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Ethnicity in Zimbabwe

Ethnicity in Zimbabwe: Transformations in Kalanga and Ndebele Societies, 1860-1990

Enocent Msindo
Volume: 55
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Ethnicity in Zimbabwe
    Book Description:

    Ethnicity in Zimbabwe: Transformations in Kalanga and Ndebele Societies, 1860-1990' is a comparative study of identity shifts in two large ethnic groups in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. The study begins in 1860, a year after the establishment of the Inyati mission station in the Ndebele Kingdom, and ends in the postcolonial period. Author Enocent Msindo asserts that-despite what many social historians have argued-the creation of ethnic identity in Matabeleland was not solely the result of colonial rule and the new colonial African elites, but that African ethnic consciousness existed prior to this time, formed and shaped by ordinary members of these ethnic groups. During this period, the interaction of the Kalanga and Ndebele fed the development of complex ethnic, regional, cultural, and subnationalist identities. By examining the complexities of identities in this region, Msindo uncovers hidden, alternative, and unofficial histories; contested claims to land and civic authority; the politics of language; the struggles of communities defined as underdogs; and the different ways by which the dominant Ndebele have dealt with their regional others, the Kalanga. The book ultimately demonstrates the ways in which debates around ethnicity and other identities in Zimbabwe-and in Matabeleland in particular-relate to wider issues in both rural and urban Zimbabwe past and present. Enocent Msindo is Senior Lecturer in History at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-785-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Note to the Reader
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    This work is a comparative study of two ethnic groups—namely, the Kalanga and Ndebele of southern Zimbabwe—whose interaction dates back to when a group of people (now called the Ndebele) settled in an area predominantly under the control of the then-weakening Rozvi state to which many small Kalanga polities paid homage. The book begins with the year 1860, following the establishment of the Inyati mission station in the Ndebele kingdom. In this work, it is argued that the interactions of the Ndebele and Kalanga peoples (the two significantly large ethnic groups in Matabeleland) over a long period of...

  8. 1 Ethnicity and Identities in Matabeleland
    (pp. 4-29)

    Matabeleland is a restless frontier where identities (ethnic, regional, and national) have shifted and taken on different meanings with time. The history of this part of Zimbabwe is not simply a history of the Ndebele people but also a history of many other ethnic groups whose cultures, traditions, and societies have yet to be sufficiently explored and whose pasts thus remain hidden. Most of the scholars that have written about Matabeleland have simply worked under the false illusion that Matabeleland was synonymous with Ndebele-land.¹ Thus, we have only disjointed and tiny bits of Kalanga past, Tonga folklore, and a bit...

  9. 2 Domination and Resistance: Precolonial Ndebele and Kalanga Relations, 1860–93
    (pp. 30-64)

    The growing historiography of ethnicity has led to considerable shifts in scholarship from the mainly instrumentalist invention of ethnicity thesis, which was popular before the 1990s, to the notion of ethnic communities as imagined communities (post-1990s), which emphasizes the fact that ideologies and traditions constantly shift and take on new meanings once they are constructed. These changes have led some scholars to recognize precolonial origins of ethnicity.¹

    With the exception of a recent work by MacGonagle on Ndau identity in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Zimbabwean social historians like Ranger, Alexander, and a few others who have mainly written on colonial and...

  10. 3 Remaking Communities on the Margins: Chieftaincy and Ethnicity in Bulilima-Mangwe, 1893 to the 1950s
    (pp. 65-92)

    The period from the 1890s to the 1950s was characterized by crucial political changes that influenced Zimbabwean society and culture. Not only did the British colonial officials become the new political overlords, they also tried to reinforce their presuppositions about their subjects. Under the guise of reinforcing African traditions, they attempted to institutionalize chieftaincy and make chiefs function as if they were organic, traditional leaders when in reality some of those chiefs had been reduced to colonial pawns without popular legitimacy, the izindunyana zaka makiwa (white people’s minor chiefs). Such chiefs usually became infamous with their people, who neither ascribed...

