By Raymond Mukarati
A few months ago, prominent members of Zimbabwe’s elites, inspired by Professor Jonathan Moyo, suggested compiling an ‘ethnographic organogram’ to show ethnic bias in appointments to public office. “Don’t leave out the Judges !“- one of them chimed in.
MDC-Alliance guru Charlton Hwende was ecstatic; even Hopewell Chin’ono weighed in: “What @ProfJNMoyo is saying here is important. I will give US100 to a University student who 1st comes out with an ethnographic organogram showing all Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Parastatal Heads, Security Heads, their names, ethnic group, province, & key relatives.”
Not wanting to be outdone, a handful of well-connected Zimbabweans last week announced an ‘ Inaugural Mixed Race Minorities All Stakeholders Conference.’ on 4 June 2021. Their leader is Luke Davis, a successful businessperson who runs a chicken outlet, ‘Pahuku,’ in Hillside, Harare.
Luke Davis, or ‘Mr. Huku’, as I believe some call him, heads the Indigenous Minorities Trust (INZIM). His deputy is Maureen Muparadzi, a retired Chief Accountant who enjoyed a highly successful career in Zimbabwe’s corporate world.
Amongst Luke David’s coterie are persons who, in 1999, had the gall and stupidity to revive the National Association of Coloured People. [NACP]. Not surprisingly, no one in the country took them seriously. After a few publicity stunts and lavish trips abroad using funds from foreign donors, they folded.
INZIM’S raison d’etre is to promote the exclusive interests of what it terms “mixed-race “Zimbabweans. They assert that ‘Coloureds,’ who include descendants of White Settlers, born out of union with Black women, are discriminated against by the State simply because they are not Black enough. In their opinion, the extent of marginalization is so severe that it warrants the First Lady’s intervention. They claim that the First Lady of Zimbabwe has agreed to officiate at their conference without offering any proof.
Supposing that the First Lady – who works hard to support many worthwhile causes- did agree to officiate at the INZIM conference, the question we must ask is: did they conceal from the First Lady that their membership does not extend beyond Mr. Huku and his praise singers?
Like most Zimbabweans, I have many relatives and friends, including half-brothers and sisters who identified with and lived in the so-called Coloured Community of Rhodesia. I, therefore, speak with some authority about ‘Coloureds’ in Rhodesia.
All people of color suffered apartheid-style oppression in Zimbabwe. In the pre-independence era, ‘Coloureds’ lived in segregated communities. It is by no means certain that most of them derived their ancestry from a union between White settlers and Black women: they included persons of Cape Malay ancestry; Indian and Black ancestry; Arab and Black ancestry; Chinese and Black ancestry, and a large number who were not of mixed racial ancestry – but had fully integrated. It was a melting pot.
When Zimbabwe became independent, and a new order was established,’ Coloureds’ were in a position to free themselves of all the shackles of oppression they had been campaigning against through organizations like the National Association of Coloured People[ NACP]: members of the ‘Coloured ‘community were now able to buy homes in previously white areas, send their children to formerly white schools, and take up senior positions in government and commercial enterprises. Many became successful businessmen/women, senior managers, and homeowners.
That ‘Coloureds’ were able to do this rapidly, owed much to the fact that at the dawn of independence, they were comparatively better off than the majority. Through preferential historical treatment by the white minority government, they had better schools, better jobs with better pay. And they enjoyed social welfare support that was a little more comprehensive than that given to most of the population.
The Zimbabwe diaspora has contributed immensely to uplifting the communities from whence they came. One of several examples is the Sakubva UK Helpers. Luke Davis’ INDZIM fuels the false perception that the more comprehensive welfare support the ‘Coloureds’ enjoyed in White Rhodesia bred a culture of entitlement to special treatment by the State.
