DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL REALTIONS
CULTURE, IDENTITY AND CONFLICT
ACADEMIC YEAR: SPRING 2017/2018
RESEARCH TOPIC: ETHNICITY AND POLITICAL PARTIES IN ZIMBABWE
BRENDA S SENGWAYO
WORD COUNT: 3407THE EFFECTS OF ETHNICTY ON POLITICAL PARTIES ZIMBABWE.
From the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, there has been growing ethnic or tribalism tensions that have henceforth led to the political imbalances between the Shona and AmaNdebele. However, ethnic divisions are also present with the main Shona speaking group (Zezuru), as it as different minority groups (Ndau, Manyika and Karanga) within it. As a result there has been the emergence of two political parties that are embedded on the issue of ethnicity. Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are the two main rivalry parties, their differences in language and tribe has led to undying tensions. As a result of ethnicity, inequality in terms of government representation and participation by the Shona is identified as the major reasons to the differences in ideologies for the political parties in Zimbabwe. However, another important effect is how ethnicity led to the detachment and division of one Zimbabwe’s leading opposition party, the MDC. Due to continuous tensions between the Shona and AmaNdebele, MDC was divided into two according to tribe. The leading political party ZANU-PF, has adopted a social constructivism approach were it denies any presence of ethnicity in politics, as a way to promote their own corrupt political purposes (Mpofu.2013). These ethnic divisions inevitably led to more minority ethnic parties, such as the Rhodies which are the white people in Zimbabwe that feel completely disregarded. The most transparent question important in helping in this research is; To what extent does ethnicity affect political parties in Zimbabwe? The data collection would be from various leading Zimbabwe newspapers; articles and as well as a controversial opinion poll issued in 2013 on the voting poll of Zimbabwe. The book by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of MDC is also valid, as he openly addressed the dominance of Shona over minority groups.
In this paper, l will firstly look at the geographical distribution of ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, then move forward to origins, language and religion of these ethnic groups. This will help give a background of the built up of ethnicity in the country from a historical backing. After, l will give an analysis on the political parties before independence and how they were affected by ethnicity, then move forward to political parties post colonialism and give the same analysis. The most important of the paper will be the major limitations or constraints that have come from ethnicity towards these political parties as caused by the presence of ethnicity and some of the political antagonist tensions built.
GEOGRAPHY, ORIGIN AND LANGUAGE OF ETHNIC GROUPS
From before and after the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 there has only been one ruling party, which is the ZANU-PF. It is important to note that ZANU-PF is made up of majority of one ethnic group which is the Shona (Zezuru). Having this in mind, it is clear to depict the ongoing political tensions that have been caused by this ethnic inequality. In this paper, there will be a clear indication of the different ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, including the minority groups such as AmaNdebele that have suffered under the political ramp of ZANU-PF and the emergence of MDC, the main opposition party.
Firstly, it is important to have an in depth look of how Zimbabwe’s ethnic groups are geographically distributed and how these in turn have affected politics of the country. There are ten (10) provinces in the country, where seven (7) out of the ten (10) are made of the Shona and the remaining three (3) are AmaNdebele and other minority groups. Looking at how the Shona occupy most of the country’s land and inevitably country politics of the country. It can be argued that the imbalance of the distribution of land, has without a doubt affected the political distribution as well of Zimbabwe. This is a result of the Shona being large in their number and the minority groups become inclined to be under the major group.
NB: The above map of Zimbabwe shows the ten (10) provinces of Zimbabwe, were only three (3) comprise of the AmaNdebele. These three provinces are 8, 9 and 3. Province 8 being Bulawayo the capital of the AmaNdebele. Whilst the rest of the seven (7) are the different Shona speaking groups (Ndau, Manyika, Zezuru and Karanga).
