There are increasing, perhaps justifiable, concerns about the growing number of nationalist organisations and with it a deepening division within the nationalist movement in Mthwakazi thus raising a potential strategy crisis. Nationalist pages on online social networks such as facebook have been inundated by calls for the Mthwakazi nationalist organisations to unite as they are perceived to be ideologically and strategically similar.
This blog questions the very idea that these nationalist groups are ideologically and strategically similar; it raises reservations on the perception that uniformity of opinion within the nationalist movement is of itself an essential, if not indispensable ingredient in fighting for a common cause.
Although I am, in principle, amenable to the idea of unity of the nationalist organisations, I am quite specifically ambivalent to the form and content of the current calls for unity as these calls seem to be simply based on the transformation of possibilities and probabilities of the benefits of unity into certainties thereof. These calls are driven more by impatience than objectivity; they are premature, too optimistic and not based on rigorous analyses of the different parties’ ideals and strategies.
Lack of rigour on the part of those calling for unity is evident in that their self-limiting proposal is confined to the ‘what’ part and never on the ‘how’ part of the process. The absence of a tangible, comprehensive and practical plan for the different parties to consider seems to be the unity proponents’ only strategy.
The tendency among unity proponents to date has been to look only at the similarities while de-emphasising the fundamental differences between the organisations thus, leading to convenient but disingenuous assertions of a lack of clear differences between the nationalist organisations; the result is a classic misdiagnosis of the problem and an application of wrong remedies.
There arguably is a wide ideological and strategic convergence between the nationalists including an unequivocal agreement on the main aim of re-establishing an independent Mthwakazi state. However, the few differences that exist are significant and potentially irreconcilable. One such difference is the participation or non-participation in elections; it is fundamentally a red line dividing the parties.
MNP believes that the nationalist movement will be better placed if it initially pursued a choice election rather than run a referendum too soon. To that end MNP favours and pursues a democratic path in which the organisation will seek a mandate from the Mthwakazi electorate through participating in all elections bar one, the presidential elections. Critically, electoral gains will allow MNP to initially occupy the socio-political space of Mthwakazi; the party envisions electoral gains as a valuable bargaining chip and does not (as alleged by its opponents) believe independence will be directly achieved through a general election in Zimbabwe.
On the other hand MLF and MLO do not want to participate in any elections administered by the Zimbabwean government as the two feel any electoral participation saves as mandate for Harare occupation; MLF in particular is opposed to the diplomatic avenue preferring instead to wage a war against the occupying government of Zimbabwe. It would be interesting to hear from the unity enthusiasts how these two camps can be realistically blended into a single functional unit.
If people desire unity, they must first make unity both feasible and convincing. Those calling for unity should not just make calls to unite, sit and wait as though unity was of itself a strategy; they should shoulder the responsibility of making that unity feasible. It is imperative for them to define the terms and scope of the proposed unity and present a practicable proposal for consideration by the different nationalist movements. For instance, are people calling for the formation of a single party instead of the many currently in existence in the region or they are seeking the creation of a strategic single broad-based multiparty nationalist leadership as is deliberated upon by the Syrian opposition or they are looking at the different parties working together on a case by case basis and learning to tolerate each other? I do appreciate the merit of unity but unity for the wrong reasons may be counterproductive for the nationalist movement as was the infamous PF ZAPU/ ZANU PF 1987 Unity Accord for Mthwakazi.
I believe in so far as the independence agenda is concerned the major challenge comes from the devolution argument and not from the differences of opinion within the nationalist movement. People do not have to think and act the same to pursue a common cause; there are sufficient examples from the revolutions in the African continent to suggest ideological differences do not necessarily lead to a strategy crisis; for instance in Sudan, Libya and Egypt (to mention but a few) the opposition worked well together despite underlying ideological differences between the groups. Mthwakazi groups bear strategic differences yet far from being exclusive, the strategies can be quite complimentary provided the organisations can identify where and when their usefulness begins and ends and respect the attempts of other groups.
Uniformity of purpose more than uniformity of opinion is essential for the independence cause of Mthwakazi. Instead of trying to force all Mthwakazi nationalist movements towards some ill-defined centre ground, consideration should instead be given of graded cooperation of the various groups where convergence of ideas is conceivable and that should be left to the groups themselves to decide. If PF ZAPU and ZANU PF, two ideologically different parties worked together against Ian Smith’s regime in the 1970s, it should be possible for Mthwakazi nationalists to forge a working relationship for the common good of their country. There is no objective reason to suggest having different nationalist organisations is responsible for the slow progress of nationalism on the ground as much as the benefits of a single nationalist party cannot be guaranteed. Strategic clarity and coherence is perhaps the most valuable component of the independence agenda and that is not primarily dependent on uniformity of opinion.