Ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion an im­per­a­tive

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Per­spec­tive Stephen Mpofu

AS much as lan­guage is a repos­i­tory of cul­tural val­ues, but it must just as im­por­tantly re­duce lin­guis­tic bar­ri­ers be­tween and among peo­ple in one na­tion for pur­pose­ful co­he­sion and unity, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The peo­ples of East Africa, for ex­am­ple, have Swahili as a lin­gua franca for ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween and among them to en­gen­der a pur­pose­ful one­ness in each coun­try, as a na­tion.

The same, how­ever, can­not be said about Zim­bab­weans who are proud of their dif­fer­ent lin­gos.

With no com­mon medium used by all speak­ers of dif­fer­ent lan­guages, English, a lan­guage of the former colonis­ers and op­pres­sors of black peo­ple in our coun­try be­comes some kind of lin­gua franca but only for the ed­u­cated as well as be­ing a medium of in­struc­tion in schools and is thus dis­crim­i­na­tory in as far as unit­ing all peo­ple through ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is con­cerned.

To say the least, it is noth­ing short of scan­dalous for national lead­ers from Mashona­land as well as from Mata­bele­land to ad­dress mass ral­lies in ei­ther re­gion in English with in­ter­preters con­vey­ing the leader’s mes­sage, which must be national to lis­ten­ers in the lan­guage that most of them un­der­stand.

And yet this has gone on for more than three-and-ahalf decades of free­dom from colo­nial rule and when our peo­ple should be driven towards national co­he­sion and de­vel­op­ment through a tongue uni­ver­sally un­der­stood by them.

Do those elected or ap­pointed to pub­lic lead­er­ship po­si­tions not re­alise that com­mon lan­guage forges close iden­tity with the peo­ple they lead so that the jour­ney towards national unity and de­vel­op­ment does not end up as a non-be­liev­ers’ jour­ney, with re­cent events in Mata­bele­land, ex­am­ples of such a dys­func­tional jour­ney.

A Shona speak­ing head­mistress was trans­ferred from a school in Mata­bele­land North prov­ince af­ter par­ents protested against her in­abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with them in isiNde­bele, a ma­jor lan­guage spo­ken or un­der­stood by most peo­ple in the re­gion.

But — who knows — some small minds prob­a­bly put down the re­jec­tion of that ad­min­is­tra­tor as be­ing trib­al­is­tic, which it is cer­tainly not, or so this pen be­lieves, but a case of the im­por­tance of lan­guage as a tool for ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion among the peo­ple that lead­ers must work with.

The Min­istry of Home Af­fairs says it has also re­ceived com­plaints from Mata­bele­land about work­ers who can­not com­mu­ni­cate with the lo­cals in their own lan­guage. In a story pub­lished in this pa­per four days ago, Deputy Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Obe­d­ingwa Mguni urged of­fi­cers from his min­istry to learn lan­guages spo­ken in ar­eas where they are de­ployed in Mata­bele­land.

He said he had re­ceived sev­eral com­plaints from mem­bers of the pub­lic against po­lice of­fi­cers, Zimra and Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers fail­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with their clients due to the lan­guage bar­rier.

The in­abil­ity by of­fi­cers to muster the lan­guage of the peo­ple they worked with was a sign of dis­re­spect, the Deputy Min­is­ter said.

In a nut­shell, lead­ers who can­not speak the lan­guage of the peo­ple among whom they per­form their tour of duty can­not in any­way be seen, let alone be said “to be with the peo­ple”, as the late na­tion­al­ist, Cde Mor­ris Nyagumbo, would have put it.

If, there­fore, at any level of op­er­a­tion lead­ers are not seen to be with the peo­ple lin­guis­ti­cally or oth­er­wise, they risk be­ing ad­judged as be­ing against the peo­ple with whom they must speak, work and walk in uni­son for the good of the na­tion.

In light with the com­plaints cited above, is it not time that pub­lic em­ploy­ees sent to work in re­gions other than their own were com­pul­so­rily made to learn the lan­guages spo­ken in ar­eas of their de­ploy­ment with a mas­terly of the lan­guage count­ing towards their pro­mo­tion or rise in pay, as in­cen­tives? This pen also be­lieves strongly that Shona and isiNde­bele should be made com­pul­sory, ex­am­inable lan­guages in schools in the re­spec­tive re­gions.

Be­cause lan­guage is a uni­fier, pupils who dis­tin­guish them­selves in the two ma­jor lan­guages that are un­der­stood by most peo­ple in the two re­gions could be­come el­i­gi­ble for schol­ar­ships as an in­cen­tive for them as well as for other fu­ture lead­ers of Zim­babwe to learn to com­mu­ni­cate and be at one with peo­ple un­der their lead­er­ship.

Of course, this pen does not pro­pose a death nail to the study of other mi­nor­ity in­dige­nous lan­guages that should en­joy their own day as far as is pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary.

Also sug­gested in this dis­course is a con­sci­en­tious ef­fort by those con­cerned to pre­serve the lan­guage of the in­dige­nous peo­ple of this re­gion, the San, which ap­pears headed for ex­tinc­tion with the fall of ev­ery San el­der, like tree leaves in au­tumn.

Deputy Min­is­ter Obe­d­ingwa Mguni

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