Colonialism has faded away into the dustbin of history; Zimbabwe has entered into a permanent state of unemployment and poverty from which there remains no chance of emerging. When it comes to unemployment in Matabeleland, Zimbabwean authorities are tone deaf. Matabeleland has watched in horror while industrial activity crumbled and unemployment spiked across the region.
Zimbabwe has overseen an unprecedented economic collapse in recent memory. Within the first two decades the country had successfully normalised unemployment. Idleness in Matabeleland is stack, Zimbabwean authorities cannot imprison joblessness. There is a whole generation of Matabeles who have never known formal employment; individuals who have never enjoyed the protections of formal work – individuals for whom operating within an unregulated parallel economy is now the norm.
It is testimony to the failure that a man from Kezi still has to travel to Bulawayo to purchase ice cream because it still cannot be made in Kezi or even transported in an edible condition into the area! Matabeles are slaves of poverty authored and imposed on them by Harare; the region has no control over systems and policies that impact its life.
Matabeleland cannot objectively begin to talk of liberty when its people have no real access to the levers of power; when all decisions about the region are taken elsewhere and not in Matabeleland. The unhealthy interference from Harare is responsible for the level of idleness in the region while locals bear the brunt of poverty. The loss of industrial activity is unprecedented while Zimbabwean authorities twiddle their fingers.
If Matabeleland and its citizens are equal to the rest of Zimbabwe then they must be treated the same as the rest of Zimbabwe. Matabeleland does not have the desire or the capacity, for that matter, to control Zimbabwe. What Matabeleland seeks is to be what it wants to be; the desire is to control those local institutions and systems that impact the lives of the people in the region. Matabeleland does not expect solutions to its problems to be delivered by the overnight goods train from Harare but demands that Harare creates the necessary fiscal, economic and political conditions that foster genuine economic empowerment for the region.
Zimbabwean authorities appear not to have the faintest of ideas on how to solve the problems largely because their diagnoses of Matabeleland’s problems have been wrong. We need a period of constructive reflection, take objectivity into account and let each state diagnose its problems and identify its priorities.
The Zimbabwean central government dominated by one single ethnic group has proven to be ill-equipped to deal with complex regional needs and must not be allowed to continue to impose solutions to imagined problems while overlooking real crises. The real crisis of this generation is the crisis in government; Zimbabwean dilettantism has left such regions as Matabeleland powerless and unprotected from political and economic traumas.