Who’s Ndebele and who’s Shona?


A COUPLE of years ago, a father somewhere in the heart of Matabeleland South is on record saying to his children: “If you want to respect me, you will not bring a Shona wife or husband into this family!”
Fast-forward to 2018, MDC-T president Nelson Chamisa had this to say at a rally in Cross Dete, Matabeleland North: “We don’t want the ‘Shonalisation’ of Zimbabwe.
Matabeleland is a forgotten province.
Matabeleland people are a forgotten people.
Matabeleland people are a neglected people.
It shall come to an end.
Out of the 12 judges in the Supreme Court, there is only one, if not two (who) come from Matabeleland.”
Chamisa further says when he completes his two terms in office, presumably as president of the republic, he will ensure he leaves behind a Ndebele president.
No doubt this ‘Shona/Ndebele thing’ in Matabeleland has been going on for ages, but the question is: Is there a real problem in Matabeleland and is there any perceived animosity between the so-called Shonas and Ndebeles?
We say ‘so-called’ because the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo once said: “Shona and Ndebele are not tribes, but a collection of tribes speaking different languages.”
The Patriot was recently in Bulawayo, Inyati, Matopos, Kezi and Bhalagwe.
In Bhalagwe is a village called Tjewondo.
There are many BaKalanga there and because tjiKalanga and chiKaranga are synonymous, its easier to converse.
But back koBulawayo (the place of slaughter) is a situation that requires attention.
Call it ‘identity crisis’, ‘assimilation’ or ‘social protective docility’, it is an issue that must be addressed, the same way Gukurahundi should be openly talked about.
First, is it indisputable that the majority of people in Matabeleland are Shonas?
Retired, Bulawayo-based journalist Saul Gwakuba-Ndlovu argues the Ndebele are a creation of Mzilikazi because the original Nguni (abezansi) were just a few families and their surnames speak for themselves.
These are the aristocrats – original Nguni people who trekked from down south before settling in what is now koBulawayo.
They include the Khumalos, Ndiwenis, Hlathswayos, Mathemas and Dlaminis, among others.
Other historians further argue Mzilikazi and his people were less than 1 000 when they fled from Tshaka.
Those who were incorporated in Mzilikazi’s entourage like the Sotho-Tswana made up the middle class known as abenhla.
The BaKalangas whom Mzilikazi found where he settled, and the various Shona groups he raided in various parts of the country and assimilated in his state were known as the amahole.
At school, we were taught this was the lowest class in the Ndebele state and later during the colonial era, amahole were mocked, being called ‘izinja’ (dogs).
And growing up in Mzilikazi Township, Bulawayo, this writer remembers a couple of times being called ‘swina’ by those who claimed to be Ndebele.
To date, some Highlanders supporters chant: ‘Asifuni amaswina!’, yet more than half of the team is comprised of Shonas.
These are some of the people who forget that during the liberation struggle, about 90 percent of Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU executive were Shona-speaking people.
They are the same people who must be reminded that ‘Chibwechitedza’, as Nkomo was affectionately known, was not even Ndebele after all.
They are today the same people, led by misguided activists-cum-agents of regime change in Matabeleland who do not want Shona teachers in Matabeleland schools.
They don’t want Shona nurses in hospitals and clinics in Matabeleland and they don’t want Shona civil servants in general to be based in what they call ‘their territory’.
Every civil servant working in Matabeleland must be Ndebele, they say.
But is that practical?
It’s either we have a sad situation of a people who do not know who they are and where they come from or it’s simply a case of people burying their heads in the sand.
We have the Moyos in Matabeleland.
In fact, it is said close to 50 percent of the people in Matabeleland bear the surname Moyo, which is not Nguni after all.
It is on record that the Moyo totem was used as far back as the 17th Century as a
symbol of the Rozvi identity under Changamire Dombo.
That was way before Mzilikazi arrived in 1840.
Today we also have the Mpofus, Dubes, Ncubes, Sibandas, Nyonis and Ndlovus, among others, who think and believe they are Ndebele.
In fact, these are the same people who despise almost everything Shona-related and want to be ‘more Ndebele than the original Nguni’.
Isn’t this a tragedy!
