a prerequisite to establish this fact, if the people of Matabeleland wish to determine their own fate and separate the country using the Jameson line as the final boundary, then negotiations must take place and not war.

Again, here is the problem we face as Africans. This Jameson line was demarcated by a colonialist Sir Jameson Starr Leander: Are we saying we are not able to solve ethnic issues without the assistance of former colonial assistance? Sure! Comrade Julius Malema is vocal about this and he is weary about Africans who are hostile to other Africans. He is horrified about Africans who see an enemy in another African. The inability of Africans never to give each other a hand of reconciliation or even dream of living together in peace and harmony with the “othering” has no Ubuntu whatsoever.

Letters have been written to Her Majesty, the Queen asking her to intervene in settling Mashona-Matabele conflict considering cessation of Matabeleland. Here we are asking former colonial powers to come and settle our black-black disputes because we cannot solve it ourselves as Africans. It is the same scenario playing out over 100 years ago in 1893 when the colonialists came in to unleash tribal wars of black against black. History says the people of Mashonaland asked BSAP to protect them against the Matabele impis. Those should be our negative moments of the past that should never continue to divide the nation.

As a growing up child in Zapu, it becomes difficult to maintain tribalistic views against the peoples of Mashonaland. However, I am not perfect, I know I have on several occasions aired anti-Shona sentiments coming from the marginalisation of Matabeleland by Zanu PF. To my credit, it is easy now to recognise that the enemy of Zimbabwe’s people is Zanu PF and not the people of Mashonaland. We are in a fix together against the Zanu government that has thrived on tribalism, a party that has on several occasions played down strategic, indelible contributions Zapu made in the struggle for independence.

Speak about Zapu, it was a multi-tribal party, it had several peoples from Mashonaland in the executive party and military. The hope of a rainbow nation was shattered when Zapu lost elections in 1980. However, the only hope we have today in this country are the children born of mixed ethnic groups and are in millions. They are the future generation who will be able to solve the ethnic problems because the generation of our parents failed and we the current generation are failing dismally.

Amid hate, multi-lingual, mixed-tribe offspring can develop through cultural osmosis their own new distinct culture because they will give birth to themselves. Nobody will denigrate them because they are obviously Shona and Ndebele at the same time. The nation will begin to hear their voice when they speak, both tribal and ethic divides will be present and dominant. They have coveted to their diverse upbringing and a new style that prisms them as the new future generation without contradictions.