Mutodi apologises from controversial comments on Ndebele nationhood

Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi was forced into a climbdown on Wednesday after he withdrew controversial comments which critics said questioned the nationality of the Ndebele people.

Mutodi, who has deleted a Twitter video in which he made the comments, said he had been “misunderstood”.

“My tweet saying about three million Zimbabweans were of South African descent has riled some Zimbabweans. The tweet has been misunderstood, giving political capital to the opposition. I wish to withdraw the tweet and unreservedly issue my apologies to whoever was affected,” Mutodi tweeted on Wednesday.

There were demands for Mutodi to be sacked over the controversial comments which were interpreted to mean Ndebeles were refugees in Zimbabwe.

The gaffe-prone Goromonzi West MP released a short video calling on South Africans to show tolerance for foreigners and gave the example of Zimbabwe, which he said had “accommodated” Ndebele people fleeing from King Shaka.

“For South Africa, you will find that here in Zimbabwe, if you didn’t know, just about 1836 we accommodated thousands of South Africans who came into Zimbabwe fleeing from (King) Shaka, and they were being led by Mzilikazi,” Mutodi said.

“They settled on the western parts of the country, in Matabeleland. As I am speaking right now, at least three million Zimbabweans have South African origin.”

The comments sparked anger, as critics rounded on Mutodi and demanded that President Emmerson Mnangagwa should sack him and dissociate his Zanu-PF party from the comments.

Human rights lawyer David Coltart called Mutodi’s comments “remarkable” as he asked: “Does Zanu-PF accept a constitutional birth right or not?”

Some reminded Mutodi that when the Ndebeles settled in present-day Zimbabwe, the current borders did not exist. It was not until 1885 that European leaders met at the infamous Berlin Conference to divide Africa and arbitrarily draw up borders that exist to this day.

Mutodi was also criticised by Mnangagwa’s lawyer Tinomudaishe Chinyoka.

“I think that when you reflect back on your work, this is one tweet you will most regret. At least l hope so comrade. This is really unfortunate. Zimbabwe is the sum total of its people, all of whom came from somewhere. Ndebele people in Zimbabwe are not South Africans,” Chinyoka tweeted Mutodi on Wednesday.

It is not clear if Mutodi was spoken to by Mnangagwa before he retracted his comments.


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