The Politics of Intolerance: What’s wrong with Zanu PF?

Hyena politics: Compete with them in what they think is their territory and they shall crush your bones and spill your blood!

The opposition leader Nelson Chamisa had to run for his dear life, abandoning a tree planting ceremony as armed officers fired shots towards him. Apparently his freedom of assembly is subject to the Zanu PF government’s regime security concerns. A number of his rallies and planned protests have been banned in a blatant show of the regime’s intolerance for dissent.

Since 1980, ZANU PF has treated the opposition as enemies to be annihilated not opponents to compete with. In a supposedly democratic country whose democracy Zanu PF reputedly fought for, the opposition and its supporters are harassed, attacked, and detained. The political terrain is bloody as lives of those with different views are sometimes sacrificed at the altar of regime security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Yet Zanu PF expects everyone to believe democracy is flourishing in Zimbabwe.

This gives rise to the question; whats wrong with Zanu PF? I am submitting that Zanu PF and its political culture is incompatible to the people’s modern day needs of freedom, human rights, human security, consent of the governed, economic progress and a plural and open democratic space. The nationalist consensus of the 1960s which gave birth to Zanu was not based on consent but authority and coercion.

The influences of Zanu PF’s political culture were not democratic and its nationalist ideology that guided the liberation struggle has become bankrupt. It has reduced itself to “unproductive patronage, cronyism, violence and lawlessness as a survival strategy.” Nationalism which is deeply entrenched in the ruling party’s ideology is inherently authoritarian and an impediment to democracy.

The party is trapped in a time warp, practicing politics of the liberation struggle whose exigencies demanded the use of force to attain political goals. The colonial government’s brute force had to be met by an equally brutal and intolerant liberation war machine. Violence was accepted as a legitimate tool of the struggle. This is a party which has only known and successfully launched violence to achieve its goals such as winning elections for decades.

Both the party’s political and military wings “were never democratically structured and did not operate in a democratic fashion. They were highly commandist and authoritarian.”

During the liberation struggle, disagreements in Zanu could lead to death. The liberation party insisted on monolithic unity and loyalty at all costs. To have a different opinion on how to execute the struggle “was tantamount to committing suicide and treason.” Party leaders suffered from suspicion and persecution mania. This saw witch-hunting, intimidation, violent purges, assassinations and “enemies” within being liquidated.

The leader was glorified and worshipped with poems and songs in a stalinist fashion. This personality cult required unquestioning loyalty and created the notions of indispensability and irreplaceability of the leader. With this mentality Zimbabwe was led by Mugabe under Zanu PF for close to four decades. In all party congresses he went uncontested. Talks of succeeding him were regarded as blasphemy. Consequently, the party has no place in a democratic world of free political contestation and competition. The party structures cannot democratically remove the leader, only its military wing can forcefully do that.

Stanlake Samkange expressed the party’s inherent anti-democracy DNA in the following statements; “Those who are not with us are sellouts. Those who form a rival political party must be prevented at all costs. So houses and cars were stoned (during the liberation struggle.) Petrol bombs thrown into people’s bedrooms.” He was describing what they did, not to the colonial regime but to fellow Africans whose only crime was thinking differently.

When Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, people expected a break with the tradition of nationalist and guerilla violence. However, Zanu could not exorcise itself from its intolerant liberation war demon. Instead of transforming and ushering in a new era of freedom and democracy, the party carried its authoritarian tendencies into post independence Zimbabwe.

The party struggled to stomach the existence of a rival political party. Thus, it unleashed its favourite weapon, violence, against PF Zapu in order to swallow it and then advocate for a one party state at the end of 1980s. The one party state agenda exposed the party’s unwillingness to open the democracy space.

The party also failed to demilitarize itself, not only in practice but also in attitude. By putting interests of the nationalist elites first, Zanu PF combined its liberation war machinery together with the violently repressive colonial structures to give birth to a new intolerant state. “Militarism and violence became part and parcel of the post independence Zimbabwe state.”

