Ndebele & Shona people still hate each other, & its killing our football too

By Roy Muroyi

The Zimbabwean cyberspace presents that online spaces are not disconnected from offline/stadium behaviour Eklund  (2011)

The above picture made waves during the past weeks on social media, reflecting the stadium behaviours of some football fans in the stadiums. Many scribes have shared their thoughts on the picture and some have even gone to the extent of saying that the above picture was photo shopped.

Photo shopped or not, the above picture represents the reality that we all want to run away from time and again when Highlanders Football Club  plays Dynamos Football Clubs.

Nation building like building is a work of art and many African leaders have proven to be good state building artists but poor nation builders. In countries with a kaleidoscope cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and other salient identities nation building is a challenge. The need to consolidate power can also be a very fatal factor leading to total failure of nation building by the government.

Animosity is very much exists without a shadow of doubt between the two biggest clubs in the country, and the root of this is the Zanu pf government’s failure to promote nation building.

The publishing of the above picture in the state run newspaper (Herald) out of all the placards that were in the stadium on that particular day clearly shows that the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the peoples of Zimbabwe are divided even further as part of their divide and rule antics.

Bulawayo used to be called the sun shine city, because of its resourcefulness that made everyone in the city shine. The city was known as “KoNtuthu ziya–thunqa”  (Ndebele for “a place that continually exudes smoke”.

The smoke continually exuded in Bulawayo for years as the city was Zimbabwe’s industrial hub boasting of a large number of huge manufacturing and engineering companies. These included the Tregers Group, Zimbabwe Engineering Company, Hubert Davies, Merlin Textiles, Stewarts & Lloyds, Build Elect, Dunlop, Hunyani Holdings and G&D Shoes just to mention a few

Despite today’s Zanu pf’s economic meltdown across the entire nation , the overriding sentiment in the city of Bulawayo and Matabeleland as a whole is that the Shona-dominated central government has been strategically marginalising the mainly Ndebele-populated city for years to force companies to relocate to other provinces.

This animosity between the government and the people of Matebele land started around the early 1980s.

In an attempt to crash resistance from Zapu and form a one party state, the Zanu pf government launched a terror campaign burning villages and killing well over  20, 000 people in Matebeleland and the Midlands province.

The brutal campaign was carried out against the Ndebele populations in Zimbabwe during the 1983 and again during the 1985 elections. Gukurahundi is a traditional Shona word, which means “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.”

It is the word chosen by the Mugabe regime to describe a military operation against a civilian population during the 1980s.

The fact that Zanu pf decided to term the terror campaign “Gukurahundi” a Shona term made it look like it was a Shona terror campaign against the Ndebele. The fifth brigade also comprised of Shona soldiers who were very ruthless and forced the Ndebele to learn Shona, failure to do so was even punishable by death at times.

It is however a known fact that the conflict involved Government agencies and all those who were thought to support ZAPU. This was carried out mainly against unarmed civilians in those rural areas which traditionally supported ZAPU; it was also at times carried out against ZAPU supporters in urban areas.

The Government agencies which were engaged in the Gukurahundi  were primarily 5 Brigade, the CIO, PISI and the ZANU-PF Youth Brigades.

These units committed many human rights violations, which compounded the plight of civilians who were once more caught in the middle of a problem not of their own making.

Memories of Gukurahundi massacres are extremely painful to those especially to those who survived it and to those who were born afterward and had the narratives of the Gukurahundi from their relatives who had seen it.

As a result of the Gukurahundi,  Zanu pf became very unpopular in Matebeleland besides the unity accord of 1987 which many Ndebele people up to today do not recognise . Matebeleland today has claimed its status as an opposition strong hold.

This can be evidenced by the amount of support that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) enjoys in Matabeleland besides its Shona leadership.

The MDC support in Matebeleland can also serve as evidence that the Ndebele people are not at war or bitter at the Shona people but with Zanu pf.  The fact that the MDC has got a Shona leadership clearly supports this notion.

