Unity Pact Papers over Persistent Tensions ETHNICITY IN AFRICAN POLITICS. ETHNIC Nationalism Has Emerged as a Powerful Factor in World Politics as Communist or Authoritarian Governments Have Collapsed in Places Such as the Former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Somalia. but It Remains Little Understood, Especially in the Afircan Context, Where the Tribalism Label Leads to Easy Misperceptions. Here, and on the Opinion Pages, the Monitor Explores the Relationship between Ethnicity and African Politics. ZIMBABWE

By John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 1992 | Go to article overview

Unity Pact Papers over Persistent Tensions ETHNICITY IN AFRICAN POLITICS. ETHNIC Nationalism Has Emerged as a Powerful Factor in World Politics as Communist or Authoritarian Governments Have Collapsed in Places Such as the Former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Somalia. but It Remains Little Understood, Especially in the Afircan Context, Where the Tribalism Label Leads to Easy Misperceptions. Here, and on the Opinion Pages, the Monitor Explores the Relationship between Ethnicity and African Politics. ZIMBABWE


John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


ETHNIC tensions between the majority Shona tribe, which dominates the ruling party, and the minority Ndebele tribe continue to simmer in Zimbabwe beneath the mantle of a three-year-old unity deal.

"The whole thing in this country's politics is tribal," says Makhatini Guduza, a veteran Ndebele political activist. "It will never be national."

Ethnic tensions have been fanned in recent months by the mysterious deaths in car accidents of several Ndebele intellectuals and suggestions by some Ndebeles that the government should compensate the families of victims of the massacres of Ndebeles in the mid-1980s.

Ndebele leaders who supported the idea of a unitary state at independence in 1980 now advocate more regional autonomy in Zimbabwe as the best means to ensure that minority tribes are not discriminated against politically and economically.

The Shona account for about 77 percent of the black population.

The ruins of Great Zimbabwe bear testimony to the Shona's past dynastic kingdom, which was one of the most advanced and developed civilizations in southern Africa as early as the 13th century. At that time, the Shona spread far beyond the borders of Zimbabwe - to Botswana in the west and Mozambique in the east.

Early in the 19th century, the Zulu ancestors of the Ndebele clashed with the Shona. These warriors, counted among the Nguni peoples who include the Zulus, Swazis, and Xhosas in South Africa, completed their conquests of Mashonaland in the 1840s and established themselves in the southwestern part of Zimbabwe.

At independence, President Robert Mugabe's Shona-based Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)) scored a landslide victory reflecting the numerical superiority of the Shona - almost 4 to 1.

Joshua Nkomo, the Ndebele head of the rival Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), was roundly defeated at the polls. …

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Unity Pact Papers over Persistent Tensions ETHNICITY IN AFRICAN POLITICS. ETHNIC Nationalism Has Emerged as a Powerful Factor in World Politics as Communist or Authoritarian Governments Have Collapsed in Places Such as the Former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Somalia. but It Remains Little Understood, Especially in the Afircan Context, Where the Tribalism Label Leads to Easy Misperceptions. Here, and on the Opinion Pages, the Monitor Explores the Relationship between Ethnicity and African Politics. ZIMBABWE
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