This article seeks not to promote an independent state of Matabeleland neither does it seek to undermine nor discredit the wishes of those whose preference is an independent Mthwakazi state. My interests lie in the justice for the people of Matabeleland and the region itself.
Anyone denying the underdevelopment of Matabeleland and the marginalisation of the people of Matabeleland, especially the Ndebele speaking people since 1980 will be disingenuous. Equally, any individuals or organisations in and from Matabeleland thinking that verbal and physical abuse of Shona speaking people will bring about justice to the people of Matabeleland are delusional at best.
It is from that stand point that I bemoan the emergence in Matabeleland of groups whose ideological slant bears an uncanny resemblance to that of ZANU PF characterised by a strong appeal to emotions (at the expense of reason) of potential supporters, polarising citizens, and a militant philosophy, rhetorically vile, hate filled, unwavering intolerance to divergence of opinion, etc. Darkness cannot be fought with darkness, the room only becomes darker and all inside can easily lose their footing.
In the fight against real injustices perpetuated by the current Shona-dominated (with a sprinkling of Ndebeles) government let people not lose focus of the philosophical foundations of Matabeleland. Matabeleland has always been a welcoming rainbow region and that should not be lost in the grips of hatred. Hatred is hardly a platform to build justice from.
What Matabeleland demands is justice and not revenge nor reckless short-sighted actions. The interests of the region lie not in it being rid of Shona speaking individuals but in the fight against policies compromising the empowerment of its people; and the people of Matabeleland come from all ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Whether it is within the current state of Zimbabwe or devolved government or independence, the needs of Matabeleland lie in the full empowerment of its diverse population. People interested in Matabeleland’s development should be coming up with proposals to empower the region and not merely telling people what they already know.
People know about Gukurahundi atrocities and the unwillingness of the current government to fully acknowledge the atrocities and bring to justice the perpetrators, people are more than aware of differential development, people experience (on a daily basis) being overlooked for jobs and promotion within Matabeleland in preference for people brought in from the Shona ethnic group and region. That is a governmental policy that individual Shona speaking people have no significant control over. Protest groups do have a role to play in increasing awareness but awareness should be followed by real and positive action.
Matabeleland groups have the opportunity to present their constructive proposals to the people of Matabeleland on how they intend to address problems afflicting the region. The time to act is now but possible solutions should certainly never include policies intent on purging the region of any ethnic group.
Any attempt to build an ethnically pure Matabeleland is misplaced as the concept of ethnic purity is a misguided one and even if that theory were to be reliably proven it would be impossible to substantiate in Matabeleland. Matabeleland cannot be reduced to ethnic simplicity because it is a complex socio-cultural region.
I have no doubt that the government of Zimbabwe has never been committed to the human, physical and economic development of Matabeleland. The issue of Matabeleland needs to be debated with maturity and honesty and I therefore implore all peace-loving people of Zimbabwe in general and Matabeleland in particular to exercise extreme caution as they openly debate the issue of the development (if not lack of it) in Matabeleland. In the fight for justice for Matabeleland and its people let us not lose our moral campus: the minimum standards of decency should be retained and maintained, restraint should be exercised. Though it may seem a tough ask it is by no means impossible – forget ethnicity; forget skin colour it just is what it is: colour! As long as people live in Matabeleland and call it home then they deserve equal recognition, protection, dignity and respect. All oppressed men and women of Matabeleland should be set free and the hungry be fed. Let Matabeleland rise by lifting its people not by pulling down particular ethnic groups because that will be nothing but a superficial rise. A truly empowered Matabeleland, irrespective of its legal status, can only be good for everyone (within and without)!