By Mafungwase wako Mageba, South Africa:
Ever wondered where it all started, how it started, and why it started? This has hounded me for a while, and a few weeks ago, I decided to dig for information. I consulted with history first and learned that the feud may have started around the Shaka Zulu era. His leadership is famous of overpowering other tribes and turning every conquered into a Zulu. Shaka hated weak men and his main objective was to grow the Zulu nation. Being forced into another tribe could anger anyone. Some chiefs fled when the Zulu army approached, some fought and were eventually defeated. Mthembu, the leader of the Tembu tribe, is one of the leaders who fled and formed his kingdom, the Xhosa speakers. I won’t delve much into history because I can’t conclude that the current tension between the tribes is because of it. That was centuries ago…
After that came colonialism and apartheid that decided to group people according to their tribes. Their master plan – “divide and conquer”. They did win the land with that strategy and got away with a lot because when separated the natives couldn’t resist. Those divisions are impossible to bridge even today. If people had stayed with their own for so many years, they wouldn’t feel threatened or insulted when others questioned their way of life. People are naturally curious. When in contact with someone from another culture, naturally you would ask how they do things and why they do them. The way you react may offend the other person, and the trouble begins. Tribal wars are dangerous because they can be sparked by a very tiny thing and blow into something big.
In 1990 in Thokoza, there was a massacre where hundreds of people died in what was believed to be a Xhosa vs Zulu feud. Men from the hostels were fighting the people in the nearby squatter camps. People went to seek refuge in the nearby hospital and they confirmed that the fight was between the two tribes. The squatter camps residents reported that Zulu men went head hunting Xhosa men, moving from door to door. This was long after the killings began. When questioned, some of the Zulu guys agreed to have gone to the Xhosa homes but they claimed that was to seek some agreement and bring peace to the area. Many of those who survived had gun shot wounds, and claimed to have been shot by police officers. The number of deaths due to gunshots were high, higher than those who were stabbed or beaten. There were also reports that the fighting was fueled by political parties rather than the tribal unions. It was said that the two political parties also divided the people according to their tribes and encouraged the confrontation. Similar fights were reported in Kwa-Zulu Natal around the same time. Those were not tribal per say, but rather directly linked to these political parties. Incidents like these also make one wonder about how it all truly began. Who started the killings and why? Obviously there is no straight answer to these questions. If anything, they raise emotions to those affected by the incidents.
Fast forward to 27 years later, the Xhosa-Zulu feud seems to have prevailed through the generations. Even though people no longer fight publicly, there is a silent resentment between the tribes. You get these through remarks and comparisons done by both parties. There has been a number of stories/films based on this, including uGugu no Andile, a love story of a young Zulu girl who falls in love with a Xhosa boy but their relationship isn’t approved. South Africa’s very own Romeo and Juliet story… I decided to follow the Gugu and Andile route in expanding my research, and I dated a Xhosa guy. I’m a typical Zulu girl, culturally brewed but open to mixed relationships. I think I’m just too adventurous. Anyway, the ‘relationship’ went smoothly, contrary to popular belief. Many believed we were naturally not compatible and my main aim was to prove the stereotype wrong.
We both went into the ‘relationship’ at full speed. I had a deadline to meet and a lot of points to prove. I had to make him comfortable around me very quickly and establish a good connection. Luckily, the connection was there and we got on very well. We had a lot in common, that made the ‘getting to know each other’ process very easy. Our languages are almost similar, with the exception of certain clicks. Even though he liked me very much, he did have something against Zulus in general. I didn’t want to push this emotion but I wondered why he felt that way, or if he ever thought about the reason he doesn’t like them. He probably just inherited it. Here are examples of his remarks that led me to this conclusion:
“My work is 100% Xhosa; I don’t want any Zulus or any nonsense.” Talking about his project I assisting with. Me – Zulu nonsense.
“I can’t stand Zulu girls, they are full of themselves.” Said a guy who was sleeping with a Zulu girl that is probably really full of herself. I stopped what I was doing and looked at him, imagine my shock. He responded to the look by, “Not you baby, I like you.”
I couldn’t help being fascinated about this. Did he feel like he was sleeping with the enemy? Maybe that was some kind of fetish he had, the thought of having someone culturally unfit for you. A friend of mine accused me of doing the same thing, I found that hilarious. I have never, not even once, looked at Xhosas as enemies. To be completely honest, I enjoyed the company of the Xhosa guy. I never felt like I was with an enemy, instead he was quite fun. He made me laugh, and was quite loving. Based on my experience with this guy, I’d say not all Xhosa guys are manipulative liars. The ‘relationship’ didn’t last long but it was long enough for my research findings.
The break up had nothing to do with our languages or tribes. I refuse to believe that personal clashes have anything to our cultures. I cannot conclude on this feud yet, I’m yet to investigate further. Visit Xhosa areas, date more, befriend more, and maybe I’ll finally get to understand this whole thing. I did ask some of my own people, the Zulus, why they feel like they were born to be Xhosa enemies. Honestly, there wasn’t any concrete response. It was all stereotypes and mega ethnocentrism. Xhosas being liars is the first excuse, but who doesn’t lie? You would be amused by all the advice I got when people found out that I was dating a Xhosa guy.
The question of Xhosa girls being gold diggers and Zulu men being stingy… this is one of the reasons you hardly find these type of couples. It’s not about personalities being compatible, or cultures clashing, but rather the lifestyle in which each tribe chooses to live. I did a little investigation in this matter too, just so I hear from the Xhosa girls and how they take the allegations. Imagine my amusement after learning that this is true. The term isn’t gold-digging by the way, but assertiveness. They explained to me that they are raised to directly ask men for what they want and this is them merely reminding him of his primary duty – providing for his woman. I enjoyed hearing the comments, and how money has become a primary thing in modern day relationships. As for Zulu brothers being stingy, maybe I can confirm but then again how many have I dated? Another question that arose to me was; does culture/tribe influence how a person looks at finances?
These are some crazy assumptions and stereotypes that need to be addressed, for not only South Africa, but Africa as well, to be more peaceful and united. This is not the only tribal feud in the history of Africa, there are many more – the Rwandan genocide being the most brutal to be recorded in African history. As non violent as the Zulu vs Xhosa feud is in these times, the fact that people still feel the need to address one as ‘Zulu girl’ or ‘Xhosa girl’ shows it is far from over. How can we be sure that violence between tribes will never occur again? I don’t want to raise children who grow up not liking other people just because they speak a different language, or belong to a different tribe. For what its worth, I’d date this Xhosa guy again, even try for a real relationship this time around. For now, let me continue my research on tribal wars and maybe I could stumble upon a solution to end them once and for all.
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