The greatest gift Matabeleland handed to the anchors (ZANU PF and the MDC) of systematic tribalism in Zimbabwe is inaction; now we have the MDC flagrantly ignoring local interests and imposing outsiders who are clearly naïve to local culture, norms, values and languages to take up executive roles in Matabeleland’s capital city, Bulawayo. A stop must be put to this; we can no longer afford to open ourselves to such appropriation of our support.
The fear of being called tribalists must not be allowed to be a barrier that blocks us from challenging injustice; challenging Shona privilege is not tribalism but a legitimate human rights issue. Real tribalists in the MDC leadership and its allies think themselves clever, they act out tribalism on the ground and then cry out ‘tribalism’ in our direction whenever we act against their unjust acts of tribalism.
We have no problem with ethnic Shona residents contributing towards the development of Matabeleland. Indeed, we do not object to ethnic Shona people who are ordinarily resident in Matabeleland taking active leadership roles in the region, our contestation is the importation from outside the region and imposition of ethnic Shona people into executive roles at the expense of equally qualified and capable locals.
Blind support for the MDC is a trap that will obliterate us and a trap from which we must disentangle ourselves before we reach a crisis point; the MDC behaves as though we owe it our lives; we do not owe the MDC anything, the MDC owes us everything. If we cannot be equal partners and cannot decide who leads us locally then we have every right to withdraw our support, and that we will do.
Within the independent Zimbabwe politics, we have learned that if we let the major political parties tell us how our politics is supposed to work for us we will be dead. If we give into Harare’s version of politics, then we will do nothing to improve Matabeleland because the major political parties are more interested in managing than empowering Matabeleland. The notion that Matabeleland regional political parties are divisive and only the MDC and ZANU PF are unifying bodies is a pacifying yet harmful ideal that many Zimbabwean politicians use to gloss over tribalism.
We have identified that not challenging Shona privilege is equivalent to authorising it. We accept our culpability in the presenting political scene that sees a saturation of the Bulawayo leadership with outsiders who hold no superior qualifications than locals. While we were being misled and busy fighting a pointless battle of removing ZANU PF from power instead of targeting the tribalist system it and the MDC represented, we paid a blind eye to the latter’s implementation of the system.
Let us fight the curse of inaction. The cycle of our problems can be tracked back to a lack of vision, indifference – an unwillingness to act when action is desirable, simple and effective, disorganised thinking, and poor counsel which has seen us wait until crisis strikes and self-preservation glares at us. We cannot continue along the path of reactionary politics and policies when being proactive is the answer to taking control of our political outcomes.
Over the years, locally focused socio-political groups have risen and fallen; we have talked and planned, we have made oaths and promises to transform and empower Matabeleland, but we have done precious little by way of action, that is why we find ourselves in this rut where local executive roles are being parcelled out to ethnic Shona-orientated political parties’ representatives instead of genuine local representatives.
These outsiders who find themselves in leading roles in our society today are not our servants but career politicians who do not only have no connection with us but also have no desire to learn and understand local norms and values. They are accountable to their party leadership and not the local population.
We recognise that our progress will never be through fighting the existing reality but through building a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. Focus must shift from pointless party allegiance to common principles drawn from the communities and based on our shared history, culture, norms and values, as opposed to being dictated by political leadership.
We have been too faithful and patiently laboured to help build a strong opposition to ZANU PF in the form of the MDC, only to find it populated with characters identical to those in ZANU PF. We now need to review our membership in the two major political organisations in Zimbabwe. It is an open secret that we are only accepted and expected to be passive members who blindly endorse goals of their dominant ethnic Shona leadership.
To achieve real political progress, we need to start changing attitudes and effectively removing those barriers that obstruct us from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. We are not inferior members of any organisation or institution we subscribe to; we are not less qualified to make decisions about our lives; we are equal partners whose voice must be equally heard. It must not be lost to our people that all progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions and executed by supplanting existing institutions.