While the biggest threat to Matabeleland nationalists is internal conflict and public apathy, the biggest responsibility for nationalists is a deliberate, persistent and pointed engagement with the public. That the Matabeleland public appears apathetic to programmes driven by nationalist organisations is no evidence of lack of interest, it is a challenge to internal processes of the nationalist movement.
It appears that the current nationalist programmes and approaches thereof are not working; people remain unconvinced about the nationalist’s agenda. However, this is not to say the Matabeleland public is happy with the status quo or they reject the idea of an autonomous Matabeleland. Public apathy, is not an irrational act, it can and must be accounted for. It is not enough for nationalists to blame the public for not participating in nationalist programmes when many of the organisations are not seriously engaging the public.
Blaming the public for a failure to understand the nationalist agenda is an abdication of responsibility, an unfortunate surrender of the chance by nationalists to change themselves. Perceptions of actions are not devoid of subjectivity; when nationalists change the way they look at the public, the public they look at will change. If Matabeleland nationalists want to improve the region’s politics they need to change and change quite often to perfect internal systems.
It is perhaps time nationalists took a pose and seriously considered the possibility that their political ideas, programmes and approach thereof may just be wrong! The surest way of alienating oneself from the public is arrogance; the beginning of decay for any political organisation is the failure to see the value of the public in all its planning and execution.
Speed alone will not be everything in the political evolution of Matabeleland. There needs to be a clear distinction between efficiency and effectiveness where, efficiency implies doing things right and effectiveness being doing the right things. Focus now should be on networking between the groups to find common ground. What is required is the adoption of gradual tactics that will build and maximise nationalist political capital.
Reason and not just passion should guide the Matabeleland nationalist vision. There are many nationalist groups around yet we are no closer to a solution to the region’s problems today than we were in the 1980s! It is time the different groups debated their differences without fracturing the community. Many so-called philosophical differences are actions that simply need placing in the right spots along the road to the eventual vision. For instance, it makes little sense that a devolutionist would fight a secessionist and vice versa!
Nationalist groups need to start owning their mistakes. Blaming public apathy and ignoring potential organisational, structural and planning failures is not a helpful strategy. Matabeleland nationalists need to take the public along or risk being isolated with their ‘great ideas’. An honest conversation needs to be held between different groups to draw a comprehensive vision for Matabeleland.