Matabeleland a hive of political activity

I wonder if the online political activity has been replicated on the mountains and valleys of Matabeleland. Things have been moving rather quickly on the cyber world and excitingly so for a change. I remember a few days ago drafting this blog and convincing myself that one of the newer and perhaps younger political organisations in Matabeleland appeared more mature, measured and more assured in its approach to the Mthwakazian independence goal compared to the other. The draft was going really well, so I thought, until I logged back onto my facebook account and stumbled on an equally mature, measured and humbling statement from the deputy leader of the rival organisation and that ‘killed’ my blog off but in a good way.

I had to change my focus from critiquing positions of specific political organisations operating in Matabeleland to the language used by different organisations. It is exciting times for the young generation but worrying times for the old guard and the major political players in Zimbabwe not because they have an interest in the people of the region but what that might mean to their political fortunes (in the case of Mthwakazi based legislators). The vote splitting potential and its impact on the Zimbabwean political landscape cannot be underestimated which is the reason why some Zimbabweans have been quick in dismissing ‘regional parties’ and ‘illiterate nationalists’.

What is in a name? I would argue that nouns carry much more than the combination of letters that make them; names have images, symbols, objects, memories, emotions, and a lot more attached to them by the amazing human brain. It is for that reason that the name Mthwakazi is substantially different from Matabeleland although the two to an extent essentially refer to the same geographical space. Mthwakazi not only covers a greater geographical area than Matabeleland but captures and marks the origins of a nation; it evokes emotions and has resonance of a shared history and struggle of the people living in the southern region of Zimbabwe. Its use today is quite deliberate and aimed at drawing different ethnic groups together for a common cause.

There is however, a noticeable and problematic feature on the contextual use of the term today in that it is increasingly being used to imply a differentiation of ethnic Ndebele people from ethnic Shona people and the exclusion thereof of the latter from any future Mthwakazi state.

Is Mthwakazi just a name for the traditional geopolitical boundaries and/ or communities co-opted into Mzilikazi’s kingdom and as such it is an exclusive reference too to the ethnicities who subjectively qualify to live in an independent Mthwakazi state (note that Mzilikazi never reached a saturation point in his nation building exercise!)? I hope an important name such as Mthwakazi does not descend into a narrow inference to ethnicity as a predicator of citizenry.

Any attempts to restrict citizenship to particular ethnic groups and exclude others will be fraught with difficulties and might even face local resistance. It has to be noted too that the idea of a modern Mthwakazi state is yet to be extensively tested for consideration within Mthwakazi and the outcome of any broad debate on the matter should not be taken as a forgone conclusion because Mthwakazi is a socio-culturally diverse and ever evolving nation. The way some ethnic groups were co-opted was not necessarily a pleasant experience although once co-opted merit and not ethnicity determined individuals’ social mobility. The prioritisation of the Ndebele language may have worked to the advantage of some and not all ethnic groups and that may now be reflected by feelings of apprehension about any such state among some groups.

Demographic factors of over a century ago and self-containing definitions of Mthwakazians cannot be justifiably used as fair determinants of citizenry in the 21st Century. For more objective and practical citizenship laws, variables qualifying an individual to be Mthwakazian today will have to be determined by a different set of rules to those applied over a century ago. Politicians need to factor in the ever changing migration patterns. There have been suggestions from some political groups of expelling ethnic Shona people from a future Mthwakazi state (Idi Amin’s Uganda rings about) but apart from unconvincing socio-political generalisations there has not been good reason to justify any potential expulsion.

Some Mthwakazi politicians and ordinary Mthwakazians can easily be accused of making judgements and consequently statements influenced by a retrospective recall bias that perceives only the wrongs and nothing good about ethnic Shona people. We should move away from sloganeering politics to evidence-based policies; we should by now be demanding that our politicians prove beyond reasonable doubt that Shona families resident in Mthwakazi are toxic to the region.

Mthwakazi a colony of Zimbabwe! Now this is an interesting take. From the current political dispensation, it is quite understandable that verbal content from Mthwakazi politicians will be typically negative in valence but Mthwakazi is not and it never has been a colony of Zimbabwe. I do not quite grasp the contextual relevance and credibility of the description of Mthwakazi as a colony of Zimbabwe though I might with some persuasion understand that as a metaphor. The colony argument does bring a different dimension to the debate but it neither adds nor subtracts value to the validity of Mthwakazian claims to self-determination, so it is best left as a metaphor.

I believe a claim on the basis of Mthwakazi being historically a separate entity and currently being systematically discriminated against by a corrupt Zimbabwean government is in and of its own sufficient: it is a fact that Mthwakazi is traditionally a separate state from that of Zimbabwe; it is indisputable that Southern Rhodesia (a precursor to the mistaken ideal of a unified Zimbabwe) was an unfortunate product of an enforced integration of two separate traditional states and it is a fact that the ZANU PF government has systematically undercut and suppressed Mthwakazian socioeconomic and political interests. I do acknowledge the injustices of the Zimbabwean government on the region and the people of Mthwakazi yet I see the actions of a ZANU PF led government as the deprivation of opportunities to a specific ethnic group on the basis of their ethnicity by a state whose depravity has only a few peers internationally.

I find the democratic path preferred by some groups in Matabeleland a very significant step and the accompanying nationalist agenda being possibly a persistent feature in the political framework of the unified Zimbabwe for years to come; it is also significant in the setting up of future fundamental social and economic as well as political structures within Mthwakazi. Ubuntu is a quintessential process through which a freer and fairer Mthwakazi society should be created and the way forward is sensible politics and policies that will create a safe and fair environment for all citizens now and in the future (irrespective of race, creed, ethnicity, gender and sexuality) to optimise their potentials. Any process predetermined by paranoid views will be counterproductive in the immediate future of the Mthwakazian aspirations and detrimental to the long-term future of an Mthwakazian state. Let the current Zimbabwean politics and policies driven by ethnicity and patronage save not as a template for Mthwakazi’s social, economic and political policies but a bad example not to be copied.

I have said in the past that I do not quite care what nationality I am called as long as my freedoms, rights and dreams and those of the next person were not trampled upon in a political maze. My views have not changed; nothing has yet convinced me that nationality alone is in and of itself a guarantor of individual rights and freedoms. If independence, devolution or whatever status would deliver what Zimbabwe through ZANU PF has failed to deliver in the last 31 years of unbroken rule, that is, the rights and freedoms of the people of Mthwakazi then I will welcome that. I do still argue that an Mthwakazi state that seeks to expel any individuals on the basis of their ethnicity, race or religion does not fit into my ideal of a great nation and state. No nation with any sense of pride and purpose will utilise the ZANU PF template for whatever reasons, I still find it mind boggling that a government will preside over deaths of innocent civilians and nobody from that government is found guilty and nobody resigns at the least for failing the people of Mthwakazi.

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