Our politics cannot base itself on the law of the jungle, and the unilateral and indiscriminate abuse of citizens based on tribe is the law of the jungle. There are men and women of principle across the sociopolitical divide, but we are yet to see a party of principle. At present we are witnesses to unacceptable excesses right across the political spectrum because political parties have failed to set themselves minimum standards or codes of acceptable behaviour.
The chasm between Mashonaland and Matabeleland is widening. Suffice to say there is no moral equivalence between the ZANU PF/ MDC-fronted politics in Zimbabwe and Matabeleland’s needs; Zimbabwean politics is a terribly crude system that maintains hostility towards our most basic values and ideals. This form of politics must not instruct Mthwakazi’s political standards.
If we want to enjoy the fruits of freedom, we must be prepared to make the sacrifices that support it. Replacing one form of wickedness with another is not progress. Things must change, self-deception will not undo the evils that continue to widen the chasm between Matabeleland and Mashonaland; the best way to a constructive political discussion is honesty across the sociopolitical divide.
Everyone, including the current beneficiaries must not shy away from challenging tribalism and all sense of political depravity; let us fall not into an academically induced amnesia that attempts to shift Gukurahundi atrocities into ‘a moment of weakness’ and out of its relevant genocide classification.
Teaching Gukurahundi victims to ‘forget’ it and its impact in Matabeleland is a dangerously flawed and retrogressive doctrine that leaves this generation and the next vulnerable to the same acts of unprovoked aggression by the State. We need to protect this and the future generations.
Progress will only begin when politicians accept that ZANU PF’s hostile political agenda towards Matabeleland and its continued engagement in malign influence operations is completely unacceptable now, was unacceptable back in 1979 when they published their tribalist ‘Grand Plan’ white paper, was criminal in April 1983 to April 1984 when tens of thousands of Matabeles were wiped off the face of the earth for being Ndebele.
ZANU PF and the MDC will not change themselves voluntarily; we must take the initiative to reverse Mthwakazi voices being written out of history in this pseudo independent Zimbabwe. The heart and soul of political change is creativity and innovation. We will need to introduce relevant and meaningful political ideology across the region.
Emotions must not be the principal author of our ideology but the needs of our people. Mthwakazi politics of today must not be constructed as a mere formal reaction to what ZANU PF or the MDC stands for; we are not intent on swapping the instigator and victim roles of a flawed system but creating new politics that embraces diversity.
Without proper scrutiny, Shona privilege and tribalism will dominate our politics for generations to come. We have a responsibility to educate society about these two social evils and their consequences in Zimbabwe. In brief, tribalism is a doctrine with no supporting evidence which purports three things: 1. it claims to find tribal differences in factors such as human character and intelligence, 2. it asserts the superiority of one tribe over another or others, and 3. it seeks to maintain that dominance through a complex system of beliefs, behaviours and policies.
Zimbabwean tribalism can be traced from the individual through to institutional level; it reflects and enforces a pervasive view that Ndebeles are inferior to Shonas. Such stereotypes are used to condone Shona privilege that condemns Ndebeles to an existence of socioeconomic and political poverty.
Unlike tribalism, Shona privilege is not something that ethnic Shona people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose. Shona privilege is a subtle and transparent preference for ethnic Shona customs, language and values that permeates through Zimbabwean society. In practice, Shona privilege serves the following functions: 1. it provides ethnic Shona people with unearned “perks” not enjoyed by non-Shona population groups, 2. it generates real advantages for ethnic Shona people, and 3. it shapes all facets of Zimbabwean socioeconomic and political existence.
- READ MORE: Zimbabwe’s tribal identity politics marginalises Matabeleland
- Confronting Shona privilege isn’t tribalism
There is no question that the sociopolitical injustice described above needs addressing, but how? I have said in the past, I will say it again now, the Mthwakazi politics we aspire to is a political system that protects all its citizens from excesses of incompetent politicians and politics. The primary goal of politics in Mthwakazi should be to create a system and institutions capable not only of delivering new things but also making the current system obsolete.
While I am in full support of the latest demonstration against open tribalism at Pick n Pay in Bulawayo as I believe it to be a noble cause, I believe greater care needs to be taken in the tone of language used. One can be both forceful and brutally honest without inciting hatred. We do not want to be seen to be targeting every ethnic Shona person for abuse for what is essentially a myriad of intricate actions that facilitate Shona privilege.
This is systemic, dealing with symptoms and ignoring the foundations of the problem is undesirable short-termism with disastrous consequences for fragile communities. The way forward is a multi-pronged approach that challenges the root of the problem. We need ethnic Shona citizens to use their Shona privilege for the greater good by exposing injustice within the political system.
Survival of the fittest cannot be the law that informs our policy, such crafted law has no interest in the protection of individual rights, but certainly undermines them. A politics that triggers anxiety and paranoia among vulnerable communities in our midst is unsafe for everyone. Diversity gave birth to Matabeleland, we will not trade that foundation for anything; we will create a system and institutions that promote equality, reward effort and not the sociopolitical background of individuals.