Social media has expanded our universe beyond comprehension and brought a host of possibilities and challenges to those willing to engage. It has been the ultimate equaliser providing a universal platform for individuals and groups to confidently discuss issues that they would otherwise not have dreamt of publicly raising a decade or so ago. It thus came as no surprise when a member of the social media community recently invited me to add my views to a proliferation of theories on the best way forward for Mthwakazi. The question goes:
‘How relevant is the re-establishment of Mthwakazi & how [exactly] can the partition bring effective change economically. In what ways can Matebeleland (sic) succeed [economically] as an independent state? Can u write on that & educate us more please.’
While I can confidently say any change in the legal status of the geographical territory of Mthwakazi will lead to socioeconomic and political changes, I cannot confidently say what those exact changes would be. To help us make informed decisions we need to address the following questions: should an autonomous Mthwakazi be restored and what is wrong with being part of the modern Zimbabwe state? What sort of state do we want: that is, what do we want our Mthwakazi to do for us? Answering these questions will undoubtedly define what we do and how we do it.
At this point I need to address what is wrong about Zimbabwean independence for Mthwakazi. In the present independent Zimbabwe Matabeles are remote from the decisions made about their lives and their region. Zimbabwean independence does not reflect the thoughts, hopes and aspirations of Matabeles, in fact Zimbabwean independence has been setup to manage, intimidate and interrupt Matabele freedom. The regime has systemically violated basic human rights of Mthwakazi and ethnic Ndebele people. The extrajudicial killings of civilians in the 1980s are testimony to that; these have to date been simply dismissed as ‘a moment of madness’, but whose madness?
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The subjugation of Mthwakazi has been the constant feature of Zimbabwean independence. Only the lingering threats of violence and not trust have maintained the union of the two traditional states. Zimbabwean government has shown unwillingness in designing a constituency that makes real freedom and independence possible for all citizens living within its borders. Mthwakazi ‘independence’ within Zimbabwe has foundered giving rise and justification to Matabeleland nationalism and calls for an independent Mthwakazi exclusive to Zimbabwe.
However, the relevance or indeed irrelevance of the re-establishment of an independent Mthwakazi state will be determined by the region’s people’s commitment to such a political move. An independent Mthwakazi merely confirms traditional territorial independence of our great nation but that alone will neither clarify nor transform internal processes; it should not be seen as a panacea of all our problems. We are the solution to our problems; political boundaries do not solve problems, people do. Growth and poverty do not happen by accident. We need patience, organisation and commitment to the Mthwakazi cause or risk adding to the statistic of troubled ‘independent’ African states. South Sudan and Eritrea are testimony to what happens when there is no clear vision to translate geographical independence to human, political and economic independence.
Far from guaranteeing independence, what an independent Mthwakazi will do is to provide a platform for us to independently exercise our creativity, pursue our goals and work on our problems without the interruption of Harare. We need to define our values and be clear on our vision so as to formulate a strategy that will translate our vision to reality. Simply, we have a responsibility to decide what sort of Mthwakazi we need and want and where within the intertwined modern world we need to be and then determine the politics we need to achieve that; fundamentally, we need to be clear on how we will make our socioeconomic and political systems work for us.
Indiscriminate policies lead to chaos; they are never a good foundation for independence. Mthwakazi needs discipline to build an inclusive constituency that will ensure the protection of everyone’s rights. Mthwakazi is a multi-ethnic state, our systems and policies need to reflect that; that points only at devolved governance. Adapting the Switzerland political system to our needs will be a sensible alternative.
Good politics and good economies are inseparable; responsible governance encourages innovation and oversees responsible economic performance and growth. Mthwakazi has more reserves of natural resources than Swaziland and Lesotho among countries that have been able to run relatively decent economies. With a coherent and better economic plan we can exploit our natural resources to good effect and survive as an independent state.
While it will never be possible to give the exact impact of the socioeconomic and political change in Mthwakazi, I remain convinced that a political change is necessary and that Zimbabwe is disrupting and not enhancing socioeconomic development and growth in the region. I am unconvinced that Zimbabwe has any interest in the rights and freedoms of Matabeles and convinced an alternative is required to provide a genuine platform for genuine Mthwakazi freedom.