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Ethnicity and tribalism are highly charged words in contemporary Africa - Part two

23 Apr 2016 at 20:44hrs | Views
Christopher Hitchens's quote: "There is almost no country in Africa where it is not essential to know to which tribe, or which subgroup of which tribe, the president belongs. From this single piece of information you can trace the lines of patronage and allegiance that define the state."

Firstly I would like to express my sincere apology for my naivety: my failure to address all ethnic groups in my previous essay. (http://bulawayo24.com/index-id-opinion-sc-columnist-byo-86017.html) I am sure I will be forgiven for my lack of knowledge in articulating the term Shona as one tribe. (it consists of several ethnic groups: Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau, Karanga to mention just a few) or Ndebele as one tribe too. (Consists of several ethnics groups living in Mathebelelands who are the indigenous or long established groups with a long established and distinct ethnic, linguistic, cultural identity distinct from the majority groups) I am indeed aware of the fact that we have sixteen official languages, well established, intergenerational communities occupying given territories in western Zimbabwe all of which possess distinct cultures.

I should indeed be forgiven for my inadequate research in this discipline, I am a natural scientist by profession, it is the love for my country that makes me venture into political solutions for the sake of our coming generations especially young women and girl-children whom I thought deserve better future than me who is literally squatting in a foreign land.

How will we pass on, afford to die, and leave our children with worst national debt of 10 billion US dollars from the world's money lender-countries. Since independence, Zimbabwe has had 96 billion US that passed in its treasury; it is not tangible how that money was used for the good of the nation. We lost an estimate of 15 billion US dollars from shady contracts in diamond industry, it's impossible to recover this loot. There is massive corruption in the system of power that goes unchecked because of patronage.

 El-Nino appears to be a permanent occurrence in southern Africa, leading to years of chronic food insecurities. But still the farm invasions are still being executed to appease the war veterans. There is all the evidence around us that confirms the stupidity of these unprofessionally executed land reforms. The President himself incites these land invasions as a way to appease the war vets. What is galling is the gullibility of it all.

The ethnic conflicts are imminent in Zimbabwe; like all other conflicts in the Sub-Sahara, conflicts are nurtured by food insecurities, land and water. Zimbabwe and its pattern of social, political and economic development are not different from the rest of the continent.  

I can imagine a scenario in 2063 whereby our great-grand children saying to themselves: how stupid were our great-grand parents to have run the economy the way they did? It will be lucky if, in anger and frustration, they don't destroy the national shrines full of dead and genuine heroes together with non-heroes; their feeling of being betrayed by us will be greater than the thunder of loath and bitterness.  In year 2063 this 15 billion US dollars will be worth estimate of about 100 billion US dollars.  

Curiously, despite a complete failed state, we have indeed economists, sociologists, legal experts, evangelists, teachers, nurses, doctors, entrepreneurs, bankers and many other experts in their right in Zimbabwe who write eloquently in our social media regarding the dilapidated state of the economy. Because Zimbabwe has a large literate and educated electorate, they managed to put together answers for us, giving us all the reason to believe that when Zanu PF is indeed defeated at last, there is a big chance of the giant bouncing back making Zimbabwe a bread basket again. Zimbabwe is a sleeping giant with all favourable conditions to make it so.

However, unsettling questions continue to insist in our minds, how our future generations are going to live in peace and harmony side by side as diverse ethnic groups, having been poisoned by tribalism from the former generations who called themselves liberators of our country but are on their twilight years leaving behind havoc and tribalism that is not spoken about because of fear, but it does exist and has the potential to be a destabilising factor in the southern African region.

There is bitter hatred among ethnic groups in Zimbabwe and the absolute danger is that it is open secret; often times verbal language of discontent are heard which is a threat to national security. There is fear and resentment of possible suppression of cultural entities where the existence of any minority structures may be made completely impossible to exist and function normally.

Not to repeat all over again to express the magnitude of tribalism in our midst, what I have already said in the last essay, it is very useful to shop around intensively to see how other progressive countries solved their ethnic conflicts or avoided them in the first instance ever to happen. Countries like Zambia and Tanzania under the leaderships of President Kenneth Kaunda and the late President Dr. Julius Mwalimu Nyerere have been very progressive in managing ethnic tensions in the national development of their countries.
Dr. Kaunda was born of Malawian parents but became the first President of Zambia in 1964. Zambia is a country of southern Sub-Sahara with 73 ethnic groups each with distinct and cultural identity distinct from that of other groups. How did this happen that he was propelled to be the leader of Zambia?  

Zambian Humanism is the brain-child of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. He developed this humanistic ideology based on his own sad experiences of racial discrimination in Northern Rhodesia and the need to give Zambia an identity that will embrace all ethnic and race communities in a newly independent country.

The understanding and the definition of Zambian humanism is a combination of many elements, the central components being African socialism, radical Christianity existential humanism and Kaunda's own personal convictions. These ideas were codified into a national document that was later published and on the 26th of April 1967, Zambia adopted this ideology as the national philosophy. Zambian humanism was to be the foundation of socialism: socially and economically. Dr. Kaunda's anthropology was built around three qualities that he considered supreme to human race: ability to suffer; the naming of human persons that make him/her unique and that human being should never be used as means to an end.

