The great Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1923), a former slave, once proclaimed:
‘I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves’.
In a sentence Harriet sums up Mthwakazi’s problem of passivity. Mthwakazi is slowly walking into extinction today in part because of the direct socioeconomic, cultural and political subjugation by the repressive government of Zimbabwe but mainly because its people have stopped worrying about things that matter.
People have developed an uncharacteristically romanticised relationship with colonialism; they have given up their being and invariably surrendered the existence of their state, if not nationhood; people have basically stopped dreaming yet they still want to live. They have allowed themselves to understand and tolerate attitudes and practices they should be resisting with all their might.
I have considerable contempt for anyone who derives contentment from mere existence. Passivity threatens the fabric of the Mthwakazi nation. In times of adversity the best way of self-preservation is more and not less action; inaction never will set a single slave free. In fact, taking the inaction route remains the best way for any nation to lose its being. For without what you can truly call your own, you stand defeated in the race of life, even before the race has begun.
Right now Mthwakazi has two plausible choices: be a region of Zimbabwe or be independent, if it is not one, it is the other! Devolution as an option is not an answer to Mthwakazi’s problems but merely a process towards one. If the truth be told, devolution – though both politically and contextually appealing – is a long-winded inconvenience and an insufficient, if not wrong, compromise; the rightful step is essentially a referendum to establish whether or not people from Mthwakazi want independence. Devolution may not be the best compromise given the long history of deceit by Zimbabwean authorities in their dealings with Mthwakazi.
Devolution somehow assumes there is no immediate desire or need for independence; it assumes an absence of objection by Mthwakazi to being part of Zimbabwe; it inaccurately posits that the only objectionable aspect of Zimbabwean politics in the eyes of Mthwakazi is the unfair distribution of political and economic decision-making processes and power. It assumes that Mthwakazi wants only some power to govern herself, when in reality she wants all of the power to determine her destiny.
The reality remains that Mthwakazi rejects the decision, first by white settlers and second, by Dr Nkomo and his PF ZAPU colleagues to let the state of Mthwakazi to be usurped by an incompetent, irresponsible, immeasurably callous and vindictive neighbouring state. Even by the often limited morality of politics, it is inexcusable for non-Mthwakazians and a few Mthwakazians to act unilaterally on such an important issue as the legal status of a state. People of Mthwakazi should, as a minimum requirement, have a say in a referendum about what they want the fate of their state to be.
I earlier alluded to the problem of non-responsiveness of Mthwakazians to things that matter. Perhaps the gradual but effective imposition of Zezuru language in Mthwakazi’s socially significant institutions (e.g. schools) is one important action that has been quite cowardly downgraded to insignificance. The noun ‘sadza’ has become the default substitute for ‘isitshwala’ and other substitutes in all formal written English. Each time the use of ‘sadza’ is queried by some individuals in Mthwakazi, some Mthwakazians foolishly dismiss such arguments as ‘petty’. One would argue that if indeed the question of which language should be used in the absence of English equivalents were petty and inconsequential then, ‘isitshwala’ or any other local equivalent should be acceptable.
To the trained mind, it is not petty to question the use of the term ‘sadza’ in regions outside predominantly Zezuru speaking ones. The significance of the insistence on ‘sadza’ across all ethnic groups in the current Zimbabwean state is best understood from the subjective value the Zimbabwean educational and academic society place on the English language. Language is therefore not just a communication tool, but is loaded with values and attitudes, most of which are unhelpful.
We have yet to deconstruct the fallacy of English language superiority over all our own. If English is the chosen language for official socioeconomic and political transactions in Zimbabwe, then insisting on the use of Zezuru words as opposed to other local languages whenever there is no English equivalent will, by implication, suggest Zezuru is officially being elevated to second in importance on some unwritten hierarchy of languages in the state. It is therefore right and proper that all non-Zezuru Mthwakazians object to being given an impression Zezuru was the default official substitute in the absence of equivalent English words.
Passivity does not provide answers to worries; if people want freedom they have got to keep going! Solutions will not fall from the sky, they never have. No injustice is small, every form of injustice must be confronted but Mthwakazi needs free minds to identify and act on injustice.