Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

The Bane of Pan-Africanism: Xenophobic Chauvinism and the Politics of Exclusion in Selected Zimbabwean Short Stories

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

The Bane of Pan-Africanism: Xenophobic Chauvinism and the Politics of Exclusion in Selected Zimbabwean Short Stories

Article excerpt


The Pan-African Dream Deferment

Pan-Africanism is and has always been an ideal that Africans have hankered for, for a long time. During the fight for independence, African countries gave succour to each other and undertook to help each other even beyond independence. In its original sense Pan-Africanism was and is a quest for unity, cooperation and justice for Africans on the continent and the Diaspora. It is a search for cohesion and wholeness in the face of fragmentation and dislocation wrought by years of "xenophobic slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism" (Ngugi,2009:25). Such a goal found expression in the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity that mutated in recent years into the African Union(AU). The formation of these organisations is intended to provide a dialectic interface between where Africa is coming from and its envisaged future in the community of human beings. This, in the words of Ngugi, (2009:28) should serve as the reservoir of memory because "memory is the link between past and the present, between space and time, and it is the base of our dreams."

There is no gainsaying the fact that Pan-Africanism has so far failed to meet the goals set by its originators because Africa is still plagued by problems of backwardness, poverty, tyranny, ethnic wars and racism. What is needed is the refashioning of new approaches for the elimination of all forms of oppression and injustices in Africa and the world. This should entail reconfronting the knotty issues of racism and antiracism racism and the habit of seeing African states in essentialised terms of ethnic enclaves, of black and white, especially beginning at the level of individual states.

Such a re-imagining cannot be overemphasised because since time immemorial identities have constantly been composed, decomposed and recomposed because of ceaseless historical migrations so that words like indigenous, non -indigenous, stranger, foreigner or citizen have become sites of contests often narrowly used by post-independent elites in Africa to arbitrarily include and exclude others from imaginings of the nation. This paper uses post independent Zimbabwe as a synecdoche to argue that the bane of Pan-Africanism lies in intra national political imperatives where national unity and imaginings are subordinated to racial and totemic definitions of citizenship and belonging. It argues that the idea of Zimbabwe as a home is complicated by historical, spatial, political, racial, ethnic and personal considerations. Ethnic chauvinism is so rife that a Shona person intending to contest for a political position cannot stand a chance in Matabeleland, however talented and vice-versa. The former Zimbabwean vice president Joseph Msika had to insist his totem was Mlambo and therefore Nguni like the majority of the people in Bulawayo's Phelandaba for him to win the hearts and minds of the people there (Makumbe and Campagnon, 2000:119).

The questions that frame the interrogation of the selected short stories include: what did the Robert Mugabe policy of reconciliation in 1980 entail for all Zimbabwean citizens? Was it in the interest of nation building or an expedient posture made with the brain but not the heart? When we talk about a Zimbabwean today, are we referring to only those descended from, or scions of Chaminuka and Mbuya Nehanda (spirit mediums descended from the Munhumutapa Empire) as authentic indigenes? This politics of origin is and xenophobic entitlement is enacted by the historian and current Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Stan Mudenge who avers that "present Zimbabwe ... is not merely a geographical expression created by imperialism during the nineteenth century. It is a reality that has existed for centuries, with a language, a culture and a "worldview" of its own, representing the inner core of the Shona historical experience. Today's ... Zimbabweans have, both materially and culturally, much to build and not a little to build upon"(Mudenge,1988:364). …

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