“in Binga, we know that there are murderers and soldiers should stay there” (Joseph Chinotimba speaking in Parliament on Tuesday 13 March 2018)
Contrary to Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on equality and non-discrimination; national, ethnic and linguistic minority communities of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe continue to face institutionalized discrimination and labelling which violates their personal and collective dignity as equal human beings in the country.
One of such ethnic and linguistic minority group who face massive discrimination are the Tonga people located in the Binga District of Matabeleland North province. The Tonga people have been marginalized and discriminated in all sorts. Government officials, legislators and some sections of civic society have unfairly epitomized the Tonga people as the most underdeveloped, the most backward and uncivilized because they have chosen to protect and promote their indigenous cultural rights and systems.
The recent such discriminatory practise happened in the Parliament of Zimbabwe which is a legislative body that is mandated to protect and promote the indigenous rights of the people of Binga District. Contributing on the Electoral Amendment Bill, Buhera South Member of Parliament Joseph Chinotimba (from Manicaland Province) had the audacity to justify the deployment of soldiers in Binga villages by saying “in Binga, we know that there are murderers and soldiers should stay there” (Hansard 13 March 2018) much to the vehement displeasure of the active and firebrand Binga South M.P Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda who quickly demanded a withdrawal of the statement.
“Hon. Speaker, I find it very offensive for one Hon. Member that has been alleged to have murdered a person in his own life to stand up here and say kuBinga kune mabhinya (in Binga there are murderers) therefore masoja (soldiers) should be sent. I am sure every community is known through something but obviously the community of Binga is not known for murderous conducts. It is not the responsibility of soldiers to arrest murderers. I think the Hon. Member should withdraw his statement which seeks to insinuate that we deserve to have soldiers in our Community because he thinks we are murderers” demanded the uncompromising Hon.Sibanda.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is concerned with the continued and increasing violation of the ethnic and linguistic minorities of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe such as the Tonga people of Binga. We note with concern that there is a growing and deliberate institutionalized tendency from government officials, legislators and civic society people from the majority Shona tribe to disrespect human rights of minority tribes by describing them as backward, outdated and are associated with crime. In April 2015, the then president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe publicly said the Kalanga people (in Matabeleland South) are notorious for running to South Africa where they commit crimes because they are uneducated. Whilst in October 2014 the then first lady (wife of President Mugabe) Grace Mugabe addressed a rally where she said Matabeleland men are only good at marrying and impregnating girls instead of developing their areas.
All these institutionalized discriminatory statements and insinuations are happening at the time when the country is reeled with massive corruption especially in the government (which is predominantly Shona dominated). Recently a Member of Parliament from Matabeleland (Thokozani Khuphe) and her team were nearly burnt alive in a grass hut in Buhera (Chinotimba’s home ground) by people who were shouting at her in Shona during the MDCT President burial. It is also surprising also that the same Chinotimba had earlier during the same debate in Parliament acknowledged that there violence in the MDCT offices in Bulawayo was instigated by people who spoke Shona language (not Tonga). He said “So, this issue of elections cannot be free and fair if people come from Harare to attack people in Bulawayo. The people who went to Bulawayo, we never heard any Ndebele name; they were all Shona names. People were sent to go and murder and at the same time that party says we want free and fair elections; the people who murder people.” (Hansard 13 March 2018).
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights notices with concern that Chinotimba’s statement is consistent with the executing of the Gukurahundi Genocide of 1983 – 87 where the government of Zimbabwe deployed a whole army brigade in Matabeleland disguised as to deal with the dissidents when actually in massacred, tortured, raped and maimed thousands of civilians resulting in more than 20,000 civilians deaths.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is an independent non-profit human rights organization dedicated to enhancing the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights for all the communities, peoples and individuals of Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe.