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Sanity required in the Matabeleland vote (non) participation debate

An analysis of the 2013 Zimbabwe general elections participation shows that a significant number of Mthwakazi citizens did engage in the process. We cannot dismiss that reality offhand; whatever we propose, needs to start from that base.

Top down policies sold as people friendly ideals often, in real terms, empower the elite, satisfy the interests of the elite leading to power sharing imbalance, a poorly represented constituency, a dissatisfied public and general resentment.

As the debate on whether Matabeleland should or should not participate in Zimbabwe administered elections grows, we need not be fooled by emotions but to keep an open mind about different pro-Mthwakazi organisations’ agendas. Politicians are not in a charitable organisation providing free public service but are in a business to make profit.

Let us hold an objective discussion supported by well researched information. The current debate has seen an abundance of misinformation, exaggeration, and blatant lies being spread by interest groups, particularly those advocating non-participation in elections.

We must combat the destructive misinformation that is being spread by some pro-Matabeleland groups regarding what participation in elections means. To conflate voting with legitimising Zimbabwe’s sovereignty is a poorly constructed argument.

Let not contempt for truth or reality on the ground overrun real politics. The reality is that Matabeleland’s refusal to participate in elections may rightly question the credibility of the outcomes but leaves no dent on Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.

Zimbabwean sovereignty is separate from our participation in elections furthermore, the view of Zimbabwe’s sovereignty as perceived by some groups is subjective and unfortunately removed from the objective reality that Zimbabwe remains an internationally recognised sovereign State whether we participate in elections or not.

Insistence on sanity is advised here; we cannot claim back political power from Harare by surrendering more through withdrawing our participation from what are legal elections in the territory simply because we hate the administrator. These elections are paid for through taxes to which Matabeleland citizens contribute.

My position remains unchanged, not yet. We must stop the politics of standing against everything and start standing up for something. We cannot uphold our sovereignty by surrendering it; we have the right to elect our leaders, that is a right, I believe, we should use. Participation in elections is an imprescriptible right that no one organisation has a right to violate.

It would appear, at the moment, calls for non-participation in Zimbabwe elections from some pro-Matabeleland groups are nothing more than political speed dating for clueless politicians. No clue, so everybody else must stop whatever they are doing for some groups to feel they have done something. Inaction only satisfies some egos at the expense of the territory.

Our participation in the elections conducted within our territory is not only reasonable but essential if we are to test the compatibility of our ideas with the electorate and build internal political traction. Participating in elections administered by the Zimbabwean State, using OUR money is not responsible for our circumstances but those whom we have been choosing to lead must be called to account.

While I accept that the Zimbabwean electoral process is neither perfect nor fair, I remain unconvinced by the benefits of an armed intervention; the cost is just too high for often too little in return. Evidence from regions that have pursued armed struggles is not promising, look at the Borno State in North-East Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, to name but a few. South Sudan involved in a civil war since 2013 recently declared a famine in the country and nearly 50 percent of the population will have no access to food by July 2017. War in Yemen has left 1.4 million children at risk of famine and 370 000 malnourished.

Photo credit: © AFP via Getty Images. A five-year-old girl suffering from acute malnutrition sleeps on a bed inside an improvised house in Hajjah, Yemen

War benefits warlords and not the public subjected to severe insecurity. Warlords use food deprivation as a tool, they deliberately disrupt donor agencies’ activities, demand payment from donors in return for access to starving communities. At times, they takeover distribution of food, divert it to their supporters while depriving communities in perceived core opposition territories.

It is paramount that we remain open to ideas aimed at increasing our share of political power. People are free to express their views about participation or non-participation in Zimbabwe administered elections but how can we master political control over our territory without playing a real role in the politics in the region? Apart from subjective perceptions, the idea that violent intervention is more effective than non-violence is not supported by evidence.


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