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A land of hospitality – The untold Zimbabwean story

A land of hospitality – The untold Zimbabwean story

Article by Rumbidzai Chakanza

Our African history tells a story of how we all travelled from the North and settled in different parts of Africa. We never had boundaries, that is why we find a Banda and a Phiri in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A Dube and Mpofu in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This process brought about unique characteristics of various countries, in terms of being accommodative. Zimbabwe which is a very small nation on the map of Africa, stood up and still stands tall in this regard. The beauty of our nation Zimbabwe deserves to be in the Guinness Book of Records.

The world has focused much on political issues and economic challenges the country faces, but despite all the negativity, there is an untold story that no one can take away from Zimbabwe. I see it as a blessing and a gift that goes beyond what meets the eye. It is spiritual! A clear testimony of Ubuntu.
We have people from Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique who settled in Zimbabwe due to various reasons, that could be war or search for greener pastures, but ended up becoming permanent residents of Zimbabwe.

In most cases, these people worked in mines and farms during the colonial period, whilst others worked in factories for clothing, bakeries, to name just a few, in the cities and towns. They even managed to get residential stands in the big cities, with title deeds and built their homes. The government and nation at large, embraced them and gave them opportunities to work, learn and establish businesses. Of course, there may have been fears that these ‘foreigners’ may end up causing resource scarvity, but be that as it may, we never heard of any reports of physical attacks that went beyond the normal, like the xenophobic attacks reported in some countries. In Shona we say “mueni haapedzi dura.”

Zimbabweans taught others that sharing is caring! Similarly, Zimbabweans also learnt how to be humble and warm hearted towards their fellow brothers and sisters. The majority of Zimbabwean people accepted, embraced and loved the cultural diversity and exchange. Marriages happened between different cultures. People became one! Mai Dalitso from Chinhoyi said, “I married a Zambian man and it’s the best decision I ever made, they are very respectful people. At first relatives and neighbours discouraged me, but as they got to know him better, they appreciated his humility. Africa is one, only divided by borders.”

The world needs to know and learn from Zimbabwe that there is need to pursue the spirit of Ubuntu, making people appreciate unity in our diversity, promoting oneness and killing the spirit of xenophobia.

“Xenophobic behavior is not in Zimbabwean DNA whatsoever. Of course, in every village there is one whereby one can feel hatred towards other foreigners but in Zimbabwe it has never led to physical attacks, it just was name calling mostly mabrandaya, maputukezi, mabwidi. I never thought I would live in the city all my life, coming from a rural background. I love it here, it’s peaceful unlike how we used to run day in day out because of the war. I had to choose to settle in Zimbabwe for good!” says Mr Sebastio from Mbare, who came from Mozambique to settle in Zimbabwe in 1958.

Various languages like Chewa/Nyanja became official languages in Zimbabwe. Those who stay in Hwange even pride themselves in the ability to speak several languages fluently in their community such as Shona, Ndebele, English, Chewa, Tonga, Nambya. That speaks volumes! One citizen who values Ubuntu, Mr Pascah Ngwarati said, “Barack Obama despite being former President of America, has never been seen on TV talking in Kikuyu language, which is a language spoken in Kenya where he is from. Nyanja and Chichewa are spoken in Malawi and Zambia. Although Zimbabwe shares the same border with Zambia, there is only Tonga spoken in both countries that became one of the official languages unlike the Malawian languages which became official due to the reason that we have Malawians who now have Zimbabwe as their own home. They also brought in their own churches such as CCAP, cultural activities, which are well reckoned in Zimbabwe as we have witnessed the Nyau/Zvinyau/Zvigure dancers on Dance festivals organised by corporate companies.”

Despite having more than a million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, you will never hear Shona as the official language let alone Nyanja or Chewa. “In most border towns, like Beitbridge and Musina, Venda is the official language. Chiredzi is the same, as Shangani is spoken in South Africa as well. Plumtree speaks Tswana. We have Sisuthu or Xhosa spoken in Zimbabwe which I believe is as a result of people who settled around Gwanda and Maphisa area. This has built unity in diversity and that kind of oneness is quite unique and deserves recognition,” he added.

We do have Zimbabweans who became Muslims as Muslims have schools around Zimbabwe but I doubt you will ever find a Ndebele or Shona school in India or Iran. There is French, German, Portuguese, Chinese languages in Zimbabwe but none of Zimbabwe’s official languages are taught in those nations.

Many times you hear Zimbabweans saying Malawians are warm-hearted which is even a character that is recognized the world over, which made Malawi earn the title the Warm-heart of Africa. Zimbabwe, besides being a World of Wonders, is a peace loving nation and that will go down memory lane for centuries. This kind of cultural exchange happened naturally and it’s not a bilateral agreement. The realization of knowing we are Africans created amazingly by the image of God promoted embracement.

Undocumented achievements have been made from this oneness. Look out for more stories and testimonies about embracing the beauty of Zimbabwe coming soon! Thank you Zimbabwe, for your kindness. God Bless Zimbabwe!

Rumbidzai Chakanza is a Broadcaster and Communications Strategist. You can reach out to her @ ruechakanza@gmail.com

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