The poor performance (81 votes) in the recent Lupane East House of Assembly bye-election by a pro-Mthwakazi organisation continues an unwelcome trend, and sad as it is, serves as a valuable pointer only in one direction: A change in the pro-Mthwakazi movement operational ethos is required if the agenda for local empowerment is to take root and endure the test of time.
Those political parties that consider themselves pro-Mthwakazi and do want to participate in elections administered by the Zimbabwean institutions need to scrutinise themselves. Are they ready to review and bolster their internal structures and strategy? Clear structures and strategy will lead to a clearer focus and easier review of priorities.
Due to electorate needs, if not ignorance, our pro-Mthwakazi political parties often find themselves forced to focus more on short-term crises to the detriment of medium- and long-term development of their strategy. While the two can run parallel, good planning and organisation is required, and our parties are nowhere near that level yet.
It can be argued that the reason many of our political parties struggle to maintain an enduring political presence is heavily tied to the fact that the focus of the moment is dictating the destination of their politics, when the destination of their politics should be dictating the focus of the moment.
Working within a contextually tribal political environment, these organisations have found themselves entrapped in the attractive, but inflammatory and misleading nationalist agenda. Their target is increasingly ethnic Shona people instead of a careful and constructive focus on building Mthwakazi and its institutions.
Arguably, the biggest problem is not only the absence of a broader consultative work and objective public input into these parties but also the sly tendency to insinuate the idea that their policies are designed with ‘us’ in mind or, even worse, that theirs is the only plan into which everyone must fit.
True and lasting change in our territory will not be built on reactive politics but proactive politics founded on the back of our cultural diversity, norms and values. Rescuing our people from the ZANU PF political bewilderment and building Mthwakazi focused organisations does not require us to give ZANU PF attention or pay too much focus on its bewildered systems.
What we ask of our local political parties is that they conduct a broad-based political consultative work in Mthwakazi, aggregate the interests of the public, articulate them in the form of policy options and provide structures for political participation. While, I do not object to election participation in principle, I think after the recent bye-election results, a pose to regroup and refresh ideas would be more beneficial.
What will make our organisations’ politics pro-Mthwakazi will be the ability to make ourselves more attentive to our constituency and being aware of changes in the world around us. This will be politics over which we can credibly, reliably and confidently claim ownership.
We accept that political parties have a constant battle between the need to respond to electorate short-term needs and the development of long-term goals and strategies. However, reactive political action cannot be the foundation on which any serious political movement is built and sustained.
You cannot sustain your long-term political existence on a strategy of waiting and reacting to actions drawn from strategies owned by others. When your pre-set position is being reactive, you are often not in control of the broader narrative, someone else is; you may interpret your reactive behaviour as you being in control, but that is often an illusion, the fact is you are only responding to their disruptive tune.
Mthwakazi parties owe it to the victims (the public) of ZANU PF and MDC-A politics to form and maintain a strong, long-term political vision and presence. To effectively transform the Mthwakazi political space, we must be different and effective. Poorly governed parties cannot be expected to run competent local authorities and national governments.
Our answer lies in strategic planning; strategic planning will help us take authorship and claim ownership of the politics playing in our region, strengthen our capacity to engage in organisational learning, build strong internal institutions that can ably respond to the evolving political challenges.
It is only through a party’s adaptive institutional capacity, ably facilitated by having the capacity to look ahead and anticipate developments, that political parties can adequately prepare themselves and navigate the uncertain political environment. Weak internal structure affects a party’s ability to anticipate and respond to future changes, which in turn weakens public trust in organisations and politics. The result is the damaging political apathy we witness today in Matabeleland.
Our long-term goal is for a political regime that truly reflects the needs of Mthwakazi people. For a genuine, successful and enduring pro-Mthwakazi political agenda, we require an institution that will ably aggregate the myriad of conflicting demands of Mthwakazi individuals and communities, organise them for the contest of public office; this institution will serve as a link between the constituencies and the government.