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Should Mthwakazi citizens participate in Zimbabwean elections?

Questions of the relevance of Zimbabwean elections to Mthwakazi continue to be raised with Matabeleland people wondering if participation in the elections is necessary and how it changes Mthwakazi’s political experience. It is no surprise that opinions on the matter vary widely within the Mthwakazi focused agenda.

Central to the debate is whether voting is of itself ever beneficial for Mthwakazi within the current Zimbabwe political regime. Even more interesting is the argument that Mthwakazi’s participation in Zimbabwean administered elections legitimises Zimbabwean sovereignty.

Let us focus on the latter for now, I recognise this is an emotive subject within Mthwakazi nationalism but it is a disingenuous presentation to deny the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean sovereignty. We need to be objective and serious to be taken serious, Zimbabwe is a sovereign state, period! We are paying the price of political negligence by Mthwakazi representatives within the PF ZAPU leadership from the 1960s; they paid a blind eye to ZANU PF’s mechanisation and sacrificed Mthwakazi.

Sad as it is, change is possible, but we must acknowledge the existence of a sovereign Zimbabwean state; accepting the sovereignty of Zimbabwe is neither legitimising the injustices of the current regime in Mthwakazi nor abandoning the restoration agenda. Acknowledging the legal status of Zimbabwe and demanding for Mthwakazi to have fuller and total control over its political space and decisions impacting our lives are not mutually exclusive.

Voting is an essential part of democracy, it is a process through which people express their commitment to themselves, others and their states. Here, we assume that the public have, as much as possible, full, unhindered access to the rest of the processes including the counting of votes; in many countries voting is just another tool through which politicians legitimise their authority over the people. Apart from casting their vote, the public plays no other role other than waiting for politicians to decide the result.

In our lifetime, Mthwakazi has participated in all Zimbabwean votes but there has been no meaningful political shift, let alone objective political benefits in the region. Even more worrying has been the apparent lack of interest by the Harare legislature to transform the system to actively facilitate a transfer of real power to Mthwakazi. The First Past The Post (FPTP) system is not ideal yet Harare will not change that as it threatens its control over Mthwakazi.

The FPTP system does not serve the interests of Mthwakazi within the Zimbabwean merger. To give a military analogy, what the FPTP system has done over the years is hand Mthwakazi a fire cracker while giving Mashonaland a nuclear weapon! In a country where tribe, and not policy, continues to form the base of all political transactions, the FPTP ensures executive power is kept in Mashonaland for the benefit of the ethnic Shona political elite and Mashonaland region.

There is no doubt in my mind that ZANU PF has weaponised the electoral system to legitimise a dictatorship, turn Shona creed into law and impose Mashonaland authority over Mthwakazi. Mthwakazi votes do not really matter.

Within the Zimbabwean electoral system, we have effectively become masters of voting ourselves into complete dependence on a tyrant in Mashonaland who has not stopped shrinking our political influence within our own region while he expands his across it; election after election Mthwakazi has become less and less free.

Zimbabwean politicians act and behave as though Mthwakazi did not exist. We need to remind everyone and ourselves that Mthwakazi exists as the other half in the two-nation merger that forms the current Zimbabwean state. We are an equal partner and entitled to fair treatment. If the Zimbabwean State will not perform the role of government in Mthwakazi, it forfeits its perceived right to govern the region.

Having said that, the first step towards changing our political circumstances is not disengagement but more not less engagement. We need to start taking more time to learn about issues. It is the way we understand issues that will shape our choices.

My argument is, let us not deprive ourselves the right to choose who leads us but let us choose wisely. Choosing wisely is not beyond us, we need to stop voting for people who look down upon us. Let us give our collective mandate to political organisations and individuals with a clear and genuine pro-Mthwakazi vision.

Change is possible, an analysis of the 2013 general election results shows that people of Mthwakazi are neither cowards nor naïve, they see the Zimbabwean politics for what it is, robbery and are prepared to look and vote against it. What we require is political creativity and confidence to test that in local elections.

We may not change politics in Zimbabwe but we can certainly change politics in Mthwakazi. Change will happen when we start building and maintaining a culture of political participation and activism. Our situation is clear, we are facing tribal organisations and institutions that front alternative democracy overseen by dictators. We need to start voting only for pro-Mthwakazi political organisations to build a political fortress.


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