If 24-year-old Prince Dube from deep in Tjewondo Village in Bhalagwe knows he is not Ndebele, why are our so-called academics shortchanging the nation?
Why is it they don’t teach that the Mpofu in Matabeleland is the same Mhofu in Chiweshe, Shaba in Tsholotsho or Nyashanu in Murehwa; that Ncube is Soko, Sibanda (Shumba), Ndlovu (Zhou) or Nyoni (Shiri)?
Are they being sponsored to fuel division in Zimbabwe along tribal lines or could it be the thousands of Western-sponsored non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Matabeleland continue to use the ‘tribal card’ to gain relevance in their bid to effect regime change?
Could it be quislings like Chamisa are trying to take advantage of people in Matabeleland by whipping up emotions of people ‘ignorant’ of their roots?
There are many examples of Shonas who were ‘swallowed’ up in Matabeleland.
For example, in Matshobane, Bulawayo, is a story of a man whose father left Manicaland for Bulawayo during the colonial era to work as a ‘cook’.
Having settled in Bulawayo, he changed his surname to ‘Ncube’, because he was afraid of being victimised and wanted to ‘fit’ into the Ndebele community.
He married and the couple were blessed with eight children, all who assumed the new surname, Ncube.
Today, descendants of this man from Manicaland believe they are Ndebele because they were born and bred in Matabeleland.
Some have never been to their rural area while some can’t even speak Shona, let alone chiManyika, their language.
They brush aside anything Shona.
Gwakuba-Ndlovu, however, explained to The Patriot last year circumstances leading to this ‘phenomenon’ in Matabeleland when he said: “When the Nguni arrived in Zimbabwe first with Nkulumane in 1838 and then Mzilikazi in 1840, they incorporated BaKalanga in their system and they used to send them as soldiers to raid other people in what they now deemed their territory.
So take note that the majority of people who speak isiNdebele are actually BaKalanga.
They were just people who were forced to adopt Nguni language and culture.
In sociology, we say they adopted a principle called ‘protective social docility’ which means ‘being docile to protect oneself from a conqueror’.
So in a way, BaKalanga got assimilated into the Nguni society in order to save themselves from extinction.”
Going by Gwakuba-Ndlovu’s explanation, there is need for self-introspection by people in Matabeleland at large in order to bring closure to this so-called ‘Ndelele-Shona feud’ that has been hijacked by opportunists and quislings in their quest to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.
The same quislings and agents of regime change have also roped in the Gukurahundi discourse.
The term ‘Gukurahundi’ means ‘the rain that washes away chaff’.
In Matabeleland, just the mention of ‘Gukurahundi’ rattles even people who were born after the disturbances that rocked mainly Matabeleland and Midlands in the early 1980s.
Much has been said about how the Government of the day dealt with dissidents and in the process, affecting some civilians.
No one denies there were casualties.
However, it is wrong and notorious for anyone to classify Gukurahundi as ‘a war between the Shona and Ndebele’.
Western-sponsored NGOs, agents of regime change and those in the dark must be reminded of Joshua Nkomo’s interview with Jeremy Paxman in London in 1983.
He (Father Zimbabwe) exonerated the Shona from Gukurahundi.
Said Nkomo: “The 5th Brigade is not a Shona tribal army as some people say because it is made up of Shona-speaking people.
Some people believe that because the 5th Brigade is made up of Shona-speaking young people therefore its actions are actions of the Shona against the Ndebele.
I think this is misrepresentation.
Here I am talking as one who knows, and in fact, it is a mistake for anybody to believe that the Shonas have organised against the Ndebele.
This is not so.”
Currently the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission is on the ground having consultative meetings.
However, there are regime change misfits like Mthwakazi singing for their supper while hindering progress.
Mthwakazi and other such groupings must be stopped.
Matabeleland as a region must not continue to be abused.
Cecil John Rhodes and company occupied Matabeleland on the pretext of ‘protecting the Shona from the Ndebele’.
Now NGOs, quislings and opportunists in Matabeleland are saying they are in a way ‘protecting’ Ndebeles from the Shona.
This nonsense must stop!
Zimbabwe is diverse, but one!


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