If there is anything to be learned by Matabeleland from the latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa, it is that Africa as a whole has failed to deal with tribal prejudice. Let us recall the 1983 Nigerian expulsions of West Africans, most of whom were Ghanaians. This is a stark reminder to all Africans of our responsibilities as human beings and how not to behave when in position of privilege. How do we safely retain our national pride without compromising the dignity of other nations?
No one is born prejudiced; people are taught it. Now the question is why are they taught it? What continues to be African nations’ major failing has been the failure to stop thinking with our clans and tribes. Each time our communities have come to the end of our tether, we have resorted to tribe or the clan.
We have yet to trust the value of logic in dealing with our socio-political traumas. Our political allegiance remains determined by such social factors as tribe and clan. We are obsessed with the tribe or clan from which our leaders come; other essential qualities in a leader are always almost secondary to clan and tribe.
All Matabeles who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to challenge bigotry and all forms of prejudice based on ethnic supremacy whenever we encounter them. Recent events in South Africa illustrate the dangers of prejudice.
Prejudice reduces other human beings to concepts; what some South Africans see in black immigrants is just their idea of these different people and not human beings deserving of human dignity. They see inferior beings, illegal immigrants, poverty, job grabbers, cheap labour and criminals among many negative concepts.
There is nothing wrong with worshipping our nationhood but we must worship ourselves without scorning others. We are a great nation because of who we are and not because there exists other nations that our prejudice convinces us to despise. Ndebeles need to accept that we, unfortunately, remain a nation still proudly practicing prejudice; our views of certain ethnic groups within Matabeleland and Zimbabwe need to be confronted.
Merit and competence need to define how our society functions; we have to start dismantling all the lines of patronage and the accompanying allegiance that threaten to define and dictate the centre of power within our Mthwakazi state.
Africa must maximise efforts to stop xenophobia and ethnic stereotyping. We need to actively challenge the notion that non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity does not work in Africa. Matabeles need to confront all the prejudice in our communities and ensure our children are not exposed to it. Matabele children need to learn that they are only different but not better than the next nation.