Elevating the party and its leader above everything brought into existence, fanatic supporters, a youth brigade and some women’s league members determined to kill or die for the party. ZANLA, the party’s military wing continues to exist masquerading as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. It is still being used as a tool to solve party internal conflicts and protect it from external threats.

The aspirations of Zimbabweans soon conflicted with the party’s major preoccupation; regime security and maintaining power. Instead of addressing the grievances of workers, students, youths and women, Zanu PF became concerned about the welfare, safety and protection of the ruling elite and its few cronies.

Corruption and avarice of the elite flourish unabated. The populist policies and rhetoric have proved to be nothing but mere strategies of survival for the ruling party.

The exhausted nationalist rhetoric cannot fix Zimbabwe’s decadent economy nor open the democratic space. Zanu PF is now redundant. Democracy is alien to its DNA and a threat to its existence. It was the terminator which terminated the colonial settler regime and should have been disbanded after independence to pave way for a new political consensus predicated on the civil society, human security, human rights, freedom and real democracy.

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The Prophet, or the Profiteer in Church? The Teacher or the Cheater on the Pulpit? Rekindling the debate of true and false prophets in Zimbabwe.

Just like in ancient Israel, Zimbabwe has no shortage of self proclaimed prophets who claim to speak, preach, heal and predict events under the influence of the Holy spirit. In some cases, they act bizarrely and justify their weird acts by referencing the bible. Its as if they are reenacting the biblical world of miracles, dramatising the contents of the bible and giving their followers an experience of what they read in the holy book. Their followers claim that these prophets can heal “incurable” diseases like HIV and cancer, cause money to appear miraculously in believers’ pockets and bank accounts, conduct miracle weight loss, raise the dead, make hair appear in bald heads, pray for barren women to conceive and foretell the future “with the exactitude of a Jewish prophet” among many other miracles.

However, not all acts of healing and exorcism have been successful, not all predictions have come to pass, some of the “prophets” have been accused of immorality, avariciousness (Excessive greedy desires for wealth cloaked in the “prosperity gospel”) and turning the church of God into a Casino where people gamble by “sowing seeds” of money in order to profiteer more. But its actually the “Man of God” who appears to be profiteering. He alone emerges with thousands of dollars after each church service as the poor give the little they have to him and the rich pour as much as they can into his coffers. This has inevitably sparked the debate on the authenticity of all the so-called “prophets.” Wealthy celebrity leaders of prophetic ministries like Emanuel Makandiwa, Walter Magaya and Eubert Angel to mention just a few have not escaped scrutiny in the public discourse on the true and false prophet debate.

Both the followers and critics of the prophetic movement have come up with many a criterion to distinguish true from false prophets. They all cite the same bible to either criticise or justify the prophetic. It therefore raises the question; Does the bible provide a benchmark that separates true and false prophets beyond any reasonable doubt? Can we really conclude that our contemporary prophets are true or false using the bible as a yardstick? The fact that both followers and critics use the bible to support or chide the prophet problematizes the criteria set in the bible.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 is used to distinguish true from false prophets. It clearly states that prophets were supposed to speak in the name of Yahweh / Jehovah. Prophets who called upon people to worship other gods were to be regarded as false and be stoned to death. This criteria was effective in distinguishing foreign prophets from Israelite prophets. Foreign prophets would speak in the name of Baal while Israelite ones called the name of Yahweh / Jehovah. An Israelite who prophesied in the name of an alien god was rendered false. However, the criteria fails to solve the problem of prophets who deliver contradictory messages yet claiming to speak for the same God. In Zimbabwe, almost all prophets claim to have been sent by God even though their messages are sometimes contradictory. Thus this criteria is weak, who can we say is false or true under such circumstances?

One of the commonly used criterion is that of prediction and fulfilment. The word of God spoken through a true prophet is expected to come to pass. The assumption is that if predictions of a prophet are not fulfilled, then s/he is surely a false prophet. So speaking in the name of God alone is not enough, it should also be accompanied by fulfilment of the word. Its clear in Deuteronomy 18:21 “You may say to yourselves, How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” Deuteronomy 18:22 “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” As a result critics of the prophets in Zimbabwe are quick to cite instances whereby predictions have not been fulfilled in order to dismiss them as false. At the same time staunch followers of the prophets give testimony of predictions that came to pass, thereby problematizing the criteria.

