Political provocation and the myth of Ndebele Kalanga oppression

Virtue signalling and victimhood can never be a credible founding block for change if the Kalanga people want to revive their nation and be at the centre of political decisions impacting their lives. To say Ndebeles and Shonas are suppressing Kalanga culture is a shameful aversion of reality. Some coward within the BaKalanga community is fearful of provoking the real oppressors, so they conveniently avoid confronting the fact ZANU PF is using its mandate provided by its ethnic Shona majority constituency to turn Shona culture and creed into law that presides over Zimbabwe.

We accept as a political reality the fact that the current Zimbabwean system is ‘rigged’ against certain nations, including the Kalanga. But the influence of the Ndebele nation in that policy is not only disputable, it is non-existent.  

Legitimate as it is, the goal of a Kalanga revival should not be to destroy Matabeleland, discredit the Ndebele nation, and demonstrate to everyone that Kalangas are the rightful occupants of the geographic territory to the Southwest of Zimbabwe.

To be honest, it is not an astute political move but provocation that the Kalanga revitalisation programme will be centred on the bashing of other ethnic groups and tribes. For all we know, it is possible to revive and strengthen the Kalanga nation without destroying other nations.

While we respect the intellectual autonomy of the individuals driving the BuKalanga revival, a ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy is unjustified and its merit is very questionable. Why are some members of the Kalanga community so vested in isolating and targeting Ndebele people for abuse? How is the tribe-baiting and provocation of other communities in Matabeleland going to resolve genuine Kalanga community problems? How – under the current climate – are Ndebeles a major problem to Kalanga people?

The problem with provocation is that it is often counterproductive. By the looks of it Ndebele people cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is increasingly degrading to make the attempt. People from all tribes and ethnic groups in Mthwakazi have listened to Kalanga scholars’ concerns, they have embraced their political creativity, considered constitution suggestions and the proposed ethnocentric state boundaries but that has not been enough. Now one wonders if the Kalanga solution, like the ZANU PF one, lies in the expulsion of Ndebele ethnic groups.

It is beyond comprehension that self-appointed guardians of Kalanga identity would wake up to accuse people (with who they have lived side by side, suffered an identical ordeal in the early 1980s and face same prejudices daily) of oppressing them. Generalising specific problems is a dangerous disservice to society as a whole – the complainants should state which Ndebeles are oppressing Kalanga culture and language and how they are doing that.

To the majority of ethnic Ndebele people who for over a Century have lived peacefully in communities consisting of different tribes and ethnic groups, the preservation of different cultures and languages is intricate to the region’s identity. There is certainly no evidence of a desire by any tribe to assimilate another.

Allegations of a Ndebele/ Shona conspiracy against Kalanga survival lacks credence as much as they are not shared by many Kalanga citizens who are equally proud of their history, culture and language. Recent demonstrations in Matjinge primary and high school against the disproportionate deployment of ethnic Shona teachers bears testimony to that argument – the parents and students did not highlight Ndebeles as their problem, in fact they voluntarily chanted their concerns in isiNdebele. It is also worth noting that around the same time, end of March 2021, parents in Nkankezi primary school in Filabusi forced out ethnic Shona teachers who were not competent in the local language, isiNdebele.

©Community Podium

It is contemptible that people with deeply tribalist beliefs will attempt to hijack our political fundamentals in their self-centred desire to be the driving force of historical revisionism. Clearly individuals pursuing personal agendas are trying to re-write our history and misrepresent the current political climate; there is no precedence in Matabeleland of a Ndebele/ Shona political collaboration whose sole aim was to siphon power from other ethnic groups for the benefit of the two tribes.    

The Kalanga nation is Matabeleland, and without the Kalanga nation Matabeleland as a nation is poorer; the Kalanga people’s demand for respect is a legitimate call that all tribes should take heed of but the preservation of the Kalanga culture and language is dependent on the Kalanga people rebuilding it and not the demise of other tribes and ethnic groups. Anyone who whips up tribal antagonisms to win political power is a political opportunist and an enemy of human rights.

No tribe’s needs should be seen as greater than any other. We all want the best for our nations. We all want children to be taught in their mother language; we all want teachers who teach our children to be competent in the language and respect local culture and we all want to have a say in what our children are taught in school. This a basic human right, not just a Kalanga right.

Going forward, we must appreciate we are stronger together; all we do must be nation first, and cultural diversity is the foundation of our nation. If the Kalanga people can make the Ndebele people and others feel the same way that they feel about themselves, the nations will have a meaningful conversation about the Matabeleland they need and how it would help. Nations of Matabeleland must stop trying to drag each other into the mire, they should be fostering relationships and maintaining them. Respect of difference is a sign of maturity and wisdom.

Published by THE RESEARCH HUB

a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Mthwakazi (Matabeleland) human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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