In this paper, l will firstly look at the geographical distribution of ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, then move forward to origins, language and religion of these ethnic groups. This will help give a background of the built up of ethnicity in the country from a historical backing. After, l will give an analysis on the political parties before independence and how they were affected by ethnicity, then move forward to political parties post colonialism and give the same analysis. The most important of the paper will be the major limitations or constraints that have come from ethnicity towards these political parties as caused by the presence of ethnicity and some of the political antagonist tensions built. GEOGRAPHY, ORIGIN AND LANGUAGE OF ETHNIC GROUPSFrom before and after the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 there has only been one ruling party, which is the ZANU-PF. It is important to note that ZANU-PF is made up of majority of one ethnic group which is the Shona (Zezuru).
Having this in mind, it is clear to depict the ongoing political tensions that have been caused by this ethnic inequality. In this paper, there will be a clear indication of the different ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, including the minority groups such as AmaNdebele that have suffered under the political ramp of ZANU-PF and the emergence of MDC, the main opposition party.Firstly, it is important to have an in depth look of how Zimbabwe’s ethnic groups are geographically distributed and how these in turn have affected politics of the country. There are ten (10) provinces in the country, where seven (7) out of the ten (10) are made of the Shona and the remaining three (3) are AmaNdebele and other minority groups. Looking at how the Shona occupy most of the country’s land and inevitably country politics of the country.
It can be argued that the imbalance of the distribution of land, has without a doubt affected the political distribution as well of Zimbabwe. This is a result of the Shona being large in their number and the minority groups become inclined to be under the major group. NB: The above map of Zimbabwe shows the ten (10) provinces of Zimbabwe, were only three (3) comprise of the AmaNdebele. These three provinces are 8, 9 and 3. Province 8 being Bulawayo the capital of the AmaNdebele. Whilst the rest of the seven (7) are the different Shona speaking groups (Ndau, Manyika, Zezuru and Karanga).
Ethnicity is a major constraint to the politics of Zimbabwe as a result the recent resistance by the minority groups like the AmaNdebele towards the hegemonic rule of the Shona- Zezuru mainly, that has lasted for 38 years. Going back to the geographical influence of the ethnic groups, the Shona believe that they are the rightful inhabitants of Zimbabwe, hence why they occupy most of the country and control the politics. The AmaNdebele are seen to have come from the Zulu of South Africa thus they are deemed to be illegitimate to control or influence any politics or political parties according to the Shona.
As a result, of the above, the emergence of political parties can be put under the umbrella of the minority fighting what can be viewed as Gramscian hegemony by the Shona. As inequality in ethnicity does not only affect the politics of Zimbabwe but squashes the voice of the minority groups hence led to the emergence other political parties in Zimbabwe.Language has been a constraint on the different ethnic groups, as the groups speak different languages (Shona and AmaNdebele). The AmaNdebele and other minority groups for years have felt to be inferior and are disregarded in the country’s domestic policies. The ruling party ZANU-PF addresses the country during national events in Shona, disregarding the existence of other groups not being able to speak the dialect.
There has even been the idea of Shona being declared the official language of Zimbabwe, despite the aspect that Zimbabwe is not just made up Shona speaking citizens.With this in mind, it is seen that language through ethnicity affects the politics of the country by how the Shona see themselves as the hegemonic group and thus have a right to control every aspect of the laws, rights and politics. It is through these unequal grievances seen inn the country that has again led to the political parties of Zimbabwe to be based on what tribe or language you speak to be part of them (Chitiyo.2005). Hence for Zimbabwe political party emergence or existence is not influenced on a coherent ideology but rather on cultural or ethnic backing.Religion does not necessarily affect the politics of Zimbabwe because firstly Christianity is the major practice in the country. There is also a small percentage of the Africa Traditional Religion (ATR) but this is despite the ethnic group, it is believed that religion is the only aspect that unites the ethnic groups. As it has been seen that they may differ in culture or language, but they believe in the same God, which has recently been used by political leaders to persuade unity.
POLITICAL PARTIES DURING COLONIALISM IN ZIMBABWE During the colonial period in Zimbabwe, there was the emergence of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) party in the 1960’s. It was grounded on the task of ending colonialism through the spread of nationalism amongst the different ethnic group present. However it failed in this view, as in the 1970s the Shona speaking group felt inferior under the then leader of ZAPU Joshua Nkomo who was of AmaNdebele descendent. As a result it led to split of the Shona from ZAPU to form their own party Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), political imbalances caused from ethnic tensions have since been assessed.During this period, it was seen that the leaders of ZANU and ZAPU used ethnicity to their advantage as a way to convey and attract a specific ethnic following through the use of language and culture. The leaders decidedly conveyed ethnicity to prepare the majority. They spoke to ethnic social images, for example it is seen that the panther skins worn by pre-frontier Shona’s and Nguni caps worn by Ndebele indunas, which early patriot pioneers, was worn by the leader of ZANU and ZAPU when addressing the mass.
Notwithstanding, from the mid-1960s onwards, ethnicity turned into a troublesome power in Zimbabwe patriot legislative issues. Ethnic divisions were chiefly caused by initiative situating for the takeover of the state and saw imbalances in political interest by singular patriot pioneers and their supporters. In this tribalism, rather than being an abnormality, turned into a political asset utilized by political on-screen characters at vital circumstances to augment individual power (Thata.2016)As the ethnic measurements of the crack amongst ZAPU and ZANU extended, ill will and doubt among ZANU and ZAPU pioneers developed, deaths and confinements of political activists from ‘undesirable ethnic or vernacular gatherings’ expanded, and enrollment and battling turned out to be more ethicized and regionalized.The prevailing freedom developments of ZAPU and ZANU without a doubt attempted to oversee ethnicity inside their associations.
Their procedures of overseeing ethnicity included ethnic adjusting in the authority of the gathering. All through the 1970s both ZAPU and ZANU endeavored to manage the issue of ethnicity through ethnic portrayal. ZAPU endeavored to fill its initiative positions with people crosswise over Ndebele, Shona and Kalanga ethnic partitions. In ZANU, specific consideration was paid to accomplishing balance in initiative by having pioneers drawn from the three overwhelming Shona gatherings: Karanga, Manyika and Zezuru (Wafawarova.2015).
At the ideological level, patriot associations attempted to manage ethnicity through political talk that disregarded substances of ethnicity for patriot and Marxist radicalism. (Mhlanga.2013).Regardless of these endeavors, ethnicity kept on showing itself contrarily. Some portion of the issue was the disappointment of these associations to build up a legitimate component to manage the marvel.
A portion of the main patriots were additionally not focused on commonsense destruction of ethnicity. They censured ethnicity amid the day yet utilized it by night as a political asset in their own fights for control. Zimbabwe was in this way conceived with an awful birthmark by ethnicity that was to adversely influence any of the efforts towards a national integration.