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Published: December 3, 2009
Analysis(ZimEye)Imagine Josiah Tongogara was alive, trampling the streets of Harare – the man who wanted to see Ndebele and Shona people living in harmony. Imagine if Ziyapapa Moyo and Herbert Chitepo had not met their untimely deaths?
“I do not like heroes; they make too much noise in the world” acknowledges one street vendor. Almost three years after the Anglo-Ndebele war of 1893, the Zimbabwean people rose again to fight the white settlers in 1896. The causes for the Shona and Ndebele war of liberation were many and varied but language was one of them, especially on the Ndebele who objected the deployment of Shona-speaking police deployment in Matebeleland. Understandable the language issue was a crucial cause on the part of the Ndebele but unfortunately the white-settlers did not understand it or chose to play it down. The people of Matebeleland’s objection of Shona-speaking police was based on a founded principle as pointed by Weedon who sums “Language is the place whose actual and possible forms of social organisation and their likely social and political consequences are defined and contested.” Thus, the Ndebele people understood that language is the vehicle for socialisation and that through it the individual becomes self-aware and learn the culture of his/her society.
For the next 90 years of colonial rule language was used to divide the people of Zimbabwe. Colonial education did not try to bring social cohesion by teaching Ndebele and Shona at national rather than regional level. Albeit to say, socialisation between the major two tribes in Zimbabwe was only limited to quite rudimental level, leaving English language to play the unifying factor. It is sad for me to always turn to English language whenever I want to speak to my kith-and-kin from Matebeleland. Ironically, I am not a product of the settler regime but of the Mugabe and ZANU PF regime. This meant that the opportunity to bring effective change in Zimbabwe was there through education. If only the regime in Harare had demonstrated leadership on this pivotal issue a new Zimbabwe could have been created with a united populace as opposed to the current situation where everything has to be seen within Shona and Ndebele perspective. This is why I took great exception with President Mugabe and his ZANU PF lieutenants. Thirty years after independence the Government has done nothing to bring main tribes namely: Shona and Ndebele together. In fact these two indigenous languages are still being taught on tribal basis and no-one in ZANU PF has realised how divided the people of Zimbabwe are and how language has the potential to bring us together as Zimbabweans instead of Ndebele or Shona. It is quite disheartening to note that whenever I want to communicate with someone from Matebeleland I have to resort to English, although the majority of Ndebele-speaking people can speak Shona the same could not be said of the Shona. The consequence of a divided people is suspicion and mistrust with deadly consequences. Imagine that “hour of madness” as put across by Mugabe when referring to the Gukurahundi massacres. Language here was used as a tool to wipe out innocent families by Mugabe’s Korean trained army. Those Zimbabweans who were unfortunate to live in Matebeleland and could not speak Shona found themselves on the receiving end. The analogy was that Ndebele-speaking people were plotting to oust ZANU PF from power-hence the government responded by massacring thousand of innocent people.
Regrettably, even after the Unity Accord of 1987, the regime in Harare has not tried to bring the people of Zimbabwe together as one family through teaching of Shona and Ndebele at national level as opposed to the status quo. Do we need another massacre in Mashonaland for these people to learn to speak Ndebele? Or are we content to continue divided as we have been since the coming of the whites or even beyond? If our education is polarizing the Zimbabwean society, is it serving its purpose?
ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe’s failures are many and varied but the lack to adopt a national curriculum for Shona and Ndebele majors as their greatest. The atrocities of the Ndebele people during the early 80s is inexcusable but the failure to use education as a unifying force is tantamount to irresponsibility, lack of political maturity and negation of the Government of Zimbabwe’s duties towards its people.
History will judge Mugabe and ZANU PF on their contributions to Zimbabwe but their failure to unite people of Zimbabwe through education will rank above the rest because this fundamental issue has the potential to continue dividing Zimbabweans into Shona and Ndebele for generations to come. Imagine the type of Zimbabwe we would be living in, if in 1980 the Patriotic Front had fought the elections under one ticket? Imagine if Josiah Magamba Tongogara had not met his unexplained death on his way home from Mozambique to prepare for the birth of Zimbabwe under the Patriotic Front?
Imagine if Ziyapapa Moyo and Chitepo had not met their untimely death? A new Zimbabwe could have been born in 1980 with a vision of a new social order and a united, free, democratic Zimbabwe would have emerged, avoiding this disastrous route ZANU PF and Mugabe have taken us through. Thus, to avoid another Gukurahundi, in the near future the debate on the teaching of Shona and Ndebele should be adopted as of yesterday. As an ordinary citizen of My Beloved Zimbabwe my only wish is equipped by the following, “All I ask is heaven above and the reed before me.” (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)