Zimbabwean independence has not lived up to the best intentions of the 1960s and ’70s liberation struggle. The ‘independence’ has failed to keep the promise of liberty, freedom and equality for all; Matabeleland, in particular, has suffered the brunt of ZANU PF’s tyrannical regime. Harare continues to actively ignore the rights of non-ethnic Shona nationals; everything Mthwakazi has been consigned to the periphery of Zimbabwe’s socio-political space.
To change the world, we have to be crazy enough to believe we can. Matabeleland can break the cycle of ZANU PF oppression. To Matabeleland equality is not a mere goal but a precondition for meeting the challenge of poverty and discrimination; it is the precondition for the promotion of good governance.
True equality comes not by regarding different people similarly but by regarding different people differently. Equality will be when all have equal access to the path to self-improvement without the impediments of the tyranny of the Zimbabwean State. As Matabeleland we have the right to be ourselves; our way of life needs to be driven by unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn by our recognition of equal rights of others and not the current unfair limits set by ZANU PF. We must not be expected to seek Harare approval for developing our lands and improving our lives.
Our experience of Zimbabwean independence teaches us that ethnic discrimination is there to stay; while tribalism and nepotism remain with us, it is up to us to clean up and that does not happen by merely pointing fingers at Harare in the North. We need to prepare our children for the future we want. Matabeleland children need to be prepared to face up to Zimbabwe’s socio-political space and stand up for who they are; that requires us to have a good handle of the education system.
We need to fight for equality within the education system; Matabeleland history has to come from us; our contribution to the fight against colonialism and our experience of Zimbabwean ‘independence’ has to be our own narrative and not the current one that has gone through the ZANU PF filter.
We are born equal, taught that we are not only different but also unequal, equipped with dangerous attitudes borne out of the arrogance of our communities; we surely can be taught to love. We need not obsess ourselves with ridding ourselves of our differences but embrace them in a diversity-safe socio-political space. Besides it being non-beneficial to the current Zimbabwean State, there is no good reason why ethnic Ndebele and ethnic Shona people cannot sit together at the table of brotherhood and share equal authority within the same geopolitical territory. As Matabeleland, we want a country in which we and our children are not judged by the languages we speak but our ability.
We seek equality in liberty; history teaches us that liberty and freedom is not free and that those who have opted not to grab it but instead waited for it to bring itself to them have endured prolonged suffering. If Matabeleland expects to be given equality, then we have some waiting to do. We have to make Harare recognise that equality means that for every street built in Harare, one has to be constructed in Bulawayo and for every college built in Mhondoro, one has to be built in Nkayi and so on. Equality is when a Beitbridge resident’s expectation to be addressed in Venda in a public office in Beitbridge is not too optimistic but a right.