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On why federalism matters for Matabeleland

Building a country that embodies popular sovereignty within a multiethnic and a multilingual socio-political space is not beyond human political invention. As has been proven by countries like Switzerland, the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and others, diversity of cultures and belief systems is not the cause of widening political schism in a country. 

Socio-cultural diversity is not the reason for Zimbabwe’s political problems but the attempt to eliminate diversity while pursuing a misguided agenda of ethnic Shona socio-cultural expansionism lies at the root of the country’s political woes.

There has to be an acknowledgement and genuine accommodation of the fact that other ethnic groups in Zimbabwe do have a different reality from that of the majority Shona ethnic group; thus, the Shona value systems should not be treated as a prototype for a system of beliefs for the whole of Zimbabwe. Diversity cannot be simply wished away, Zimbabwe needs a system that respects, tolerates and promotes diversity. It is disingenuous for any politician to call, as Job Sikhala did recently, for the teaching of ‘major’ languages in Zimbabwe and by ‘major languages’ referring, apart from English, to Ndebele and Shona. These languages are only major to Ndebeles and Shonas!

Sothos, Tongas, Nambyas, Kalangas, etc are not failed attempts at being Ndebeles and all the ethnic groups including Ndebeles have no desire to be Shonas but themselves. All ethnic groups in Zimbabwe are unique manifestations of human socialisation and historical experience thus, must be allowed the right to exist in their own right not as appendages of other groups.

The unitary state model has failed and representative democracy has been ineffective. Zimbabwe needs significant radical political changes; the adoption of federalism and direct democracy seems to be the logical choice for a geopolitical territory unifying two different traditional states. Only federalism will effectively reduce conflict between Matabeleland and Mashonaland and between diverse communities within the two unified states.

The executive presidency has been disastrous; the collective Head of State framework (to be discussed in the next blog) may serve the country better. Zimbabwe needs to exercise a separation of powers to ensure independence of government, parliament and courts of justice. Also needed is an extensive constitutional division of power that will give greater autonomy to geopolitical territories within the country.

The government will need to be re-organised, e.g. federal level, provincial level and district level. Federal government will retain authority for specified portfolios, e.g. foreign affairs while provinces and districts will take responsibility for such services as education, running hospitals, etc. Federal government will have to set minimum standards however that should not compromise self-determination of provinces and districts.

What is required is not only respect of the law but also citizen faith in institutions meant to serve them. People will only have faith in those institutions whose values they can identify with culturally, socially and historically and institutions whose values they can influence. Direct democracy and referendums will have to be a significant fixture in Zimbabwean politics to give the electorate a greater role in influencing decisions that impact their lives.

As diverse citizens of Zimbabwe, it is folly to try and ignore that we exist not to match and harmonize but to be our independent selves; no ethnic group should even remotely consider its value systems as superior beyond the group itself. No ethnic entity should allow itself the false assumption that its value systems fit all of the separate groups inhabiting the Zimbabwean territory.


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