I NOTICED the Chronicle in its coverage of the dietary requirements for the Warriors in Tunisia refrained from using the Shona word sadza in reference to our staple food, opting to use the Ndebele equivalent isitshwala.
Presumably, the Chronicle shies away from using Shona words in its pages for fear of offending Ndebele sensibilities. It is my humble submission that this policy of using only English and Ndebele in the Chronicle is ill-advised and does not promote good ethnic relations. Such a policy promotes the illusory view that Bulawayo is an exclusive enclave for Ndebeles and whites while all other tribes are not welcome. Impressionable elements in our midst will, taking a cue from institutions like the Chronicle, then hurl abuse at Shonas exhorting them to leave Bulawayo because it is a city for Ndebeles, as happens many a time there.
The Chronicle is playing to the gallery of the few tribalists in Bulawayo for whom the use of Shona and the presence of Shonas in Bulawayo is abhorrent. I was appalled to hear a national figure like Professor (Phineas) Makhurane, who should know better, publicly encouraging Gwanda Zintec (Joshua Nkomo Polytechnic) authorities to give preference to locals (a euphemism for Ndebeles) in their recruitment policy. This, at a national institution funded by all taxpayers in the country.
Were this to happen at any national institution in Mashonaland, the hue and cry would be deafening. Now, this runs against the grain and spirit of national reconciliation as espoused in the slogan Sisonke/Simunye that ZBC has done so well to promote. If the ZBC has a Ndebele slogan even though it is based in Harare why should the Chronicle not promote the acceptance of Shona nationally?
The most popular programme on national TV has now been christened Ezomgido, with the Shona equivalent being dropped.
On Radio Zimbabwe, all DJs are now forced to use Ndebele during their shows even though on NewsNet some correspondents from Matabeleland file their stories only in Ndebele and English. In the station’s phone-in programme Ukubingelelana, it is sad to hear Shona callers being either rudely told off for using the “Ndebele only line” or forced to speak in Ndebele. The powers-that-be at the radio station insist on having two lines – one for Shona speakers and the other for Ndebele speakers. This is despite the fact that with an audience distribution of 85% Shonas and 15% Ndebeles, the fair thing would be to have one line for Ndebele speakers and two for Shona.
Ndebele words like indaba, mafikizolo, lobola and bambazonke have gained nationwide usage to the extent that they have been easily absorbed in the Shona and English vocabulary. But not a word of complaint from the Shonas. All this shows how much the Shonas are prepared to bend over backwards for the promotion of good ethnic relations.
From the Chronicle’s unwillingness to use the word sadza and using a Ndebele word in its place, it can be reasonably inferred that some Ndebele want Shonas and the whole nation to use Ndebele words but they are themselves averse to using any Shona words. The philosophy behind this policy is the same as that enunciated and enforced by Archbishop Pius Ncube in which Shona Catholics are denied the right to use their language in worship. We have heard of Shona students being denied rented accommodation in Gwanda.
The Chronicle may well be vicariously liable for the suffering of these innocent students and other persecuted Shonas in Bulawayo as actions I have cited promote the utterly retrogressive view that Shonas are not welcome in Bulawayo.
As a result of the active promotion of the shunning of Shona and Shonas by institutions like the Chronicle, young and impressionable Bulawayo-based Shona musician Tendai Masunda changed her name to Nonsikelelo to gain acceptance. It is every human being’s right to use their own language without being hounded for exercising that right. I think a national newspaper should be more responsible.