Tolerance is a poor substitute for embrace. It is more than political incompetence that Zimbabwean government has progressed to be a narrow sect with shallow goals that protect interests of a particular tribe over all other citizens. Mthwakazi (and all citizens identified as Ndebele or their sympathisers) has been deliberately targeted for discrimination and abuse based solely on their identity.
When young men and women left the safety and comfort of their homes, sacrificed their wellbeing to join ZIPRA and ZANLA forces to fight Rhodesian colonialism in the 1970s it was because they believed they would deliver a leadership committed to a moderate, inclusive government in the One Nation tradition. They dreamt of a country of economic competence, representing the best of the country’s business, delivering good jobs, opportunity and prosperity for all, funding world class public services and tackling inequalities.
They had hoped with independence would also be the continuation of a political modernisation that would see the country’s political regime reach out and broaden its appeal to the young and old alike and to embrace and reflect the diversity of our society. The hope was that all communities would be closer to decisions that affect them.
Instead what we saw from 1980 was the swift betrayal of those principles; the ZANU PF-led government has increasingly abandoned these principles and values with an intentional shift to the right of Zimbabwean politics.
It is insufficient for the ZANU PF and the MDC political regime to tell the population that tribalism and racism are bad. It is insufficient to proclaim equality of all citizens without reaching out to all communities and adding tangible diversity to the political regime. We have seen that centralised governance has failed to meet the needs of most communities yet the present regime views devolution and federal systems as inconvenient.
We are not exaggerating when we argue that the independent Zimbabwe has not been a safe home for Matabeleland and all individuals or communities identified as Ndebele and anyone perceived as sympathising with them.
Gukurahundi defines independent Zimbabwe’s history. In order for Gukurahundi to work, in order for ZANU PF supporters to condone the butcher of other humans like animals, ZANU PF leadership had to sell the Ndebele terrorist stereotype, manufacture fear of Ndebele people within the Shona population and completely dehumanise Matabeles. Whether people directly participated in that or were simply members of a culture that condoned that behaviour, it shaped them.
Gukurahundi re-defined Zimbabwean politics – undoing all the efforts to modernise it and create an inclusive society. There has been a dismal failure by Zimbabwe’s main political parties to stand up to tribalism which is openly practised and continues to influence people’s political choices.
Indeed, the hostility to Mthwakazi people among Shona people is unyielding; Shona expansionism is now fully formalised through institutions and is on the rise. Zimbabwe’s independence is a space in which Mthwakazi people are effectively excluded.
Yes, we have for years been witnesses to a failure of politics in Zimbabwe in which Mthwakazi has been left with no representation; Zimbabwe’s political regime is wilfully unprepared to exercise its oversight to confront the assumptions, attitudes and practices that have allowed a culture of tribal abuse to flourish.
Change will only happen when honesty is adopted in the way issues are dealt with. ZANU PF cannot investigate and judge itself. A partial judiciary is self-indulgence serving no good purpose. Let everything be done in a fitting and proper manner that is organised, well-planned, respectful, well-mannered, and polite.
A culture of denial that has continually attempted to turn past human rights abuses in Matabeleland and the Midlands into historical ‘moments of madness’ and condoned ZANU PF’s atrocities while blaming Mthwakazi victims for being victims will never be the right course of action in addressing Mashonaland/ Mthwakazi political sensitivities.
Accusing Mthwakazi groups of tribalism for questioning the credibility of the ZANU PF-led government is unhelpful tribal protectionism. It is clear that Mthwakazi and Ndebeles are not leaving the ZANU PF-led independence, the ZANU PF-led independence has left Mthwakazi and Ndebeles; we have tried consistently and for years to modernise the country’s politics so that it is competent and close to the communities that it represents. ZANU PF, and its supporters, has failed to actively depart from an ethnically and racially divisive politics that we hoped was the intention of independence.
As alluded to in the last paragraph, Mthwakazi has not changed – it is a diverse society and believes in inclusivity, ZANU PF’s independence has maintained its standard, it does not reflect the values and beliefs we shared about independence.
We can no longer act as bystanders. Zimbabwe’s politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part. Calling for Zimbabwean politics to be inclusive is not rebellion but progressive. This is already happening; many local groups are openly voicing their concerns of the exclusive nature of ZANU PF and the MDC political regime. Mthwakazi must be included and not merely accommodated in Zimbabwean politics; we must be close to all decisions impacting us.