Bulawayo-based civic groups say they want to ramp up pressure on President Robert Mugabe until he apologises for his disparaging remarks against Kalangas.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
The groups last week took to the streets in Bulawayo protesting against Mugabe after the Zanu PF leader last month said Kalangas were uneducated and were to blame for petty crimes in South Africa.
Mugabe’s apologists had to limit the damage by claiming the 91-year-old leader was referring to colonial era stereotypes.
However, this has not calmed the Kalanga community who said they felt insulted by the slur. The civic groups now want to take the anti-Mugabe demonstrations to other parts of the country.
“We are spreading these demonstrations against Mugabe throughout the country, firstly because it is just not about the Kalangas in Matabeleland,” said one of the organisers of last week’s demonstrations, Mmeli Dube, executive director of Bulawayo Agenda.
“We are saying Mugabe should apologise and as long as he refuses we will not relent because this is about respect for the Constitution, human rights and above all it is about a president who is discriminatory when he should be at the forefront of promoting peace and unity among Zimbabweans.”
The groups have threatened mass legal action against Mugabe and said they would petition the African Union and Sadc to reprimand and disassociate themselves from his divisive statements.
During their protest last week, the rights groups petitioned the government to avoid discriminating against minority tribes.
”We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to take corrective measures to ensure that the Kalanga are not directly or indirectly discriminated against and have equal access to education and development, and enjoy their rights as provided for in the Constitution and all regional and international statues which Zimbabwe is party to,” part of their petition read.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo has been quoted in the State media downplaying Mugabe’s statements.
He claimed Mugabe was making reference to the colonial stereotype narratives that people of Matabeleland were fond of trekking to neighbouring countries for jobs.
Meanwhile, faceless State media columnists this weekend tried to justify Mugabe’s claims with one writer in The Sunday Mail stating that the Zanu PF leader was right.
“The uproar since (Mugabe’s statement) has been deafening and numerous sections of the private media have latched onto to that statement with glee and elation,” wrote the columnist using the pseudonym The Sharp Shooter in The Sunday Mail.
“But it was the truth. The truth hurts and it is brutal. If you are an educated Kalanga, why are you worried about what a man who studied for and passed seven degrees has said about those of your clan who are uneducated.”
Another columnist Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, dedicated much of his column in The Herald on Saturday to attack those protesting against the statements.