Change approach: A participatory method the only way forward for Mthwakazi

A lesson to be retained by all freedom seekers – freedom is never free; people have to work for it. It is only when we start moving that we will feel the chains restricting us; if we want to be free, we must actively search for the keys and unlock the locks that are keeping us chained. We will claim ownership of our freedom; no single group has authority over us and we will let no one dictate the terms of our freedom; we will be a part of institutions meant to free us.

The explosive character of recent events in Matabeleland testifies to the enormous social contradictions that have accumulated over the nearly four decades since the acquisition of independence from white racists in 1980. The intense hatred of tribal discrimination and the conditions it has created in Mthwakazi — the staggering level of regional inequality, the endless marginalisation of Mthwakazi — is now bursting onto the surface of political life.  

We are a people of principle and will place greater challenge on whosoever desires to represent us. A free mind is our cornerstone; we shall let no group fight our battles without our informed consent for we risk our experiences being appropriated by selfish career politicians to advance their agenda and political careers not to undo chains round our ankles but reinforce the locks with the most sophisticated devices.

Crucially, if we want true freedom, we must not surrender our responsibilities to self and allow dictators and bullies to take control of our freedom needs; we need to act and not wait for someone else to set us free, after all no one understands our dreams better than ourselves.

From the onset, it must be made clear, any aspiring representatives must do so by consent, otherwise those that impose themselves as our representatives will not free us but give us portions of freedom and reserve the rest to control us. Our dream is not partial freedom or to have ‘better slave masters’, but total freedom to be ourselves.

What is freedom to us is not others’ perceptions of freedom,but what is freedom to us is our opinion of what being free is. Hence, if we want true freedom, we better start setting the tone, explicitly define what it means to be free to us, put it on the table for an honest debate with the local political leadership; crucially, make no secret the only desirable outcome is that we will live our dream and state institutions should ensure they protect and not limit that.

It is often not to most governments’ interest to grant freedom to their citizens, if they can get away with not extending it to us, they will happily do. Mthwakazi must not wait for Zimbabwe to grant us freedom, we need to grab it and that calls for participatory politics.

We are not oblivious to the current problem of poor local political participation; we are aware too that reading newspapers, voting in elections and if we are really incensed, writing to local members of parliament is utterly unpersuasive and unappealing to most of our people because it does not alter people’s lived experience. The Zimbabwean government is insensitive to Mthwakazi-specific issues thus, participation and interaction with elected representatives and other government officials is of little consequence.

Our distaste for participation in dysfunctional political systems of Zimbabwe has often been misconstrued as apathy, leading local legislators and academics to wrongly perceive a crisis in civics in Mthwakazi; in particular, voting age citizens participate in elections at a much lower rate than other regions. But that misses a key political narrative as stated in the last paragraph.

Although still in its infancy, there is a shift in the Matabeleland political landscape. Mthwakazi citizens have been gradually shifting their political participation and focus from Zimbabwe to Mthwakazi, from streets to the digital sphere where they believe they can have an impact and these points of impact are often outside Zimbabwean government.

While we fully appreciate the reasons for poor Mthwakazi citizen participation in Zimbabwean politics, rationalisation alone is not the right approach to extricating ourselves from modern day slavery; we need to act.We need to honestly tackle Mthwakazi’s poor and disjointed citizen participation.

A few people have tried protesting but that has felt like lost voices crying out into the wilderness not to be taken note of, yet some individuals have been left vulnerable. We need to better organise our diverse communities. On our own, we are nonentities, but together we can become something bigger.

Perhaps recent protests in France organised by the public may give us a few tips on how we can effectively use our organisational capabilities in this digital world to raise an atmosphere of interactivity.  

Let it be known, we are under no obligation to obey unjust laws and we cannot remain silent and risk being guilty of complicity.  Freedom of assembly and expression are human rights everyone can exercise. They uphold our right to protest for what we believe in.

We are legally allowed to protest. Section 59 of the Constitution guarantees the right to protest to each and every person in the Republic. The right is further qualified by stating that the right must be exercised peacefully and by unarmed protesters.

Even more revealing, on 17/10/2018, the Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled that a law that allows police to authorise protests could be misused by state machinery. It can be argued that the court has by their position outlawed section 27 of the Public Order and Security Act, POSA. The development effective means that citizens can protest without police clearance.

The full bench of the court led by Justice Rita Makarau handed down the judgment citing issues of lack of fairness and lack of scope by the regulatory body as core basis for the ruling.

“In addition to failing to pass the test on fairness,necessity and reasonableness, there is another feature of section 27 of POSA that I find disturbing. It has no time frame or limitation as to the number of times the regulating authority can invoke the powers granted to him or her under the section,” Justice Makarau said.

Zimbabwean dictatorship is unrelenting and uncompromising in its suffocation and denial of liberty to Mthwakazi citizens; we the people have not been happy with the way things are and are convinced things have to change but the people are so cowed and disorganised. Disorganisation has led to the mushrooming of political organisations so disconnected to the people that the MDC and ZANU PF still retain majority support in Mthwakazi. We must organise, or we will die in chains.

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Published by THE OBSERVER

a political and policy research hub with interest in Mthwakazi human rights, safety and security.

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