Political change in Zimbabwe will only occur when minds are freed from the debilitating ZANU PF philosophies that have divided people for the past 30 years. The perfected art of creating enemies of convenience (in the minds of people) has kept people apart and maintained ZANU PF’s rule.
In the early 1980s the people from Matabeleland were the enemies of the state. People from that region were collectively labelled as dissidents, if not sympathisers, who resented a Shona-led government. On that basis the infamous Gukurahundi activities gained moral support from the mainly Shona speaking people across the country most of whom genuinely believed they were under threat from Ndebeles. Then from the late 1990s to date, white Zimbabweans and the West are supposedly waging a political war by proxy through funding the opposition. The objective – the gullible are told – is to re-colonise the country, reverse all the gains (used advisedly) from independence and make sure the land reform program does not go ahead. Sadly for a long while many people believed and it will not be an exaggeration to suggest that many still believe. It is also true however, that many people now have seen into the ZANU PF propaganda machinery and many too have borne the brunt of state violence for daring to question the government’s interpretation of things.
In public Zimbabwean political parties may be declaring different philosophical approaches yet in reality they bear structural resemblance. Is it coincidental that present leaders of political parties are all from the Shona ethnic group and deputies are from the Ndebele ethnic group? If anything, the current trend shows a continued fixation to ethnicity and race than qualities of politicians. Are we to believe only people from the Shona ethnic group are skilled and credible politicians while Ndebele people are brilliant deputies and white people are only good enough for minor roles in Zimbabwean politics? Is there an unwritten ethnic classification through which political roles are allocated to Zimbabweans? If as evidenced in many urban communities, the ethnicity of community leaders has no reflection on their performance of roles for which they have been selected why does ethnicity suddenly matter in national politics? I believe people need to stop seeing the world in the eyes of any of the current Zimbabwean political parties.
Minds have to be freed by a strong civic society; people need to see each other beyond ethnic and racial groups first. I am averse to any classification of people let alone the labelling of people as indigenous or not indigenous. Policies built around that classification smack of racism and are thoroughly unhelpful for social cohesion locally and for the confidence of the economically vital international business community. Such classification creates a potentially dangerous stratification of people leading to unjustified perceptions of superiority of some population groups over others. We know what happens when people perceive themselves as superior to others; they tend to claim privileges and rights over and above their reasonable entitlements.
Unfortunately all of Zimbabwe’s political parties embrace the indigenous/ non-indigenous population classification and indigenisation policies that seek to promote the interests of black and not white Zimbabweans. Indigenisation must be taken to mean local and should be understood as the creation of sustainable economic conditions that support local businesses irrespective of the skin colour of the owners. I do understand and in principle subscribe to the need to advance previously disadvantaged Zimbabweans but that should not be based on pulling down or sidelining previously advantaged groups. Zimbabweans, as determined by their citizenship, are entitled to expect to rise by merit.
There needs to be an equitable distribution of resources; available resources should be allocated according to need and an enabling environment created to optimise every Zimbabwean’s ability. Race and ethnicity should never be allowed to determine the degree of state intervention. As already alluded to, that is not and will not be happening until Zimbabweans emancipate themselves from the mental servitude of selfish politicians who are bent on promoting their political interests and/ or perpetuating their hold on power. It seems incomprehensible to me that political institutions can be allowed to shape Zimbabwean society. People should not be at the mercy of political institutions; if these institutions are a creation of the Zimbabwean society then the same society needs to change them if they are seen to be in conflict with the objectives of the broader society.
If people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds would participate freely in joint community activities (both social and economic), what fails them to extend that cross racial and ethnic mutual respect when it comes to political matters? There is surely something seriously wrong with the presentation of Zimbabwean politics that corrupts minds of the unsuspecting people. Zimbabweans still do not quite understand the function of opposition in politics; political opponents are viewed as enemies: that is straight from a ZANU PF manuscript. It is now time individual Zimbabweans realised that the political institution they unselfishly helped set up is now the elephant in the building that needs to be expelled.