Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle reporter
WHEN information and communication technologies (ICT) began to permeate Africa in the late 1990s and aggressively around the turn of the millennium, cynics saw only vices that came with the disruptive technology.
While ICT have created a new global normal, they have also cost some people jobs.
As the world is rapidly moving towards a digital economy, being more globally competitive means embracing ICT devices and services.
Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok and WhatsApp have revolutionized communication, with the latter being the most popular in Zimbabwe.
Most people in Zimbabwe use WhatsApp for communication purposes, both on a business and personal level.
The platform is convenient because even illiterate people can use voice memos or video messages instead of typing messages. Long-lost friends and family members have managed to locate everyone through social media platforms.
The power of WhatsApp has led a Zimbabwean family to trace their family lineage.
The Nkomo family, originating from the village of Somnene in Bulilima, Matabeleland South, have traced their lineage to their great-great-grandfather, identified as Helani Nkomo. Through his ancestors, they have connected up to six generations thanks to WhatsApp.
They are now planning a big reunion, having managed to gather 400 relatives who all trace their roots to Helani.
Plumtree businessman Mkhulunyelwa Nkomo said WhatsApp communication has enabled them to do the unimaginable.
“We are on our way to establishing our family line and in doing so we have created a WhatsApp group with over 400 members and we have also managed to connect other members who are not on WhatsApp,” he said.
“The family line is called the Helani family because Helani is our great-great-grandfather and after him came Sinyanduka and we identified his six siblings. So we connected everyone whose lineages belong to Helani to the Nkomo family.”
Mr Nkomo said the exercise started last year and they plan to hold a meeting in December in Somnene village in Builima district, the land of their ancestors.
Each head of family pays R300 to allow their families to attend the big gathering.
Mr Nkomo said he believes they will be able to attract over 700 family members. Some of them have started meeting in different places to plan the event.
“So far we have six generations from my children to my great-great-grandfathers and for others it could be even more. As Helani descendants, we have decided to reconnect. Our people are victims of forced migration due to colonialism, while others may have also migrated to other places, including in search of employment opportunities,” he said.
Mr Nkomo said while his family has roots in Somnene village, they also have members in Tsholotsho, Bambadzi, Brunaperg, Makhulela and Dombodema, among others.
Some of the family members live in diaspora in countries like South Africa, Botswana, UK, Canada and Australia.
“Hopefully through this meeting we will be able to document our family history and the formation of the family line. We intend to write a family book, which will then be used to pass on the family heritage from one generation to the next,” Mr Nkomo said.
He said the determination of family roots became clearer when they realized there was a serious risk of their children marrying each other.
Mr Nkomo said on two occasions they discouraged cousins from getting married.
The clan has since set up family life insurance to support some relatives who may find themselves in difficult situations.
Mr Nkomo said although they have made progress in connecting the line, They believe that more people may need to be connected.
Mr Nkomo said those wishing to connect with family can use his contacts on 0772351694.
Mr. Jeki Mabaleka Nkomo, the meeting’s organizing chairman, said the response has been overwhelming since they thought about the idea.
“What I do know is that we haven’t been able to identify everyone. We are still looking for each other and hope that by the time the meeting is organized, more relatives will be connected,” he said.
Methuseli Moyo, a lecturer and communications expert at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), said ICTs have revolutionized communications by bringing distant families closer.
“ICT has brought people closer together and families are taking advantage of technology to stay close, even across continents. People now have family chat groups where they interact and cultivate the spirit of unity,” Mr Moyo said.
He said ICT has overcome isolation and even loneliness for families separated by migration. – @nqotshili