  11. 4 Ultraroyalism, King’s Cattle, and Postconquest Politics among the Ndebele, 1893 to the 1940s
    (pp. 93-114)

    Having just examined the postconquest situation in Bulilima-Mangwe in the preceding chapter, which raised critical issues about the creation of identities on the margins of the colonial state, it is important that we also examine the issue of who speaks for the Ndebele “tribe” and the source of political authority among the Ndebele after the demise of the kingdom. This is another neglected issue in Matabeleland history that will yield important ideas about the contested nature of Ndebele identity. Taken together with chapter 3, this chapter helps us understand salient aspects of ethnicity, politics, and struggles in rural Matabeleland from...

  12. 5 Language and Ethnicity in Matabeleland
    (pp. 115-135)

    In the last two chapters, we discovered how Kalanga commoners, chiefs, and headmen resisted a colonially crafted hegemonic project to subject them to Ndebele political and social control. We also saw how divisions among the Ndebele elites made it difficult for strong ideological entrepreneurs to arise in rural Matabeleland before the 1940s. It is important to discuss another arena in which Ndebele and Kalanga ethnicity was negotiated—the politics of language making and control. Building on the thesis that language difference provides an anchorage for ethnic identity, this chapter examines the use of language by the Ndebele and Kalanga to...

  13. 6 Contests and Identities in Town: Bulawayo before 1960
    (pp. 136-178)

    Bulawayo’s colonial phase began in 1894, following the 1893 Anglo-Ndebele War, after which Lobengula burned down his capital and left. In the vicinity of Bulawayo were Ndebele settlements that were not quickly abandoned. However, those people whose homes fell within the town boundaries were rendered squatters, and their homes were recommended to be burned.¹ Symbolically, the government erected its Government House, Cecil Rhodes’s official residence, on the site of Lobengula’s former palace.² Since then, Bulawayo became Rhodesia’s major industrial hub and the headquarters of Rhodesian Railways, with a high demand for industrial labor. In the early years, however, most...

  14. 7 Complementary or Competing? Ethnicity and Nationalism in Matabeleland, 1950–79
    (pp. 179-210)

    There are two main problems with this period of colonial Zimbabwean history. The first has to do with sources. Although there is a general twenty-five-year embargo on archival material, it has taken much longer, for various reasons, for most of the sources in the Zimbabwean National Archives for the post-1960s years to be made fully accessible. On top of that, geting permission from the depositing government departments is also a challenge; and to complicate matters further, most ZAPU archives, which would have been useful, were destroyed in the early 1980s. Therefore, historians of Matabeleland must rely on oral evidence and...

  15. 8 Postcolonial Terror: Politics, Violence, and Identity, 1980–90
    (pp. 211-228)

    Because “speaking truth to power” in postcolonial Zimbabwe has generally been risky, the violence that happened in Matabeleland and Midlands between 1980 and 1987 has only begun to be sufficiently explored. Apart from pioneering anthropological work by Werbner, the richest historical study of this topic is Violence and Memory by Alexander, McGregor, and Ranger.¹ Evidence of sordid, grotesque violence unleashed upon the inhabitants of Matabeleland and Midlands by government agents under the pretext of dealing with dissidents came to light with the publication of Breaking the Silence.² Notwithstanding the high reputation of the authors of the report and the quality...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 229-234)

    This book has examined how identities were shaped by social and political processes in both rural and urban Matabeleland, particularly among the Kalanga and the Ndebele since the precolonial era. Precolonial inequalities of power in the Ndebele state triggered important debates and social changes not only among people within the Ndebele state but also among those Kalanga who had, for fear of hegemonic Ndebele sociopolitical influence, relocated to its margins. These processes—that is, Ndebele inequalities as felt internally within the Ndebele state and the withdrawal of Kalanga to the margins, which move gave them the chance to reorganize their...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 235-286)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 287-296)
  19. Index
    (pp. 297-302)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 303-307)