Does SADC know that Mugabe scorns ‘totem-less aliens’?

When SADC leaders eventually discuss the Zimbabwe crisis sometime in June, it is hoped they will tackle the issue of citizenship and nationality because the new constitution seems a pipe dream at the moment. For instance, do SADC leaders know that Mugabe scorns descendents of foreign nationals as ‘totem-less aliens’ and denies them the right to vote?

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Mugabe told a rally in Bindura in 2000 that people from Mbare were totem-less elements of alien origin and accused them of supporting the opposition MDC. After the rejection of the new constitution in the referendum held in 2000, thousands of displaced farm labourers were made destitute if they survived the brutal assaults, rapes and murders.

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Others were forced to leave the country having lost their citizenship thanks to Zanu-pf which paradoxically propounds a Pan-African, liberation ideology. Ironically some of the people who were once branded “sell-outs” and “totem-less aliens” are now singing Zanu-pf’ praises through Mbare Chimurenga Choir (Zimbabwe Standard, 29/01/11). Probably that is what encourages Mugabe to use political blackmail against his opponents.

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However, Mugabe’s insensitive remarks did not go down well with some people. For example a reader’s email published by The Zimbabwe Standard’s Wood Pecker in 2005 summed the anger:

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“I am sure you recollect a few years ago our President castigating the urbanites for supporting the MDC. He used the now infamous term ‘totemless people from Mbare’. I was hurt as I am of Mozambican origin. I know my fellow totemless people from Zambia and Mozambique were hurt taking into account the sacrifices made by them in support of the liberation of Zimbabwe.

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“I was taken aback when I heard that the President has a nephew called ‘Patrick Zhuwao’. Zhuwao, by any stretch of imagination, cannot be of Zimbabwean origin. I wonder how Patrick Zhuwao felt when the President insulted all Zimbabweans of foreign origin” (www. thestandard.co.zw, Totemless nephews and dogs of war, 21/02/05).

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The marginalisation of farm workers comprising mainly Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican immigrants and their descendents has been well documented for instance by Blair Rutherford in Amanda Hammar, Brian Raftopoulos & Stig Jensen’s Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business (2003).

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In a review of the book, Dr James Muzondiya says Blair Rutherford argues for a different kind of imagination of farm workers and discourse of citizenship and nationality which allows their full incorporation into the post-colonial nation state and increases their access to jobs, education, land and other resources.

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SADC leaders are expected not to marginalise farm workers and the urban poor of  Epworth, Porta Farm and so on during their deliberations on Zimbabwe’s future because they also need a decent future.

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Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com

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