Matabeleland Political Transformation

In 1980, the Matabeleland generation before ours put aside our traditional geopolitical boundaries and surrendered authority in order to work with Mashonaland to bring forth a new nation called Zimbabwe; a ‘modern nation’ supposedly conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now 36 years on, nothing can be further from the truth for quite frankly, post-independence Zimbabwe politics has failed to meet the basic minimum expectations of a free society – freedom, liberty, better quality of life and equal access to opportunity.

Evidence today shows that Matabeleland has disproportionately suffered from the ZANU PF majority government’s political and socioeconomic decisions. We can argue with absolute confidence too that those decisions effectively skew resource allocation against the region and deny Matabeleland the right to access the benefits of its natural resources. We are a world apart from the dream of independence to experiencing real independence today than we ever were in 1900.

Zimbabwean independence is an oasis for the majority ethnic group and the privileged few while being an open prison for ethnic minorities. Zimbabwe has been transformed into some pseudo-Shona patriarchy whose main vision is to manage and strip Matabeleland of its social, economic and moral values, and thus identity. As much as we have fiercely tried to live our reality in a part of the world where it is dangerous to be who you are if you are not ethnic Shona, we have appeared to be fighting an increasingly losing battle. With every debate we have come to realise that Zimbabwe is a political setting that remains largely unreceptive to social and political differences among human beings; there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards ethnic and racial minorities.

Over the years Matabeleland politicians have made mistakes; calamitous political decisions such as not formally protecting the interests of Matabeleland prior to the 1980 independence and the further signing off of Matabeleland rights through a biased ‘Unity Accord’ in 1987 define the last generation; that agreement only bought us temporary reprieve from physical persecution but did nothing to address most of the political injustices. Even worse, this generation – if nothing changes sooner – risks being defined by the inaction that has directly furthered ZANU PF’s grip on Matabeleland. However, it is important that we do not dwell on the outcome of our mistakes but recognise their form so that we do not repeat them going forward; we need to realise too that our path to political change is carved by mistakes.

Lessons from our recent past indicate that our love of life and an even intense fear of death has instead compromised our quality of life. Transforming Matabeleland should be our central goal and will require taking risks at some point; taking risks is not equivalent to recklessness or disorder, it is a process that will see us on mountain tops at times and there will be moments in deep valleys of despair; we need to be true to our values and transformation will start happening when personal transformation takes place and only then we will begin sufficiently investing in other people. We need our politics to make sense to Matabeleland people and that will be politics that is not understood as imposed externally defined norms and values but a manifestation of our internalised values.

We can and we will actively divert the direction of the political wave away from the worst political institutions (ZANU PF and Tsvangirai’s MDC) to ever occupy a political space. These two organisations quite easily qualify for our own version of ‘a basket of deplorables’ that have formalised their deceptive and divisive political ideals which have effectively turned modern-day Zimbabwe into an ethnic Shona kingdom specialising in marginalising ethnic minorities. We pursue a political transformation into a more sensible centre ground guided primarily by the perception that human beings are born equal.


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