Consequently, so the argument runs, they did not develop the social skills to run self-help schemes for their less fortunate members as other diaspora communities have done. Some may even go so far as to say that the approach to the First Lady is an appeal for the restoration of paternalistic and preferential treatment ‘Coloureds’ enjoyed in Rhodesia.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The ‘Coloured’ Community that White Rhodesia created and nurtured does not lend itself to simplistic generalisations.
In his book published in 2005, Walking a Tightrope – Towards a Social History of the Coloured People of Zimbabwe (Africa World Press 2005) leading academic James Muzondiya addresses popular misconceptions about the ‘Coloured’ community.
Muzondiya’s book outlines the Coloured Community’s consistent and persistent engagement in the struggle to free Zimbabwe – from the African Nationalist Movement in the late ’50s, to the wildly popular Black Panther Movement in Arcadia and the armed struggle in the ’70s. It is a matter of public record that ‘Coloureds’ sacrificed, died, and fought alongside their fellow Black comrades to free Zimbabwe.
The questions that INZIM cannot answer are :
- Are they open to members of other races or tribes? If not, how different are they from White Supremacy groups in Europe and America?
- How do they define ‘Coloured’ or “mixed-race”- a set of physical characteristics, such as skin colour, hair or nose shape, accent? Will they require their beneficiaries to produce birth records to prove mixed ancestry that meets their criteria ? What of those fully integrated into the ‘Coloured’ Community with no Black -White ancestry – or no mixed ancestry at all?
- What of those who are, say, only 1/16th White- do they qualify as mixed-race ?
- And what will ordinary right-thinking Zimbabweans make of their circus?
- What is their message to the ‘Coloured’ people in Zimbabwe, and ‘mixed-race’ people in Africa, and indeed across the world who are classified and are proud to regard themselves as Black ?
Within days of launching their campaign to flush out ‘Karangas’ in high public office , the authors of the ‘ethnographic organogram’ struck gold. They announced a discovery of historic proportions- “Oppah Muchunguri , is a Karanga and not a Manyika!” they proclaimed. And so what ?
Like their counterparts in INZIM , supporters of Jonathan Moyo’s ‘ethnographic organogram’ face intractable questions:
- What criteria will they use to categorise Zimbabweans into ethnic and sub-ethnic tribes?
- How will they classify Zimbabweans of mixed ethnicity- for example, Ndebele/ Zezuru/ Tonga; Venda/Karanga/ Manyika; or Chinese/ Karanga/ Zezuru/ White?
- What program of action do they propose after completing their search?
It was distressing to witness so many of my friends applauding Jonathan Moyo’s demagoguery. What will become of our Nation State should other groups now or in the future follow in Professor Moyo’s and INZIM’S footsteps?
Zimbabweans must resist efforts to divide them along tribal and racial lines. The economic crisis in Zimbabwe is not peculiar to a particular racial or tribal group- it affects us all.
Through bonds forged in common struggles for life’s basic needs ,the consciousness of ordinary citizens often transcends race and tribe. But all too often, it is members of the elite, from across the party political divide , who disturb the peace cause – leveraging tribal and ethnic differences for personal interests.
Unbridled ethnic populism has brought many Nation States to the brink of self-destruction- it is dangerous. As citizens of a fragile Nation State- imperfect as it may be- we must always ask difficult questions and seek the Constitution’s guidance in answering them. But our faith in the Constitution must be complemented by our respect for the judiciary- both grow in one-take one from the other, and we are done.
We must maintain respect for the judiciary even when we believe they have erred. The Courts provide a platform and framework for rational consideration of the concerns of aggrieved citizens .Even in the dark days of apartheid, human rights lawyers won important victories in the Courts.
Zimbabweans must compel Luke Davis and Maureen Mparadzi to subject their ethnic populism to the intellectual rigour and discipline of the Constitution by funding a constitutional court application to proscribe INZIM. If and when Jonathan Moyo’s silly idea of an ‘ethnographic organogram’ gathers momentum , it too must face the people’s challenge.
The consequences of allowing INZIM to run wild are too ghastly to contemplate.