Independence in African states has in principle and form quite effectively remained nothing but the freedom of slave owners. The political elite is free but the rest of the population remains enslaved. The 32 years of Zimbabwean independence provides important lessons for Mthwakazi citizens: politics left in the hands of politicians is socio-political power surrendered for generations.
If the public shuns politics, politics will take an undue interest in them; political opportunists (also called politicians) will grab, privatise and monopolise politics, and whenever that happens the result is the degrading disempowerment of ordinary citizens. The pro-Mthwakazi movement will have to make politics relevant to the ordinary men and women of Mthwakazi.
If Mthwakazi’s independence is to translate into nothing else but freedom for all, Mthwakazi people will have to start wrestling political power from the political elite and begin shaping the agenda for a future independent Mthwakazi state. People should play an even greater role in policy and decision making as well as in the monitoring and reviewing of the implementation of that policy/ strategy by politicians. A system where politicians are only answerable to themselves and not the people is not sustainable and certainly not beneficial to the ruled. This calls for the rebalancing of power between the executive and the people, the effective presence of a free media, Quasi-autonomous Non-Governmental Organisations (Quangos) and increased involvement of the voluntary sector to check the conduct and excesses of the executive is vital.
Even at this early stage of the revival of the Mthwakazi movement, pro-Mthwakazi organisations must not be allowed to privatise the agenda. Ordinary Mthwakazians need not wait for independence to start claiming their power from politicians; this is the right time for people to take matters into their hands; they need to be telling politicians how they (people) should be led and not the other way round, ordinary people are not children and politicians are not parents.
The Alliance Khumbul’ Ekhaya or AKE seems to be a deliberate attempt to organise and increase civilian participation in the deliberation, planning, decision-making and the review of opportunities and projects within Mthwakazi and that can only be a good thing. There are of course conceivable reservations or potential problems in the current structure, composition and form of AKE, in particular, the level of involvement of political organisations and the diversity of the organisation’s focus which may be seen as compromising its impartiality and efficiency and may thus threaten its future stability. However, AKE is a noble idea worthy of a chance within the Mthwakazi socioeconomic and political space.
Human development should not be relegated to the periphery of nationalism, it needs to go hand in hand with Mthwakazian’s aspirations of a politically independent Mthwakazi state; context is essential, the Mthwakazi movement must not base its strategy on the 1970s liberation struggle which considered schools and dip tanks as legitimate targets for destruction in the pursuit of political independence. An ignorant and economically disempowered electorate is antagonistic to democracy. Socioeconomic and political capital needs to be built to empower Mthwakazians and this role goes beyond the scope of any one nationalist organisation; it is here that the contribution of Quangos and volunteers (individuals, communities and organisations) will be significant. Perhaps those individuals and political parties dismissing both AKE as an organisation and its activities may have made their judgement rather too soon.
A democracy exclusively orchestrated, controlled and managed by the political elite is in principle no different from a dictatorship, the only difference being that in the former people’s time is wasted in voting. Democracy must go beyond the mere right to choose, it must be the right to live in dignity. People can be truly emancipated only when they can participate in the broader social, political and economic activities of their communities. Mthwakazians should start defining their own form of democracy; a democracy that recognises the social, ethnic, racial, religious and cultural diversity as much as it protects minority rights. Socio-political justice can only be achieved by including people of Mthwakazi in the social, political and economic activities of their country. It is here that the role of organisations such as AKE cannot be over-emphasised.
Anyone thinking the extended role of Mthwakazi citizens in socioeconomic and political activities should be led by politicians is looking at the microscope from the wrong end. Mthwakazi should not wait for the attainment of independence to start restructuring the socio-political space that would enable increased citizen participation and organisations such as AKE can be a vital springboard. There is no attempt here to present AKE as the panacea to all of Mthwakazi’s problems neither is AKE seen as a novelty within Mthwakazi social space; if anything it is actually an extension of the already existing socio-political structures, albeit with a broader mandate. What should not be lost to politicians is the fact that people are already running multiethnic and multi-party community social clubs and these can simply be extended into other local issues of public interest. Ignoring or undermining pre-existing socioeconomic structures may be unnecessary and time consuming while not guaranteeing better outcomes for the movement.