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Shonas don't constitute 85% of Zimbabwe

by Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo
12 January 2013 | 8070 Views
It was once stated famously by the Nazi Propaganda Chief Josef Goebbels that "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can only be maintained for such a time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of that lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State".

One of the Big Lies that is consistently told in Zimbabwe is that "Shona people are the majority in Zimbabwe, constituting over 80% of the population." As a result, it is famously and erroneously claimed that "there can never be a non-Shona president in Zimbabwe" because "the Shona, as the majority, will always vote for their own." I would like to take this opportunity this week to challenge this Big Lie that the Shona constitute over 80% of the Zimbabwean population. That I shall do by looking that population figures per province in Zimbabwe.     

Zimbabwean Population per Province

The Zimstats Preliminary Report of the 2012 Census tells us that population per Province as at 2012 is as follows: Mashonaland West (11%), Mashonaland Central (9%), Mashonaland East (10%), Manicaland (14%), Maswingo (11%), Midlands (13%), Matebeleland North (6%) and Matebeleland South (5%), Bulawayo (5%), Harare (16%).

From these figures, we find that the typically 'Shona Provinces' - Mashonaland, Manicaland and Maswingo - combined make up 55%. To that figure we are unable to add the total population figure of Harare because we know that a great portion of that is not necessarily Shona since people in that city are from all over the country. We can safely estimate that at least a quarter of the population of that city - 4% - is non-Shona, meaning we can only add a 12% Shona population to the other typically Shona provinces, giving us a total 'typically Shona provinces' population of about 67%.

But then we still have districts like Chipinge constituting 17% of Manicaland, and that District is mainly Ndau, or truthfully speaking, is actually Shangaan. The same applies to Chiredzi and Mwenezi which are predominantly Shangaan and Pfumi (allied to the Venda and Kalanga) constituting 32% of Maswingo, and Kariba which is predominantly Tonga constituting 5% of Mashonaland West.  
Now, taking these figures we find the following: the total Shona population - what we have called "typically Shona provinces" - minus the 4% 'non-Shona' from Harare and minus the Shangaan, Pfumbi and Tonga populations, we get the following: Maswingo (1 486 604 - 443 105 [Chiredzi + Mwenezi) + Manicaland (1 755 000 - 434 602 [Chipinge]), Mashonaland West (1 449 938 - 68 162), Mashonaland Central (1 139 940) + Mashonaland East (1 337 059) = 6 222 672, which is 48% of the Zimstats given Zimbabwean population of 12 973 808!

Now, assuming that the Midlands Province (with a population of 1 622 476) is divided 50-50 between the Shona on the one hand and the Tonga (Gokwe North) and Xhosa and Ndebele (Lower Gwelo, southern Gokwe, southern Kwekwe, and Mberengwa), we are able to confidently add a Midlands Province Shona population figure to 'the typically Shona province" as given above, leading to a Shona country population of about 6 222 672 + 811 238 = 7 033 910, which is 54% of the total Zimbabwean population of 12 973 808.

Even if we were to also assume that in Bulawayo and the Matebeleland Provinces the Shona constitute about a quarter of the population (2 084 592) as we did for Harare (which would be 521 148), that means adding this figure to the Shona population we have above will then have a total Zimbabwe Shona population of about 7 555 058, which is 58%! 

I know that I have taken what may be called a simplistic approach to statistics, but there is no doubt that this is close to accurate, and I trust that it can be useful to certainly people in the country.

Ok, so what does this mean for the Country?
The obvious question is "So what? Of what help is this?" I say it is very helpful in a number of ways.

A non-Shona President is Possible, and Professor Welshman Ncube maybe the One

It is not a given that there will never be a non-Shona president in Zimbabwe. Unless we assume that Shona people are all diehard tribalists, then 42% of the non-Shona population plus the reasonable Shona people who are able to vote even for non-Shona candidates will certainly be able to deliver victory to a non-Shona Presidential candidate. This means that yes, Professor Welshman Ncube's Presidential aspirations are not a pipe dream, they are based on reality.

Think of what the Shangaan/Ndau in Chipinge, the Tonga in Mashonaland West and Midlands can vote. I am not suggesting that they will vote for Professor Ncube because he is from the Midlands and non-Shona, but because they see their languages dying in the hands of ChiShona and their identity disappearing, and in MDC and Professor Welshman Ncube they will see a leader who is a champion of Devolution of Power, which will give them a great measure of self-government and self-determination, and hence freedom to preserve their languages and identity, and most importantly, to access economic opportunity in their own areas.

The same applies to the Manyika, who in Professor Ncube will see a Presidential Candidate who is committed to them becoming the primary beneficiaries of the estimated $800 Billion of Diamond wealth in their region through Devolution of Power, instead of voting for a Mugabe and Zanu PF who are overseeing the uplifting of raw diamond in Manicaland for processing in Mashonaland, or a Morgan Tsvangirai who though he comes from that Province, has reservations about Devolution of Power, meaning under his government things will remain exactly they are today in terms of governance. 

People of Matebeleland Should not Give Up on their Own

Coming back home to Matebeleland and the Midlands, these figures should give us a great measure of confidence. There are those who claim that they would like to support and vote for Professor Welshman Ncube, but it would all be in vain because "since the Shona are the majority", Tsvangirai will win anyway. That, as I said previously, is not a given. Professor Welshman Ncube is able to win the Presidential election and form the next government, and for the first time in the history of Zimbabwe, we as a country will have a government that guarantees the self-government and self-determination of all people of this country from Mutare to Victoria Falls and from Beitbridge to Chirundu through true Devolution of Power, with the country mapped into five Provinces - Matebeleland, Manicaland, Midlands, Maswingo, and Mashonaland - each with its own Provincial Government and Provincial Assembly. What Zimbabwean in their right mind will not like that kind of arrangement?

I know there are those who will say that I am asking people to vote along tribal lines. But let's face it, we Bakalanga, Banambya, Vhavenda, BaTonga, AmaNdebele, BaXangani, etc have always voted for Shona Presidential Candidates, including Morgan Tsvangirai himself in 2008. We therefore cannot be accused of voting along tribal lines!

Oh, and lastly, let us not forget that the definition of the word Shona in official circles includes Bakalanga, Banambya and Vhavenda, who, because of the way they have been marginalized and their identity and languages decimated and denied opportunity in their homeland, will most likely vote for Professor Welshman Ncube and MDC. The claim that "the Shona constitute over 80% of Zimbabwe's population" is a Goebbelsian Lie, and let us not be deceived into desperation by that lie! 

That, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way I see it this week. You can always catch me by email on


All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Source: Ndzimu-unami Emmanuel Moyo


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