Trashing ZAPU and its leadership leaves the real criminals free

Political prudence comes in appreciating that the right thing to do and the hard thing to do are often the same. What is right for our politics is to build trust and confidence, and that would require that we take accountability more serious. We therefore welcome a critique of ZAPU’s ideological position and its impact in Matabeleland by leading pro-Mthwakazi members.

Boundaries must be set, politicians made accountable for their commissions and omissions in order to protect the public from intended and unintended abuses of power.

ZAPU’s role in the politics playing out in Zimbabwe, and Matabeleland in particular is put to question. However, objectivity as a mechanism of critique must be protected, critique must be instructive and not an opportunistic trashing of rivals without credible substance that drives Mthwakazi forward.

In the critique of ZAPU, some pro-Mthwakazi members accuse the party leadership of political naivety which they allege led to the betrayal of Matabeleland. ZAPU’s intelligence department comes under intense scrutiny. Whether it is justified or not, time will tell, the late Joshua Nkomo’s decision-making is ripped apart while the late Dumiso Dabengwa, considered by many as a Mthwakazi hero, has his competence as an intelligence supremo questioned.  

Everyone has the right to their opinion, but let us not in the pride of our newly found wisdom – a benefit of hindsight – turn with contempt from the flaws of our predecessors. Our reflection of our past should be in the pursuit of truth and be instructive to this and the next generation.

It is easy to work from outcomes tracing the path backwards, for everything is in place, but life is lived forwards. We can predict but can never always know with certainty what is ahead until it is all done. We are where we are today because of innumerable circumstances, and we all have a responsibility (if we do not like where we are) to change course and find a better path if this one is not compatible with our goals, or to walk happily along this path if in it we are comfortable.  

The credibility of the latest ZAPU critics needs scrutiny. These people, incidentally, were in the story, were a part of it, and arguably did not know its outcome then. It is only later that people are coming up to say they could see, back then, what the story was. How do we know they indeed knew the story? The reality is that they did not know what the story was when they were in it, and I even doubt they know it any better now. If these critics who were a part of the story could tell something was wrong, what stopped them from acting differently?

We are what we remember and our identity is the accumulation of our experiences; to lose our memory is to lose our identity. However, all memory is liable to bias, to try and pretend anyone’s memory is free of bias is morally irresponsible and leaves the public open to political manipulation. Is it a coincidence that this critique is released when many of the accused are no longer there to defend their actions?  

Context is vital, ZAPU was and remains a Zimbabwe focused party; given it operated mostly in Matabeleland, had most of its support in Matabeleland and the midlands, it was not an Mthwakazi party and to give it sole responsibility for the protection of Mthwakazi security and safety is misplaced.

Blaming ZAPU for Mthwakazi abuses is political opportunism; this is blaming victims for being victims. Lookout Masuku, Dumiso Dabengwa, Weshman Mabhena, Sydney Malunga, among many of our heroes were victims of the state that could not stomach a multi-party democracy. The ZANU-led government had been given the mandate to protect the rights of Zimbabwean citizens and it alone must be held to account for human rights abuses in Mthwakazi.

No human run organisation is flawless, ZAPU is no exception, and indeed some decisions could have been better, and they did leave the party, its members and its support vulnerable. But, ZAPU did not betray people of Matabeleland, ZANU did. ZANU and not ZAPU betrayed what the struggle against colonialism was about. The primary responsibility for where Matabeleland is today lies with ZANU; ZANU murdered our people because of its one-party state ideological aspirations and its Shona supremacist philosophy, and not because of ZAPU.

By turning the critical eye toward ZAPU and turning it away from ZANU, ZANU is given reprieve and emboldened, as its Shona supremacist agenda.

Facts are important for a credible debate, there is no evidence that intelligence gathering was the weakness in ZAPU’s operations. One does not set up a complex and effective political infrastructure (as ZAPU did) out of luck; there is a lot of intelligence that goes in that. What we can rightly question is the effectiveness of the party’s use of intelligence at its disposal. Were there communication flaws within the organisation that hindered information flow between and within different departments?   

What is the political capital of attacking ZAPU’s Matabeleland leadership? Seeing the main host to the critique of ZAPU has also been host to recent attacks on chief Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna for attending, on invitation, the MDC Alliance’s congress, one suspects the motivation is political opportunism, not public service.

The vitality of trashing ZAPU is questionable. One does not run an organisation only on one sight, hindsight, because they will have a problem trying to move things forward. We welcome and respect the right of those attacking ZAPU’s policies, but an argument whose only supportive tool is opinion is weak and starved of credibility. People have a responsibility to provide facts and ensure their critique is instructive.

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