Often, participatory politics advocates within the Mthwakazi political space assume that political apathy is the result of naivety or selfishness or indifference, when in fact it is much more likely the result of systematic and intensive social and political conditioning.
What is activism?
Activism is described as the use of active and coercive initiatives and campaigns to create and/ or promote awareness of specific local or national or global issues. Causes will vary from local water supply issues to opposition to a factory or promotion of the building of a centre for information. Activism goes beyond conventional or routine action. How action is executed will vary depending on context or resources – it can involve door-to-door canvassing, alternative radio, public meetings, rallies, or fasting.
Internal revolution essential
There cannot be any large-scale revolution in Mthwakazi until there is a successful personal revolution at individual level. If individuals are not willing to change their worldview, the nation will not change its course even though we can see we are heading towards the cliff edge now.
Politicians need to stop acting like they are the only qualified authors of people’s freedom and allow people to decide what freedom would look like to them. Community, and not political leaders, is the engine room of people-led change; although there is a role for government, political movements and organisations and other civic groups, there is no substitute for people identifying with and caring for one another and the place they share.
While lies repeated more often will never become the truth, they can easily end up being the only publicly known and widely shared information and mislead vulnerable masses. We have been taught to accept we are foreigners in Zimbabwe and increasingly find it difficult to challenge the system because each time we do so we are told that if unhappy we should pack our belongings and go back south. This is from communities who themselves entered present day Zimbabwe from east Africa.
An informed population is an empowered and inspired nation. When it comes to politics, Mthwakazi citizens have become pessimistic. People have long lost trust in political parties. Voter turnout and engagement in other forms of local political and civic events remains disproportionately low in Matabeleland. Cynicism and polarisation are rampant.
How our politics changes is dependent on our ability to identify, isolate and understand the factors causing tension within the political space. There is an increasing realisation among many in Mthwakazi that our political space is not exclusively destroyed by the monstrous ZANU PF and its able assistant the MDC Alliance, rather the spineless local leadership is the primary facilitator of the destruction.
There must be a change in how our political space is structured and how it operates; first let us be clear that the public are not fools to be consigned to a marginal role where they are only good enough to ratify decisions (made by egoistic political leaders) and to consume without questioning.
Politics must be transformed into a genuine conversation, everyone and not just politicians must have a voice. Local political culture must change so that Mthwakazi politicians get used to a healthy conversational position that sees them talk less and listen more to allow public voice to be heard.
Politicians must be prepared to set aside their egos, the object of focus must change; if political leaders want to set people free, then it should be people, not politicians, deciding what constitutes their freedom. Until then they are politicians’ object of control, and not a free people.
For political goals to be aligned with public needs and interests, public and stakeholder consultation must inform the goals political leaders set for themselves and the communities. We need effective leadership at a time when we are at crossroads, where people do not know whether changing Zimbabwean politics is not only impossible but not the answer to our problems or Mthwakazi independence is the only future.
Activism in practice
What action is taken depends on multiple factors, and whether activism itself is good or bad is just as subjective as whether a cause subject to it is good or bad.
Activism takes a variety of forms from face-to-face conversations to massive protests, from principled behaviour to the undesirable, from polite requests to objectionable interference, and from peaceful protests to violent attacks.
We cannot be overly prescriptive on methods, Mthwakazi people will decide, we will only encourage people to be creative and make use of opportunities as they come. Consider the use of digital activism where digital tools (the internet, mobile phones, social media, e-mails, etc.) and offline opportunities.
As of offline opportunities, senior government officials also attend public local events such as parades, speeches and traditional ceremonies. These events can provide valuable opportunity for more traditional forms of protest. Chanting, sign-holding and marching at an event remain powerful ways to get attention for your cause. But you need to investigate law requirements and ensure you acquire permits to protest if need be.
To create a new political order in Mthwakazi, the public has to be the main author of any action taken in its name and political leaders be the reflection of the public. Any action that reduces community role to the margins is misguided and will most likely be resisted. We must appreciate that communities have a unique role to play in their environment; they possess the local knowledge, passion and holistic perspective; they know their safety, economic, political, welfare and health needs often lacking in bureaucracies. That said, people must be at the centre of what happens in their environment.