Africa month this year is celebrated in the midst of the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. This will also be the case for Africa Day on May 25, which is the commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU).
Amid the locked down Africa month, I look back at growing up in a Northern Sotho speaking household in Mohlonong village, Ga-Mashashane in Limpopo. I encountered English and Afrikaans languages at school. I was further exposed to isiNdebele and Xitsonga languages in the streets.
Though as a grandson of Phooko ya dinaka I sang about mitshelo, as in fruits, in the Madenathaga Primary School choir in the mid-80s. Tshivenda sounded unfamiliar to my ear for some time. Imagine hearing tshikoli nga bonndo in the mid-90s, as the Thohoyandou bound taxi snaked through the famous Tshakhuma market.
My expectation was to see soft drinks, only to realise that the vendors were selling corn for R2, zwithu zwa hone!
I got to learn some standard grade Tshivenda in the mid-90s, thanks to my three classmates at the erstwhile Technikon Northern Gauteng in Soshanguve. This is where I also picked up a combination of SiSwati, isiZulu and isiXhosa.
On the issue of ethnicity and unity, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reminds us that: “Ethnicity should enrich us; it should make us a unique people in our diversity and not be used to divide us.”
The five years I spent working in the border town of Musina, a melting pot of cultures, in the early to mid-2000s, sometimes felt like experiencing South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique in one place. I was now able to navigate Nancefield, Mshongoville, Skoonplaas, Campbell (Khembo), Copper Pot, Harper Mine, among others, with the local blend of Sotho and my now improved Tshivenda!
After all, former president Nelson Mandela said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
As I was retracing my ancestry, I learnt through my great-uncle, Thupetji, in 1992 that the Maubane people belong to the Bakgatla-ba-Mocha tribe. The tribe owes its being to Mocha, son of Chief Matlaisane, a descendant of Chief Tabane.
According to Ngaka Modiri Molema in the book The Bantu past and present: An Ethnographic and historical study of the Native races of South Africa, Tabane’s ancestry can be traced back to Mokgatla, after which the Bakgatla tribe is named and is a descendant of Mohurutshe.
Though several texts indicate that Tabane might have left the Bakgatla tribe with some followers, moving to Zoutpansberg and marrying VhaVenda women, this information cannot be confirmed.
Bahurutshe or Bakgatla-ba-Bagolo are apparently an offshoot of Bakwena, who Molema estimated their arrival in South Africa from Bechuanaland – present day Botswana – towards the end of the 16th century.
It is thus important to record our stories, so that future generations can refer to correct history and as author, Bessie Head said: “I write because I have authority from life to do so.”
Zimbabwe, including its language, is easily accessible from Musina. Learning what Jah Seed’s Shona verses on Bongo Maffin’s song Mari ye phepha meant, was an aha moment.
Goat meat was never in short supply after soccer matches with Zimbabwean brothers around the Beitbridge area.
Africa, let us be reminded, as late Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe once told us: “There are things one must do for oneself.” This includes unity.
I picked a bit of the Chichewa language when I worked in Musina. It was however during one of the travels in Gauteng that a Malawian born chef was kind enough to teach me the basics.
As I salute Lilongwe, former Malawian president Joyce Banda said: “Leadership is about falling in love with the people you serve and the people falling in love with you.”
There were a few Mozambican nationals living among us in the village, either building houses for locals or fixing cars. Knowledge about Mozambique was until the mid-90s limited to Samora Machel and Maputo been a refuge for South African freedom fighters.
One September in 2009, crossing the Lebombo border post for the Southern African Inter-Municipal Sports Association games, one was greeted by Onjane in Xichangana!
During the stay in Maputo and Matola, it was evident that the country was still picking up the pieces in the wake of the brutal civil war and the recurrent floods over the years. The violence in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique, is unfortunate and opposite to AU’s 2020 theme of silencing of guns.
A visit to Maputo was definitely not going to be complete without strolling down Samora Machel Avenue or touching the Eduardo Mondlane University grounds.
Let the late Mozambican president Samora Machel’s words, “For the nation to live, the tribe must die”, be with us.
Muli shani Lusaka
Zambia, Lusaka in particular, is recorded to have housed South African anti-apartheid activists. An invitation to address the Zambia Public Relations Association 7th Annual conference in February 2019 was an honour.
In preparation for the Livingstone trip, one had to learn basic greetings in Bemba, Nyanja, Lozi and Tonga languages. I must say Nyanja sounded closer to Chichewa, while Lozi to Khelobedu.
In the company of the then Zambian High Commissioner to South Africa, we announced our arrival by paying a courtesy visit to the mayor of Livingstone, as is customary for African folks. An amazing hospitality experience was awaiting us on the banks of the Zambezi river.
First president of an independent Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda told us that: “The moment you have protected an individual, you have protected society.”
Habari Dar es Salaam!
The freedom of South Africa was plotted in Morogoro, Tanzania, among the many places.
An opportunity to address the Public Relations Society of Tanzania members in Dar es Salaam as part of the 2019 edition of Africa Communications Week (AWC) was thrilling.
Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse’s song Zanzibar also came to mind and one thought of an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the place too! It was however not to be due to passport validity and visa issues, thus having to settle for a chat.
ACW’s mission is to empower and equip Africa focused communications professionals with the tools and resources to change the current narratives about Africa.
Fellow Africans, the ball is in our court to create good inter-tribal narratives, then pull together in creating a shared African narrative while celebrating Africanism all year.
Hello Africa, Manahoana Antananarivo (Malagasy), Iyaa Windhoek (Herero), Muraho Kigali (Kinyarwanda), Mbote Kinshasa (Lingala), P?l? o Lagos (Yoruba).
It was the late Tanzanian president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who told us that: “Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated.”
One Africa, God protect us from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
Maubane is a public relations strategist and social commentator