We recognise that when it comes to Matabeleland, the Zimbabwean state operates in a parallel universe; a universe whose political processes and supporting institutions operate as though Matabeleland did not exist. Harare bypasses Bulawayo as it nonchalantly operates a political system of containment and management of Matabeleland, and not accommodation.
Thanks to the first-past-the-first (FPTP) voting system, we remain far removed from national decisions impacting our lives; we recognise too that we are disproportionately affected by decisions made in Harare. Things cannot continue as they have since April 1980; Zimbabwe’s government system must change; the re-evaluation of the political policies, processes and institutions is long overdue.
Without demonstrable genuine political, systemic, institutional, and operational changes that address power sharing inequalities in Zimbabwe, it is impossible to fathom out a voluntary continuation of the Mashonaland/ Matabeleland union. A shift in the power balance and distribution between the traditional nations of Mashonaland and Matabeleland is no longer just a choice but the only choice.
None of us is born a slave and institutions place chains on us, a baby in Mashonaland is no less or more valuable than a baby born this minute in Matabeleland yet modern Zimbabwe has taught us exactly that. We, the People of Matabeleland, must say enough is enough! We are born free and, are not obligated to perpetuate the state of enslavement imposed upon us by Zimbabwean Mashonaland biased systems and institutions. We have the intellectual ability to step out of the Zimbabwe created and imposed inequality, discrimination, unhappiness and dependency.
Matabeleland needs real autonomy over decisions impacting its people, and if that cannot happen for lack of interest from Harare, a separation of the two traditional nations seems a reasonable and natural conclusion to an otherwise forced, neglectful and abusive marriage. We are however, not blind to the fact that territorial integrity and autonomy is nothing in the absence of freedom and liberty.
This brings us to the big question: What should Matabeleland freedom mean? My perception of freedom is the power to live as I wish yet recognising my responsibilities to society. Clearly, freedom comes with responsibility; we need to understand the responsibilities that come with our freedom to retain our integrity among humanity. Hence, it must not be lost to us that our individual freedoms and liberties are bound together with those of our neighbours and community – we have a duty not only to ourselves but to the whole nation and the world.
We are wary of human fragility especially under stress; the tendency to be driven by nature and instinct and, not law in response to real and/ or perceived injustice, particularly tribalism cannot be ignored. For the benefit of the next generation, we need to protect Matabeleland from toxic nationalism while promoting patriotism. Let us guard against tribalism. Tribalists have no geographic space, they are not confined to specific last names; there are narrow-minded people everywhere.
The cycle of tribalism and hatred will not set anyone free; if unchallenged, we will all be perpetual victims of it. When we all commit to fighting discrimination in all its forms, the horrors of tribally-inspired violence will be part of our history not our present. I denounce tribalism out of inner strength, not weakness, not out of appeasement of any community; standing against discrimination when you are the victim of it yourself is not for the lame but the brave.
Freedom for Matabeleland must be drawn from the concept, ‘all people are created equal’ and mean and lead to equality, equal access to opportunity through merit and not patronage nor tribe nor skin colour nor sex, etc. Power needs to be shared equally in Zimbabwe; a complete power shift is no longer an option but a necessity if the Matabeleland/ Mashonaland union is to be preserved. We need a system and institutions that will constantly call the government to account; Matabeleland is an equal partner and not a surrogate for Mashonaland within Zimbabwe.