Most of the current African history was recorded after Europeans arrived in the continent and at most it was recorded with an intention to support and put in the mainstream a specific agenda. Some of these missions are being unveiled as Africans begin to interrogate and debate what has been recorded as the gospel versus what was shared as the truth from each generation to the next.
Currently, one of the cases which seems to highlight or challenge the inconsistency in the recorded history is the pending amaHlubi High Court battle against the colonial legacy they claim robbed them of their kingdom and its independence from the Zulu kingdom. I believe if the amaHlubi monarch was not reduced to that of chieftaincy but received the same recognition as that of amaZulu, amaMpondo, VhaVenda, amaNdebele and 3 others within South Africa. It would not have led to the current situation where some of the evidence and conditional facts have to be used to validate the independence and existence of a tribe.
It seems certain individuals seem to overlook the issue of ethnic group identity and independence but only focus on social cohesion and nation building or vise versa, the mission to build a larger and stronger nation and encourage social cohesion should not be done at the expense of smaller tribes and their right to exist or only focus on defining the ethnicity of a group at the expense of unity and social cohesion.
I will leave the history part about how the Vatsonga and Machangana people came to leave and coexist with each other or what brought about the difference to historians for fear of digressing away from what persuaded me to write this opinion piece.
The issue of one king or the existence of a Vatsonga or Machangana monarch was put to rest by President JG Zuma as per a report compiled by a panel of traditional experts appointed to investigate traditional leadership dating back to 1927 by President T Mbeki in 2003 (some are currently requesting that the period should be extended beyond 1927).
I believe that the need to distinguish between who are Vatsonga and who are Machangana was not a serious matter under the leadership of Dr HWE Ntsan’wisi, I also believe everyone rallied behind the idea of social cohesion and building a mighty and strong nation unified by more than just physical boundaries or tribal conquest.
Looking back at the Gazankulu administration performance record. I can safely say that the Vatsonga na Machangana tribe worked very hard for the unity and the wellbeing of its existence.
Industrial Zones were created throughout Gazankulu with two major zones in Letaba and Mukhuhlu aimed at employing Vatsonga na Machangana and those of neighboring places. About 10 townships were created to cater both Vatsonga na Machangana and those of other tribes employed by the administration during that difficult social, economical and political period. Our people received superior health service without prejudice of being Mutsonga or Muchangana but as a basic human right from any of the Healthcare facilities (GAZ7).
Majority of us who used the “Ririmi ra Manana” textbook benefited from the well-researched and quality Xitsonga written language provided by the department of education (GAZ4) of that time.
The boarding schools set up by the then administration have managed to preserve our language and culture especially with those whose parents decided to settle and improve their life in and around current Gauteng province. Together and through this unity our elders managed to fight the stereotypes and ridicules that majority of our people experienced. Through our unity we managed to make sure that our names and surnames are written using the correct spelling and not misspelled by a public office administrator from another tribe or who spoke a different language.
Maybe some of the things I list above appear insignificant because today we as parents still enjoy the benefits of the unity that existed then but in hindsight when we listen to our kids struggle to pronounce their meaningful African names we gave them with pride or their own surnames. When we find ourselves having to pay about R750.00 for extra classes in order for our kids to be exposed to the basics of Ririmi ra Manana, maybe that brings some kind of comfort that the unity existed for a bigger conviction than kingdoms or chieftaincy.
United we built more and achieved greater things. The current debate about who is Mutsonga and who is Muchangana or attempting to highlight the differences, If not destroying a bit of confidence that our people were slowly gaining, it is contributing to the stereotyping and undermining that we endured in the past through other South African tribes that felt we are not human enough to be South African citizens.
The kind of stereotyping that associated being Mutsonga or Muchangana with being inferior (mashangaan wors, mashangaan bag, mashangaan dress code and mashangaan behavior). The kind that reduced conversations and ideas to “lhe Shangaan lazini” – what does this Shangaan person know. This kind of stereotyping led to majority of Vatsonga na Machangana who migrated to Gauteng (South Central Transvaal) for economic opportunities to camouflage and not speak their mother tongue with the hope of being accepted within their country of birth. Possible your argument to the above would be that you wouldn’t and still don’t roll over to this kind of discrimination but keep in mind this is not about an individual’s capabilities but the collective (with more focus on the weakest link).
Even primitive soldiers knew not to fight each other while waiting for war, because they were aware that there will come a time where they will have to stand together again and face the enemy with the same passion and honest actions to defend that which brought them together regardless of their uniqueness. Together as Vatsonga Machangana, have fought bigger battles and won. When in 1912, Hosi Muhlava decided to participate in the formation of the South African Native Congress (Current ANC) he was neither representing Vatsonga nor Machangana but the collective, the united tribe that suffered under apartheid, the united tribe that fought stereotypes and ridicule in their own country.
Our believe in social cohesion and nation building is not a weakness but us believing in the vision of a South Africa built on a culture of reverence for human rights and an identity founded on the values of non-sexism, non-racialism and equality. Aimed to build an overarching national identity through common citizenship and equality before the law as entrenched in Our Constitution. Because of our believe and support, together we fought and addressed the tribalistic thinking and actions by David Thidiela and had him held responsible for the tribalistic insults against Tatana Victor Hlungwani. United, we showed our unhappiness towards Desmond Dube’s tribalistic and degrading silly jokes. Recently we rallied behind Dr TH Chauke and made sure that our icons can not be undermined be it because of their ethnicity, language or kind of music they choose to perform. Our unrelenting support has elevated Sho-Madjozi (Maya Xichavo Wegerif) to higher levels and it continues to fuel her burning desire yo bhombisa XiGaza na Ririmi ra Manana (to show pride in xiGaza and our mother tongue).
We can not now be side tracked and forget about our believe and vision to build a strong and unshaken united front. I am in agreement with Bohani Shibambu in his article: Finding Space in a Democratic South Africa – https://www.ndhavuko.org.za/2020/01/21/finding-a-space-in-a-democratic-south-africa/ , when he says that specific tactics were necessary during a specific time and we can not blindly want to implement the same tactics under a different revolution, we fought over the implementation of a single monarch over the Vatsonga na Machangana tribe and won. It is time to change tactics and fight against an old enemy aimed at undermining, ridiculing and insulting us as the citizens of South Africa.
I believe the coexistence and connection between Vatsonga na “Machangana” (Vatsonga-“Machangana”) started before the beginning of the 16th century when the Portuguese arrived. But like I said, I will leave history lessons to historians.
“If we win by losing ourselves, by losing what we were fighting for, then we never really win.” – Meg Collett