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Death of Rhodesia; rise of toxic tribalism

Death of Rhodesia did not only fail to kill racism it gave birth to formal institutionalised tribalism. The process oversaw the ethnic Shona dominated government delusion of Ndebele dissidents and sanctification of the killing of innocent Matabele people by a 5th brigade especially created just to do that; the path of ethnic Shona supremacy was paved under the guise of safeguarding territorial independence.

Politicisation of tribes and ethnic groups has become a major component of politics in the post-colonial Africa; indeed in Zimbabwe today access to political power and economic resources is inseparable from tribal connection. Below is a discussion of tribalism in Kenya which just about mirrors the challenges faced by independent African states.

Matabeleland politicians are better off accepting Zimbabwe as it really is than to persist in the delusion of Zimbabwean independence, however satisfying and reassuring it may sound. Matabeleland is not independent. The attempt to redefine the 1987 Unity Accord as a purely voluntary arrangement is a delusion whose only objective is to shield the perpetrators of Gukurahundi atrocities from prosecution.

The togetherness delusion has not and never will translate into Matabeleland liberty and freedom; Zimbabwe is a tribalist state protected by tribalist institutions that draw their authority mainly from the gullible majority ethnic Shona population that constitutes at least 80 percent of the population.

Irrational fear that hinders the State from letting Matabeleland policies be determined by Matabeles and a misplaced desire to manage Matabeleland are obstacles to the real independence and freedom in Zimbabwe. That fear has kept Harare focused on the past and equally worried about the future; the possibility of a Zimbabwean leader of Matabeleland origin drives a chill down the spines of many in the north and east of the country.

If Harare is still dreaming of a united Zimbabwe, it must accept to recognise its damaging effect in Matabeleland; the ZANU PF State has to acknowledge the reality that it is currently effectively pursuing a dual state built on tribalism that deliberately restricts progress in Matabeleland.

We need to acknowledge and confront the stereotypes that fuel the politics of tribal allegiance. The deadly sin of ethnic Shona superiority and a sense of entitlement are not the right platform on which an equal Zimbabwe can be built. The Zimbabwean politics motivated by arrogance, conceit and fear instead of policies has widened the socio-political gap between Matabeleland and Mashonaland. The selfish need to retain power control keeps narrowing some ethic Shona people’s scope of moral concern; they do not care what happens to anyone else as long as an ethnic Shona person stays in power.

Tribalism is the refuge of cowards; Harare’s policy approach has damaged Matabeleland and failed to foster real unity of the two traditional states. Harare cannot continue implementing tribalist policies while being quick to accuse Matabele people of tribalism whenever they point at the degrading effects of tribalism in the country.


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