Zimbabwe’s dictatorship and its impact in Matabeleland

The Zimbabwean State operates an elaborate and smart dictatorship that defines the limit of the spectrum of acceptable opinion through effective use of decidedly compromised educational and political processes. Through a comprehensive programme of calculated social and political deceit, the regime maintains public conformity, perpetuates passivity, obedience and more importantly, sustains its legitimacy by allowing for a lively debate that is carefully choreographed within a strict and narrow socio-political spectrum.

Zimbabwe stages regular elections most of which are peaceful but a peaceful election does not imply fairness in the conduct of interrelated democratic processes. The State runs an elaborate systematic management of the election process that monopolises airwaves and restricts opposition access to public media. This elaborate system is overseen by partisan senior public officials and police authorities who regularly refuse to sanction otherwise perfectly legal political activities of opposition interest.

Direct violence and threats of violence impact the voting dynamics; intimidation and violence dominate the period leading to elections while post election reprisals await those individuals suspected of having voted the ‘wrong way’. Fear of violence remains the most significant motivation for voting ZANU PF.

The Zimbabwean dictatorship atomises the population (i.e. it turns the population into a mass of isolated individuals) thereby making it rather difficult for them to work together outside the clutches of the State. Perhaps the biggest casualty of the dictatorship has been the Matabeleland polity.

To date it is proving difficult for Matabeleland politicians to adapt Zimbabwean politics to the needs of the region or alter the political narrative of the region from one whose only destiny is the perpetual dependence on Harare for guidance to one advancing local empowerment, one that seeks local solutions for local challenges. Although in private there is agreement that the status quo cannot be the only alternative, there is no consensus in the region on how best to harness the human and economic resources; there is no broad, clear and comprehensive socioeconomic and political strategy that would help empower the region.

The Zimbabwean education system is an amalgam of prejudices and deliberate choices from the dominant ethnic Shona culture. Instead of teaching young people how to think, the system is pre-occupied with teaching them what to learn and using fear of failing as the motivation. Children cannot objectively challenge questionable educational ‘facts’ for fear of failing to obtain the grades they desire to qualify for further studies while professionals fear losing their jobs if not their lives for challenging the status quo.

There is virtually no productive linking of the technical division of labour (the work that needs to be done) with the social division of labour (the skills of people needed to do the work) within the region. Matabeleland children are not being moulded to meet the needs of Matabeleland but to fit in with the desires of the ethnic Shona dominated state of Zimbabwe.

The highly socio-politically compromised social sciences curriculum has quite effectively managed to degrade Matabeleland nationalism. The net result of the biased education system is a Matabeleland generation of literate young people with very little understanding of the founding socio-political values of their region, especially the fact that Matabeleland has always been home to multiple tribes. The historical existence of two separate traditional states in the territory now Zimbabwe before the white settlers merged them in one for administrative reasons has been conveniently excluded as has been the state sponsored Gukurahundi atrocities. Political contributions of Matabeleland people to the history of the region now collectively called Zimbabwe and the economic contribution of the region are deliberately suppressed while Shona historical figures and the 1987 Unity Accord (a ZANU PF lap of honour) are immortalised.

The Unity Accord, in particular, has turned out to be the worst piece of political business ever conducted by ZAPU. It has yet to bring any socioeconomic and political benefits to the region; if anything the Unity Accord has been used to extend Shona hegemony in Matabeleland. The agreement is often summoned by ZANU PF to deflect accusations of deliberate Shonalisation of Matabeleland and deflate any expressions of Matabeleland nationalism.

Within the region, many ‘educated’ young people have fallen into the trap of giving credibility to that political slander (the Unity Accord 1987) and consider any degree of Matabeleland nationalism as tribalism as opposed to genuine calls for the empowerment of the region; those who stand up to Shona hegemony are routinely accused of tribalism and/ or betraying the spirit of that unity agreement.

It is however, a socio-political travesty that the legitimate resistance to the Shonalisation agenda has oftentimes been hijacked by angry individuals and groups who deliberately ignore the founding core principles of Matabeleland and sort to advance perverse political ideals that discriminate against and victimise certain population groups in Matabeleland. The unintended outcome of the Ndebele/ Shona polarisation is the insecurity of population groups uncomfortable with any potential Nguni dominance; thus nationalist political participation is severely impacted.

The Zimbabwean education system needs not be centralised to the detriment of ethnic minorities; it should help young people learn how to think and give them enough freedom to explore their world. Certainly education should be relevant and empower local populations. If the education system deliberately filters Matabeleland realities or any other region, it must be confronted and rejected by the people.

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