The Rebirth of BuKalanga: an honest project or political piracy?

Debate is one of the cornerstones of thriving democracies; it may not always lead to agreement but with every debate there is growth in the knowledge base and tolerance threshold of the participants. For that reason the emergence of Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo and his pet project ‘The Rebirth of BuKalanga’ should be a welcome dimension within Mthwakazi (Matabeleland and the Midlands).

However, like all socio-political projects in Mthwakazi, The Rebirth of BuKalanga should be subject to scrutiny before informed decisions are made. How authentic the Rebirth of BuKalanga project is is anybody’s guess. Is the project a genuine attempt at restructuring the Mthwakazi political space or a desperate pursuit for personal glory? An observation of Moyo’s socio-political contributions on social networks and his personal blog clearly shows his commitment to reclaim BuKalanga identity, its land and socio-political systems. The project author’s resentment of what he sees as Nguni hegemony is unequivocal; the emotionally charged debates somehow drown the BuKalanga manifesto in a chronic pattern of verbal assault on King Mzilikazi and the Ndebele Kingdom.

There is no doubting Moyo’s enthusiasm in his project, the work is well publicised on social networks. However, the book (now available as a free online download) is for many reasons far from a pleasurable read; it is a chore. Enthusiasm alone is not enough; the work’s scholarly sophistication is not unequivocal, there are clear deficiencies in the presentation of major arguments. The author does not make an effort to explain his research methodologies; the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the sources used in the book which have greatly influenced the conclusions that he makes throughout the book are not defined. When an author has confidence in and is prepared to use specific sources to support significant socio-political conclusions, they have the duty to articulate the data selection process and the strength of the evidence used hence justify their confidence in that evidence.

In other words, why has the author used the sources they have determined to use and more significantly, what sources have been excluded and what were the reasons for their exclusion? As suggested earlier, the book is not necessarily intellectually stimulating; it is a series of long winded historical quotes, paraphrases and summaries of text yet very little critical appraisal; the author’s educated opinion is at a premium (the main weakness of the book) obviously subsumed by the flood of superior in-text quotes.  Conspicuous by their absence are contributions from the communities that the author is writing about, where are the Kalangas, Karangas and Ngunis?

BaKalanga have the right to their land, culture and freedom of socioeconomic association but no more than any other ethnic group. It is not in the place of this blog to dictate how arguments should be presented; however, there is an expectation that diplomacy should be preferred over misguided bellicose rhetoric.

Arbitrarily allocating Mthwakazians into social categories narrowly defined by the project author on the basis of family names is bad politics; what is perhaps more important for many individuals are communities with whom they associate themselves. Unnecessary belligerence and frequent use of poorly constructed arguments risk putting the credibility of the entire project into disrepute. Targeting and/ or isolating the Ndebele ethnic group for chronic political attacks is unwarranted and desperate politics at best; it will never empower BaKalanga and other ethnic minorities including traditionally disadvantaged population groups across the region.

Moyo’s creativity maybe unquestionable yet the credibility of his motives cannot be left unchallenged. Is he the saviour of BuKalanga that he purports to be or is he a deluded and unrepentant paranoid xenophobe? A narrow ideological spectrum handicaps The Rebirth of BuKalanga in the same way it has hampered many political projects in the region. The construction and some material content of the manifesto raises eyebrows; for instance, of what value is a ‘complete’ list of Nguni surnames or clan names, a re-definition of BuKalanga vis-a-vis the Ndebele and ascertaining whether Moyos were Kalanga or Karanga to the BuKalanga cause?

How significant or appropriate or indeed safe is the use of people’s last names to determine their identities and insinuate their socio-political loyalties? It is not yet clear where naturalised immigrants and races other than black will fall into. The author fails to justify the following: the importance of tying down people to specific socially ascribed identities within a traditionally male dominated cultural context; emphasising the fact that Ndebeles are a minority ethnic group within Mthwakazi; attempting to co-opt ethnic groups he deems small into his BuKalanga project (as opposed to allowing them the freedom of choice); and more significantly, presenting himself as a pure muKalanga. Remotely subscribing to notions of ethnic purity, if not superiority, poses real socio-political insecurity within the region. It is difficult to conclude beyond that Moyo is playing toxic politics of calculated ethnic division.

Human history is littered with acts of unbelievable barbaric magnitude. Humanity has seen and/ or continues to witness violent inter-ethnic/ racial territorial invasions, slavery, colonialism and genocide, to mention but a few examples. These experiences have shaped inter- or intra-generational socio-political transactions. Mzilikazi’s invasion of BaKalanga and other communities north of the Limpopo River undoubtedly impacted on the socio-political space of the region; however, its impact on the current deprivation of BuKalanga is contestable. Without trivialising the negative effect of the Nguni invasion of BaKalanga, it will be folly were it to be the centre of the narrative of the BuKalanga manifesto instead of the problems facing BaKalanga today and the solutions thereof.

How Moyo manages to make direct links of 19th Century Nguni invasion of BuKalanga to the current problems facing BaKalanga demonstrates a high degree of subjective analyses. The author deliberately exaggerates the socio-political impact of Ngunis on BuKalanga while downplaying that of colonialism by both white settlers and the current Zimbabwean government, and the broader socioeconomic impact of globalisation to justify attempts of building a wedge between BaKalanga and AmaNdebele. It can be argued with confidence that the hegemonic existence of AmaNdebele as conceived by Moyo is a by-product of awful reasoning than reality; AmaNdebele now bear little control over socio-political systems in the region and even lesser power to impact other ethnic groups’ circumstances.

A goal without a plan is nothing but a worthless dream. For a project seeking to empower BuKalanga communities, The Rebirth of BuKalanga falls acutely short on practicable plans that will empower BaKalanga or reclaim BuKalanga beyond redrawing and renaming boundaries. The idea that the solution of BaKalanga’s socioeconomic and cultural deprivation lies in the exclusion of AmaNdebele is desperation of unimaginable proportions. Co-opting every other ethnic group into the BaKalanga fold is condescending and dreadful political opportunism. Misplaced decrees and belligerence will not correct existing socio-political structural inequalities. A long-term solution to Mthwakazi’s or BuKalanga’s problems will be a by-product of a civil debate among all stakeholders, including AmaNdebele. Every ethnic group in Mthwakazi or whatever name you give to the region is as important as the other and as deserving of determining its destiny as every other.

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