Ethnicity is a major constraint to the politics of Zimbabwe as a result the recent resistance by the minority groups like the AmaNdebele towards the hegemonic rule of the Shona- Zezuru mainly, that has lasted for 38 years. Going back to the geographical influence of the ethnic groups, the Shona believe that they are the rightful inhabitants of Zimbabwe, hence why they occupy most of the country and control the politics. The AmaNdebele are seen to have come from the Zulu of South Africa thus they are deemed to be illegitimate to control or influence any politics or political parties according to the Shona.
As a result, of the above, the emergence of political parties can be put under the umbrella of the minority fighting what can be viewed as Gramscian hegemony by the Shona. As inequality in ethnicity does not only affect the politics of Zimbabwe but squashes the voice of the minority groups hence led to the emergence other political parties in Zimbabwe.
Language has been a constraint on the different ethnic groups, as the groups speak different languages (Shona and AmaNdebele). The AmaNdebele and other minority groups for years have felt to be inferior and are disregarded in the country’s domestic policies. The ruling party ZANU-PF addresses the country during national events in Shona, disregarding the existence of other groups not being able to speak the dialect. There has even been the idea of Shona being declared the official language of Zimbabwe, despite the aspect that Zimbabwe is not just made up Shona speaking citizens.
With this in mind, it is seen that language through ethnicity affects the politics of the country by how the Shona see themselves as the hegemonic group and thus have a right to control every aspect of the laws, rights and politics. It is through these unequal grievances seen inn the country that has again led to the political parties of Zimbabwe to be based on what tribe or language you speak to be part of them (Chitiyo.2005). Hence for Zimbabwe political party emergence or existence is not influenced on a coherent ideology but rather on cultural or ethnic backing.
Religion does not necessarily affect the politics of Zimbabwe because firstly Christianity is the major practice in the country. There is also a small percentage of the Africa Traditional Religion (ATR) but this is despite the ethnic group, it is believed that religion is the only aspect that unites the ethnic groups. As it has been seen that they may differ in culture or language, but they believe in the same God, which has recently been used by political leaders to persuade unity.
POLITICAL PARTIES DURING COLONIALISM IN ZIMBABWE
During the colonial period in Zimbabwe, there was the emergence of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) party in the 1960’s. It was grounded on the task of ending colonialism through the spread of nationalism amongst the different ethnic group present. However it failed in this view, as in the 1970s the Shona speaking group felt inferior under the then leader of ZAPU Joshua Nkomo who was of AmaNdebele descendent. As a result it led to split of the Shona from ZAPU to form their own party Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), political imbalances caused from ethnic tensions have since been assessed.
During this period, it was seen that the leaders of ZANU and ZAPU used ethnicity to their advantage as a way to convey and attract a specific ethnic following through the use of language and culture. The leaders decidedly conveyed ethnicity to prepare the majority. They spoke to ethnic social images, for example it is seen that the panther skins worn by pre-frontier Shona’s and Nguni caps worn by Ndebele indunas, which early patriot pioneers, was worn by the leader of ZANU and ZAPU when addressing the mass.
Notwithstanding, from the mid-1960s onwards, ethnicity turned into a troublesome power in Zimbabwe patriot legislative issues. Ethnic divisions were chiefly caused by initiative situating for the takeover of the state and saw imbalances in political interest by singular patriot pioneers and their supporters. In this tribalism, rather than being an abnormality, turned into a political asset utilized by political on-screen characters at vital circumstances to augment individual power (Thata.2016)
As the ethnic measurements of the crack amongst ZAPU and ZANU extended, ill will and doubt among ZANU and ZAPU pioneers developed, deaths and confinements of political activists from ‘undesirable ethnic or vernacular gatherings’ expanded, and enrollment and battling turned out to be more ethicized and regionalized.
