[lg policy] Zimbabwe: Speak in Shona, Speaker tells Ndebele minister
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Sat Jul 26 14:32:16 UTC 2014
Speak in Shona, Speaker tells Ndebele minister 24/07/2014 00:00:00 by
Stuck to his mother tongue ... Transport minister Obert
ZIMBABWE’S not-so-celebrated language policy came into focus Thursday when
the deputy speaker of Parliament told a Ndebele-speaking cabinet minister
to answer a question in Shona and the minister refused.
Transport minister Obert Mpofu, who hails from Nyamandlovu district about
40km north of Bulawayo, attended a question and answer session in
Parliament Thursday which was presided over by Deputy Speaker, Mabel
Speaking in Shona, Zanu PF legislator Monica Chigudu, quizzed the minister
about the lack of progress on the upgrade of the Harare-Beitbridge highway
where fatal accidents continue to occur.
Said Chigudu: “Madam Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of
Transport and Infrastructural Development. I had misdirected myself because
“My question is about the Masvingo/Harare road. I heard that there is no
funding. The question now is, as regards the roundabout at Flamboyant
(Hotel) in Masvingo. It has become a black spot and nothing is moving at
“My question to the Minister is, what is going to happen? Why has there
been work stoppage because we are failing to give an explanation to the
Since his interlocutor had chosen to speak in their mother tongue, Mpofu
also decided to respond in his Ndebele.
Said the minister: *“Honorable Chigudu ubuze umbuzo oqakathekileyo. Kunzima
ukulungisa yonke imgwaqo sikhathi sinye kodwa ngiyathembisa ukhuthi
iMasvingo iyabe isile dual road ngesikhathi esifitshane.’’*
Out of order, decided the Deputy Speaker who immediately intervened.
“Order! Honourable Minister, I plead with you honourable Minister to try to
respond to the question in the language that she has posed the question.
Honourable members, behave yourselves in the House,” said Chinomona.
Mpofu responded: “I do not know whether it will be better for me to answer
in Ndebele. I think it will better if I use English for the interpretation
in the Hansard.
A raucous noise followed with inaudible interjections from legislators
after which Mpofu added: “I am advised by my colleagues that I should
proceed in Ndebele.”
And proceed in Ndebele he did.
The minister explained that: “We will repair all the roads and the Harare-
Beitbridge will be quickly attended to.
“We have since looked for people who will help on that matter and I have
been mandated by the Cabinet to attend quickly to these roads so that they
are repaired timeously.
“We are going to call upon experts to repair these roads. Masvingo will
have a big dualised highway very soon.
“The truth of the matter is you will be surprised by the programmes we are
working on. Even the Minister of Finance and Economic Development can
confirm what I am talking about here.”
The language issue remains a sore point for the country’s western regions
where people often complain of marginalisation and discrimination.
Most Zimbabwean politicians can hardly speak two local languages fluently.
The old Lancaster House constitution only recognised English as the
country’s official languages.
However, the new charter expanded the list to include Ndebele, Shona,
Chewa, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, Sign Language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda
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