Imagine a country where Tsonga people were only allowed to work in Giyani, the VhaVenda in Venda, the Zulus in KwaZulu-Natal, Swazis is Swaziland or Nelspruit, the Xhosas in Mthatha, and so on. Imagine a world where human competence or worth is judged on the language one speaks, or the tribe one comes from.
In this kind of world, some black people, whose blackness is beautifully natural, want to judge each other based on social constructs such as languages or tribes without closely looking at the character of the person concerned.
“You can’t bring a Zulu from KZN to rule Pedis, Tsongas, Shangaans and Vendas,” said one taxi driver in Tshwane. This after some disgruntled members of the ANC burnt more than 20 buses in Tshwane, saying they didn’t want the party’s preferred mayoral candidate for the City of Tshwane, Thoko Didiza.
Well, in a democracy, I thought the debate would be: “You can’t bring an incompetent person to rule over us,” or something along the lines of :”The ANC hasn’t followed democratic processes when selecting Didiza as City of Tshwane mayoral candidate.” But many of the protesters are only referring to her tribe, which truly has nothing to do with her competence as a person. We are faced with the problem of people who believe they are different (and perhaps better) than others merely on the bases of their languages and tribes.
Really now? If one’s tribe were so important in job selection, only a few people would be left in Gauteng, if not in South Africa, with everyone having to return to their respective tribes. And how far back in time do you want to go to truly determine a person’s place of origin? Where they were born? Where their parents were born? Their grandparents?
When Nelson Mandela went to Robben Island, it wasn’t only for the Xhosas. When Samora Machel defeated the Portuguese regime in Mozambique, it wasn’t only for Shangaans, but also for the Tsonga, Karanga, Chopi, Shona and other tribes. When Ahmed Kathrada suffered on Robben Island, it wasn’t only for his fellow Indians. When Solomon Mahlangu braved the gallows of the apartheid regime, it wasn’t only for the Zulus or Tswanas. When Bram Fisher and Joe Slovo fought for freedom, it wasn’t only for the Afrikaners or the Jews, it was for the sake of civil liberties and human rights for everyone.
The debate here is not whether Didiza was selected democratically by the ANC or the ANC is corrupt. One must simply question the naivety of those who are making the point that Didiza can’t be a mayoral candidate in Tshwane just because “she’s a Zulu”. This surely can’t be a compelling argument in a modern democracy such as ours – we can’t still be using tribes, gender, sex, or race to judge a human being’s competence. If there are other reasons not to accept her, then so be it. But no, leave the fact that she’s a Zulu out of it.
South Africa is a multilingual country, with a variety of beautiful tribes. The tribes should not be there to divide us or make us feel as though we are better than others. We must graduate from this mentality of tribalism, which also contributed to Vuwani burning last month, and move to another level of thinking. That thinking must be about seeing ourselves as South Africans trying to pull in the same direction. Don’t laugh. It’s not idealistic. It’s the stuff that nations are made of.
If you think you are superior because of your tribe or some other cultural, ethnic or racial grouping, go and be the spook haunting the hopes of this country on your own. Don’t force us to stoop to your level because there’s no stool for tribalism in South Africa.