The past week has seen a number serious debates and contestations on topical issues that are pertinent to the Matabeleland region, the language and access to jobs and places in higher learning institutions took the centre stage. One of the key debates was a burst out in parliament pitting the Bulawayo provincial affairs Minister Eunice Sandi Moyo and two MDC T lawmakers Honorable Ruth Labode and Honorable Dorcas Sibanda The two argued that residents of Bulawayo are often overlooked for jobs and for places at higher learning. The minister is allegedly to have shot back and said that she is not a tribalist. One begins to wonder the origination of word tribalism in a very simple and straight forward question like this. The honorable minister could have demanded evidence from the two and promised action. Similarly her response proves there is an invisible hand or force that influenced her response. The other was the interview made on Radio Zimbabwe with the minister of Provincial Affairs for Matabeleland South Abednico Ncube. The minister was asked how far true it was that children in Gwanda were failing Grade Seven Examinations because they were being taught by Shona speaking teachers, Minister Ncube shot down the assertion choosing instead to blame headmasters of the schools for the failures. Report says that this did not go down well with listeners who during the phone in session, listeners castigated the dominance of teachers who do speak Ndebele in many schools in the region who are made to teach lower grades in primary schools, some listeners proposed secession as the panacea as they felt their language and values were under serious attack.
Opinion makers in some sectors of the society have vehemently disagreed with the two law makers and listeners from this region but in this piece I will briefly demonstrate the validity of their claims and they have a serious case that needs to be taken seriously and urgently to avoid recurrent and perennial conflicts that daily emanates from these issues.
First I would like to correct perceptions that the two were advocating for the Ndebele to be the only ones entitled to get jobs in Bulawayo. According to quotes made in the newspapers in allegedly statements proclaimed in parliament, the two never in their questions mentioned that they are speaking for Ndebeles but they said local people. Bulawayo is a cosmopolitan city and the word “local” refers to any anyone from Binga, Victoria Falls, Plumtree and other areas and there is nothing Ndebele about their arguments. To me this is a critical issue that the two raised. I have empirical evidence that local jobs are taken by outsiders, and I can prove that with my experiences two years ago in resort of Victoria Falls where during the opening of one food court a bus came with over 30 young people to open a restaurant, simple logic tells every sane person that Victoria Falls is a tourism hub and there is no justification whatsoever to import over 30 people to open a restaurant unless if it is specialized skill which was then proved otherwise in the subsequent investigation.
The two lawmakers were bashed for raising these issues in parliament instead of visiting the office of the minister of state for provincial affairs, let me remind those who care that the role of parliament is to make laws and hence the two had every justification to table the issue in parliament in order to encourage the making of laws that will enhance the constitutional provisions to promote the empowerment of locals. There is nothing mischievous and problematic by raising issues in parliament as its role is to make laws that will serve the interests of the masses, maybe their questions will trigger someone to sponsor a bill that speaks to the issue at hand.
The constitution of Zimbabwe also acknowledges that some regions are historical underdeveloped due to political disturbances that occurred some 31 years ago, these have a bearing on employment patterns due to the simple fact that the people who were killed then most of them were the productive and if my statistics oral history survivors are correct most ranged from 20 -40 years which means that over 50% were young people who could have risen within the ranks by today will be managers in various companies and organizations here in the region, but the whole lot was exterminated, then it left vacuum that was replaced by other people from outside the region, who have risen within ranks are now managers and directors today are employing their kith and kin at the expense of locals.
To further prove that employing people who are not conversant with even the language is very detrimental to the values and ethos of other tribes, I had a an experience at one primary school in Bulawayo, I saw a teaching aid which wrong constructed Ndebele word: Iqaqa was constructed as Iqhaqha, qaphela was spelled as Qhaphela, Qeda as Qheda, Qamula as Qhamula, Quma as Qhuma. I wish the two legislators had the opportunity to see these teaching aids and took them to parliament to proved that critical locals jobs are taken by outsiders who then teach innocent children the wrong language. This is gross disrespect of the Ndebele language and indeed the two lawmakers have a serious case that cannot be ignored by sane leaders and those with people at heart. It is also the violation of constitution Chapter 1 section 6 (3) which asserts that the state and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must ensure that all official languages are treated equitably and take into account the language preferences of people affected by governmental measures or communication.
One will argue that is the duty of the head to monitor the work of the teachers but conceivably the head also in not conversant with the Ndebele language. Stakeholders working in cahoots with the Ministry of primary and secondary education and School Development Committees must set up systems to monitor teaching methodologies and tools in school. If teachers are not enough who are conversant with the Ndebele language, those from other regions must be allowed to teach other subjects like English, Mathematics, General paper and made to be assisted by those who are able to speak and teach Ndebele. If this continues unabated parents, human rights organizations and other stakeholders will view it as calculated to moves to exterminate the Ndebele language.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni