Ease of communication an imperative
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