The prediction and fulfillment criterion, as convincing as it seems, is not without its own loopholes. It only caters for short – term predictions while those who make long term predictions are left “un-judged” until the time predicted has lapsed. Those who predict what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year can easily be judged. However in the bible, there are prophets who made long term predictions some of which took generations to be fulfilled. They and their audiences died before the predictions came to pass. To their contemporaries they died as false prophets according to this criterion. Isaiah who is considered in the Christian community to have predicted the virgin birth of Jesus Christ could have died a false prophet because his generation did not see it happen. They surely could have said Isaiah lied to us (Isaiah 7:14.) What this means is that a prophet considered false in this generation could be vindicated by the next generation. This depends on the memories of the people, if they can remember the prediction after a very long time.

Obvious Vengeyi states that “in 2 Kings 13:1519, Elisha made a prediction but died before the prediction was fulfilled (2 Kgs. 13:20). Thus when we use the criterion of fulfilment of prediction, Elisha died a false prophet. The same conclusion could be reached regarding Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 25:11, 12 and 29:10, Jeremiah made a prediction that Judah would be released from Babylonian slavery after seventy years. Basing upon the criterion of fulfilment of prediction, Jeremiah would only be proven as a true prophet after seventy years. And by that time Jeremiah and most, if not all the people who were his audiences would have died. In short, Jeremiah, according to this criterion, died a false prophet. The criterion has thus the propensity to dismiss as false all the prophets we have always regarded as true, such as Elisha, Jeremiah, Micah and Isaiah among others. Micah (5:5) and Isaiah (10:5) for example, predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century but Jerusalem was not destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century. It was destroyed instead by the Babylonians in 587, in the sixth century BCE. According to this criterion, Micah and Isaiah are false prophets.”

The prediction and fulfillment criterion overlooks the fact that in the bible, God could sometimes deceive true prophets to prophesy falsehoods. In 1 Kings 22 God sent a lying spirit to influence 400 of his prophets to lie to Ahab for him to meet his fate. Had it not been for God, the prophets would have told the truth. Micaiah is the only prophet who told the truth. 1 Kings 22:23 “Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets, and the LORD has spoken evil concerning you.” What’s clear is that if prophets who lie are false, then both the false and the true prophets were agents of the same God in this story. It’s a classic example of divine deception. A prophet can lie unwittingly to achieve a divine objective. He is not responsible for his actions and speeches and can not be held accountable since he is only an agent in the hands of God.

In the case of Zimbabwe, prophets who predicted incorrect outcomes of election results, football matches, deaths of political figures, economic prosperity e.t.c were dismissed as false prophets when their words did not come to pass. Their critics are ignorant of the fact that 1 Kings 22 is clear that prophets can faithfully and truthfully serve God by lying in order to achieve a divine objective. How do we know that God does not send a lying spirit to the contemporary prophet and if he lies or makes an incorrect prediction under spiritual possession, why should it be his or her fault?

The bible makes it clear that some of the predictions of a prophet do not come to pass due to divine repentance. In many instances the bible tells us “the Lord repented” and changed his plans (cf Amos 7:3, 6.) God would promise to bring calamity upon a sinful people, then forgive them when they repented. Therefore, He did not do what he had promised to do and the result was that the predictions of the prophet could not be fulfilled in the eyes of the people. Some would question “you prophesied calamities, where are they?” This could have been the reason why Jonah did not want God to send him to Nineveh, he suspected that He would change His mind after he had predicted doom and people would say he was a false prophet (Jonah 4). Indeed Jonah was right, he got disappointed, Nineveh was not punished as he had predicted. Jonah. 3:10 “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon the destruction he had threatened.” Jeremiah also complains about the same problem in Jer 20:7-10.

