Comments matter of history
President rejects colonial stereotype
Tendai Mugabe Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has dismissed attempts by some sections of the media to sensationalise President Mugabe’s comments about Kalanga emigrants to South Africa saying the reportage should be contextual as the President spoke in the context of unfounded allegations that the deadly xenophobic attacks in South Africa were due, in part, to criminal activities by Zimbabweans in South Africa.
Addressing a Press conference at the end of the Sadc Extraordinary Summit in Harare on Thursday, President Mugabe recalled the pre-independence stereotype that most Zimbabwean emigrants to South Africa were Kalangas from Matabeleland who had little education.
President Mugabe once taught at Empandeni Mission in Bulilima-Mangwe before independence.
Some sections of the media latched on to the President’s sentiments which they interpreted as an attack on Kalangas.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo, who is Government spokesperson, said the media should not confuse the President’s recall of a colonial stereotype for endorsement.
“Government has noted various Press reports including social media chatter on remarks attributed to President Mugabe to the generalised effect that Zimbabwean Kalangas in South Africa are not educated and commit petty crimes.
‘’While some commentary on the remarks in question has raised understandable community issues, it is unfortunate that there has also been opportunistic and even mischievous misinterpretation of the President’s remarks by some media and opposition political circles for inflammatory purposes,’’ Prof Moyo said.
The minister spoke in the wake of a campaign by some sections of the media to sensationalise the President’s comments with a view to creating disaffection among the Kalanga community.
NewsDay, in particular, led the crusade with the MDC-T, which performed dismally in Matabeleland South, also joining the bandwagon in an apparent bid to eke political capital.
On April 30, NewsDay led with a screaming headline,: “Mugabe Kalanga remarks provoke social media fury” and followed up with another headline on May 1: “Mugabe Kalanga jibe sparks anger”. The paper published a column on May 2 with another headline titled “Mugabe’s statements extremely hurtful”.
Not to be outdone, The Daily News on May 1 quipped with “Mugabe in tribal storm”.
Prof Moyo said the reportage was out of context.
‘’It is common cause that every statement has a context. The remarks in question were made against the backdrop of unsubstantiated allegations that horrific xenophobic attacks in South Africa were because governments in the region are allegedly pushing their citizens into South Africa. President Mugabe corrected this.
‘’There was also a related allegation that the Zimbabweans in South Africa are involved in serious crimes as if that would justify the xenophobic attacks if true. Again President Mugabe corrected this.
‘’Therefore, President Mugabe’s remarks were made not only against these unfounded allegations but also he took into account the migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa which predates our independence.
‘’In this context, it’s a matter of history that before Independence there was a stereotype that Zimbabweans who crossed into South Africa were mainly Kalangas from Matabeleland South who did not have much formal education which they were denied by successive colonial regimes. According to this stereotype, these Zimbabweans would allegedly engage in petty crimes in South Africa but would not and in fact do serious or violent crimes because of their proper and exemplary upbringing notwithstanding their lack of formal education.
‘’So what the President said is a commonplace stereotype. It should be said that stating, recalling or highlighting a stereotype is not at all the same as endorsing or recommending it.
‘’The fact of the matter is that, while its negative connotations might still linger on, the pre-independence stereotype about Kalangas actually ended with Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980 when President Mugabe introduced education for all Zimbabweans including Kalangas. That is what matters the most. Thanks to that education policy led by President Mugabe and assiduously implemented by his Government we can today say with national pride that Kalangas are among Zimbabwe’s best educated sons and daughters of the soil.
‘’In the same vein, it is notable that since 1995 all of Zimbabwe’s provinces including Matabeleland South have been benefiting from the Presidential Scholarship personally initiated by President Mugabe.
‘’As such, the President’s commitment to uplifting the education of all Zimbabweans without exception across the length and breadth of the country speaks for itself in ways that are loud and clear. There’s no amount of media or political opportunism that can obfuscate or erase President Mugabe’s unparalleled record of pushing education for all Zimbabweans,” Prof Moyo said.
Information gathered from the Presidential Scholarship Scheme, for the period 1995 to 2015, shows that Kalangas are among the biggest beneficiaries of President Mugabe’s education for all policies since independence.
Since the introduction of the Presidential Scholarship Scheme in 1995, 2009 students from Matabeleland South have benefited while Matabeleland North accounted for 1989 students under the same scheme.
The figures compare favourably with the populous provinces like Mashonaland Central which had 2059 beneficiaries under the Presidential Scholarship Scheme and Harare which had 1984 beneficiaries (see table).