I WAS dismayed by Education minister David Coltartâ€™s interview on SW Radio Africa.
When asked by reporter Violet Gonda whether Arthur Mutambara was invited to lead the MDC because â€œWelshman Ncube and others had accepted that no Ndebele person could ever lead Zimbabweâ€, Coltart responded:
â€œâ€¦One of the realities is that it would be entirely inappropriate to have a white person, so soon after Independence, run for the presidency of this country. Whilst that may seem a racist statement, it is still too soon after the end of colonialism for this country to contemplate having a white ruler. That is just a political reality.
â€œAnd sadly, whilst it is not as strong a political reality as for example having a white leader, it remains a reality that the vast majority of Zimbabweans do not have Ndebele as their mother tongue and will gravitate towards a Shona speaking leader. That is a political reality that we simply cannot ignore and if that was the calculation, well it was a reasonable calculation but it wasnâ€™t as if anyone was selected.â€
I find such a comment offensive. It is a sad reality to know that an elected public official 29 years after Independence still harbours such stereotypes that are not based on reality.
Zimbabwean people are politically mature and given the circumstances they find themselves in right now, they would not choose a leader solely based on what language he or she speaks. There is a lot to consider when choosing a leader besides language.
A stringent analysis would suggest that the minister was endorsing a stereotype that no Ndebele, Tonga, Venda or Kalanga would ever rule Zimbabwe. Thatâ€™s political nonsense at its best.
Such an assertion coming from a publicly elected official is not only confused and confusing, but also seriously misleading and dangerous. As Minister of Education espousing such unfortunate statements, Coltart does not know that it kills the dreams of students from other non-Shona speaking ethnicities who might be thinking big to do something for the country.
Zimbabwe is developing into a great democracy, (because of the GPA, if it works), and its leaders should not be selected or elected based on the tribe they come from or the language they speak. It should be based on the personâ€™s political maturity and ability to execute the responsibilities given to them. Leaders should be unifiers of the people and be servants to the population that elected them to power.
There should be no immature distinction between a Shona, Venda, Tonga, Kalanga or Ndebele leader because we are essentially one people, Zimbabweans working together for the betterment of our country.
Leaders are not judged by the language they speak but by their ability to improve peopleâ€™s lives. Such an assertion that leaders from a certain ethnic group cannot rule is really criminal.
Around the world, we have many presidents leading prosperous countries who come from minority groups within their countries. That proves that anyone can be a leader as long as they are given an opportunity to lead or to actualise their potential.
There is more to leadership that someoneâ€™s language and tribe, and the honourable minister should the one teaching us this.
I have seen a lot of good leaders from our ethnicities â€” Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Kalanga, Venda â€” who have done great things in the corporate sector, in private small businesses, non-governmental organisations etc. Their success has not been due to the language they speak. It has been due to their ability to exercise their God-given talents or gifts.
Anyone can lead Zimbabwe â€” even a white Zimbabwean because they are essentially Zimbabweans too, thatâ€™s why Coltart is a cabinet minister. We are not a racist country and we should not be seen to be clandestinely promoting such divisive concepts that marginalise fellow Zimbabweans.
We are living in the digital age and we expect much more political maturity from our leaders than what I read in Coltartâ€™s comments. Coltart is not a bad minister, but it is disappointing that his choice of words was poor enough to cement a stereotype that is not based on objective reality.
If one considers the example of the US in electing Barak Obama as president, it destroys the ministerâ€™s theory about minorities. President Obama is from a minority (African American) ethnic groupÂ yet he was elected to be president, the highest office on earth, based on his God-given abilities.
Obama was not elected simply because he is black, but because he has unique talents and abilities to bring change to the US. The American people chose him based on that, not any other criteria.
If such a reality is possible in the USA, why should some Zimbabweans still think that leadership should be confined to one ethnic group that speaks a particular language, and ignore people from other ethnic or tribal groups who have unique talents and abilities who can also be instrumental in the development the country?
Ndebeles, Shonas, Tongas, Vendas and Kalangas are all Zimbabweans. There is no one tribe inferior to the other. All have unique abilities and God-given talents that can be of help to our country. There is, therefore, no room for sectional prejudices.
With proper voter education and empowerment, people wonâ€™t gravitate towards a Shona speaking leader as David Coltart asserts but will gravitate towards a Zimbabwean, a mature leader who will listen to their needs and guarantee their freedoms.
I guess I have a dream for Zimbabwe, where leaders will not be judged or elected based on the language they speak but based on their ability to deliver for our great nation.
Brighton Ncube is a political analyst. He can be contacted on: email@example.com