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Matabeleland – What Affirmative action isn’t

What we should all get to appreciate is that people are individuals and different, and equality is far from the misplaced claim that all groups of humans are interchangeable; what we must get right is that equality is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by their ethnic or racial identity.

We need be honest about the disturbing nature of Zimbabwean independence; this is a political platform heavily identified with the persistence of discriminatory practices that promote economic exclusion and increase Mthwakazi local social misery; there is thus understandable suspicion by Mthwakazi people that good will and fair judgment among those controlling the systems (ethnic Shona people) does not extend toward local people and the region.

What have we learned?

Disturbing lessons have been learned; those of us who stand outside the circle of Zimbabwean society’s definition of acceptable communities or tribes or races; those of us who are ethnic Ndebele know that our survival will never be a construction of ethnic Shona biased political institutions like ZANU PF and the MDC-C (now referred to as MDC Alliance). We must fight for the change we need.

We will not be fooled into believing the master’s tools will dismantle the master’s house. ZANU PF and the MDC protect Mashonaland and ethnic Shona people’s perceived interests and will never allow genuine change – a change that threatens their control.

We are under no illusion that the systems currently in place deliberately favour ethnic Shona people over all other ethnic groups and that Mthwakazi is specifically excluded for being socially and culturally different. We are agreed too, that the absence of social democratic redistributive measures that wipe out Mthwakazi poverty, and that tribe and sexual discrimination and the obvious lack of meritorious judgments of those in power remain a stumbling block in development of Mthwakazi and empowerment of its citizens.

The prevailing discriminatory practices in the 39 years of Zimbabwean independence whose target has been Mthwakazi and its people have been devastating. It is for this reason that we believe affirmative action remains a necessary intervention, if Mthwakazi empowerment is to be achieved in this generation. 

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action is defined as efforts to improve opportunities for under-represented or disadvantaged groups, especially in relation to employment or education.

Some, particularly the privileged, argue that affirmative action is equal to reverse discrimination and that it is unfair for the current generation to be punished for societal misdeeds of previous generations.

While there is merit in the argument that we must extend equal protection to all citizens in all situations, – basically we must be a society that does not (under any circumstances) deny equal protection of the laws to its residents – I firmly believe though that to right the ongoing societal wrongs deliberately engineered by the ZANU PF regime and excused by the MDC opposition, considering tribe/ race as a factor in ensuring representative diversity of our society at work and in influential positions within our society will be the best possible compromise and concession.

What affirmative action is not

Affirmative action and equal opportunity is never and is not intended to arbitrarily exclude sections of the population from participation in the economy and political activities of Mthwakazi; it certainly is not intended to let people with lesser qualifications, less skills and less experience triumph over those with more. Rather, it is intended to aid a decision between two people who have the same set of skills.

Now before we go any further, it would be fundamental for social and political purposes to define who qualifies to be a Mthwakazi national. There are tribes and ethnic groups that are identified with the region but we know too that we are a nation of immigrants and revolutionaries. In the face of that we appreciate the diversity of our population and that our definition of who is Mthwakazi must go beyond tribe or ethnicity or race.

Rather, we should fully include that immigrant who comes into Mthwakazi in good faith, becomes an integral part of the broader community of their own will, should be treated on an exact equality with everyone else. Creed or place of birth or origin should not be used as a tool to discriminate against any human being.

The last paragraph may seem controversial to some in Mthwakazi, but how is it? It is a misnomer, a dangerous precedent and disturbing sense of nationalism, if not just misogyny to suggest that Mthwakazi grandchildren born of ethnic Shona fathers have no right to lead organisations and institutions in Mthwakazi when children born of Ndebele fathers and Shona mothers have that right.

Any suggestion that Shona men have relationships and children with ethnic Ndebele women out of a desire to capture Matabeleland is lunacy of the highest order that exposes a disturbing social and political analysis. If this is what we have for future leaders, we are in trouble, to say the least. It is naïve and misogynist views like these that expose us to ridicule.


When we call for affirmative action, we are not demanding favour but justice denied by deliberately discriminatory policies. Progressive Mthwakazi political and social groups must fight for Mthwakazi values which include tolerance and justice, and deny space to discrimination. We will never adopt ZANU PF and MDC flagship policies of tribal discrimination. Just as there is no envy, jealousy, or hatred between the different colours of the rainbow, and no fear either as each one exists to emphasise the presence, love and beauty for the other, each tribe or ethnic group or race in Mthwakazi exists to enrich our society; every one of them must be empowered to its potential for it to fully contribute to the beauty of our nation.


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