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Zimbabweans in SA Protest Over Offensive Ndebele Exam Paper

  • Benedict Nhlapho

This Grade 7 Ndebele exam paper has offended millions of people in Zimbabwe and South Africa

This Grade 7 Ndebele exam paper has offended millions of people in Zimbabwe and South Africa

A small group of South African-based Zimbabweans today staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in Johannesburg expressing dismay over this year’s Grade 7 Ndebele examination paper which they say contained derogatory language not fit for 12 year-old children.

At the Zimbabwe Embassy, the group handed a petition to Ambassador Phelekezela Mphoko, and requested him to convey their anger to the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe. The protesters demanded the immediate resignation of senior Zimbabwe National Examinations Council officials for allowing examiners to set a paper that violated some Ndebele cultural norms.

The march took place at a time when ZIMSEC has defended the paper that contains fouling language describing commercial sex workers.

The protesters, who included members of Inqama, a cultural advocacy group, Pure Ndebeles, a group of language activists, and ordinary residents of Matabeleland region, rejected ZIMSEC’s exam justification and demanded thorough investigations into the matter.

They said the 2013 Grade 7 Ndebele examination was a cultural disgrace.
One of the protesters, Sanelisiwe Mahlangu, originally from Godlwayo area in Filabusi, Matabeleland South province, said they want immediate answers from ZIMSEC.

“The words that are used there are not used in the Ndebele culture by kids. That is the problem. Some of those words yes they are Ndebele words but they are not supposed to be exposed to kids because they are very indecent and vulgar,” said Mahlangu.

Nkosinathi Nyathi, a member of a cultural group calling itself iNqama, said they want an assurance from ZIMSEC and the government that the incident will never happen again.

“We are against the use of Ndebele in a wrong context in examination papers especially for primary school children. They are too young, they are too innocent for those words. In our culture we don’t just say things,” said Nyathi.

Simanga Moyo, who hails from Bulawayo, said the improper language in the paper undermines all what the Ndebele people stand for.

“People are very angry. They are very, very, very angry. They should give us those tests. We can set those tests or they can find some certain people, who are Ndebeles who can set the test,” said Moyo.

Another protester, Nomazulu Moyo, said she wants to put it categorically clear that their visit to the embassy, had nothing to do with politics or tribal differences, but it was purely in defence of the destruction of the Ndebele language and culture.

She said, “I’m part of this protest as a concerned parent. I don’t want my son to learn something that is taboo. It’s taboo. It’s an insult to our language. I want it to stop.”

The group was invited inside the Zimbabwe Embassy, where they were addressed by the Zimbabwe Ambassador Mphoko, before handing over their petition. He told the protesters that the issue is already being addressed and promised to forward their petition to the relevant ministry in Zimbabwe.
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