ZHUWAO Brief: Of narratives, regime change…Triumph of national identity over tribalism

Tribalism is a concept that is divisive, counter revolutionary, and contrary to our national constitution as Zimbabwe. In this instalment, the Zhuwao Brief will submit that Zimbabweans have been very successful, on the whole, in terms of subjugating the so-called tribal identity in favour of the national identity of being Zimbabwean.

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The Zhuwao Brief wishes to extend its condolences to the family of the late historian, Professor Terence Ranger, who passed away on January 3, 2015.

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Professor Ranger contributed immensely to Zimbabwe in documenting our history as a nation, albeit some of his later works were controversial. His work, together with the works of several other researchers and academics, contributed to highlighting that tribalism in Zimbabwe was the invention and creation of colonialists.

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The Zhuwao Brief’s series of articles on narratives of regime change has borrowed from some of the works of Professor Ranger.

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This series on narratives of regime change are being written as a response to a heightened attack on Zimbabwe’s independence and sovereignty that has taken the form of reigniting narratives along so-called tribal issues.

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The re-ignition of so-called tribal narratives is meant to recreate and reincarnate the colonial divide and rule tactics.

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Tribalism is a concept that is divisive, counter revolutionary, and contrary to our national constitution as Zimbabwe.

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In this instalment, the Zhuwao Brief will submit that Zimbabweans have been very successful, on the whole, in terms of subjugating the so-called tribal identity in favour of the national identity of being Zimbabwean.

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This triumph of the national identity found its strongest and most visible manifestation through a process that culminated on 17th March 2013 in the overwhelming acceptance of the National Constitution which has subsequently been enacted as the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013.

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You will not find the term tribe, nor any of its derivatives, in the Zimbabwean Constitution. To be tribal in Zimbabwe is unconstitutional and treasonous.

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To be unconstitutional is to violate the constitution. To violate the constitution is to be treasonous.

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It therefore follows that to be tribal is to be unconstitutional.

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This article will firstly recount the previous conversations that the Zhuwao Brief has initiated on the narratives of regime change, with specific reference to the tribal myth.

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The article will then touch on the origins of Zimbabwe’s indigenous peoples and their attendant Hunhu/Ubuntu value system. Special attention will be given to the codification of that Hunhu/Ubuntu value system in Zimbabwe’s National Constitution.

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The article will conclude with the Zhuwao Brief venturing to suggest that tribalism is essentially unconstitutional and treasonous.

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Narratives of Regime Change

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The regime change agenda in Zimbabwe has been and is being pursued along three fronts.

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In all of these fronts, narratives are created that seek to ultimately achieve the objective of regime change.

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It is unfortunate that certain sections of our media fraternity promote and propel these narratives by giving them voice that is unquestioning and uncritical in a parrot-like manner.

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Could it be that some of our journalists leave their brains at home and become incorrigible numb skulls and nincompoops when they are in their newsrooms?

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If I were a journalist, I would strive to not become a parrot that simply regurgitates the gibberish and hogwash that it is being fed.

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The first front in the regime change agenda has been prosecuted through puppet and stooge movements that masquerade as opposition political parties with the connivance of some quisling so-called civil society organisations.

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This front was dealt a decisive blow that has knocked it comatose through the 31st July 2013 election in which ZANU-PF was handed an overwhelming mandate through His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe garnering an amazing 62 percent of the national vote and resulted in ZANU-PF controlling 72 percent of Parliament.

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The second front has involved spirited attempts to divide ZANU-PF internally through factionalism by attempting to nicodemusly, deliberately and systematically erode central authority and create multiple centres of power. ZANU-PF’s 6th National People’s Congress overwhelmingly rejected factionalism by jettisoning the factional bigwigs in the Mujuru cabal.

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The regime change agenda’s third front involves attempts to whip up divisive tribal sentiments in efforts to foment division within both the nation of Zimbabwe and ZANU-PF.

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It is so disheartening to note that we still continue to have ideologically bankrupt charlatans and quislings who are at the forefront of promoting and perpetuating this disgraceful and discredited colonial discourse.

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The purveyors of such nonsense and drivel are Zimbabwean black people whom one would expect to know better.

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The objective of the regime change agenda is neo-colonialism and imperialism.

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Tribalism has been redeployed as part of the arsenal to foment division, disunity and disharmony all in an attempt to asphyxiate the Zimbabwean total liberation, independence and freedom project which has built up such momentum and energy towards delivering sustainable political and socio-economic development, empowerment and transformation as the basis for enhanced quality of life for all Zimbabweans.

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Reloading the Tribal Myth

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In previous instalments of this series, the Zhuwao Brief posed a number of questions that revolved around how we come to define each other in terms of such so-called tribal labels as Karanga, Ndebele, Zezuru.

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The import of those questions was to illustrate the ridiculous and nonsensical implications of those labels on relationships that are both blood and totemic.

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In unpacking the manner in which tribalism in Zimbabwe is an invented and created notion, the Zhuwao Brief summarised Herbert Chimhundu’s submission of how Professor Clement Doke, a South African linguist, attempted to resolve the conflicts about the orthography of the language of the central areas. Doke’s work is captured in his 1931 “Report on the Unification of Shona Dialects” which, amongst other things, subsumed Kalanga and Ndau, which are totally separate and different languages, under Ndebele and Shona respectively.

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Incidentally, in the 1960s, the Rhodesia Front sought to accentuate the ZAPU and ZANU divide along so-called Ndebele and Shona tribal lines respectively.

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Paradoxically, the leaders of both parties, namely Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole, were so-called Kalanga and Ndau respectively; the very languages that Doke subsumed under Ndebele and Shona.

