Don’t Use Nkomo To Divert From Mugabe's Kalanga Slur

For two successive days, The Herald has been attacking NewsDay – the country’s leading privately-owned daily newspaper — for reporting on President Robert Mugabe’s Kalanga jibe during last week’s Sadc Extraordinary Summit. 

For the record, NewsDay reported that Mugabe had blamed “uneducated” people from Matabeleland South — Kalangas in particular — for skipping the country to South Africa where they ventured into petty thieving and crime.

It is an established fact that Mugabe (91) fluffed on this one. What that means politically is that he may have put the final nail on the Zanu PF coffin by unwittingly chasing away potential voters. The Kalanga slur has caused disgust among all progressive citizens of this country locally, regionally and internationally who were shocked by Mugabe’s unprovoked rant.

Sadly though, Information minister Jonathan Moyo, whose Tsholotsho district is also home to Kalangas, decided to play diversionary politics, but no one will buy his infantile attempts at soiling NewsDay except of course sycophants to say the least.

Naturally, as leaders in the media industry, we do not normally respond to accusations made against us, and professionally where we have erred, we have apologised. But where we believe we are right, we have left it to time. In this instance, however, we have no apology to make as we restated facts by the political parties from where the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo hailed. The harsh rebuke by the government mouthpiece through Moyo’s invisible hand is, again, regrettably by no means unusual.

We will not debate whether the so-called family members are really part of Nkomo’s family or not. But the fact of the matter is that public perception remains that Nkomo was from the Kalanga group. Whether Nkomo or anyone else is Sotho and not Kalanga is not for debate. The fact remains that Mugabe insulted the Kalangas, and no amount of diversionary tactics will make people forget that.

It is not in doubt that Nkomo in his book The Story of My Life stated that he was born in June 1917 in the Semukwe Native Reserve in Matabeleland. He was a native of Matabeleland, was a siNdebele speaker, but owed his origins to the Kalanga group which lived in the south-western quadrant of Matabeleland prior to the arrival of the amaNdebele in the 1830s. Is it not fact that Nkomo grew up among the Kalangas? True, Moyo is entitled to his own opinion, but most importantly not his own facts. The public perception until Mugabe insulted the Kalangas was that Nkomo was Kalanga who grew up among the Bangos (themselves Kalangas) in Matabeleland South.

Moyo should know better that race represents shared genetic heritage, whereas ethnicity implies common values, beliefs, and practices based on nationality, common ancestry and/or common immigration experiences. Hence, ethnic groups are culture-bearing units and common group values are major contributors to a sense of identity and to characteristic ways of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving that influence action in everyday life.

The public perception until recently is that Nkomo was Kalanga until his family’s clarification, but this cannot be a reason for all this noise. Nkomo never sought to distance himself from the Kalangas during his lifetime, so where is the problem? We will not buy Moyo’s defence of Mugabe as correcting historical stereotypes and no one will for goodness sake. Similarly the public perception is that Mugabe is Zezuru, yet his name is more common among the Karangas in Masvingo than it is among the Zezurus. Most importantly if one were to dig deeper, perhaps they would still discover that Mugabe’s family roots may not be Zezuru or Karanga even if there may be a public perception to that effect.

So what is the issue here with this Nkomo hullabaloo? NewsDay merely stated facts expressed by the people in his home province, who felt insulted by Mugabe and his government. They still demand an apology. Instead of Moyo apologising on behalf of Mugabe, he chose to divert public opinion by focusing on NewsDay.

We can understand why Moyo is trying to do that: His politics has terribly gone wrong. He is trying to defend the indefensible.
In the past, dictators would routinely shoot messengers who brought bad news. Today, the shooting is replaced by labelling and muzzling the Press.

No doubt the independent Press in Zimbabwe often finds itself at the receiving end of this trend of labelling. The Zanu PF government through Moyo is frequently tagging them as pessimists and unpatriotic whenever they report the truth that this country is a place of intrinsic and inescapable misery due to bad politics.

But doesn’t NewsDay confirm that political, psychophysical and governance problems routinely play spoilsport in our hopes for democracy? Thus, if Zimbabweans think objectively, NewsDay which Moyo and his ilk label as pessimist is just restating facts. And the news that we are reporting is not even new. What is possibly new is Zanu PF’s intellectual rationalisation of their unwillingness to see these facts. If Moyo can just stop labelling the messenger and start pondering on our message, he will discover that we are not pessimistic, but supremely optimistic.

We pity him because without doubt political office is valuable, so much so that the risk of losing it can drive politicians like him to make decisions that they would not consider otherwise.

Is it not true that politicians’ policy incentives are often shaped by their own political insecurities? Clearly, culture is more complex than either race or ethnicity and is the result of interpersonal interaction. The best Moyo could do under the circumstances is to put on a brave face and ask his principal to publicly apologise to the Kalangas and Zimbabwe at large or face the music.

In fact, Moyo and The Herald’s Kalanga claims cannot stand scrutiny.



Newsday Editorial