CSO Statement on President Mugabe’s inflammatory tribal comments

On April 29, 2015, the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who is also the current SADC and AU Chairperson, speaking at a press conference at the end of a special SADC summit on industrialisation in Harare said the ‘…the Kalangas were/are very notorious in South Africa,… known to be crooks because they are not educated enough to get (descent) jobs’.

This blatant insult to the Kalanga people comes a few months after Grace Mugabe’s insults to men in Matabeleland South, accusing them of being ‘lazy’, ‘interested in sex’ and ‘run away to South Africa’, while in Gwanda during her whirlwind meet-the-people rallies. These statements reflect the ZANU PF Government’s thinking about the people of Matabeleland.

The President’s statement was a direct affront to the constitution of Zimbabwe’s Section 56(3) of the Zimbabwean Constitution, under the Bill of Rights (Chapter 4) provides for non-discrimination, unfair treatment on such grounds as their tribe, ethnic or social origin, culture, or economic or social status. The statements also negate Section 90(2) which outlines one of the duties of the President as being to ‘promote unity and peace in the nation for the benefit and well-being of the people of Zimbabwe’.
President Mugabe’s tribal insults are only a perpetuation of his tendency to destroy every opportunity for realising national peace and cohesion. Over the years, the President has been quoted advising his ZANU PF supporters to treat fellow Zimbabweans as ‘snakes’, ‘weeds’, ‘rotten pumpkins’, ‘puppies’, ‘sellouts’ among other derogatory names. He has previously labelled ‘Zimbabweans who are descendants of Malawians, Zambians, Mozambicans and other nationals as totem-less outsiders’ among other names and insults.

These have incited, Gukurahundi and destruction of infrastructure, physical, emotional and other forms of violence against white farmers, opposition party members, women and human rights defenders among other groups.

President Mugabe, unlike other Presidents who have sought to protect their citizens against xenophobic attacks, fuels further xenophobic attacks against Kalanga people whom he has described as ‘criminals’. The implication also is that the Kalanga and people in Matabeleland have invited xenophobic attacks on all foreigners in South Africa.

President Mugabe’s utterances that Zimbabweans are ‘voluntarily’ leaving the country to enjoy life in South Africa, are a disingenuous attempt to hide the real reasons why Zimbabweans have left the country in numbers to look for opportunities elsewhere. If Mugabe is to be sincere, he should surely know that Zimbabweans have not risked their lives skipping borders to other countries out of choice but have been pushed by economic hardships violence and his failed leadership.

We, the undersigned organisations, urge the President to personally and unequivocally retract the blatantly discriminatory, derogatory, divisive, demeaning and unwarranted statement and apologise to the Kalanga people in particular and people of Matabeleland in general without delay.

We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to disassociate itself from such statements which promote tribal hatred and scandalously flout the constitution of the land and take corrective measures to ensure that the Kalanga and all Zimbabweans leaving in South Africa are protected both in South Africa and back home.

President Mugabe, as Chairperson of SADC has made statements that are against the vision and common agenda of the regional bloc which are geared towards the attainment of social protection of citizens. His statements are also an affront to the SADC Treaty which upholds the principle of non-discrimination in Article 6(2).

We thus call upon SADC, to reprimand its chairperson and disassociate itself from his statements that promote discrimination and violence against a people.

The President has a duty, as the Chairman of the African Union to uphold the African Union Charter on Human and People’s Rights recognizes the right to freedom from discrimination (Article 2 and 18(3)), equality (Article 3), life and personal integrity (Article 4), dignity (Article 5). President Mugabe’s insult to the Kalanga people and indeed all people of Matabeleland South is a direct affront to these provisions.

We then call upon the African Union to also disassociate itself from the statement from its Chairperson and ensure that the AU Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Charter on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Zimbabwe has ratified are respected and implemented by its Chairperson and member states.

We also call upon the Roman Catholic Church in particular and Christians in general to denounce the statements by President Mugabe as they are against Christian values.

The leadership and membership of the undersigned civil society organisations convey heartfelt condolences to families who lost their beloved ones in the xenophobic violence in South Africa, state-sanctioned violence in the post-independence Zimbabwe. We call upon fellow Zimbabweans to vigilantly safeguard the constitution and demand responsible leadership and Government.

(Note South Africans may colloquially refer all people from as Kalanga)

List of Organisations:
1. Bulawayo Agenda
2. Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA)
3. Bulawayo Unemployment Youth Agenda (BUYA)
4. Christian Alliance
5. Christian Legal Society (CLS)
6. Freedom First Project
7. Grace To Heal Trust
8. Gwanda Residents Association
9. Habakkuk Trust
10. Ibhetshu Likazulu
11. Makokoba Development Trust
12. Mission to Live Trust
13. Mthwakazi Heritage Trust
14. National Youth Development Trust
15. Plumtree Development Trust
16. Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe
17. Radio Dialogue
18. Rural Communities Empowerment Trust
19. Shalom Project
20. Umkhonto kaMthwakazi
21. Victoria Falls Residents Association
22. Victory Siyanqoba Trust
23. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
24. Zimbabwe Chambers of Informal Economies Association (ZCIEA)
25. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
26. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
27. Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)