Ntabazinduna Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni has described the removal of the iconic Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo (JMN) International airport signage as a tribal act that looks down upon the culture of the Ndebele people.
The shield, the knobkerrie and spear were part of the signage at the airport but authorities removed and replaced it with a new one which has the government’s coat of arms emblem, an act that has triggered mixed emotions.
Speaking at a CITE Twitter Space, This Morning on Asakhe, Chief Ndiweni said before that shield was erected, consultations were done so it was upsetting for it to be removed without going through the same process.
“We have to be allowed to breathe. Whilst walking around the city, one wants to see those resemblances to their culture and identity all around them and when they look at that airport, they are proud that there is some part of them in it,” he said.
“But to remove that icon we have in Bulawayo airport; you are actually removing part of that person and I am totally against this move. This whole front and design went to the people, decisions were made and a selection process was done. It reflects all of us today.”
Chief Ndiweni stated that whoever was behind the decision to remove the shield and undo the people’s choice had ulterior motives.
“Who is the arrogant person who took it upon themselves to mess around with that design, that went through a whole process? Suddenly today they have the arrogance to mess around with it. What was the thought process behind changing that? The person who had that thought process to remove the shield was thinking on a tribal basis and was using tribalism” he remarked.
“There’s no way you can come to a conclusion to remove the centrepiece without having gone through tribal processes. Tribalism comes in different formats and it raised its ugly head here.”
The traditional leader explained the shield was “profoundly significant” as it was the heritage and culture of the Ndebele nation.
“I’m using it in its broadest context as within that modern Ndebele nation, there are other nations but those symbols are profoundly important here in this region because those were tools of the military of the day. They signified the people as a people, to say this is what they are doing. In essence when you remove that shield from JMN airport you are removing the collective Ndebele nation from that airport,” Chief Ndiweni said.
“How then can you do that when that airport resides amongst the Ndebele nation and it signifies the City of Kings and Queens. You cannot say it’s the City of Kings and Queens whilst you removed the nation that celebrated that city of kings and queens, that’s nonsense and foolishness. It’s a City of Kings and Queens because of the Ndebele nation that is there.”
The traditional leader noted that the shield centrepiece represented Joshua Nkomo, who was identified as Father Zimbabwe.
“That whole logo was talking about him, who he was, where he came from, his whole identity and everything around him. The individual who removed that shield was attacking Father Zimbabwe and what they signified. If you look at Joshua Nkomo, throughout his political career, he was seen carrying whole induku (knobkerrie) and sometimes he would put on his traditional attire. This therefore points to say people who did this, did so thinking in a wrong manner,” Chief Ndiweni said.
He added that by replacing it with the government’s coat of arms, the national emblem was put in disrepute.
“It was put in at a wrong place and disrespected people. This has brought it into disrepute because now we are fighting as to why it was put there,” he said.
Chief Ndiweni said such negative occurrences were bound to happen if there was an administration that is “completely out of touch with the men and women on the streets of Zimbabwe.”
“For some time, our current administration has been engaged in social engineering, something that has proven to be a failure for a very long time. Indeed, it never worked. The political state is formed by nation of nations and Zimbabwe, is a nation of nations. So long as you try to denationalise or remove the people’s identity, you are in trouble,” he said.
“To cut to the chase, the JMN Airport is in Bulawayo, the City of Kings and Queens, that is its geographical and cultural location.”
The shield is part of what identifies these people and regions, said the chief.
Chief Ndiweni urged people to speak out when they felt disrespected for their culture, as had happened with the removal of the signage.