Today Zimbabwe celebrates 38 years of independence or simply marks 38 years of independence from colonial rule. I’m wary of using the word celebrate because not every Zimbabwean is celebrating. Social media is abuzz with messages of “Happy Independence Day” but there are also messages of discontent, anger, frustration and unhappiness. Why are we celebrating? Are we really independent? What does independence day really mean? On the 18th of April 1980 Zimbabwe became an independent state, independent from British colonial rule and that was thanks to the brave efforts of men and women that wanted Zimbabweans to have political and socio-economic freedom, men and women that wanted to see Zimbabwe grow and thrive on its own terms. So we became independent but we did not become free. We are an independent nation but are we a free people? There is a difference between independence and freedom and understanding that is important. Independence means not being subject to the authority of an external party or agent or person or entity, being able to govern ourselves as a country. Freedom is having the power or the right to act and think as one wants, to believe in what you believe in, to express yourself, to live your life without unfair restrictions on what you can do or who you can be.
My experience of celebrating independence in Zimbabwe has been to get a day off work or suffer through never ending speeches on ZBCtv about how amazing Zimbabwe is and how we should be grateful because the person making the speech died for this country and bursts of anger at the British, the Americans, homosexuals, the opposition (that was confusing for me as a child). That was a complete waste of time for me because it never taught me how to be proud of being Zimbabwean or to be grateful to our heroes, I learnt that through ordinary Zimbabweans that understand that real independence is not just to self-govern and have a system that benefits the elite few but it is to self-govern in a way that grows the nation, that brings people together, a way that is democratic and that is for ALL Zimbabweans.
38 years of suffering is what remains now, it is what we remember, it is what we wake up to everyday. I did not have the priviledge to enjoy the Zimbabwe my parents lived in after independence and so the meaning of celebrating independence is lost to me. When Zimbabweans are free, when we are not divided by politics, corruption, tribe, race, gender, geography, religion, hate, pain, loss, anger, marginalisation, nepotism and language then I will celebrate not just independence but freedom.
Until my question is answered not by words and promises but by actions, by positive change for all of us then it still stands. What does Independence Day mean?
I was born to two Kalanga people who were born and raised amongst mopane trees and sandy paths in beautiful Bulilima-mangwe. That makes me Kalanga too. From the name #That_Kalanga, most people will assume I am fluent in tjiKalanga or that I know Kalanga culture but the truth is I don’t. I am just Kalanga by blood. My parents are fluent in Kalanga. They can lebeleka which is Kalanga for talking/speaking but unfortunately they never passed on that beautiful language to their children. Some may feel that in a way I’m not truly Kalanga. I am Kalanga because I accept my ancestry and I embrace my family in all its Kalanganess. I eat amacimbi, ngiyamnanka usamamo kudance floor, and I sometimes say “kodwa ka”. I grew up in Bulawayo so I speak isiNdebele but that in no way takes away that I am Kalanga.
Now back to what this whole rambling is about, the name, #That_Kalanga. There are many stereotypes about Kalanga people, false and mean stereotypes that I take personally and would like to end. It’s been said we are uneducated( that one really stung because it’s utter bull-dust). I’m educated and I’m smart. I know a lot of Kalanga people that are educated, smart and talented in many ways, some own businesses, manage companies, play sports, others are artists, teachers, musicians, writers, doctors, lawyers, the list is endless. Fact-There are Kalanga people that are educated. Anyone that says differently is grossly misinformed. “Kalanga people are illegal immigrants that commit crime in South Africa and that’s all we are good for.” Lobu ke yibumbulu. We can not be held responsible for all the crimes committed by Zimbabweans in South Africa. Note I said Zimbabweans so let’s get it out of our heads that there are no other Zimbabwean tribes other than Kalangas that are illegal immigrants in SA. Before ngingena ngeheart I will stop here.
I have finally started learning the Kalanga language. I told my parents that from now on they speak to me in Kalanga and hopefully soon I will throw in a few sentences in Kalanga. So watch this space. This Kalanga is growing and learning. I want #That_Kalanga to be a brand, a name that celebrates my roots and my family but also my individuality. I want to take Kalanga to a whole other level. We are a great people. If you are Kalanga or don’t ever let anyone make you feel inferior no matter how you dress or what your accent sounds like.
With love and respect and plenty pride,
I’ve been told I should write more and share what I write. I have finally decided to give it a try. I’m new to this blogging thing but I will learn and give it my best shot. I’m still figuring out the set up for the whole blog and the Wi-fi network sucks so that’s not helpful at all but I had to get started. My name is Miles. #That_Kalanga (one of these days I will share the thinking behind this name). If you are reading this I am inviting you to step into my world once in a while and share in my love for words and poetry, my passion for life, my unapologetic and natural enthusiasm to be myself and my dark and twisty side.
I want to slay at blogging so any tips, comments and suggestions on how I can do that are quite welcome. Keeping this blog updated should be a good start. I’m not a person of too many words so for now this is it. Uhambo luyaqala.