“As Slow as a Tortoise, and as Clever as a Hare.” Folktales as Lessons on Democracy, Equal Opportunities, and Human Rights among the Ndebele

  • Lindiwe Ndlovu Great Zimbabwe University
  • Faith Sibanda Great Zimbabwe University


Indigenous African societies have, for a long time, been using their knowledge for the betterment of their lives. They have also demonstrated an ability to manipulate their immediate or remote surroundings to live sustainably. Those who claim to fight for equal and human rights in Africa do so under the misconception that they, and the developing world, have historically and inherently violated, and continue to violate, human rights in numerous ways. While this might not be completely dismissed, there is a plethora of evidence from African folktales to demonstrate that Africans have not only respected human rights, but have also encouraged equal opportunities for every member of their society. This article cross-examines Ndebele folktales with the intention of demonstrating that African indigenous knowledge exhibited through folktales was a well-organised system, which ensured respect for human rights for all members, regardless of their physical or social stature. Central to this discussion are the folktales which focus on the role played by the vulnerable members of the animal community, who replicate their human counterparts. Folktales are unarguably a creation by the indigenes and emanate from their socio-political experiences, as well as their observations of the surroundings. This suggests that indigenous people already had an idea about human rights as well as the need for equal opportunities since time immemorial.