An idea whose time has come cannot be evicted; it cannot be imprisoned nor be stopped by any army or government. The independence agenda is now permanently etched in modern-day Zimbabwe’s politics and nothing will extinguish that.
However, in the excitement generated by the thought of being independent of Zimbabwe lies the risk of being too optimistic about life in an independent Mthwakazi. Excitement oftentimes leads us to an irrational positive appraisal bias and in the process cloud our appreciation of the possible enormity of challenges ahead. We may know the risks of action or inaction but in excitement, the adrenaline takes control and the risk factor is, if considered at all, placed lowest in the agenda. It must not be left to fate to take care of the real and possible ill-effects of Mthwakazi’s independence in the short-term and possibly even in the longer term. The question is not whether it is right to discuss the real and/ or possible negatives that will afflict Mthwakazi rather it is whether this is the time to do so? This blog will look at some projected challenges for the Mthwakazi state and it’s citizens.
We will have to acknowledge the possibility that with independence we are going to be better than we will ever be in Zimbabwe but we may not necessarily be happier, at least in the short-term. There is no good or bad time for raising the real possibility of hardship during the first 5 years or so of independence. Mthwakazi will most certainly inherit a chunk of debt from Zimbabwe, how much that will be is anybody’s guess but we must brace ourselves for a colossal sum. I cannot start to imagine what the socioeconomic impact of any debt will be; it will however, be important to politically, economically and mentally prepare Mthwakazians for the prospect of a rougher ride during the early years of independence: those will be tough times!
Mthwakazi already has poor infrastructure, thanks to ZANU PF’s biased development strategy that favours Mashonaland and Harare in particular, the little manufacturing activity left in Mthwakazi is concentrated in Bulawayo at the expense of other parts of Mthwakazi. Obsolete technology means that production costs are high due to high cost maintenance of machinery yet industrial output can hardly meet local demand. There is currently a high level of unemployment and a worryingly poor skills base to support real industrial growth. Furthermore, agriculture production is poor largely due to poor infrastructure marked by unreliable water and energy supplies; a food deficit is inevitable in an independent Mthwakazi. It would be a travesty were Mthwakazi to get her independence and find she was failing to feed her citizens; politicians will have to start drawing up contingency measures to bridge the possible food deficit.
Mthwakazi is a multi-ethnic region yet over the years Ndebele language and culture seems to have assumed superiority over all others. The status quo is wrong; any perceived or real supremacy of any one ethnic group is currently quietly resented by other ethnic groups but will undoubtedly be vociferously challenged in an independent Mthwakazi. To avoid a situation like one in South Sudan where the Darfurians have felt left out and see the need for a continued costly armed struggle for recognition; the work to create an environment that promotes all languages and cultures in Mthwakazi has to start now through an innovative educational program whose remit would be to meet local needs. Consultation with Mthwakazians will be vital in drawing up comprehensive legislation that would seek to protect all citizens, their cultures and their languages. All Mthwakazian citizens should be able to access public information in the language they best understand. No Mthwakazian should be made to feel their language and/or culture is inferior to any other.
Another possible challenge is a low population size especially that of working age Mthwakazians living within the country. I believe there is a real danger that an independent Mthwakazi may struggle to entice back into the country her young men and women currently resident across the SADC region and abroad. How are we going to convince the next generation that its pride lies in being Matabeles and not South Africans, for example? Dual citizenship will have to be top of the agenda as we consider our citizenship laws. Failure to attract back a significant majority of our young skilled and unskilled men and women is not an option for that will be detrimental to the development of the country.
This article has attempted to highlight some of the challenges that would face an independent Mthwakazi. I believe it would be beneficial for Mthwakazi politicians and civic society to start drawing contingency plans to soften the blow. We certainly must avoid creating a new Eritrea or South Sudan!