Turning opinion polls into votes or any other form of practical political participation and rebuilding confidence in politics and politicians remain Mthwakazi nationalists’ two biggest challenges. Although Mthwakazi nationals have a great measure of confidence in Mthwakazi independence, it would appear they are presently slightly short of good politicians to vest their confidence in.
Mthwakazi nationalism is to a great extent being impaired by an apparent lack of focused marketing of nationalist ideals. Thus, nationalists find themselves in an unenviable though not entirely impossible task of having to first convince a highly skeptical population of their credentials and build their reputation in a now bland, exhausted and frustrated socio-political environment.
“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does” (Britt, S. H, nd). It will take more than a frenzy of Facebook statements, more than drips and drabs of meetings at home and abroad and indeed it will take more than just being an organisation headed by Mthwakazi natives to turn opinion polls into action. Nationalists simply need to market themselves. Mthwakazi nationals have every right to know who the revolutionary leaders are (in particular presidents) and they do have the right to access informative advertising material that would give them a fair chance to make informed moral decisions on what action to support.
Access to information is everything; while it is appreciated that nationalist political players are in their early days and thin on the ground, the slow growth is easily traceable to poor publicising. The challenge is not only about how information is being disseminated but also what is being said, who it is directed to and who is saying it. What use are silent leaders to the nationalism agenda? Aung San Suu Kyi enhanced her reputation by being ‘visible’ to her supporters and publicly engaging the brutal dictatorial military government of Mynamar (formerly Burma).
Only a few nationalist parties seem to be shaping up to engaging with their members and selling their policies. However, nationalists are, for non strategic reasons, by and large not unveiling their policies; at times one gets an impression that some parties are still under the illusion that what they have to do is simply turn up or appear on some social network, present a party name and a Ndebele leader and Mthwakazians will follow. A loud few cannot be given free rein to influence the harmony, nationalists will have to start talking the language and walking the path of the ordinary Mthwakazian.
Reputation will only be earned by those doing hard things well; that means a deliberate departure from merely reminding the Mthwakazi constituency of the Gukurahundi atrocities; it means shying away from cheap ethnically and racially divisive politics and running reckless and vacuous campaigns of threats of militarising the Mthwakazi socio-political space; it means being part of the socioeconomic life of Mthwakazi in intent and practice; it means less squabbling and more mature engagement between the different organisations.
The preferred avenue of invoking nationalism by emphasising hatred of other nations does not only illustrate the political detachment of some nationalists but is unsustainable, more damaging than beneficial in the longer-term; appetite for that approach is questionable. Realism has to kick in; voting patterns indicate that Mthwakazians would vote for any candidate irrespective of ethnicity or race as long as the person appeared to represent their interests. It is more demanding but certainly not impossible to build nationalism on the backdrop of people’s abundant and apparent appreciation and love of their diverse Mthwakazi nation, that is the nationalists’ challenge.
This blog has previously argued that anti-Shona sentiment, as opposed to anti-Harare government, within the nationalist discourse has no moral justification and little or no socioeconomic and political benefits. Mthwakazi will only be a truly great nation by espousing its unique social, cultural and political selling points and not emulating Zimbabwean systems embedded in the abuse of democratic majority to subvert rights of minority groups. Giving mixed messages about such important matters as nationality and citizenship is not helpful to say the least.
While some nationalist leaders have in media interviews been receptive to the accommodation of ethnic Shona people in a Mthwakazi independent state, those sentiments have not been reflected on social network discussions where verbal abuse and threats to rid Mthwakazi of ordinary ethnic Shona people continues to form the basis for nationalist debate.
Party authorities have been conspicuous by their inaction in the face of the deliberate misuse of freedom of speech by their supporters on social networks. Understandably, supervision of internet conversations is not possible, this is made even worse by the fact that some individual party members’ Facebook pages seem to command more respect, more traffic thus, more influence than official party pages which maybe a source of confusion should these members facilitate debates whose views are in conflict with official party position.
Mthwakazi nationalists need to revamp their information and communication policy while not curtailing freedom of thought and speech. The official position has to be clearly distinguished from unofficial individual party members’ opinions. Giving mixed messages alienates parties from potential political and financial supporters of the revolution who stand losing their credibility were they to openly identify with organisations perceived to be pursuing discriminatory and reckless policies.
To gain political ground nationalists need to appreciate the socio-political dynamism in Mthwakazi, have clarity of goals, be clear who the target of their campaign is and advertise themselves and their ideals. It has to be appreciated that there is no substitute for access to information. Information and communication policy will have to improve for party leadership to have a better coordinated communication with its supporters and sympathisers of the revolution. Having a party spokesperson is appropriate but that should not replace direct engagement of party leaders with their constituency.