Twalumba Holdings is financing the project that will be coordinated by the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of African languages in collaboration with the University of Zambia.
Launching the project at Lubimbi High School under Chief Kavula in Binga, VP Mujuru said Government policy was that all languages should be treated equally.
“All Zimbabweans are equal and there is no group of people that is better than the other, be it Zezurus, Ndebeles or Tongas. The liberation struggle was fought so that all of us could be treated equally,” said VP Mujuru.
“In 1980 President Mugabe initiated the teaching of the Tonga language but the programme did not go well because there were no books written in Tonga. We fully support what the University of Zimbabwe and Twalumba Holdings through Dr Nkululeko Sibanda have started.”
Dr Sibanda, who comes from Binga District, is a businessman and academic. He is also the group chief executive officer of Twalumba Holdings.
Dr Sibanda said the project will involve every Tonga person in different parts of the country including those in the diaspora.
“A few months ago we had a symposium where we engaged the UZ and their counterparts in Zambia on how they could assist us to tell the Tonga story by the Tonga people. UZ came up with a strategy to have a programme where Tonga people would write essays and stories about everything they know about their language and culture,” said Dr Sibanda.
“The history of our chieftaincies for instance is not documented. All the written material would be used to create what we call the Tonga language bank. This would be used to write Tonga books that would be used in teaching Tonga in schools and universities.”
Dr Sibanda said over the years the Tonga language and culture have been distorted because there was no literature to preserve it.
“Over the years we had no Tonga authors and that has resulted in distortion of our identity and history. One such distortion is that we are called Tonga people when in fact we are the Basitonga, which means people of the great river.
“We have been made to feel inferior and our children go to school to learn other people’s languages. Our names have been changed. Mudenda is now called Dube. The time has come to address and correct that.”
Dr Sibanda said Tonga was an international language as there were many Tonga-speaking people in countries such as Zambia, Ghana, Malawi and overseas.
Meanwhile, VP Mujuru said 4 210 Tonga books were being printed as part of efforts to support the programme. She said her office would facilitate the printing of 10 000 copies for the project.
The Vice-President said the Tonga language should be taught at colleges and universities to ensure effective teaching of the language in schools.
She also said her office had engaged the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to enrol at least 15 student nurses in nursing schools in order to improve health service delivery in Binga clinics.
Last year the Government introduced the teaching of Tonga language at primary school level. The subject is now being examined at Grade Seven.
Provincial education director, Mrs Boithatelo Mnguni was part of the large gathering that included Chief Pashu and Chief Kavula, who also attended the colourful event that was punctuated by traditional Tonga music and dance.