The prevailing freedom developments of ZAPU and ZANU without a doubt attempted to oversee ethnicity inside their associations. Their procedures of overseeing ethnicity included ethnic adjusting in the authority of the gathering. All through the 1970s both ZAPU and ZANU endeavored to manage the issue of ethnicity through ethnic portrayal. ZAPU endeavored to fill its initiative positions with people crosswise over Ndebele, Shona and Kalanga ethnic partitions. In ZANU, specific consideration was paid to accomplishing balance in initiative by having pioneers drawn from the three overwhelming Shona gatherings: Karanga, Manyika and Zezuru (Wafawarova.2015). At the ideological level, patriot associations attempted to manage ethnicity through political talk that disregarded substances of ethnicity for patriot and Marxist radicalism. (Mhlanga.2013).Regardless of these endeavors, ethnicity kept on showing itself contrarily. Some portion of the issue was the disappointment of these associations to build up a legitimate component to manage the marvel. A portion of the main patriots were additionally not focused on commonsense destruction of ethnicity. They censured ethnicity amid the day yet utilized it by night as a political asset in their own fights for control. Zimbabwe was in this way conceived with an awful birthmark by ethnicity that was to adversely influence any of the efforts towards a national integration.
POLITICAL PARTIES POST COLONIALISM
After having looked at the evidence of the differences that come with ethnicity in Zimbabwe and also the period of colonial era and its political parties, it can give a foundation to the political differences that in turn have led to the emergence of political parties after 1980 independence. Zimbabwe is made up of over twenty (20) political parties but ironically only two out of these parties are activate in the politics of Zimbabwe. The ruling party ZANU-PF comprised mainly of the Shona speakers makes it extremely difficult for there to be any opposing or activate political voice besides them, as it has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. However, the MDC-Movement for Democratic Change has managed to stand its ground in opposing and trying to put forward a more democratic and united Zimbabwe since 1999.
The MDC came forth with the approach of an all-inclusive government that all citizens and parties were, to be involved in the governing of Zimbabwe. There is a constraint to this view as the ruling party ZANU-PF were against this, as they had not wanted any other political party or view towards the politics of Zimbabwe that opposed their standing. The MDC had also pointed out the equality of all ethnic groups and wanted to include the AmaNdebele in the ruling of the country as they tried eradicating the possibility of any revolution by the AmaNdebele towards the Shona.
The emergence of MDC party is seen as one of the most influenceable trial towards a united Zimbabwe despite the ongoing ethnic grievances. The party tried to infuse the use of Ndebele and Shona, to eliminate any form of alienation towards the AmaNdebele. The leader of MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai who is a Shona, during rallies even tried to communicate in Ndebele, as a way to remove any form of ethnic differences. However John Makumbe a scholar, argued for Zimbabwe to move past an ethnic centric world, there to be use English as the official language of the country, were political leaders were to address nation in English than any other language. (Bango.2012).The leading political party ZANU-PF, has adopted a social constructivism approach were it denies any presence of ethnicity in politics, as a way to promote their own corrupt political purposes (Mpofu.2013). This view by ZANU-PF is totally absurd, as under the ruling of this party there has been killings towards minority groups that are non-Shona. One of most of these being the Gukurahundi massacres of 1983 to 1984. The Gukurahundi killings that were as a result of the then president Robert Mugabe, commanding the military Brigade to kill the AmaNdebele, as he felt there were a threat to Zimbabwe and his rule.
The massacre saw the killing of over 2000 AmaNdebele, an act that was sorely based of different ethnic backgrounds. The Gukurahundi left the AmaNdebele, feeling separated from the rest of the country, were to a greater extent, the ethnic tension present today are as a result of the Gukurahundi massacre. It was only after the Gukurahundi that the AmaNdebele were seen to be forming their own parties and As so, a question is posed to how can the ZANU-PF disregard absence of ethnicity in politics when they themselves have been acting in such a manner.
