Gukurahundi illustrates the consequences of unchecked power, prejudice, tribalism and stereotypes; for Matabeleland, it calls out for political reforms and points at the need for confronting political indifference and inaction. Matabeleland has to concede that silence as a negotiation tool has not only failed to chip away at the overbearing authority of Harare but has not empowered the region and its people.
Neutrality and silence have never protected victims of torment but have, without fail, encouraged the tormentor. Matabeleland is a poignant example of silence strengthening the tormentor; we have maintained a deafening silence under a torrent of state abuse. We must consign neutrality and silence to the scrap yard and take a side; we need to stimulate ourselves back into sensitivity to abuse, recognise it and shake it off our shoulders every second it shows up.
A critique of Zimbabwe’s independence illustrates disparities in the degree of its negative impact within different ethnic groups, races, regions and social classes. While Mashonaland started acknowledging the impact in the 1990s, our lived reality has been very different, Zimbabwean authorities’ political conduct towards Matabeleland and ethnic minorities has been disrespectful, unjustified and often unlawful since 1980.
The State has perverted the power entrusted on it into tyranny. The continual abuse of legislation and reckless ceding of power to the executive by other state organs has left the country without provisions to curb the exercise of arbitrary power by the executive. The prevailing situation does not bode well for the growth and safety of the country; Matabeleland has suffered as a result. Harare has to accept the need for extensive changes in the way the country is governed, accept its responsibilities to Matabeleland or else accept it has no place for Matabeleland in its systems and thus formally revert to traditional administrative boundaries of Mashonaland and Matabeleland.
We cannot carry on being ill-used as chaperones for ZANU PF’s disastrous spontaneity, also known as governing. We need to initiate change in the way government behaves towards us; however, what we cannot afford at this stage is to replace rationale with emotions. Let us remove the one single factor, silence, that has continued to strengthen Harare’s authority over Mthwakazi; stimulate more extensive political participation by the public. Only a massive public involvement will reclaim politics from career politicians who have been serving ideologies and political parties and not the people; fundamentally, the impotent ‘top-down’ approach has to be replaced by ‘bottom-up’ alternatives.
Devolution is the only way forward, consider the following hypothetical village operational structure which can be easily replicated at other levels of governance: villages to be run by an elected unsalaried committee of say 10 residents who among themselves will select a non-executive village head to serve a maximum of two 12 month terms with an option of a recall in cases of impropriety. Committee members would ideally serve a maximum of two 5 year terms (consecutive or split). Although not entitled to a wage, committee members would have all expenses covered; transparency is advised.
The selection process of committee members would be determined by locals but founded on strong principles; consideration of local campaigning regulations – the role of political parties, skills and gender diversity, youth involvement, also consider the minimum period of unbroken residence within the village that qualifies an individual to run for office, etc.
The role of the committee would be consulting with local residents, planning and execution of projects. Consider the following offices: food security, human rights, health and education, finance and development, transport, disaster management, youth affairs, etc. The committee would meet once a month except in response to an emergency. The non-executive village head’s role would involve chairing committee meetings, hosting village functions and visitors, maintaining regular contact with the local member of parliament, feeding back to residents, etc. The village budget would be funded by a combination of the government (major), local taxes, the private sector, where applicable, and international charity organisations where possible.
The top-down approach and serving ideologies and political parties instead of the public has ruined Zimbabwe. A political regime that allows the State permission to exercise authority without the consent of the electorate falls way short of public expectations from a democracy. Matabeleland, in particular, has been a victim than a beneficiary of the ethnically divisive ZANU PF regime. It is time we took back control of our lives; minimum, the Zimbabwean regime has to separate and distribute power; if not, federalism is the best option.