We recognise that elections (and the political process in general) have not been relevant to Matabeleland citizens, and people’s votes have not mattered. So, what is the way forward?
We do not pretend there is any single or easy solution to Matabeleland’s problems but we are responsible for our choices; we are responsible for our commissions and omissions within our political space.
Politicians need to draw their authority from the people and not from themselves. Ideologies and policies need to resonate with our constituency; thus, they need to be put to test somehow. If, as some pro-Mthwakazi groups argue, elections within the Zimbabwe state are not the appropriate tool, what is?
You cannot build anything on the politics that calls for pre-emptive total disengagement from political processes and, nothing else. Those pro-Mthwakazi groups that rightly feel an entitlement to call upon the public not to engage in Zimbabwean elections should at the least have some courtesy to give people options of what should be done instead; leaving the public clutching at straws is politically irresponsible.
We accept that Zimbabwe is an electoral authoritarianism; we concede too that Matabeles’ participation in elections has had little effect on policy and distributive outcomes within the modern Zimbabwe state yet it has continued to grant the ZANU PF regime a semblance of legitimacy. Bearing this in mind, I do sympathise with the calls for election disengagement.
The spectrum of opinions about potentially effectual political interventions in Matabeleland is as long and as wide as the territory itself. While we respect all views, caution is advised, we expect individuals and groups to take their responsibilities to Matabeleland citizenry seriously; there is thus, an expectation for the authors of the different suggestions to justify their proposed interventions.
I will repeat my assertion from previous blogs, we need to combat the extraordinary disregard for truth and facts within the pro-Mthwakazi agenda. Altered truths and facts will not free the region; knee jerk reactions will not move things forward any quicker than they should, only measured and well thought-out interventions will contribute towards building a stable and progressive political power base for Matabeleland.
It is true that the Zimbabwean State has been totally irresponsible and has hardly played the role of government in Matabeleland and most of Mashonaland, for that matter. The State has shown an uncanny resolve to hold onto power and not to share it equally between Matabeleland and Mashonaland. I do acknowledge too that the electoral process has been dogged by corruption charges and suspicions of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) unduly interfering in the process in favour of the ZANU PF regime abound but I am not convinced a unilateral withdrawal from the process and all elections will help Matabeleland influence local politics.
I recognise that Matabeles have been voting and have shown bravery in making their choices; I therefore, subscribe to the idea of strategic participation where we are only involved in those elections that allow us to choose local leadership.
After the electoral piracy of ZANU PF, the biggest problem within the Mthwakazi political space has been the lack of visible pro-Mthwakazi organisations who espouse socially, economically and politically relevant messages to the public. We need to address that sooner rather than later if progress is to be made.
Disagreement and debate is constructive for our politics but the objectives for the arguments must be triggered by the desire for genuine and positive change, and not out of fear that power maybe slipping away from a group and the easiest way of earning publicity is attacking fellow Mthwakazi groups. Persistent and petty political attacks between emerging pro-Mthwakazi political parties lead to lower levels of trust among the public who end up retreating to the old foe if not to what they perceive to be the lesser evil from Zimbabwe oriented parties.
Matabeleland has long been denied a word within the Zimbabwe state; that must change and I believe we should not allow ourselves to be pushed to the quiet corner. By advising Mthwakazi people to stay away from all Zimbabwean political processes including those performed within our territory and paid for through our contributory taxes, Matabeleland groups are still playing a political role in Zimbabwe, albeit a role tacitly entrenching the perpetual political disempowerment of the region.