The unitary Zimbabwe – it cannot be business as usual

Racial and ethnic essentialism remain the basis for Zimbabwe’s socio-political morality and policy design.  This threatens the long-term rights of many minority groups. The Zimbabwean state challenge today is to invest in good policies to insure the country from a future of damaging internal political unrest.

The two traditional states, Matabeleland and Mashonaland, worked so hard and long against racial discrimination, it seems a serious abdication of responsibility not to stand up against ethnic and racial discrimination. Since independence in 1980, the ethnic Shona dominated ZANU PF government assumed responsibility over the custody of Matabeleland socioeconomic and political lives and that has had detrimental outcomes for the Matabeles.

Using selective historical recollections and the assistance of biased socio-political processes and institutions, some ethnic Shona academics have tried to convince themselves and ethnic Ndebeles that the former own the geographic territory now known as Zimbabwe and the latter are no more than squatters from South Africa. That however, does not wash; it is a lie that should not form and/ or inform any part of our historical narration or education, let alone government policy.

The country needs a total political transformation that will recognise the historical, social, economic and political realities on the ground. Zimbabwe is made up of two traditional nation states yet current power configurations belie that reality; the State deliberately promotes ethnic Shona dominance at the expense of all other population groups. If the unitary Zimbabwe is to be preserved for centuries to come, focus should be on inclusion as opposed to integration.

Rewards from the sacrifices made during the liberation struggle should be equally enjoyed across the country. The atomisation and fragmentation agenda pursued by ZANU PF in Matabeleland compromises sustained social, political and economic cohesion and growth in the region. It allows ethnic Shona people and those Matabele individuals prepared to be integrated into the ethnic Shona system at the expense of the wider inclusion of their own communities to expropriate natural resources from the region. For a sustainable unitary Zimbabwe, being Zimbabwean should be the only qualification to the enjoyment of the country’s benefits and protections from the state.

Sadly, Matabeleland citizens today have been fooled so much that they have given up on knowing the truth. People are desperate for local heroes, leadership and direction but that should not come at the expense of objectivity. Matabeles now see heroes where they hardly exist and when what actually exists are opportunists working in cohorts with the oppressive system for their personal gains. Matabeleland needs socioeconomic and political empowerment to claim back responsibility of its life and not be reliant on ZANU PF charity for that.

People’s ethnicity and/ or race are their business; race and/ or ethnicity are not and should not be the basis for a country’s political morality and policy formulation. The Zimbabwean state cannot continue to discriminate against Matabeles just because it can. There has never been any objective reason why Matabeleland cannot be granted greater authority to govern itself or how granting Matabeleland greater autonomy is detrimental to the politics of both the unitary state and Matabeleland itself. Matabeles must demand a lot more of themselves and creatively challenge the ethnic Shona biased socioeconomic and political processes.

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