[lg policy] Zimbabwe: National Unity in Language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Dec 23 17:36:36 UTC 2015

Zimbabwe: National Unity in Language
OPINIONBy Christopher Charamba

The late South African President Nelson Mandela once said: "If you talk to
man in a language he understands, that goes to his head; if you talk to him
in his language, that goes to his heart."

Language is a key component of understanding a people, their history and
their culture. In fact the novelist Khaled Housseni wrote: "If culture was
a house then language was the key to the front door, to all rooms inside."

Language carries with it important cultural nuances through proverbs for
example that lose meaning or are watered down when translated.

Therefore in order for one to fully understand another's culture and
concurrently another's history it is important for one to speak the
language of the other.

Yesterday the country celebrated Unity Day. It is day that is couched in
very important political and social dimensions.

The conflict of the early and mid-1980s, which resulted in many losing
their lives before an agreement was reached between the two dominant
parties Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu led by Cde Mugabe and Cde Joshua Nkomo, was
political as much as social. In fact, ethnicity and language became markers
of differences among the people, namely Shona and Ndebele.

Language is one aspect of national life that requires national
introspection especially in relation to national unity and cohesion. The
political pact of December 22, 1987 may have healed most part of the
political differences but socially, and especially linguistically, it has

Today, a speaker of a different language in a different region may spawn
discomfit, even with political undertones.

This is because it is a fundamental that was not remodelled - but one that
needs to be, as a matter of principle and fact.

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