To date, the Zimbabwean regime has successfully kept the Mthwakazi nation passive by limiting the spectrum of acceptable opinion and tightly controlling the level of debate within the political space. While the rejuvenation of the nationalist agenda and critique of such local greats as Dr Joshua Nkomo are a welcome development in the 21st Century Matabeleland socio-political environment, the current standard and focus of debate lacks conviction.
Politics is based on ideas and by their nature, ideas are subject to criticism; they stand (or fall) because they are strong enough (or too weak) to withstand criticism. For objective political growth, no one should be beyond criticism; even the coincidence of ethnic and tribal identity must not be allowed to become a form of blackmail whose role is to restrict or deny us the right to criticism of our leaders.
The Matabeleland socio-politics has been guilty of surrounding its heroes and heroines with an atmosphere of imagined brightness. Arguably, Dr Nkomo, who subjectively achieved some form of sainthood within both PF ZAPU and Matabeleland, was himself a victim of withheld criticism.
It is an increasingly publicly expressed opinion that most of the real problems Matabeleland faces today are a legacy of the fact that Dr Nkomo’s position on Matabeleland’s post-colonial political future was fundamentally wrong. He envisioned and pursued his vision of a unitary Zimbabwe in which Matabeleland were a region as opposed to retaining traditional state boundaries.
Dr Nkomo stayed faithful to his beliefs that Matabeleland was better off being part of a bigger political territory called Zimbabwe. What he was to witness at independence was ethnic coincidence allowing a group nothing less than common criminals get a chance to run the unitary Zimbabwe project and ruthlessly deny Matabeleland nationals of all their perceived rights.
Our major problem right now is not so much about Dr Nkomo’s actions or inactions but that of lack of socio-political creativity. Irrespective of our views of Dr Nkomo, he was an artist – a creator – while most of the current crop of nationalists are mere critics who have hardly contributed towards new and/or practicable ideologies. Zimbabwe has successfully retained its repressive systems within Matabeleland some 16 years after Dr Nkomo’s death for the lack of progressive local socio-political creativity and nothing to do with the man.
Rather, the genius of ZANU PF, ZAPU and the MDCs’ operations in Matabeleland has successfully kept the majority of our people from challenging the apparent dysfunction of Zimbabwean systems and processes in the region. On the other hand Matabeleland nationalists have to date struggled to come up with an effective counter strategy that would degrade Zimbabwean systems.
Questionable and flawed as some of Dr Nkomo’s decisions were, we will not create an environment that provides true freedom, justice, equality and human dignity among Matabeles by merely emphasising those flaws. We need to work at creating that socio-political space that promotes human dignity, encourages equality and gives us freedom wherever we are. The worst enemy of the nationalist agenda of our time is the existence among our leadership of individuals who show an uncanny commitment of convenience to the cause.
Until current political analyses by Matabeleland nationalists stops taking pleasure in noticing others’ faults as though to soften own faults, true freedom will remain elusive. Criticism of ideologies is encouraged but that criticism should be driven by creativity and not be used as some hidden form of self-commendation. Selectively targeting Dr Nkomo’s flaws for criticism without corresponding creativity will not give Matabeleland any reprieve from the tight hand of Harare and we will continue to use the Zimbabwe identity against our will.