I wish to take issue with two dangerous and rather irresponsible generalisations that Percy Zvomuya made in "Africans have never liked one another" (May 23). One is that Africans have always hated Africans. The other is that people who originally came from Malawi and settled in Zimbabwe were called derogatory names and discriminated against. Africans have always hated other Africans -- a breathtaking statement. Amazing for a person who is obviously Zimbabwean and should know better.
I was born, bred and "buttered" in Zimbabwe. I do not recall any occasion since 1980 in which a person lost his life in that country at the hands of fellow citizens because he was accused of being a foreigner. You have to distinguish between the criminals who masquerade as our leaders and use race and ethnicity to achieve their political goals and the rest of us who actually love our African sisters and brothers.
If you had gone to the University of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, you would have marvelled. South African and Namibian students studied there with us -- no fights, just books and drinks upon drinks. Those students had more money than we had and could they jol! But we didn't have panga fights because they had the money and we were surviving on state subsidies.
We also welcomed Kenyans, Congolese, Ugandans, Nigerians. Musicians such as The Real Sounds of Africa came to Zimbabwe in the late 1970s and stayed with us in the townships even though they could hardly speak any of our languages. We were envious of their sharp dressing and their way with women, but we didn't hurt or maim them.
From the late 1970s until the early 1990s, Zimbabwe was home to thousands of Mozambicans fleeing Renamo. They were all there with us in Harare and other places and many still live there -- unhindered. Ironically, if you are a foreigner in Zimbabwe you are actually treated better because people are anxious to ensure you are comfortable.
But is this unique to Zimbabwe? No. I have travelled the length and breadth of this continent and was amazed at how I could fit in in Accra, Ouagadougou, Dar es Salaam or Maseru. When I drive to Mozambique it is not the ordinary Mozambican who gives me hell. It's the corrupt police officer stepping out of the bush and saying some nonsense such as: "You stepped on the white line in the middle of road and you need to pay a fine [read bribe]."
Zvomuya talks about people of Malawian origin being discriminated against in Zimbabwe. In 2002, I tried to get a new passport. I was told I needed to renounce a citizenship I didn't even know I had -- Malawian. My father was born in Malawi, lived in Zimbabwe for 46 years and in the process married my mother, a Zimbabwean. But Robert Mugabe was anxious to get rid of the bulk of Zimbabweans of Malawian origin because their political loyalties were suspect. But that was Mugabe and Zanu-PF calling us "aliens" and "totemless people".
The ordinary people of Zimbabwe never saw me as anything but Zimbabwean. I have never been discriminated against on the basis that my surname sounded Malawian or Zambian or anything but Shona. I am part of a very large community of Zimbabweans of Malawian origin who get on with their lives; most are Muslims and run their mosques right there in the townships. We marry who we want, befriend who we want and work where we want. I even write what I like. One part of my family lives in Bulawayo and is considered Ndebele.
What is happening in South Africa now is unique -- non-South African Africans are being attacked by ordinary people without the instigation of the state. That is a very particular pathology that requires examination. But excuse us from sweeping statements such as "Africans hate Africans". There are 700-million of us.
by chris Kabwato