Thursday, April 22, 2010

Education, Education, Education

Any country that abandons its education system is doomed to failure. The coastal elites of Sierra Leone used to be known for their education. Now two thirds of Sierra Leonese are illiterate and Fourah Bay College is a total wreck. Makerere in Uganda is now a shadow of itself, and one third of Ugandans still cannot read and write, 48 years after independence.

The Univ of Zimbabwe used to produce outstanding graduates, but now most of the teaching staff have fled for greener pastures and Zimbabwe's formerly outstanding education system is literally falling to pieces. Zimbabwe's President Mugabe is now admitting that Zimbabwe's once-stellar educational system is now in tatters. Governments that kill the education system, also kill any hopes of future development.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shona Zvidawo & Totems

The Shona-speaking peoples of Zimbabwe use several cultural markers to identify a person and to show their origin. The most important cultural marker is one's totem (usually in the form of an animal). My totem - mutupo in Shona - is Mhara/antelope. Male members of the Mhara totemic lineage go by the honorific name of *Chikonamombe* ( *mombe* means cow in Shona). The honorific name, *Chikonamombe* can also be rendered as *Chikonan'ombe* . In Shona, this honorific name is known as a *chidawo*.

Zvidawo (plural of chidawo) can also be used as family names, hence *James Chikonamombe*. Every totemic lineage has a praise poem that is associated with that lineage. A single line of this praise-poem is called a *detembo*; several lines are called *madetembo*, and to be showered with praise using your lineage praise-poem is known as *kudetembedzwa* .

Here are some lines from my lineage praise-poem: Mbuya Chikonamombe, chigumbu chinounye... ....Gusho, vari Rare.....vari zihota...vemuto munyere....vakazadzwa mhezi neVaranda. The reciting of the praise-poem is often accompanied by the ritual clapping of hands (kuwombera maoko). If you ever see two Zimbabweans clasping and clapping their hands, as they exchange pleasantaries, don't be will actually be witnessing a ritual greeting.

Shona *madetembo* often include ritual attributes of that totemic lineage (sometimes in jest), and some geographic attributes. For example, in ours, there is reference to *vari Rare*. Here, *Rare* refers to an area in Chikomba (my home district) now known as *Range*. During colonial times it was known as *The Range*. In our poem, the line with *vemuto munyere* refers to our legendary love of meat. When Zvikonamombe (plural of Chikonamombe) are at the table then be forewarned: there are no vegetarians in the family, and baby-carrots and mushy peas just won't suffice!

Honorific names are how adult (male) Zimbabweans address one another, either in person or in correspondence (and not by their given family names). For example, PM Morgan Tsvangirai is addressed in person as *Save*, and not *Morgan* or *Morgan Tsvangirai*. You might have read of *Gushungo* in passages about Zimbabwe. The *Gushungo* they are referring to is President Robert Mugabe. The respectful and proper way to address President Mugabe in person is by his lineage honorific name of Gushungo, and not *Bob* or *Robert*.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Robert Mugabe & The Breetish

As we all know, you can never travel back in time and there is no such thing as 20/20 hindsight. The Lancaster House talks that decided the fate of Zimbabwe took place in Dec of '79. I was too young at the time to have taken part; I was just a toddler. Nevertheless, I wish to point out some key mistakes that were made by all the parties involved, and which have led to the land-issue problems we face today .

First of all, the Patriotic Front conceded to clauses in the agreement that called for land to be transferred to the African majority on a willing buyer,willing seller basis. Furthermore, these land transfers were to be funded by the British govt -- That was a fatal error. Why bring the British into it? Any future British govt, that was to provide these funds, would obviously bring its concerns, worldview, biases, and economic interests to the table.

Britain is a democracy, and any British Govt has to answer to its electorate. This electorate is swayed by appearances, perceptions, and raw emotions. In no way could any British leader APPEAR to be abandoning the white Zimbabwean farmers to their fate. Nevermind, that your white farmer seen on TV is a Dutch Boer named Cloete, who hates the "English" and has never set foot in the British Isles. But, that's besides the point: it's PERCEPTIONS that count; these perceptions sway the British public; and any British govt cannot appear to be blind to the raw emotions of the British public (especially in an election year)

Back in Zimbabwe, our President never tires of lashing out at the "Breetiish" at every opportunity. Every occurrence, from drought to cholera, is blamed on the "Breetiish". This leads me back to the original sin, of asking the British Govt to fund land transfers as specified by the Lancaster House agreement. The parties involved should have been told,in very strong terms, that there was to be no third party guidance, funding or overseeing of any of the agreed-upon stipulations of these agreements. That would have forced all the parties involved, The Patriotic Front (Zanu,Zapu) and the Rhodesians to cobble together any future arrangements on their own.

James Chikonamombe