Making the Mthwakazi national identity great again

Emerson (1959) defines a nation as a

‘community of people who feel that they belong together in the double sense that they share deeply significant elements of a heritage and that they have a common destiny for the future’ (Emerson, 1959, p 59).

Mthwakazi is a complex social environment in which national identity finds itself under pressure from other forms of individuals’ self-categorisation.

It can be argued that the complex interaction between individuals, groups and systems makes it rather difficult for the national identity to override all other competing loyalties for particular individuals or groups. This blog will explore some possible avenues that may be adopted in Mthwakazi’s current political form and in any future independent Mthwakazi state to create and recreate the status of national identity so much that it precedes all other competing allegiances in the minds of individuals or groups in Mthwakazi.

The Mthwakazi national identity needs to be resuscitated from the throes of death; it has to be made great again. The challenge is how (in the midst of all competing and sometimes conflicting modern interests) Mthwakazi nationhood can supersede identity indicators such as tribe, ethnicity, race, religion, etc. Perhaps of all experiences in Mthwakazi’s recent socio-political history, Gukurahundi remains the single most significant and highly emotional common experience while economic prosperity and socio-cultural emancipation are the common desires for all Mthwakazi citizens.

An independent Mthwakazi would need to make our politics unique; make the politics be, in itself, the identity draw that differentiates the Mthwakazi national identity from others in the region and be the identity that all of our people want and are proud to associate with. A socio-culturally diverse Mthwakazi needs a political and administrative decentralisation that would ensure a fairer balance of power between and within all socio-cultural groups and between citizens and politicians. Politicians should be denied the right to override citizens’ proposals; any system that allows politicians to have an unfettered discretion on final outcomes compromises fairness. To me a fairer distribution of power would be one in which Mthwakazi citizens have the ultimate power to decide on policy and politicians assume the role of policy implementation.

I believe that the best socio-political system for a socio-culturally diverse Mthwakazi with a high intensity of variation in interests would be Participatory Democracy, a system some of whose processes are not entirely alien to Mthwakazi’s traditional administrative systems where local autonomy, negotiation and citizen participation in various activities were paramount. I would also advocate for a government funded national service that would see our young people work in different services in at least two states other than their native state for a year after their O’levels and before they take up further studies. This, it is envisaged, would broaden people’s understanding of other ethnic groups as well as increase respect between states.

Participatory Democracy derives from both direct and representative democracy. Perhaps the best examples of Participatory Democracy usage today are evident in Switzerland and in participatory budgeting in over 100 cities in Brazil which include state capitals such as Porto Alegre with a population of 1.4 million as of 2004, Belo Horizonte (pop. of 2 million) and Recife (pop. of 1.5 million) and in West Bengal and Kerala in India.

Without risking turning this blog into a lecture on Participatory Democracy, I would use Brazilian cities’ participatory budgeting to illustrate the utilisation of Participatory Democracy in decision-making: the deliberation stage involves the identification, by citizens in assemblies, of investment priorities within neighbourhoods and voting for representatives who would present and defend people’s decisions before the city government; the negotiation stage involves the city government and representatives from all neighbourhoods to determine the city’s investment plan and the monitoring stage literally involves citizen representatives’ monitoring of the execution of the plan by politicians.

I believe this system can be implemented in Mthwakazi with little adjustments. In particular, the Switzerland federal system can best suit Mthwakazi. The first step would be delimiting states; as an example, areas under the jurisdiction of different chiefs or areas inhabited by identical social groups would make up states. These regions or sub-regions would have their governments to determine local affairs such as welfare, education, labour and economic policies. Like in Switzerland, the federal government would have control over affairs that are of common interest to all states and essential services such as foreign policy, transport, monetary system, taxation, mint and national defence.

At national level, based on the Swiss system, the national government would comprise two houses: a ‘popular’ house made up of members elected by proportional representation and the Council of States made up of whatever agreed number of representatives from each state or sub-state elected by a simple majority or a chief and one elected member, whichever suits Mthwakazi. I have in the past advocated for rotational presidency, I think it is still a valid argument that all states in the Mthwakazi federation should have a chance to provide a national leader; I would suggest that a president be selected by both houses and be given a term of one year.

Although all political systems have their pitfalls, I strongly believe Participatory Democracy would (more than the prevailing system) most embrace Mthwakazi’s diversity, promote equality and respect of the different ethnic groups as well as give citizens power to determine their social, economic and political investment priorities and be able to monitor the performance of politicians. I believe a transparent system will encourage citizen participation and thus enhance the status of the Mthwakazi national identity.

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