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) interview in South Africa by some sections of the Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe-interested media; I am upset 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, 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 is not a slip of the tongue but a calculated misinformation. Bosso is not funded by the Zimbabwean state but the community among other alternative funders. IsiNdebele is the major language in Bulawayo so expecting Bosso players to be competent in the language is not asking for too much while emphasising the importance of players embracing the values of the club is a reasonable demand not exclusive to Bosso. That some individual does not know what those values and traditions are does not of itself mean they are bad values but that the inquisitor is ignorant.

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. 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 supposedly 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, 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 creation of a socio-political platform for real tribalists to exhibit their ethnic Shona superiority complex while accusing Ndebeles of tribalism and an inferiority complex.

Equally disturbing has been the attitude of Matabeleland liberals who 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; these are either traitors or idiots. Advancing equal opportunity is both morally right and good football business as is preserving the club’s values and traditions; the Bosso executive knows that 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 Shona players suggests some sinister agenda by some individuals. Ethnic Shona people should not allow themselves the right to use conjecture to make damning judgement about other communities while 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.

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