Language is a powerful tool which forms the backbone of defining one’s culture and according to analysts, if a nation fails to give due recognition to some languages over others, this might result in societal divisions.
The launch of nine previously marginalised national languages by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation this Sunday (yesterday) is a huge step towards enhancing national cohesion and promoting development.
The apex failure by a state to recognize the importance of a particular language was particularly demonstrated on 16 June 1976 when close to 10 000 black South African students marched on the streets of Soweto demanding the right to be taught in their mother language among other things.
The event resulted in hundreds of the students being shot dead by the apartheid regime culminating in the Organisation of African Unity coining the fateful day, ‘A Day of the African Child’ in remembrance of the occurrence.
In 2013, the Zimbabwean government came up with a people driven constitution which recognised 16 languages as being national.
This Sunday, ZBC launched nine bulletins for previously marginalised languages bringing to 13 the number of national languages bulletins on national television.
There is no language that is inferior to the other and what ZBC has done will foster national solidity according to historian and social commentator Mr Phathisa Nyathi.
“You see what you call an inferior language might be a dominant language in the neighboring country. There is no language considered dominant over the other and we need to appreciate this as a nation,” says Mr Nyathi.
A communications specialist Mr Felix Moyo says the historic event by ZBC was long overdue as it will encourage the perceived previously marginalised groups to fully participate in the national development agenda.
“This milestone will make these groups to feel they are part of the society. They used to feel like they are not part of the whole set up bringing about the us and them aspect,” he said.
The recognition of language diversity is not only a tool for national development but also a step in the right direction to appease previously frustrated audiences, says Mr Nyathi.
“We have experienced a situation whereby most households had been finding solace in satellite television. People want to see themselves in the television and this has been happening through seeing their languages in those broadcast,” says Mr Nyathi.
After the launch of the national languages bulletins, the national broadcaster now remains with the challenge to expedite the inclusion of current affairs and entertainment programmes which captures the national languages as defined by the country’s supreme law of the land.