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Posted from an 1893 whatsapp forum - saBosso
I hope my post is going to be taken in it's correct context and not get sensationalized.
A week ago in the company of a friend while walking in Gwanda we met up with a vendor who was selling Roundnuts, Indlubu in IsiNdebele and Nyimo in ChiShona.
The lady appealed to us to buy the deli. She was speaking in Shona and I deliberately spoke back to her in IsiNdebele asking her how fresh the nuts were as in when she cooked them because they are not pleasant once they are overstayed after cooking.
The lady unapologetically told us that she could not understand IsiNdebele. Even though I speak fluently over eight local languages Shona included, her attitude to refuse to converse in the local language of where she was doing business forced me to end our business deal.
Then later, I get to Sakubva Bus Terminus in Mutare. While walking through I saw a group of vendors selling the same deli. I decided to play the devil's advocate and approached them. I deliberately spoke to them in IsiNdebele asking how much they were selling the nuts for and when they were cooked.
Instead of them answering my query the five of them burst out laughing. I gave them a confused face to say why are they laughing. One of them then replied in Shona that they did not understand IsiNdebele. I apologetically equally replied in IsiNdebele that I also did not understand Shona deliberately declaring a stalemate.
The others went on laughing and hitting hands telling each other that I must be mad to expect to find anyone in Sakubva speaking IsiNdebele. Though I could perfectly understand what they were saying I ignored them and kept making my simple enquiry in IsiNdebele how much the nuts were going for and when they were cooked.
With no joy for all of us, the business deal ended yet again with a collapse. As I walked away the group continued laughing. They loudly tried to imitate what I was saying claiming that I had said "ncancanca qoqoqoqo lolololo xaxaxaxa."
They even started arguing with one saying that I must be South African and not Ndebele from Zimbabwe because ALL Ndebeles can understand and speak Shona.
Indeed on both incidents I played the devil's advocate simple to prove a point. I know that by so doing and posting this there is some who are already jumping up and down shouting tribalism on my part.
I have always insisted that whatever tag may be used on me, and several others of the same call as mine, our fight is not tribalism but a fight against the dominance of one tribe over all other tribes in the country. My call is for an equal recognition and respect of all of us in our diversity as Zimbabweans.
If it sounded like madness for me to expect to find a Ndebele vendor in Sakubva it should then resonate that a Shona speaking vendor in Gwanda should also come expecting to find a Ndebele buyer for her nuts and so be prepared to speak or at least try to understand IsiNdebele than say "haandizve chiNdevere" and expect life to go forward her way.
Last week I was watching on live tv President Mugabe address a rally in Lupane deep in Ndebele territory where he spoke 99.9% in Shona and English. Not that I expected him to address in IsiNdebele though it would have been proper and more appealing had he addressed through out in 90% IsiNdebele especially after having led the country for thirty seven years with Ndebele as one of the three official languages for much of that era.
What touched me is that in the 0.1% times that the President uttered or attempted an IsiNdebele word the crowd went jubilant and cheered strongly in desperate appreciation which would have been more had he spoke in Ndebele throughout. I remember the First Lady also trying an IsiNdebele word falling to bring it out and laughing it off with the crowd cheering at that.
I have always asked a good number of my Shona speaking friends why it has been so particularly difficult for them over the thirty seven years to learn to speak IsiNdebele which was one of the three official languages that were recognised in the country over that time.
It goes without saying for a fact that 95% of people of Matabeleland origin can speak both Ndebele and Shona while only 5% of people of Shona origin can speak IsiNdebele, and the question is why is that so.
On a number of occasions the answer I get from my Shona friends is that IsiNdebele is very difficult, but who said Shona was easy? I stayed in Hwange for six years and when I left I could not only speak but also write Nambya, Chinyanja and even the most difficult language I have ever encountered, Tonga.
I strongly want to believe that the basis of this whole imbalance is a question of attitude and intolerance. This issue which so many view as a minor issue is in actual fact probably the biggest cause of the political difficulties that we find our country faced with.
Indeed, I have so many great Shona friends who speak so fluent IsiNdebele and don't even take lightly of me trying to speak to them in Shona. To me they are the heroes in the building of this country. They are there to show to those with an attitude that other languages in the country are just other languages, that it is possible and it can be done for the good of our country and the generations to come if we could all speak each other's languages.
My opinion is that this has to start with our political leaderships especially our country's Presidium and Cabinet Ministers to parliamentarians. If they begin to believe in the unitary nature of our country and practising it then it becomes easy for us down here at the bottom to do the same.
Our neighbour South Africa is a learning example for us. No political leader in SA can claim not to understand any of the official languages in the country and that attitude has escalated to every member of the South African citizenry. This has helped them all developed a huge pride in all their country's languages so much that no tribe despises the other.
Let's see a new dispensation coming through where every Zimbabwean language is as equal and special as much as everyone is supposed to be an equal citizen of the country. I repeat it just has to start from the top.
If we are able to accept this now it will make it easy for us as we move into the imminent and inevitable phase of national healing and reconciliation.
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