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Defeat ethnocentrism for a stronger Matabeleland

Deepening insularity poses real and ongoing threat to growth and progress in the political space of a multicultural Matabeleland society; we are witnessing many walls being built and not enough bridges due to growing insularity overtures. Insularity is the foundation of ethnocentrism and intolerance. We define ethnocentrism as the belief that one’s own culture is essentially important and is superior to other cultures; such a belief influences how one engages with others from different cultural backgrounds in a multicultural society. The term tends to have negative connotations because of its ties with prejudice.

Recent debate has centred on individuals bent on driving a wedge between Nguni and Kalanga people in Matabeleland. These individuals allege that there is generalised hatred of and an uncanny undermining of Kalanga institutions, culture, values and norms by Nguni people, but this allegation is a by-product of prejudice; there is no evidential backing from current social and political intergroup engagement. Their allegation that Nguni people hate the Rhumba music genre because of its Kalanga roots is political posturing, and a figment imagination of idle minds; the late Nduna Malaba’s music enjoyed support from and had influence across the region.

These critics are being disingenuous in their allegations of discrimination, and it is apparent their interest is the Kalanga ethnic group not national interests which explains the targeting, isolation and demonisation of Nguni people who they view as politically influential while maintaining total silence about other ethnic groups that make up the Matabeleland nation.

Arguably, it represents an incompetent criticism to deliberately ignore the context and reality that ethnic groups in Matabeleland have lived together for over a century; in that time political dynamics, political power and influence has altered significantly rendering Nguni people less influential in the broad scheme of things. We can say with regret that since 1980 the politics playing out is not reflective of the Matabeleland nation.

Our nations have endured state engineered suffering in equal measure during the colonial period, the postcolonial eras of Mugabe and the so-called new dispensation of Mnangagwa. The different groups are inseparable, intermarriages are commonplace and there is often a crossover in culture, traditions and language expressions.

We are wary that dismissing the voices of the oppressed, in fact for any revolution dismissing dissenting voices is self-defeating because it creates a barrier that impedes progress and expansion. Thus, we must accept like any institution, Matabeleland is not immune to criticism and scrutiny, but care should be taken not to mistake bigotry for critique.

Critiquing injustices of the historical social and political stratification of Matabeleland is a fair and legitimate argument, and to challenge and rectify any remnants of that social stratification will be the right course to take for growth and progress.

Those opposed to the social, economic and political characteristic of the territory do have the right to challenge it. Ideas must be fought with superior ideas that speak to the guts of the population. Difference of opinion is one thing and often welcome opportunity for self-introspection, revision and progress, bigotry is another – it is prejudice, a hate-filled, highly destructive falsification and distortion of realities to achieve nothing but division of vulnerable communities and society.

It would be naïve to deny potential tensions that come with multiculturalism, but no centrism based on the temporary historical “glory” of any ethnic group should be allowed to undermine or distort our universal human understanding of our Matabeleland experiences and oneness.

Fighting injustice that affects access to political processes between different groups is essential, but instead of constructing walls between communities, we need to build access bridges, promote intercultural communication sensitivity and multiculturalism to overcome ethnocentrism and reduce conflicts among intergroup interactions.

Lest we forget, if we are divided, we will fall and the repercussions from that will reverberate across the whole nation not just an ethnic group; to focus on one’s ethnicity without focusing on the entire nation is like studying clapping by studying the right hand, context is essential in any conversation; infighting will sap our nation while strengthening the Mashonaland system over us.

We welcome difference and disagreement, but disagreement rooted in the oppression and dehumanisation of any ethnic group is inexcusable. For growth and progress, political maturity is required; our ongoing problem is the existence of a small but vociferous group of self-indulgent individuals turning politics into a game, an ethnic contest to be precise. There is too much finger-pointing and rooting for the pride of an ethnicity rather than the good of the nation. In Matabeleland we are all equal without exception; the outcome of division is clear: if any one ethnic group falls, Matabeleland nation will fall. We need each other; going forward, we need to understand why differences that have existed for over a century and have not diminished or broken our nationhood are suddenly an existential threat to the nation.

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