The results of this brutality of the 1980s on the country building venture have been desperate and extensive. The ethnic idea of this state sanctioned savagery not just left numerous Ndebele’s more mindful of their disparities with the Shona, yet additionally incited radical Ndebele social patriotism and radical Ndebele legislative issues. This soul of radical ‘Ndebele particularism’ showed itself through the arrangement of radical Ndebele weight bunches in the 1990s, concentrating on a restoration of particularistic highlights of Ndebele culture. The more political-situated gatherings incorporate ZAPU 2000, a tardy endeavor to restore ZAPU following the passing of Joshua Nkomo in July 1999, and Mthwakazi Action Group on Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in Matabeleland and Midlands and Mthwakazi People’s Congress (MPC), both diaspora bunches focusing on the issues of the Gukurahundi viciousness and government responsibility for it. (Matshazi.2017)
THE MAJOR CONSTAINTS TO POLITICAL PARTIES BY ETHNICITY
After having looked at the background of the effects of ethnicity on the political parties before and after independence, the most important is to evaluate these effects to come up with a time frame to when ethnicity played a major role in politics of Zimbabwe. However a huge impact on political party success as due to ethnicity was in the 2008 elections. These elections led to the MDC collecting a massive number of seats than it had before. Information being shown on the map below:
The map shows statistics on areas the MDC collected high number of votes in provinces that have immense number of minority groups like Bulawayo (as mentioned before the capital of the AmaNdebele), Gwero that has high number of AmaNdebele and Mutare that has high number of Manyika that is a minority group within the Shona. However a more unexpected result was of Harare, as it has usually been dominated by the ZANU-PF, due to high number Shona people in the capital, but it is argues that Harare is now mixed with different minority groups hence the it is now most unpredictable province in terms of their political allegiance. Hence the MDC success in the 2008 elections was its zeal to attract minority groups that felt the inferiority of their groups from the Shona through the ruling party of ZANU-PF. (Makumbe.2009).
Scholars like Makumbe argue that political parties were most triggered by ethnicity from pre-colonialism when ZAPU dismantled and formed the Shona ZANU political party. As mentioned earlier, the fact that the Shona speaking group had to form their own political party (ZANU) away from ZAPU, because it was led by the AmaNdebele shows another constrained turn of ethnicity as an effect towards political parties in Zimbabwe.
Another effect that was considered to be major was after the emergence of the MDC in 1999, there where the first election in 2003, were a strong opposition party actually stood to oppose the ruling party ZANU-PF. The result of the elections saw the MDC having collected a considerably large amount of votes in the provinces where the minority groups were in large numbers. This shows the presence of ethnicity as the major drive to the prosperity of the parties in the country, disregarding its economic or government policies they have to offer as it should be.
The intra group conflict within the MDC party, where the party just as the ZAPU, separated as a result of ethnicity is an important aspect as well. The MDC was led by Tsvangirai, who is from the main Shona speaking group (Zezuru) seen as more hegemonic than the minority Shona group Manyika. This led to Tsvangirai’s then Vice President of the party, to form his party within the MDC framework to be known as MDC-M, whilst the former is MDC-T. As a result of him having an assessment that since ZANU-PF is led by the main Shona group (Zezuru) it was uncertain of how another Zezuru will eventually not turn into the already gruesome Zimbabwe leader they had, who despised all minority groups. Other reason the MDC-M was formed was as a result of the Shona minority groups believing that a Zezuru leader will not necessarily fight for their inferiority justly because they have never experienced the hand of suffering from ethnic divisions in the country. The effects of ethnicity towards political parties were no longer being caused by just the different speaking group of Shona and Ndebele but even saw a conflict within one group which was the Shona as mentioned above.
Ethnic divisions in Zimbabwe have been viewed in two ways, one being intra group conflicts within the Shona speaking group and the other from a totally different group, the AmaNdebele. The most unstable being of the AmaNdebele and Shona conflict that has long existed since before independent and is still very much present till date and has largely played the politics of Zimbabwe through political party influence. Ethnic influence of political parties is usually in leaders of these parties itself, as their view towards another ethnic group largely contributes to what their masses will in turn accept as their own views.
A weakness of these ethnic divisions is that none of the ethnic groups are actually willing to view the bigger picture, of how ethnicity can actually be used a tool for the improvement of politics instead of the weakening of it, as being the case in Zimbabwe. The country’s ethnic presence still has a long way to go till they can actually positively influence political parties, like coercion and spread of nationalism. The extent to of the effects of ethnicity on political parties is till debatable.
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