Three decades of navigating the highly discriminatory, divisive and abusive Zimbabwean political system have played a vital role in the evolution of Matabeleland politics. Today Matabeleland nationals are increasingly aware of their estrangement from the Zimbabwean political system hence the demands for a different socio-political construction.
The question at the centre of Matabeleland’s politics has been whether true freedom for the region can be achieved within an independent Zimbabwe. Increasingly, it is becoming obvious that expecting to create a truly free Matabeleland by merely seeking equal representation and access to a historically ethnic Shona political space is a non-starter. Seeking equal representation and access to systems built on socio-cultural systems other than ours and worse still, systems that have proven unwilling to adapt to needs other than those of ethnic Shona people is a forlorn task.
The ongoing political circumstances of Matabeleland call for us, the citizens, to re-examine our responsibilities and confront indifference and inaction. Our desires will not transform into reality through magic; we can design and create in our minds the Matabeleland we need but it will take hard work, self-discipline and determination for dreams to translate into reality.
The responsibility of nationalists is thus the vision to define Matabeleland’s political reality and the practicality of ideas to turn dreams into socio-political reality. Clearly, advocating for devolution within a unitary Zimbabwe political system is self-deprecation; it is synonymous to lowering our expectations to meet performance when what we should be doing is to raise our political game to meet our expectations.
We are facing years in political wilderness if our focus remains Zimbabwe’s politics at the expense of reforming Matabeleland’s internal systems. The current obsession with the ZANU PF factionalism reflects Matabeleland nationalists’ strategic incompetence; people need to realise and do pretty soon that none of the ZANU PF factions holds promise for Matabeleland.
The reality that ZANU PF factions are not fighting to free Matabeleland must not be lost; rather predictably, the factions are fighting not to transform the party’s central socio-political agenda but to gain control of the implementation of its historic agenda which has ethnic Shona supremacy as its basis. The lack of vision to lead Matabeleland off the containment hands of Zimbabwe (and not political strategy) is the reason many of our politicians have spent unnecessarily long periods debating, if not purring over ZANU PF infighting.
Unreasonable caution that prompts inaction has been the root of Matabeleland’s political failings. Without self-belief nationalists’ dreams of a truly free Matabeleland are doomed; however, if Matabeleland nationalists hold onto the belief that there is a political future beyond Zimbabwe, they will be more committed to confirming that reality and bringing the majority of the electorate on board.