In Zimbabwe, prophets who are either accused or exposed of immoral acts are condemned and vilified as false prophets. The assumption is that Jehovah is God of morals and the man of God should also be a man of high moral standards. Some Zimbabwean prophets have been accused of infidelity and dragged to courts on rape allegations. Their authenticity as messengers of a moral God is now questionable.

However, the criterion of morality is a dead one because in the bible there are prophets whom we regard as true but lived morally questionable lives. Hosea, against the law given to Moses by God (Deuteronomy 24:2-4), married and remarried a prostitute who apparently continued with her trade even after marriage (Hosea 1:2, 3.) We can only imagine what people would say today if a prophet were to kneel down and propose marriage to a street hooker as Hosea the true prophet did. Unless one is mad, nakedness is considered an immoral act. Yet Isaiah walked naked for three years dramatizing the message of Yahweh (Isaiah 20:3.) In a horrendous act, Elisha cursed forty two children to die in a very painful way (2Kings 2:23-24.) Today, this could be condemned as a wicked act of terrorism. In fact Elijah and Elisha were associated with bloodshed, killing of innocent messengers of the King and inspiring assassinations in the house of Ahab (1 Kings 18:40, 2 Kings 1:9-12, 9:10) to the extent that Hosea had to condemn it years later (Hosea 1:4.) People assume that when a messenger of God does some immoral acts, the spirit of God may leave him / her, but in Judges 16:1-3, the power of the Lord never leaves Samson after sleeping with a harlot. Therefore the criterion of morality cannot distinguish true from false prophets even in Zimbabwe.

There is a tendency to dismiss prophets or church leaders who are obsequiously submissive to the government as false. There is always an excitement and a feeling that the Man of God is a true one whenever he criticizes the status quo. According to Bess, “false prophets were the yesmen of their times, currying favour with the political figures of the day and giving the messages that would justify the actions of those politicians.” Today such criticism is given to prophets who support government initiatives and go to the extent of suggesting that the current leaders were chosen by God. What critics do not understand is that, such prophets have their predecessors in the bible. Prophets like Nathan and Gad worked for the ruling elite. Nathan even went on to declare that the house of David will rule for ever (2 Sam 7:2.) Gad worked as David’s personal seer (2 Samuel 24:11.) Isaiah believed in the Davidic royal ideology and thus supported the ruling elite’s entitlement to kingship.

At a time when prophets in pentecostal churches are getting richer and richer at the end of each service, some people become skeptical in regards to their authenticity. Critics raise the criterion of professionalism. A true prophet must take his ministry as a service not a profession. In other words true prophets do not receive remuneration or payment for their services. Micah 3:5, 11 condemns prophets who receive payment as false prophets. This criterion is weak because biblical prophets like Samuel received money for their services (1 Samuel 9:2.) In 1 Kings 14:3 also, Jeroboam had to pay ‘ten loaves of bread, some cakes, and a jar of honey’ to prophet Ahijah to inquire about his ill son’s fate. In Amos 7:12, the prophet is advised by Amaziah to take his profession to Judah and earn “bread” there. Therefore there is no adequate biblical basis upon which to dismiss contemporary prophets as false simply because they receive huge amounts of money as their predecessor Samuel did on every consultation.

It is generally believed that a true prophet is one who received a calling from God. Biblical prophets like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Samuel have recorded accounts of their calls and commissions. In Zimbabwe, almost every prophet provides a detailed account of his/her call. So this criterion makes a preposterous assumption that all these prophets are true because they have narrated their calls. Moreover in the bible, prophets like Elijah, Micaiah, Gad and Nathan have no recorded calls, yet we believe them to be true prophets of God.

