Tribalism that has enabled the political containment of Matabeleland remains the central feature in Zimbabwean political life. I know this now sounds like a broken record but it is worthwhile reminding the ZANU PF elite and those party fanatics suffering selective amnesia that the Zimbabwean socio-political space has yet to be safe for diversity in general; it remains unsafe for Matabeleland in particular and, on the evidence of the last 36 years, it never will.
It is up to this generation to not only change the political direction but to also prepare Mthwakazi children for what they have to meet. Let us restore coherent thinking within politics and acknowledge that Matabeleland is for all who live in it. The aim should be to fight for just politics, to restore normality, dignity, liberty and freedom in Mthwakazi’s political space. Respect is due all irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, social status and political views. By just politics, I mean the kind that would not set out to build and maintain systems and structures whose only aim is avenging ZANU PF cruelty.
All progressive forces in the region have a responsibility to exercise caution in their attempts to revolutionise the Matabeleland internal politics. If we truly despise ZANU PF policies of segregation, we need not replicate them. It is fair to say we have so far fallen short, instead of shunning ZANU PF bigotry, some Mthwakazi nationalist organisations have actually embraced the template, only changing the target of hate.
Vengeance should never be the point of politics; change must be. The problem currently lies in our conceptualisation of the Mthwakazi socio-political space; for many organisations the thought of empowering Matabeleland and that of punishing ethnic Shona people coincide. In many arguments it is often difficult to discern where the desire for justice ends and vengeance begins.
Another niggling problem in our political space is the damaging narrowing of the political spectrum. The political platform is increasingly intolerant of diversity of opinion choosing to promote robust debates but within extremely narrow channels. The aim appears to be the promotion of blind nationalism. We need to be wary of our pride; is it ‘good pride’ based on dignity and self-respect or ‘bad pride’ driven by a misplaced deep sense of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance? We are entitled to our liberty and freedom but no more than any other ethnic group.
Frequently thinking we were superior to particular ethnic groups is a conceptually problematic way of identifying ourselves. It is not empowering to keep viewing ourselves relative to other ethnic groups and only on that basis; every ethnic group has its own set of values that entitles it to a special identity of its own.
Tribalism is contemptible; it is degrading and never will be a valid tool for self-assessment and empowerment. Let us reject the political narrative that assumes Matabeleland peace, freedom and liberty coincide with the expulsion and/ or exclusion, from Matabeleland, of ethnic Shona people. If the base of our political content is the expulsion, and not accommodation, of some people for their ancestral links then our dreams are smaller than those of our forefathers. Mthwakazi has always been a socially diverse and accommodating nation. Tribalism destroys, it kills; it limits society’s chances of operating within and above its capabilities.
We cannot afford to contradict ourselves if we want the World to seriously consider our cause. We cannot in one breath complain of ZANU PF using tribalism to build barriers that obstruct our access to opportunities while in another encouraging the adoption of strategies intent on building even higher barriers to block some people from accessing opportunities just because of their ancestral connections.
Contrary to what many of our nationalist organisations would like us to believe, Matabeleland would not be safer, freer, or better by creating barriers between ethnic groups. Let us get the diagnostic tools right to give ourselves a fighting chance at diagnosing the problem right and treating it; our politics must be motivated by the desire for fairer policies and not avenging ZANU PF cruelty.