THE BLOG
09/03/2018 06:10 SAST | Updated 09/03/2018 06:11 SAST

Zimbabwe Loves Ethnic Heroes So Much, But I Smell Sexism And Tribalism

Zimbabwe loves ethnic champions and shows unwavering commitment to ancestral authentications imprinted on metal IDs.

Tony Karumba/ AFP/ Getty Images
People react as Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn-in during a ceremony in Harare on November 24, 2017.

Buzz me when ethnic and cultural corruption disintegrates. Call me on WhatsApp when men stop buying and selling women for exorbitant amounts of cash and calling it lobola. Let me know when 11-year-old girls aren't forced to marry 47-year-old men in arranged unions and 35-year-old widows in Mashonaland East province don't have to sleep with their brothers-in-law under the traditional practice of "kugara nhaka".

Kindly send me an SMS when Zanu-PF thugs stop stoning Dr Joice Mujuru during her campaign rallies in Glen View and MDC-T gangsters stop pounding Dr Thokozani Khupe in her Bulawayo offices and harassing her at funeral services in Buhera. Advise me when Zimbabwe has elected a female president who is Kalanga.

Tag me on Twitter when social sameness develops into an unequivocal truth that eschews ethnic assignations and debilitates cultural violence. Add me as a friend on Facebook when the commonality of redundant satisfaction – in the things that really do not place sadza, salty kapenta and green vegetables on the dinner table or guard us against the dangers of grotesque populism and ethnic arrogance – vanishes.

Zimbabwe loves ethnic champions and shows unwavering commitment to ancestral authentications imprinted on metal IDs. Zimbabweans call Malawians "MaBrandaya" or "Mabwidi" and label South Africans – "MaSasko" and Mozambicans "Matsanga", but don't have a problem with such uncultured xenophobia and extraordinary propensity to generate false African otherness.

This fanciful denial and blameless unpleasantness remain the Zimbabwean way to approaching challenges: avoid substantial social change and build electoral and cultural demigods, then shower the said individuals with endless applause for showing up to work and working for once in their lives. (And such is the obsessive crowd who support traditional chiefs and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.)

Admittedly, a sequence of commendable and decisive actions introduced by Ngwena have lent the impression that Zimbabwe is headed towards improved times under his (temporary) guidance. This unanticipated transformation has left Nelson Chamisa – the probable MDC Alliance presidential candidate – vulnerable and walking on ethnic quicksand.

Times have changed: the current electoral tussle will hinge on revolutionary ideas, and less on the need to eradicate the smothered democracy that Save stood up against in 1999.

But I have seen this catastrophic Shona ethnic dance a million times, and sidelining Khupe is scarcely surprising. Gushungo played this tribal card for so long, it has become the norm. People actually believe that Matabeleland lacks strong leaders – and that untruthful tribal dishonesty has us headed towards another gigantic "Shona" electoral competition for the presidency.

And while Chamisa is considerably more popular than Khupe within MDC-T structures, Mnangagwa is possibly as popular on a national level. And Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga is probably a bigger tribal hero than everyone else and popular way beyond imagination – like Gushungo in his younger days.

So this undeclared rush to dismiss Khupe on populist grounds exposes a contemptible deficiency of social progress and a widespread dearth of ideas within politics. Gushungo taught us to lean on tribal associations and exaggerate the value of speechmaking in politics.

But times have changed: the current electoral tussle will hinge on revolutionary ideas, and less on the need to eradicate the smothered democracy that Save stood up against in 1999.

Chamisa has to deliver on policy. One groundbreaking policy on land, healthcare, the economy, jobs, clean governance – something tangible and absolutely convincing, especially after the internal squabbling in MDC-T – could be all it takes to win the vote.

And although Ngwena is not the greatest orator in southern Africa, the president has been working hard of late. Ngwena has a big chip on his shoulder and realises he has to make this nation work, or risk going the way of Gushungo.

Anyway, neither of them deserves my valuable vote. You can call me when Zimbabwe decides it is time to embrace substantial social change and eschew cultural and ethnic discrimination.