Xhosa pride or just plain tribalism?

South African Rugby captain Siya Kolisi celebrates and holds up the Web Ellis Trophy as the South African Rugby World Cup winner team parades on an open top bus through the streets of the city of Zwide , Port Elizabeth, on November 10, 2019. Zwide is the hometown of Siya Kolisi, the first black captain for the South African rugby team that led them to victory against England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final in Japan. Picture: Wikus DE WET / AFP

To settle this debate, all we need to do is determine the basis for this discussion by truly understanding the words we are using as well as what they mean or imply. 

Xhosa pride or tribalism? That is the question that has been on the minds of many a South African in the wake of the Rugby World Cup after innumerable amounts of Xhosa people chalked that, and other victories, up to the fact that the victors were either Xhosa or from the Eastern Cape.

It all began on 2 November 2019 when the Springboks thrashed England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final at the International Stadium Yokohama in Japan.

In the hours following the match, the contributions of the captain, Siyamthanda Kolisi and his fellow Springbok Makazole Mampimpi were heralded far more than those of the match’s other performers.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ name was later thrown in that hat after people were reminded that he also hails from the Eastern Cape.

In the weeks following the RWC win, the names of more and more Xhosa people – such as Miss South Africa Zozibin Tunzi and world-renowned producer and musician Anathi ‘Anatii’ Mnyango – were added to the growing list of South Africans who were doing big things and just happened to be Xhosa.

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As more and more Xhosa people expressed how proud they felt to be Xhosa because of these developments, even more people began to throw the word ‘tribalism’ around.

But is it really tribalism? I am strongly inclined to disagree.

To settle this, all we need to do is determine the basis for this discussion by understanding the words we are using as well as what they mean or imply.

While the initial meaning of the word ‘tribalism’ refers to both the state or fact of being organised in a tribe or tribes as well as the derogatory behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group, the latter definition forms the basis of our discussion.

Pride, on the other hand, denotes a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Based solely on these two definitions, even the visually impaired can see what is going on and I can guarantee you that it is not tribalism.

In the context of the LGBTIQ+ community, pride refers to the confidence and self-respect as expressed by members of a group, typically one that has been socially marginalised, on the basis of their shared identity, culture, and experience.

Given South Africa’s history, this definition also applies to South Africa’s Xhosa people.

So, as long as they are not putting anyone down, allow Xhosa people to have their moment. Allow them to feel pride and joy. We all know you will be expecting them to grant you the same courtesy when one of your own stands victorious.

Kaunda Selisho.

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