No sane person should wake up and be happy with the present state of things in Zimbabwe. We cannot accept the country as it is and lay claim to sanity. Each day we should wake up with a feeling of revulsion because of the injustice of things. First, victims and beneficiaries must reject tribalism and stop making excuses for systems, institutions and policies that dehumanise other people because of their social background.
We have learned that in trying to maintain peace by keeping silent about the pervasive tribalism in Zimbabwe, in paying a blind eye to this evil, in burying it so deep in our society that it is invisible on the surface, we are implanting it, and risk it raising its ugly head with detrimental effect in the future. We have a responsibility to demand accountability from our leaders, for when we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their unjust activities, we are destroying the foundations of justice from under the feet of the next generation.
A change in our sociopolitical psyching is a necessity. If the only time our people think about injustice is when it happens to them, then we are miles away from change. We need to appreciate that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere and come back to the idea that justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
Within the independent Zimbabwe, there is a profound and disturbing lack of motivation to prevent injustice because the majority ethnic group is unharmed by it. Ethnic Shona communities are – on the surface, at least – largely benefactors of tribalism and most are unwilling to surrender privileges afforded them for belonging to the Shona tribe and thus being nearer those in authority.
It is perceivable that when one is used to privilege, equality feels like oppression thus, there is fear among most ethnic Shona communities to confront tribalism that grants privilege to them. To reorient our cousins, I say take comfort in knowing that while equality may feel like oppression, it is not. What you will be feeling will be nothing beyond the discomfort of losing a bit of your privilege, perhaps the same discomfort that those communities not currently accessing the same privilege experience.
The challenge to our ethnic Shona communities is for them to take the initiative and use their unearned benefits to work along other citizens to fight and remove those institutions benefiting ethnic Shona citizens yet causing great misery to those of a different tribe. Progress in Zimbabwe will be measured by how the rights of ethnic minorities are respected and protected, and not by how wide and deep ethnic Shona culture, norms and values penetrate non-Shona communities.
Let us detoxify the social environment, stop seeing each other through politicians’ lenses and search our moral values for lasting solutions; when your neighbour is not safe, you are not safe; when you enjoy the suffering of your neighbour, you have a problem; when you cannot acknowledge injustice because you are not directly affected by it, you are a danger even to yourself. Politicians come in different colours and tribes, but their interests are hardly ever different, they desire total power and control, and if need be, they will make you believe absurdities and can make you commit atrocities while they scramble for all the power.
Right now, ordinary citizens of Matabeleland and those from Mashonaland distrust and passionately hate each other, but there is no objective reason for it, and apart from politicians, no one is benefiting from the socio-political division – if not connected to those in control of power, we are victims in equal measure.
People cannot continue being angry about being labelled tribalists just because they express tribally discriminatory views and harbour tribalist beliefs. We are a society angry about having to consider the rights of others who are equal to us in all manner bar the language they speak. We need to revisit the basics of our power, start working within our communities to wrestle power away from career politicians; let us build real local power and start rebuilding and dictating systems.
Over the years, this blog has been consistent in its argument that Matabeles cannot be freed by the same injustice that is enslaving us today. Reverse tribalism will not be our saviour; it is never suited to a sociopolitically diverse society like ours; tribalism will only provide an illusion of control or just temporary reprieve but perpetuate instability and insecurity within our systems, institutions and paranoia across society.
We believe that there should be no difference in the standards of treatment provided to citizens irrespective of their tribe, ethnicity, race, religion or sex. Systems and institutions that propagate the dehumanisation of other humans based on their social background must be rejected. This is neither an unreasonable request nor an unachievable goal.
Our society can be taught about how equal treatment of all citizens is the right thing to do for the progress of all. People need to be closer to decisions impacting their lives. Moral principles based on people’s culture, norms and values will have to be at the core of what we do, we need to appreciate the importance of being careful with the language we use to maintain respectful relations within our society. Even more significant, those benefiting from unearned privileges must be prepared to use those privileges to stand in solidarity with those communities who are claiming their right to exist – communities who are rightfully angry about being discriminated against.