Some scholars believe that true Israelite prophets were ecstatic. Meaning they experienced a trance like state were their consciousness was suspended to allow possession by the divine spirit. In this condition they would engage into some hyperactivity or extraordinary passivity. Num. 11: 25-29; 1 Sam. 10:1-13 and 1 Sam. 19:18-24 are examples of this behaviour which made followers believe that indeed the Man of God was authentic. In Zimbabwe, prophets have tried to show their authenticity by speaking in tongues, exorcising, predicting, making the severely sick and wheelchair bound walk and inducing congregates to fall unconsciously on the ground. This abnormal demonstration of power assures the followers that God is in their midst. This has forced critics to accuse them of possessing satanic or demonic powers. By doing so, the critics are playing the Pharisees who accused Jesus of being possessed by “Beelzebub the prince of demons” after seeing him demonstrate his power. Nevertheless, the criterion of ecstasy is an exhausted one because many religions besides Christianity and Judaism are associated with ecstasy. It has been suggested that ecstatic prophecy in Israel was borrowed from neighbouring nations. It can not be a reliable instrument in distinguishing the true from the false.

From the above discussion, no biblical criterion of distinguishing true from false prophets is without weaknesses. The way in which people use the bible to defend and criticise prophets has created more confusion than solutions. Reality is that prophets play the role of an opium. By choosing to believe him, interpreting his words in good light and deciding to see all events as fulfillment of his word, you make him a true prophet for you, not for everyone. To some he is a hoax, a profiteer in church, a cheater on the pulpit, unrealistic and uncivilized because they interpret him in bad light and their world is therefore not a fulfillment of his word.

AN EXPLORATION OF POWER AND ETHNIC GRIEVANCES EXPRESSED IN THE FOOTBALL ARENA BY HIGHLANDERS SUPPORTERS.

“They killed our mothers and fathers,” the Soweto fan’s cry

People go to the football stadiums to watch and support their teams, giving the players inspiration in various ways. Songs, chants, plastic flutes (vuvuzela) and drums are used by supporters to give their team some motivation. Usually they would be praising and glorifying their football team. However at Barbourfields stadium a section of Highlanders Football club fans is using the football stadia to express power and ethnic grievances. Their performances are part of a response of the people of Matabeleland and Ndebele ethnic group to the pains of Gukurahundi, marginalisation and Shona hegemony. Nevertheless, they convey a clear message to those “whom it may concern”.

There are historical events and memories that influence this section of Highlanders supporters who are largely from Ndebele ethnic group. Studying Zimbabwean football, Zenenga rightly notes that fans are critical political players and the game develops into a politically contested terrain. Conscious or unconscious, Zimbabwean fans conduct political actions that generate visibility. Inside Barbourfields stadium there are terraces popularly known as the Soweto stands. Dr. Lyton Ncube advances that these stands were named after the Soweto township of South Africa popularly known for resistance against the apartheid regime. Interestingly, he notes that it is by no coincidence that this section of Barbourfields has housed non conformists. This is a place where one finds the most devout Highlanders supporters dressed in their football club regalia, shouting, chanting and singing.

It is an area that has its own cultures and taboos. It is indeed a taboo to speak Shona at Soweto. One risks being harassed by some extremist Highlanders fans if he or she has a Shona accent. Non Highlanders fans and Shona speaking people can stay at any other place including the V.I.P but not at Soweto. There, the Shona speaking people are belittled and referred to as “Amaswina” a derogatory term. Makaudze believes that the term “Amaswina” dates back to pre-colonial times. After a raid, the Ndebele would eat good meat and give their Shona captives intestines. The Shona would then eat the intestines after getting rid of the dung, “kusvina.”

During research, one Highlanders fan of Shona origins claimed that he had to pretend to be an Ndebele in order to feel safe at Soweto.

“The advantage that I have is that I was born is Bulawayo. So I grew up here speaking Ndebele and even learnt it from school. I have a bit of Ndebele accent. Therefore when I go to Barbourfields to support my team Highlanders, I have to hide my Shona origins, deny even my surname and adopt an Ndebele one in order to be safe. At Barbourfields, I am Dlodlo”

A significant number of Shona speaking fans who support Highlanders are forced to fake their identity whenever they visit Barbourfields and wish to stay at the Soweto stand. One fan narrated how he was almost manhandled by some supporters at Soweto after one of his former schoolmates saw him walking at Soweto and shouted his name, inadvertantly alerting others that he was a Shona.

