Together, Mashonaland and Matabeleland (Zimbabwe) fought colonialism and the white racist government of Ian Smith to gain liberty; our requirement of liberty was the need to reform our social system that was full of inequality among other injustices. 35 years on, our society is still saturated by discrimination and the exploitation of a minority by the majority.
The independent Zimbabwe remains an excessively divided society, divided by ethnicity, by race, by social class, by opportunity, by access to resources and so forth. These are deliberate inequities carefully calculated to ensure the perpetual subjugation of Matabeleland within an ethnic Shona engineered and dominated Zimbabwean political system.
The Zimbabwean state is yet to make a good case for the blatant inequality that exists in our society today; indeed no good case can exist for discriminating against other ethnic groups for being different; ZANU PF’s tribalist policies that have deepened and widened inequalities between Mashonaland and Matabeleland cannot be justified because there is quite simply no excuse for tribalism.
Concern over inequality between the major black population groups – the Ndebele and Shona – in Zimbabwe rose significantly after the 1980 ‘independence’ probably as a consequence. Zimbabwean independence came wrapped up in ethnic Shona supremacism that has overseen the exploitation of the minority ethnic Ndebele by the majority ethnic Shona who have wilfully assisted the State in its unholy journey of imposing discriminatory policies that have overseen widening socioeconomic inequalities between Matabeleland and Mashonaland.
Since the 1980 independence charade, the Zimbabwean state has not seriously or actively tried to find peaceful domestic solutions to the growing internal inequalities. Instead, the state has at times resorted to extrajudicial measures to contain Matabeleland. This has undoubtedly opened serious consideration for alternative political possibilities within Matabeleland, including the growing nationalism.
I am by no means calling for socialism, Matabeleland does not require it; rather, I quest for the existence of an equally accessible path for all, not only ethnic Shona citizens, to move up. We want a country where any child, irrespective of their ethnic and racial background, can grow up to be the president. Far from socialism, I believe markets should determine the reward for effort and skill. I subscribe to the notion that people should be paid their dues but that can only be supported by a fairly constituted socioeconomic and political environment not one that is deliberately skewed against ethnic, racial and religious minorities.
The ambition for Matabeleland must be driven by the desire to create an economy broad and inclusive enough to accommodate all the ambitions and needs of the whole of the region. If there is a lesson for Matabeleland right now, it is that there are no shortcuts in addressing inequality; early investment in the lives of disadvantaged children will be vital in reducing inequality within our great nation in both the short and long term.
We are not asking Harare to make unequal things equal; we are not making a request for Matabeleland to be given special entitlement in the Zimbabwean state. Zimbabwean inequality cannot be left unchallenged; inequality does not of itself create unhappiness but reasons for it do. Zimbabwean inequality is a creation of deliberate policies that condemn Matabeleland to perpetual inferiority.