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Point of correction: Highlanders isn’t a national but a community football team

I am not upset about the deliberate and calculated distortions of Emmet Ndlovu’s (Highlanders’ Secretary-General) message in an interview in South Africa by some sections of the Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe-interested media; I am upset in my naivety and that from today I question my trust of some individuals whom I had developed a certain level of respect and will from now on not believe them again.

Emmet Ndlovu, Highlanders FC's Secretary-General
Emmet Ndlovu, Highlanders FC’s Secretary-General

First things first: (1) Highlanders Football Club (Bosso) is a community institution based in Bulawayo, a city in Matabeleland, and not a national institution as someone has been trying to ‘remind’ us on Facebook. That was not a slip of the tongue but a calculated misinformation, (2) Bosso is not funded by the Zimbabwean state but individuals in the community among other alternative sources of income, (3) IsiNdebele is the major language spoken in Bulawayo so expecting Bosso players to be competent in the language is not asking for too much, and (4) football players and supporters form a community sharing mutual goals, there is ongoing interaction (direct and indirect) both in the stadium during the matches and outside games and the stadium hence emphasising the importance of players embracing the values and traditions of the club is a reasonable expectation and one not exclusive to Bosso.

That some individual in the media does not know what those values and traditions are does not of itself constitute evidence that they are bad traditions and values but that the inquisitor is ignorant. For any journalist who values integrity, credibility and is passionate about fair reporting, these values and traditions along with the Emmet Ndlovu interview audio and Ndlovu himself would have been sort first instead of deriving conclusions from unsubstantiated secondary sources.

It is disturbing that an influential journalist, albeit in their capacity as a world citizen, would be willingly complicit in the peddling of untruths and half-truths. Yes, people have a right to express their opinions but no one has a right to ignorance. Emmet Ndlovu clearly spoke about the need to revisit the guiding principles and values of Highlanders FC. Now it is alleged, in some quarters, Ndlovu ‘vowed’ not to sign ethnic Shona footballers yet those peddling the story have yet to provide tangible evidence.

The audio of the interview is allegedly available, one would have thought any objective individual wanting to run the story on both their publication and/ or Facebook page would make serious attempts to obtain the audio before moralising on Emmet’s ‘views’.

The quality, credibility and motive of the debate is questionable. Conjectural evidence is being used to discredit Ndlovu and insult the whole of ethnic Ndebele people as tribalists. A conspicuous flaw in this debate is the absence of Ndlovu’s audio from his interview in South Africa. If the debate is meant to question and/ or encourage transparency in Zimbabwean football, and Highlanders in particular, then the audio should form the basis of the exchanges and not mere interpretations of interpretations of rumours from those who supposedly heard the audio.

The only achievement of the debate has been the facilitation of a sociopolitical platform for delusional tribalists to exhibit their misplaced ethnic Shona superiority complex while accusing Ndebeles of tribalism and an inferiority complex.

Equally disturbing has been the attitude of Matabeleland liberals who have lapped at the opportunity to condemn Ndebeles; many of these people are ignorant populists who seem to always worry about the rights of ethnic Shona people in Matabeleland as though they did not already exist while compromising the self-preservation of Matabeleland institutions. The rights that these left-wing liberals claim for ethnic Shona residents should be extended to all ethnic groups in Matabeleland.

Advancing equal access to opportunity is both morally right and good football business as is preserving the club’s values and traditions; the Bosso executive knows that any real or perceived discrimination restricts team development and success which is the reason why Ndlovu touches on the importance of an expansive and inclusive youth policy. How this is turned into a debate about tribalism and seen as such by some Matabeles belies reason.

The absence of tangible evidence proving Emmet Ndlovu did ‘vow’ that Highlanders Football Club would not be recruiting good ethnic Shona players suggests some sinister agenda by some individuals. No one should allow themselves the right to use conjecture to make damning judgement about other communities while they themselves are busy claiming ethnic superiority. What the debate about the alleged comments by Ndlovu brings to our attention is the worrying and dangerous sense of entitlement by some ethnic Shona people whose disdainful perception of ethnic Ndebeles remains a source of worry for Matabeleland security and safety.


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