No gripe against siNdebele use

MUCH as I detest the editorial policy of the Bulawayo-based, state-owned Chronicle, I hold no gripe against its use of Ndebele words over those of Shona.


The Chro

nicle was established principally to serve its main market – the predominantly Ndebele people of the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.

Before the Chronicle took the decision last year to print and circulate the paper nationwide, there were no complaints about its usage of Ndebele. Notice that the complaint comes from Kudakwashe Marazanye who resides in Harare in his article “Chronicle doing a disservice to Zim’s ethnic relations” (Zimbabwe Independent, April 23).

If the Chronicle adopted the word sadza in place of isitshwala, Zimbabwe’s ethnic relations would be strained as the Ndebeles would feel that their language is under siege by a newspaper that primarily exists to serve them.

Ndebeles, like any other minority ethnic group are proud of their heritage and culture and especially so against the background of the near extermination of its people during the Gukurahundi massacres.

The attitudes that exist among the Ndebeles against the Shonas stem from these two facts. What is happening in Bulawayo does not promote or protect their culture.

For example, if you go to Nust, you will find that 85% of students are from Mashonaland yet there are about five universities in Mashonaland. In the banking sector of Bulawayo, 80% of all staff are Shona. Worse still, they are not Bulawayo Shonas but Shonas transferred from Harare. The police force in Bulawayo is heavily staffed by Shonas. Just where are the children of Ndebeles expected to work in such a highly ‘Shonalised’ environment?

When a minority ethnic group is threatened in such a manner, it naturally reacts to protect itself. The first port of call – the protection of its language and hence the need for the Chronicle to stick to Ndebele.

As for ZBC-TV, do not console yourself into believing that it is pro-ethnic equality. Does the land jingle Rambai Makashinga have an Ndebele equivalent? Does Sendekera Mwana Wevhu have an Ndebele version? And on how many occasions has ZBC opted to screen Harare soccer matches at the expense of those played in Bulawayo?

Radio is even worse. Even though there is now 100% local content on all radio stations, Power FM plays 95% of songs from Shona artistes all singing in Shona. Ndebeles are now forced to learn Shona with the effect of doing away with their own language.

Lungisani Makhalima and Sandra Ndebele burst onto the music scene singing blazing hot Ndebele songs. But it would seem that someone in Harare told them to sing in Shona in order to get anywhere. How do you explain their sudden change to songs like Usadaro, Pasina iwe and Malaika after singing block buster hits like Vulela and Mama?

So rabid in their hatred of Ndebele are some Shonas that the lead singer of Jays and Kozekulunge, when collecting his award for Best Video 2003 at the Zimbabwe Music Awards ceremony last year, was booed by the audience as he spoke in Ndebele. How terrible! Speak about “one’s right to use their own language without being hounded for exercising that right!”

Marazanye needs to understand that ethnic divisions will always exist. What is wrong is for a dominant ethnic group such as the Shonas in Zimbabwe trying to assert itself over minority groups such as Ndebeles, Vendas, Tongas, Kalangas etc. For political reasons, the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, meant to benefit the Matabeleland people, remains under lock and key because it seeks to advance the lot of the Ndebele people who are a minority.

Even in the political realm, we all know that the most suitabe presidential candidate from Zanu PF is John Nkomo. From the MDC, Professor Welshman Ncube stands out. Both men are Ndebele. Would Shonas be willing to vote for an Ndebele for president? I doubt it.

I am in no way promoting tribal hatred. All that I am advocating is the recognition of all ethnic groups with a view to ensuring that their lot benefits from resources and opportunities available to them. The only way we can protect all cultural groups is when we promote and protect their way of life, culture and language.

Let the Chronicle continue to do this work as far as the Ndebele people are concerned.


Peter Ngwenya,

Bulawayo.