Unity Day: Of My Being Shona & Kinda Ndebele (Part 2)

So, I published part one of this sequel about a week ago (found here) and it opened up room for a lot of conversations from both Ndebele and Shona people, with even some of my friends overseas weighing in on the racial connotations that I raised. That has been really sweet. I think I just hated that the conversations were private, and would have love to have them in public domain for the mutual benefit of all the parties involved.

Oh, where are my manners! Happy Unity Day to all of you Zimbos! Today we are all chilled at home and celebrating the unity that we share (or we must share) as the different tribes that make up this beautiful country. Today we are all chilled at home – waiting to go or to watch some regular activities that usually come with the day like the soccer Unity Cup final, or various other celebrations across the provinces. We are so chilled today that I am posting this blog right from my bed – I haven’t even gotten up to wash my face or brush my teeth, but hey, its Unity Day – don’t judge me!

Let me tell you a funny story as I begin to share some thoughts here. On Sunday, my sister, Tatenda got married up in Harare. I was honoured to present her to her husband on behalf of our fathers at the ceremony at Shangri La which is up Chisipite Road. So, during the reception, I had to give a speech as her brother. And I was unprepared for this. Had not been told I would do this.

So, I get called up, and when I got up there – without thinking, my first sentiment was:

“Mondiregererawo ChiShona changu hachina kuti sanganeyi nokuti ndakadzidza ndikakuriswa mururimi rwechiNdebele. Asi ndichaedza nepandinogona kuti mundinzwe” (First off, forgive my crooked Shona because I was taught and raised in the context of Ndebele culture and language. But I will try my best to speak fluently in Shona.)

I was actually utterly intimidated to speak in my mother tongue, Shona, because I am actually more comfortable speaking in Ndebele and English.

I said that. It struck me when I sat down that I am a mixed breed and its probably people like me who have an understanding of both these worlds who can bridge the gap between the tribes.

See, because we are Shona people raised in Bulawayo, we speak Shona with a different accent. You even sense it when you are talking to people who speak Shona dialects in their original accents. But alas, some of us speak it with Ndebele verbal swagger. And we don’t fit into the expected ‘mode’.

I will tell you something else, again in the city of Harare, I went into a shop opposite Construction House once and I was talking to a shop attendant in Shona – confidently – before she burst my bubble and said, “I can khuluma shamwari. Tinogona kutaura nechiNdebele hedu.” (You seem to be struggling with Shona – I can talk in Ndebele too, we can converse in Ndebele).

I didn’t know how to feel about that. Kinda offended. Kinda didn’t care. But hey, I am just trying to show you an angle we rarely think about when we talk about tribe. Some of us have existed in both worlds. And we accept that it’s okay and even more advantageous to have gleaned from both pools and built a concept of Zimbabwean livelihood.

And having this standpoint makes it ridiculous for me to understand why we would wanna hold on to out tribes and not move on and pursue to love one another genuinely - step by step. Perhaps, we we are Shona and kinda Ndebele, or indeed those who are Ndebele but kinda Shona are a good reminder that tribal prejudices are a foolish pursuit. All we have is each other. We are each other. Sooner or later we goota learn how to navigate life together.

The deception in our country is that we smile at each other in public spaces but when we get into our homes, we have disgusting stereotypes of each other. God forbid we even have these sordid labels even in our churches. How nauseating! I am even appalled by the thought of sharing some of these stereotypes that go from one tribe to another, one generation to another. Unless we take a stand and speak about some of this silliness, we would have been another generation of failures – who never tried to build a consensus and understanding.

My plea to my generation is this: would we come around the table and at least talk about this? It is Unity Day today, but could we honestly say that we are united? In some sense – yes. But I believe there is more for us if we let go of some of the labels and embrace each other as brothers and sisters. We go to the same schools, we eat the same food, we do things in almost similar ways - we are not strangers, we are family.

For those of us who are Christians, maybe all of this starts with us. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation by the Lord, and it is our prerogative to start conversations and build rapport across the tribal divide on these matters that underlie the context of modern day Zimbabwean life.

My feelings on this subjects are strong, but my thoughts are even stronger. And my prayers are that the Lord would make my actions the strongest.

But may we talk more about this?

Enjoy today y’all!

Grace and peace

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