2013 has to be the year for the real growth of Mthwakazi nationalism; a healthy political debate within the Mthwakazi political space, in particular between the different nationalist movements, is paramount if the Mthwakazi nationalist movement is to be broadened, informed and resilient. Although there are overt ideological differences between Mthwakazi nationalist movements, there is little public scrutiny of policies; there seems to be an unwritten agreement between different groups to withhold critic of each other’s policies. The few open exchanges have often appeared motivated by the dislike, intolerance and disrespect of the source of the idea instead of the desire for the objective truth.
The irony is that the majority of the constituency purportedly represented by the different nationalist movements is not even remotely aware of the existence of most of these organisations. Something is quite clearly wrong here especially when one considers that some of the groups have been functionally existent for at least two years. Being busy does not always mean real work; real work for the nationalist movement will be judged by the ability to affect the Mthwakazi political landscape. I do appreciate that for intelligence reasons some specific strategic details may remain private for much longer but were the whole strategy be privatised by certain individuals that would be a serious indictment to Mthwakazi’s democratic aspirations. Undemocratic political institutions have never overseen democratic governments.
Unlike in the 1970s liberation struggle against Ian Smith’s regime, political understanding, solutions and actions in the 21st Century are longer the exclusive property of politicians and/ or organised political institutions; the Mthwakazi population can no longer be won over by sloganeering neither can it be expected to just cede power to politicians. Only objective and constructive debates in which ideologies are explained and justified will win the nationalist leadership the coveted support from an otherwise skeptical Mthwakazi electorate. Targeted, as opposed to haphazard compaigns, are key for the limited resources to be used effectively. We cannot emphasise the importance of the quality of information being disseminated. The role of independent political analysts is invaluable but these are no substitute for good nationalist leadership; media ideological impartiality is not always guaranteed. The agenda and timescales need to be realistic to manage expectations and avoid frustration within the movement, its supporters and sympathisers. Leaders will be required not only to clearly contextualise their policies but also to display their ability to place without fear their opponents’ policies under the political microscope.
Diversity and independence of the nationalist political organisations is not necessarily counterproductive; in fact better collective decisions have often resulted from disagreement and contest as opposed to consensus or compromise. In the year just gone, some nationalist leaders have undoubtedly escaped with untruths and questionable reasoning simply because they happened to exist within a mundane political space in which political organisations consciously avoided posing questions of their opponents even when some reasoning deserved interrogation. Rather not have an agreement after a good debate than have an agreement without a debate! While ideological differences and competition between groups are inevitable, the Mthwakazi constituency has been taken aback by the evident dislike, intolerance and disrespect between the groups; an awfully embarrassing exchange between MLF and MNP on the Nations without States (NwS) facebook page comes to mind. The Mthwakazi constituency has not made secret its resentment to these perceived unproductive clashes inspired more by personality than ideological differences. The question in the minds of many followers and sympathisers is whether the organisations are at the service of ideologies or the people.
A broader and resilient political base is required. The nationalist organisations have not done enough work on the ground to allay fears that the whole project is an attempt to revive the Nguni dominance over all other ethnic groups in Mthwakazi. The extant deficiency seems to be a by-product of a rather narrow spectrum of opinion within the movement which has culminated in the exclusion of a significant chunk of the Mthwakazi electorate from the nationalist agenda. It is difficult to measure the degree to which the current organisations are representative of all of Mthwakazi’s ethnic groups, races, social and religious groups, and not only Nguni and black people. An extensive structural realignment is necessary to broaden the opinion base and ensure broader societal participation and representation. Practical steps need to be taken to ensure a real structural visibility (at all levels of nationalist politics) of ordinary Khalanga, Tonga, Sotho, Nambya, Venda people, women, non-black Mthwakazians, etc. both at home and abroad within the nationalist movement. Instead of waiting for these population groups to join the movement, the leadership of the different movements has to get to these population groups and convince them to be a part of the movement.
Constructive debate needs to be fostered and maintained within the nationalist movement; unquestioned loyalty to political party bosses risks creating dictatorships and damaging public trust in politics and politicians hence result in the gradual reversal of any gains made by the nationalist agenda to date. Political diversity must be celebrated instead of being a source of scornful hatred of Mthwakazians by Mthwakazians. In the quest for a truly democratic Mthwakazi state there needs to be a civilised debate within the nationalist movement not just yelling; the nationalist leadership owes it to its followers to prove that it is not in service of ideologies but people. The future Mthwakazi generation will not judge this generation on account of which nationalist ideologies were held but on what was done to free Mthwakazi from the crippling Zimbabwean socio-political system.