Some people choose to be diplomatic by ignoring the sensitive issue of ethnicity in football, suggesting that what is happening at the stadium is a case of ordinary rivalry between fans of different clubs only. However, Dr. Ncube who conducted an extensive research on fandom says that despite the fact that he wore full Highlanders regalia, his Shona accent betrayed him, resulting in confiscation of his camera in a situation that almost became violent. The case of Ncube shows that the Soweto fans find it hard to accept Shona speaking people regardless of the team they are affiliated to. Supporting Highlanders or not, the Shona people not feel at home in the Soweto community. Ncube rightly notes that the presence of a Shona at Soweto is viewed as bringing misfortunes for the club. When Highlanders missed two scoring opportunities, Ncube had to be removed by force. “How can the team win with such people around here.” Therefore, stereotypes and myths are also used to further ethnic intolerance.

Upon arriving at Soweto, one is embraced with chants and songs that encompass not only ethnic implications but also political grievances of the people of Matabeleland. “Babulala omama labo baba bethu” (they killed our mothers and fathers), is a popular chant among Highlanders supporters. If the purpose of songs is to give verve to the team, one then wonders how this particular song motivates the players on the ground when it is clear that it has nothing to do with football. Therefore it is plain beyond any misconception that this song carries a message to the perpetrators of Gukurahundi. Scott believes that, the general conduct of supporters through their songs and chants contain “hidden transcripts” for articulating political dissention. A lot of civilians of Matabeleland were killed during the Gukurahundi era. Some have interpreted Gukurahundi as a Shona project to eliminate the Ndebele speaking people in Zimbabwe. Others have developed hatred towards the Shona and want nothing to do with them.

However Bulawayo is a multi-ethnic city where Ndebele and Shona people live together, so Barbourfields Stadium gives the anti-Shona extremists an opportunity to create what looks like a pure Ndebele – only society at Soweto where they deliver a message to those who “raped our wives and slept with our women.”

“Ngilamulela nant’iShona lingibulala” (please rescue me from the Shona who seek to kill me) is another common song. A Highlanders fan recounted how they used to sing it whenever they lost to Dynamos or any “mashona team.” A “mashona team” is generally one that comes from Mashonaland but Dynamos is considered to be a representation of the Shona people because of their huge following in Mashonaland.
One may wonder why supporters value ethnic differences while their teams have players from different ethnic groups. Highlanders has Shona players but the fact as noted by Porat is that the identity of a club is determined not by its players but its locality or region. Ncube put forward the view that some Bosso fans are not comfortable with having Shona players in their team. When the team loses to Dynamos the Shona players are blamed for sabotaging the club. On the club’s facebook page “Highlanders Fc”, fans frequently express their regrets for having Shona players in the team. When the team lost to Harare City in a match played at the capital city, one fan wrote:

“some of our players, the Shonas did not put enough effort because they wanted us to lose, let them not come back here. They should stay where they belong.”

This was just one of the many comments that criticised Shona players. Although they play for Highlanders, their hearts and sympathy are with the Shona according to the Soweto fans.
The song (please rescue me from the Shona) also acts like a signal, a call to prepare for action against Shona dominance as one fan described how they would sing this song filled with fury carrying bottles in their hands and prepared to “spill the blood of anything they suspected was Shona”. It is worth noting that the song has two versions, the other version says “please rescue me from the people who want to kill me”. The word people is substituted for Shona. The point here is that others are classified as people/human beings while others are seen as “Shona”. When playing with a “maShona team” like Dynamos they would cry to be rescued from the Shona but when they play a team from Bulawayo like Amazulu, Railstars and Sundowns, they cried to be rescued from “these people.” This implies that those who mercilessly butchered the Ndebele in the 1980s are no good people at all.

“Bopha ijombo ukhabe iShona” (wear your boots and kick the Shona) is a very familiar song known to both old and young at Barbourfields Stadium. The song identifies the Shona not only as mere opponents but enemies, a problem that needs to be dealt with.

