Mthwakazi needs political coalitions

Millions of Mthwakazi citizens are literally desperate for a political movement that truly challenges the status quo and its political damage in Mthwakazi. But, for the fear of being called tribalists, many openly opposed to ZANU PF tyrannical actions in Mthwakazi have tended to stay away from robust progressive Mthwakazi empowerment movements opting to conspire with the enemy and shelter in the false opposition politics offered by the MDC formations.

The problem of political polarisation

Present-day Mthwakazi does not need an enemy, we are our own worst enemy; we have nurtured a toxic, highly divided and divisive socio-political space powered by a highly negative energy. We can point at some major examples of polarisation: people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, political non-participation is our action, opportunistic attacks on our own, e.g. the attempts to pull Chief Ndiweni down for representing his people, the perception by some non-Nguni communities that the Mthwakazi agenda is a Nguni supremacist project, question of Mthwakazi’s political status (should it be an independent state or a state in a federal or devolved system within Zimbabwe, etc.) and we still argue on the ‘appropriate name’ for the geographic area.

Why build coalitions?

Time for realism; a politically polarised Mthwakazi has failed to shift the oppressive Mashonaland centred regime. Let us concede that Mthwakazi’s issues are too large and complex for any individual or single organisation to tackle, and building an effective Mthwakazi grassroots power base will take more than an individual or organisation.

Our answer lies in building strategic coalitions that will increase power and stretch resources in our efforts to force specified outcomes. Instead of heading polarisation, progressive politicians should be putting together robust coalitions of groups and individuals that would transform our political space and set up strategies needed to solve the problems we face to achieve our goals.

What is a coalition?

A coalition is usually a temporary union between two or more groups, these can be political or civic groups, for the purpose of gaining more influence or power to influence specific outcomes than the individual groups or parties can hope to achieve on their own.

The lifespan of a coalition is dependent on its specific objectives. Coalitions may be loose associations in which members work for a short time to achieve a specific goal, and then disband or they may become organisations in themselves, with specific community responsibilities, funding, etc. Regardless of size and structure, coalitions exist to create and/or support efforts to reach a particular set of goals.

Coalition goals

We recognise the diversity of our political and civic groups, but with a clarity of goals coalitions can be built. Our pro-Mthwakazi political and civic groups must draw a set of short and long-term goals as a focal point for building coalitions. Focus on such issues as the Gukurahundi, the revival of the Matabeleland, Zambezi Water Project, changing people’s behaviour (e.g. increasing active political participation, etc.), writing our own history, and changing the political system (the current centralised government system is damaging for Matabeleland) would be a good start.

Resources required

Forming coalitions is not easy, maintaining them is even harder; it is paramount that all of the partners are and feel they are benefitting from the coalition. We must determine the resources needed to maintain the coalition: 1) establish how much time, money and people will be required, 2) determine what resources (human, financial, etc.) each member will allocate to the coalition, 3) how will accountability be maintained? And 4) what skills will be required to achieve set goals?

Coalition types

There is an unwritten understanding that organisations will have to sacrifice things to gains things. Those political parties participating in elections will have to agree to work together in order to maximise or strengthen themselves in the legislative area.

Where organisations hold different views on specific matters, organisations may agree to work together or at the least not oppose one another for mutual benefit.

There is also a potential of a coalition between political parties and civic organisations – civic organisations may form coalitions with political parties in order to assist the political party and advance their particular agenda.

Levels of participation in political coalitions

Political parties and civic groups must determine how much cooperation they will agree to in forming a coalition. These are possibilities to explore: 1) political parties may agree not to compete for the same seats or in areas in an election. Such cooperation may be public and known to everyone or quiet and kept out of the public’s view, 2) political parties may join forces in name only – without extending to physically working together or sharing resources – i.e. publicly declare support for each other’s agenda, 3) work together as candidates – candidates share information and efforts in support of each other, and 4) physically share resources – candidates or political parties combine their resources to defeat another candidate, party or coalition.

Advantages and disadvantages of participating in coalitions

Like all business, there are pros and cons to working in coalitions. Individual parties or groups must determine potential advantages and disadvantages in joining coalitions. Consider the potential of accessing a larger pool of resources with its potential for increasing influence and power among other advantages. However, there is the risk of losing individual identity as a party or group stands to lose control over the message and tactical approach; also consider the potential long-term damage to the party or group among its membership. This list is not exhaustive.

Conclusion

This is time for Mthwakazi to abandon the conceit that isolated actions of individual or single party/ group are going to deliver our nation from the ZANU PF tyranny. A total strategy shift that puts building of coalitions at the core of our actions is the only way forward. We need a clear purpose to unite us, shared values to guide our behaviour, and mutual goals to focus our actions.

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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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