Tribalism in Matabeleland impedes female students’ participation in leadership
Female students have sited challenges that affect their participation in leadership, but who would have ever thought that tribalism could be one of them!
Shocking revelations of tribalism in Matabeleland tertiary institutions have emerged during Leadership Sensitisation workshops carried out by Female Students Network (FSN), with the support of Students and Academics International Help Fund (SAIH).
Female students at Joshua Mqabuko Polytechnic College say the situation has dampened their participatory attitude and made them shy away from getting into leadership positions.
Gwanda is a predominantly Ndebele area mixed with Suthu. However, most students who learn at JM Poly come from as far as Masvingo and Chinhoyi in Mashonaland province and cannot speak a single word in the local Ndebele language.
The female students said that they would feel like they are getting way too ahead of themselves if they contest for leadership positions in a foreign province where they are discriminated against.
There is also a general belief that the Shona tribe wants to dominate the Ndebele, hence the hostility.
A female student from Bulawayo Polytechnic College said “Sometimes you will be talking to friends that you want to contest in the elections and they will ask why you want to always dominate? Can’t you go and lead where you come from? They say it as a joke but you really see that they mean it.”
There are a lot of tribalism incidences at the college, with some female students claiming that they are made to feel as if they do not belong because they cannot speak Ndebele.
Another female student from JM Polytechnic College said “During lectures, some Ndebele lecturers will say something in Ndebele and other Ndebele students will laugh and he will say he is not going to repeat the statement and that Shona students should learn to speak Ndebele. I for one would love to speak Ndebele but because of this discrimination I am no longer interested in Ndebele,” showing that lecturers are also perpetuating the homophobic attitude.
There are more Shona speaking students in Matabeleland than Ndebele because, according to researches, Ndebeles leave for South Africa (eGoli) to seek for employment immediately after school or even before finishing ordinary level.
The Ndebele people originally come from South Africa and they feel they are more at home down south as they are a product of South Africa.
Another issue is that of the Gukurahundi (destructive cyclone), that left thousands of Ndebeles dead in the 1980s. It seems some Ndebeles never forgave the Shona for that even after their leader; Joshua Nkomo had signed a Unity Accord with Presidents Robert Mugabe. The hatred and division also seem to be moving from generation to generation because most female students were not even born at that time but they are very emotional about the sensitive issue.
FSN conversely encouraged the female students to unite so that they may fight together the patriarchy that exist in the African society, starting at institutional level upwards.