A progressive political space is one where everyone takes ownership of the political project at hand, and where no one is awaiting solutions, but everyone is creative and acts to turn dreams into reality. It is a space where people actively work to remove obstructions from their systems.
We all have a responsibility to turn our politics from a reactive into a proactive process. We want to stop our political policies from being simply a reflection of our reaction to ZANU PF policy; for when that happens, we have little control over its direction; our political ideas slowly become an amalgam of outcomes of our opposition to ZANU PF thinking, and nothing remotely representative of us, and we are not free. It is no surprise that many of our organisations are suffering a disconnect with the local population.
It is a political fact that our foundations are weak, yet we require a strong foundation to hold up the political superstructure of our dreams. We want an autonomous Mthwakazi, but our organisations suffer from weak leadership structures, lack of accountability and poor funding; consequently, they are prone to instability, inefficiency, and experience weak popular legitimacy.
A responsible move towards rectifying the problem will be to correct the present situation where we find ourselves detached from what we have for long conceived as our main base, Matabeleland. We must accept that Mthwakazi public’s faith in politicians and institutions has waned and is now on a steep and dangerous decline because elected leaders have failed to deliver.
It is an undisputable reality that Mthwakazi nationalist groups are not as popular in Mthwakazi as we would expect or like; this suggests our people want policies and politicians that work, and not just last names they identify with or anti-Shona rhetoric. Our people do not know us, and there is no evidence we know them. We need to face to that reality with our eyes wide open. We need a deeper and broader engagement with the public to better understand their political desires.
To better equip our organisations for political realities in Mthwakazi, these are some of the questions that need addressing:
- Are we fighting the right war (equity of treatment or independence or semi-autonomy or federalism or devolution of power)?
- What is our capacity: human, financial, expertise, etc?
- Who do we need in our structures, and why?
- Do we have everyone we should involve in our political strategy?
- Is there capital in a reverse tribalism approach?
- Are we clear with our aspirations?
- What are our expectations?
- How can our communication systems and methods be improved?
- How have we arrived at the decisions that influenced our policies?
- How are we going to judge success or failure?
- What is the time frame for achieving our goals?
- In case of failure, what is plan B?
We need to go back to base and engage the public to identify shared concerns and aspirations/ desires and solutions. Politics must no longer be the preserve of career politicians but the entitlement of the whole of the Mthwakazi nation. There is no reason why our people cannot have a greater voice in decisions impacting their lives. We have seen how the current political organisation in the region stops the public from having a say in matters which affect them.
Freedom of expression is a goal in itself; building and nurturing a culture of openness and free speech will be a vital step in our pursuit of increasing public political engagement and accountability in the region. Our organisations must be more accessible to the public. We need to create space for our people to freely express their views. This can be achieved via publicly funded vibrant free media platforms run by communities or charity or voluntary organisations that would be essential in sustaining the impartiality of the space.
Coming to methodology, all options must be left on the table for objective deliberation. There is tendency, against all evidence, to think that violent means get people to their desired destiny quicker than peaceable means. Places like South Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Libya and others suggest otherwise. As evidence from the said regions shows, successes from violent means are temporary, at best, and have created more evils than they solved, left the countries worse than they were found. The fact remains that all amelioration and improvements in political institutions can be achieved through constructive nonviolent means.
If we do not have an idea of the future we need and want, we are unlikely to create it. What would success or failure look like? Our institutions must aim to ensure unhindered development of the individual. Thus, the only way of judging whether our institutions are a success or failure will be the degree to which they enable all our people equal access to opportunity.
No red lines drawn, all options are on the table; Mthwakazi’s real freedom will come from internal political innovation and proactivity, and not just reacting to ZANU PF methods. Politics must be honest and simplified, made more understandable and accessible to the public to increase participation and improve confidence.