It was indeed his motivation, his desire to create a national identity of which all ethnic groupings will find national identity in it on the face of threats of re-Colonialization of the newly won independence. The Zambian humanism had its moral foundation in the ideological roots of local African societies, which included extended family units, mutual aid and respect for persons. It is mainly to give social values meant to cement diverse multi-cultural ethnic groups so that the diverse societies can live together in peace and harmony.  

Dr. Kaunda found it challenging to define his philosophy of humanism in economic terms. His inability to articulate it in economically faced serious critiques that saw Zambian humanism as having more social element than economics, what KK wanted it to be. Van de Merwe characterised Zambian humanism as: idealisation of traditional African societies; an Africa socialist ideology; an eclectic philosophy that combines elements from modern political structures and from traditional African society as well as combing capitalistic, socialistic and populist strands; it is a philosophy that also embraces Christian values equally.

President Kaunda was immensely influenced by an African philosopher and former President of Tanzania: Dr. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere's Ujamaa. These two philosophies are however different from each other in their meaning and interpretation. Zambian philosophy of humanism emphasized the centrality of human person taken as "common man" of unique worth and dignity. Mahatma Gandhi was too impressed by Ghandi's ideals of self-discipline, austerity, oneness with the people, holiness and sanctity.

Such values and principles built into his own values and principles of Zambian humanism: human person as the centre, dignity of human person, non exploitation of man by man, equal opportunities for all citizens of all races and ethnicities, hard work and self reliance, collective work, reverence for extended family units, loyalty and patriotism.

It is therefore not surprising that Zambia was indeed and still is to this date a stable country politically. Zambian humanism consciously and sub-consciously made the living together of diverse ethnic groups possible. Its implementation, national and local levels were able to filter cohesion in diverse ethnic minorities. The Zambian humanism emphasized the dignity of human beings that was supreme.

During KK's administration, there was a ministry that was responsible for the implementation of Zambian humanism. Zambian humanism was taught in schools and colleges. The government ministry was responsible for propagating the ideology in seminars, workshops, and conferences. The media too played its role in putting awareness to the entire population. A week before the celebration of the 24th October 1964 independence there is a Humanism week that would be declared a public holiday.

KK built bridges and solid ties to reduce those negative impacts. The element education was wholly emphasized in his administration that was going to be the tool to eradication ethnic conflicts. Economically he developed Zambia immensely in the first ten years of his administration. Free education, free health services, defined the giant Kenneth Kaunda's presidency as a capable and accepted leader of all ethnic groups. He spoke passionately about positives of ethnic tolerance, maturity, accountability responsibility and committed leadership at central and regional levels of power.

The other reason why the peoples of Zambia embraced Dr. Kenneth Kaunda as their first President, among many other reasons could be that most communities of the upper Zambezi were affected by slave trade of yesteryear in as much as local communities west of Africa. But because most of these ethnic groups were small in number, to avoid enslavement, different ethnic groups fused together under one authority of a stronger chief to fight slavery. It was the Colonialization that dismantled and weakened these structures, and they formed weak proto states based on tribes.

Colonialization was always based on dividing them and ruling ethnic communities effectively, separate them from one another was the mantra. Robert Pepstein concurs that in the pre- colonial times, there was indeed a living side by side of ethnic groups in peace and harmony evidenced by the inseparable Luvale and Lunda in the Upper western today's Zambia.

A much slender conclusion could be that, each time the ethnic groups of Upper Zambezi were confronted with life's threatening existence: in this case their lands, they grouped together under one strong leader regardless of tribe, who was accepted as powerful to fight colonialism. President Kaunda then leader of the UNIP party was perceived charismatic and able leader, strong enough to lead the peoples of Zambia to independence despite the fact that he was from the minority Tumbuka ethnic group.

The historical and political developments in Zambia give a closer clue on how Zimbabwe can emulate their positive developments. These are two countries different, with distinct historical, cultural and political backgrounds. What we all know is that when Zimbabwe got its independence from rebel Ian Smith's UDI in 1980, Zanu did not have an ideology that embraced all ethnic communities.

 Again the term ideology is not well received in most political parties in Zimbabwe, some of which do not even have it as guidelines for their future party policy implementations. Zimbabweans have to learn the respect and dignity of human beings.  

In a nutshell, Zimbabwe political landscape lacks a sound ideology that will embrace all diverse ethnic and races and identify themselves with inclusion that is more cohesive than dividing. Zimbabwe needs some ideology, just like Zambian humanism, that will go a long way in bringing together ethnic and race groups and will find common identity in it. It is not enough to sing a national anthem together.

Zimbabwe yearns for such values and principles built into values and principles of UBUNTU: human person as the centre, dignity of human person, non exploitation of man by man, equal opportunities for all citizens of all races and ethnicities, hard work and self reliance, collective work, reverence for extended family units, loyalty and patriotism.

President's Kaunda Zambian humanism is now on reverse gear. Ethnic tensions in Zambia are now spoken about frequently, indeed an Africa disease that impedes any kind of social and economic development. It is now Zambia copying the tribalist negative traits of development from its neighbouring countries. Xenophobia attacks have been recorded of late, coping the negative patterns of development in South Africa: Xenophobia, certainly not the Zambia we knew. Ethnicity and tribalism are highly charged words in the vocabulary of the African peoples.

Quote: "This is God's universe and he is the master gardener of all. If we were to eliminate all colours in his garden, then what would be a rainbow with only one colour? Or a garden with only one kind of flower? Why would the Creator create a vast assortment of plants, ethnicities, and animals, if only one beast or seed is to dominate all of existence?" Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem



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