In an unfortunate turn of events, various stereo types have been created within our community , with the Ndebele stereo typing the Shona on various issues. The Shona as well have been found wanting on a number of occasions stereo typing the Ndebele on various occasions. These stereo types have been transferred to our football and they continue to manifest every time Highlanders and Dynamos play.

Highlanders and Dynamos the two supposed protagonists of Zimbabwean football are major vehicles for expressing the need to construct Zimbabwe as a country where ethnic differences should be celebrated not as a source of conflict and political animosity. Football tensions should not be allowed to develop into socio-political conflicts.

Dynamos/Dembare and Highlanders/Bosso linked to the Shona and Ndebele speakers respectively  have displayed the highest degree of tribal intolerance in recent years and the government has turned a blind eye on this issue.

I have heard statements like “mfana we Dembabe” referring to Dynamos supporters and “mfana kamantengwana” referring to  Highlanders these metaphors , the imagined community is one in which ethno-linguistic differences should be constructed in friendly harmless competition  and rivalry which is characterised by deep tolerance or playfulness which desists from segregation .

We need to deploy soccer images, songs, dance and chants in our football that engage its ideas on nationhood.

The dominant Zimbabwean teams represent ethno-linguistic challenges in Zimbabwe socio and cultural political identities of teams cannot be divorced from the ethno-linguistic constructions of the two languages but the fact that the government has failed to come up with nation building policies should not deter the citizens from building their nation.

We are a one people and nobody deserves the title “Zimbabwean” more than the other. It is time we as a learned people use soccer as a means and way of uniting against Mugabe’s divide and rule policy.

The late Joshua Nkomo is deployed to construct and reinforce a sense of nationhood beyond ethnic divisions, called the “Father of the nation” a metaphor which has become a regular if not monotonous feature of official nationalistic discourses.

What the government fails to understand is that the people of Matabeleland have not yet forgotten the Gukurahundi genocide and some up to today clearly point out the Unity Accord of 1987 was a Unity Accord between Mugabe and Nkomo. The government should have at least taken responsibility and establish national healing schemes for the victims of the genocide.

The late Joshua Nkomo symbolises unity amongst Zimbabweans this cannot be argued otherwise, his credentials are also testimony to that effect. This can also be evidenced by his role during the liberation war for Zimbabwe and after wards. It is rather ironic for the government to name Nkomo “Father Zimbabwe” and yet they went against the very principle that gave Nkomo the name “father Zimbabwe”.  This is seen as a direct mockery of the Ndebele nation by the government.

It is because of this feeling that the Ndebele feel marginalised, It is the sole responsibility of the government to integrate its minority peoples under one nation as had been done under the Ndebele state.

The Ndebele now view Highlanders club as a symbol of unity amongst themselves as a minority people.  The fact that Highlanders is a team originally from Bulawayo, that on its own carries a heavy vibration that is makes the people of Bulawayo and Matebele land , the Ndebele people feel directly aligned to the Highlanders family on tribal basis.

Ethnographic studies have shown that Bosso as Highlanders in affectingly known is not just a team to them  it is  a symbol of unity as a minority tribe in its quest to gain equal access to opportunities that they feel mostly the Shonas  are enjoying since the government in power is Shona dominated.

The Southern region of the country is under developed unlike the Northern part of the country. According to ethnographic evidence , the Ndebele populace feel that the Bulawayo is under developed because the government has always tuned a blind eye on Matabeleland as a whole ,  reason being the association with of the area with the Ndebele people.

There are pictures of Highlanders fans with their hands together under the statue of Joshua Nkomo, with a banner written ;

”ligcine kuhle ihighlanders bantwabami yiyo yodwa into elisele layo”

Meaning everything else has been tainted or take away from the Ndelebele people except for their beloved team highlanders

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The Greater Bulawayo Chapter should be applauded for saying no to tribalism and the government should address this issue before our football is completely dragged into a tribal war zone.




Roy Muroyi is a pro-democracy promoter and a patriotic Zimbabwean who believes in youth emancipation and participation in all facets of governance. He can be contacted on his twitter handle @muroyi23