Mugabe should resign over Kalanga comments – MDC

Harare – Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change says President Robert Mugabe should resign in the wake of his “highly misguided” comments about Kalangas which have sparked outrage.

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Spokesperson Obert Gutu said in a statement on Thursday that Mugabe’s jibe at the end of a SADC summit in Harare this week “borders on advanced levels of senility”.

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Responding to a question on the xenophobic violence that has swept through parts of Durban and Johannesburg this month, Mugabe said that in the past Kalangas were reputed to be crooks and weren’t educated enough to take on jobs.

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Some Zimbabweans saw the comments as evidence Mugabe was partly blaming victims of the xenophobic attacks for what happened.

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Gutu said: “It has become very clear that Mugabe’s politics has become archaic and irrelevant to modern dictates of world political order.

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“We therefore call upon Mugabe to do the noble thing and resign first as the chairperson of the two regional bodies [SADC and AU, both of which Mugabe chairs] and also as the president of this country as he no longer has the gravitas and requisite capacity to take these important institutions to the next level,” The spokesperson for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led party said.

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A separate Movement for Democratic Change group led by Welshman Ncube said in a statement that Mugabe’s comments on Kalangas were “nauseatingly tribalistic, divisive and extremely hurtful”.

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“All Zimbabweans, including Kalangas, pay taxes where [Mugabe] personally draws a salary and allowance and a very heavy medical care and unprofitable travel bill,” the MDC statement said.

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Many Kalangas live in Zimbabwe’s south-western Matabeleland provinces, where rates of migration to South Africa are highest and where support for the opposition is also strong.

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At least seven people, including one Zimbabwean, were confirmed killed in the attacks.

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Zimbabwe has repatriated nearly 900 of its citizens, but Mugabe said on Wednesday that many of the male returnees want to return to South Africa.

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Many Zimbabweans reacted angrily on Thursday to reports that President Robert Mugabe had called members of the Kalanga tribe uneducated crooks at a SADC summit this week.

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Video footage of the 91-year-old president on Wednesday saying that Kalangas were widely regarded in the past to have engaged in petty criminal activities in South Africa is being circulated widely in Zimbabwe.

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Many Kalangas live in Zimbabwe’s south-western Matabeleland provinces, where rates of migration to South Africa are highest.

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Responding to questions from journalists on the xenophobic attacks that hit South Africa this month, Mugabe said: “The Kalangas were very notorious in South Africa.” He said Kalangas were reputed to have been crooks and weren’t “educated enough to assume … jobs.”

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Twitter user @MariaZest1 said: “Anyone who’s still believes Mugabe is a unifier is deluded. I’m offended #PartKalanga  #PartShona #PartNdebele.”

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User @PRONKOMO said: “Mugabe has showed his tribalistic side… he is not well informed about Matabeleland people… people he supposedly governs.”

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Some Zimbabweans have pointed out that a number of Mugabe’s ministers may have Kalanga roots. Common surnames that can indicate Kalanga heritage include Moyo, Mpofu, Ngwenya, Dube, Gumbo and Sibanda.

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“Wonder how SK, a big Kalanga, feels after the boss said Kalangas are uneducated tsotsis,” asked Ncube Njabulo. SK is Simon Khaya Moyo, a former Zanu-PF chairperson and ambassador to South Africa who is now the ruling party’s spokesperson.

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A Facebook user, identifying herself as Zimbabwean socialite Nomathemba Primrose Ndebele, posted: “Did the president truly say those of my tribe are uneducated (KALANGA)… my uncle was the Attoney General ka… my aunt is the police commissioner… I’m educated”.

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Mugabe’s criticism of those who flock to South Africa – he complained that migrants saw it as “heaven on earth” – has rankled many in Zimbabwe. There are at least one million Zimbabweans in South Africa: Only 900 agreed to board state-provided buses home in the wake of the attacks in Durban and Gauteng.

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The Zimbabwean president told heads of state and delegates at Wednesday’s summit that foreign nationals in South Africa were there “voluntarily”. But critics of the Zimbabwe government, including former education minister David Coltart, claim that thousands more Zimbabweans left as a direct result of Mugabe’s controversial policies during the economic and political crisis years after 2000.

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@ZimMediaReview accused the official Herald newspaper, which is the voice of Mugabe’s government, of trying to “sanitise… with little success” the president’s Kalanga jibe. The newspaper said Mugabe cited Matabeleland South “as one area where there was emigration to South Africa.”

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Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo launched an attack on a Twitter user who said Mugabe had called Kalangas uneducated “idiots”.

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“The uneducated ‘idiot’ bit is of course your creation & [you] should be ashamed but then you’re shameless!” Moyo tweeted.

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When asked whether he had Kalanga blood, the minister did not reply.

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Other Zimbabweans argued that Mugabe was merely sharing his memories of how Kalangas were perceived in the past.