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Doke had been engaged by the Southern Rhodesia Missionary Conference because various Christian denominations had translated the Bible to the vernacular using the dialects in the areas that they operated in.

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This resulted in a number of different versions of the Bible in what was perceived to be a single language.

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Chimhundu argues that the language politics of the Christian denominations contributed to the creation and promotion of Zezuru, Karanga and Manyika as the main dialects which Doke accommodated in a unified orthography of a unified language that was given the name Shona.

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Several academics and researchers, who include Benedict Anderson, Ngwabi Bhebhe, Herbert Chimhundu, Marissa Cramer, Terence Ranger, Pedzisai Mashiri, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Leroy Vail, are agreed that the concept of tribe in Zimbabwe is a creation of the missionaries and colonialists.

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There is an extensive body of knowledge which recognises that the so-called tribal distinctions within Zimbabwe are abstract and ideological inventions of colonialists and missionaries.

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Bantu Migrations and the Hunhu/Ubuntu Value System

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What is common amongst the indigenous people of Zimbabwe is that we are all of Bantu origin having originated from the grasslands of western Cameroon around 4 000 years ago.

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The Bantu migration started around 3 500 years ago from the grasslands of western Cameroon, moved east and south to the Central African rain forests and the Great Lakes Region where major population centres developed.

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Secondary migrations occurred from those centres following river basins and coastal areas until some of the pioneer groups reached the southern tip of Africa around 300AD, and some reached just south of the Limpopo River around 500AD. Some of these settlements include the Zulu nation in the south-eastern coast of South Africa and the Kalanga settlements at Mapungubwe in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

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Tertiary migrations emanated from some of these sites, the most notable of which is the relocation of the Mutapa capital from Mapungubwe to the site of the Great Zimbabwe monuments.

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There was a further migration from Great Zimbabwe to the site of the Khami Monuments.

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Around the turn of the nineteenth century, Mzilikazi moved north-east to settle at Mhlahlandlela near Pretoria. In 1838, Mzilikazi’s people moved further north to settle in what is present-day Matabeleland.

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The common identity of the Bantu people is bolstered by a common value system that is found in most of the people of Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Hunhu/Ubuntu value system provides definition to a person in terms of how he or she relates to others in his or her behaviour and character.

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Dr Tafataona Mahoso submits that the existence and identity of a person derives from the maxim “I relate therefore I am”.

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According to Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the essence of Hunhu/Ubuntu is captured by stating that “Humanity is a quality that we owe to each other”. Such a conceptualisation conforms to both the Golden Rule and it is the cautionary form,the Silver Rule; both of which are alternatively referred to as the ethic of reciprocity.

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The Golden Rule requires that one should treat others as one would like to be treated by others, whilst the Silver Rule, requires that one should NOT treat others as one would NOT want to be treated.

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Consequently, a person qualifies to be a member of the human race primarily because he or she subscribes to basic standards of human behaviour. Social order and morality are then built upon such standards of behaviour.

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Bantu people choose not to recognise individuals who do not subscribe to these values as human beings.

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The Codification of Hunhu/Ubuntu in the Zimbabwean Constitution

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The Hunhu/Ubuntu value system has found expression in the constitution of the nation state of Zimbabwe.

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That expression is particularly evident in the preamble to the constitution, chapters one to four of the constitution which relate to the founding provisions, national objectives, citizenship and the declaration of rights. Chapter fifteen on traditional leadership is also instructive in that it refers to communities without mention of the concept of tribe.

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What is striking about Zimbabwe’s constitutions and its institutions is that they do not refer to the concept of tribes in any manner.

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The first sentence to the Preamble to the Constitution states that

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“We the people of Zimbabwe, United in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism, racism and all forms of domination and oppression,…..”.

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That sentence is seminal to the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

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It is that defining component of unity that starts our constitution.

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Chapter one, on the Founding Provisions, reaffirms the Founding Values and Principles in Section 3. Furthermore, Sections 6 and 7 on the Languages and Promotion of the Public Awareness of Constitution recognised that Zimbabwe has sixteen official languages and imposes an obligation on the State to translate the constitution into these languages.

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Chapter Two relates to the National Objectives that define who we are as a people and what we aspire for.

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Of particular relevance to this discourse is section 10 which talks of National Unity, Peace and Stability.

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This provision is further supported by Section 16 and 18 on Culture and fair Regional Representation, as well as the Preservation of traditional knowledge that is enshrined in Section 33.

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Chapter Three defines citizenship and the various types of citizenship. It is instructive to note that in no manner is the concept of tribe a component of citizenship.

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Whilst there may be communities that exist as minorities in terms of overall numbers within Zimbabwe, they are fully Zimbabwean. Of particular note is the Tswana community that resides in the western part of Zimbabwe.

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They are fully Zimbabwean irrespective of the fact that the larger Tswana community resides in Botswana.

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The Zhuwao Brief has been advised that treason is the act of doing bad to your country.

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Going against the constitution of your country is doing bad to your country.

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Tribalism goes against the constitution of Zimbabwe.

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Tribalism is not only unconstitutional, but is also treasonous. Are you being tribal?

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Is that not going against your constitution? Are you not being treasonous by being tribal. Zvibvunze. Icho!

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About the writer

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Honourable Patrick Zhuwao is the Chairman of Zhuwao Institute which is an economics, development and research think tank that focus on integrating socio-political dimensions into business and economic decision making, particularly strategic planning. Zhuwao is the holder of a BSc honours degree in Computer Systems Engineering and an MBA degree in Information Technology Management (City University, London). He also holds BSc honours and MSc degrees in Economics (University of Zimbabwe), as well as a Master of Management (with distinction) degree in Public and Development Management (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). patrickzhuwao@gmail.com or patrickzhuwao@zhuwaoinstitute.org