After a feeling of being unwanted, sidelined, marginalised and excluded in nation building developed among the people of Matabeleland, some extremists called for secession of the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. They dreamt of restoring the Ndebele nation which had existed before, a nation where they would be regarded as equal not second class citizens. Consequently, at Barbourfields they sing and chant “Highlander yithimu yezwe lonke” (Highlanders is the team of the nation). When taken at face value, one would think that the nation being referred to here is the Zimbabwe we know. However, when taking a closer look, it becomes clear that the nation referred to by this song is an “Mthwakazi” nation, the Ndebele nation as echoed by most of the fans. Thus, they sing “wake walibona iShona elibhalwe tshilamoya?” (Have you ever seen a Shona with a Highlanders brand?) Some obsessive Highlanders fans boast that their team is for the Ndebele only, a symbolism of Ndebeleism. So, one can safely say that a section of these radical fans have some secessionist sentiments. Indeed, Baller justifiably says that soccer unlocked the field for protest and political remonstration.

In some songs, the government is directly attacked. One song describes how the government interfered in the former Roman Catholic Bishop Pius Ncube’s private life by exposing his promiscuity. There is a general view that Pius was exposed with full government support because he was one of those few Ndebele people who had the courage to openly criticise the Mugabe regime. Hence the Soweto fans sing “Bakhanda uPius ezeka kwazonda uhulumende” (Pius committed adultery and the government got mad at him). As a result Barbourfields has become an arena where some people get the chance to mock the government and the dominant ethnic group. Dr Ncube observed that they would also sing “Mugabe liShona heyaa”, (Mugabe is a Shona). It serves as a reminder that the then commander in chief of the fifth brigade is from the Shona ethnic group.

However, Highlanders supporters are not the only ones expressing an ethnic grievance in the stadium. Dr. Lyton Ncube noted that the performances of Dynamos supporters most of whom are from the Shona ethnic group, reflect ethnic grudges that can be traced back to precolonial times. He observes that during matches at Rufaro’s Vietnam stand, some Dynamos fans openly shout;

“Mandevere makauraya vana baba vedu, mombe dzedu nevasikana vedu vakapambiwa naMzilikazi tovada.” (Ndebeles, you killed our fathers, we want our cattle and ladies who were taken away by Mzilikazi.)

A football analyst Ezra Sibanda was quoted in the Herald newspaper in 2014 saying big matches such as that of Dynamos and Highlanders were no longer games but wars. “You ask yourself for what, what’s there to gain and why all the anger?” he exclaimed.

Although it is not openly discussed, the performances of Soweto fans depict the ethnic polarization which lurks beneath the front of unity that every leader talks about. It gives a picture of disunity and the weak point that exists in our nation. Its time we heal our society through truth and reconciliatory measures. Its time we stop rubbishing the Soweto fan’s cry which reflects our very own society as simply hooliganism, without attempting to solve the real problem, ethnic polarization.

WE ARE NOT DULL, ENGLISH IS THE PROBLEM

Rethinking the use of the Colonial Language as a medium of instruction in African education system

Whenever issues to do with a low pass-rate are confronted at both macro and micro levels, it is fashionable for the school authorities to blame teachers, questioning their qualities, abilities and techniques while trivializing policy issues that hinder meaningful learning to take place. English, the language of the country’s former oppressors is being used as a medium of instruction in Zimbabwe’s education system from primary, secondary to tertiary level. This means that students are being taught in a language that is alien to them and their culture, a language which they struggle not only to understand but also to express themselves in.

The language that pupils use to think is different from the language which they are being forced by the education system to use in communicating ideas. This is despite the fact that research conducted by various academicians including UNESCO reveal that pupils understand better when taught in their mother tongue. Different curriculums have come and gone; different methodologies and approaches to teaching and learning have been suggested but the medium of instruction has remained the same.

It is problematic to evaluate the pupils’ progress without considering challenges posed by the language used to teach them. After the teacher has done his/her work and over 50% of pupils continue to fail year after year, the following questions become necessary to ask: Are pupils failing because the subjects content is difficult to grasp? Are they dull-witted? Do they have inherent cognitive problems? Do they fully master the language of instruction used before they can even fathom the concepts? Is it not nonsensical to expect them to excel in concepts taught in an alien language?

UNESCO has encouraged mother tongue instruction in early childhood and primary education since 1953. Research conducted in South Africa by Dr Ntshangase concluded that pupils from grade 8 to 12 were giving immature responses in English that were not in line with their respective grades. “The kind of answers provided by pupils during assessment tests and exercises were not reflecting the level of cognitive development expected by their teachers.” She acknowledges that the major obstacle for pupils was the medium of instruction which they were finding difficult to use in expressing answers. Like Zimbabweans, the majority of black South Africans come across the English language at school. In their homes they use different local languages like isiZulu, Xhosa, Vhenda, Pedi and Ndebele among many others.

In a research that I conducted in 2016, I discovered that in classes branded as “last classes” because of their poor performance, pupils’ participation during lessons was very low. Class discussions in some cases were difficult as students acted like clueless zombies. Most pupils concurred that the major obstacle they encountered during teacher to pupil interaction within the classroom was the language of instruction.

The will to participate in every discussion might be there but the means of communicating ideas is the real problem. Pupils lost composure and confidence whenever they were asked to contribute in English. They feared making grammatical and pronunciation errors which would result in them being mocked by fellow classmates. This affects the self esteem of most English second language learners. Similar studies in Canada found that Inuit students educated in their first language Inuktitut showed increased self esteem and cultural pride compared to those educated only in the second language, English and French.

Some subjects require pupils to present their answers in essay form. Good essay writers should also be good in their understanding and mastery of English. The majority of pupils do not use English in their homes with their families. When given homework, pupils are likely to be assisted by peers, family and friends using the mother tongue. They then struggle to translate it into the foreign language required at school.

Psychological experts say that under natural circumstances people use the language they use at home to reason and think. In Zimbabwe, the language most people use to reason and think is not the one they find at school. If a learner articulates an answer in vernacular, s/he might be lucky to be indulged in oral classroom discussions. But school and national examination boards will never tolerate an answer expressed in vernacular no matter how correct it is. Therefore learners fail not because they lack knowledge but lack the understanding of a foreign language, English.

Teachers also face the challenge of teaching fluently in English. More often than not, teachers in many Zimbabwean schools find themselves code-switching from English to vernacular when explaining some concepts. This is the case especially in most rural schools where few pupils can master English language properly. Code switching is defined as the alternate use of two or more languages. It is a way in which both pupils and teachers divert from the main language of instruction, borrowing some vocabulary from vernacular local languages when expressing or explaining concepts.

Some teachers may switch the language of instruction from English to vernacular not for the sake of pupils, but simply because they themselves are not fluent in English. If for most Zimbabweans, exposure to English is through the teacher, one wonders what happens if the teacher is not sufficiently competent in English? In instances whereby the teacher writes incorrect information on the chalkboard pupils may just copy as it is without full comprehension of what it is. It therefore promotes rote learning whereby learners cram to pass even if they do not comprehend the concepts.

Everyone encourages exam candidates to read in order to pass. However, learners whom English is a second language tend to depend more on the graphic information than on the contextual information when they read. They do not have an adequate command and vocabulary of the English language. Most rural and township learners do not have a Western background that assists them to learn English faster.

In this global village, it is not wise to rashly do away with English. But History has taught us that the developed world was developed by its mother tongue which serves as a medium of instruction in its education system. Measures should be taken to enhance pupils’ understanding of the medium of instruction in order to grasp the subject content. In subjects like History (Zimbabwean History) and Heritage Studies that cultivate nationalism and patriotism, pupils should be given an option to learn in a language they best understand. They cannot fathom their past, their culture and traditions in a foreign language which they hardly know. A lot have incorrectly been labelled “dull” not because they are “dull” but simply because they fail to express their intellectual prowess in an alien language.