In the mid-1980s, following the Zimbabwe State sanctioned genocidal military attacks on unarmed civilians in Matabeleland in the tribal targeted Gukurahundi operation, Matabeleland leadership took an inventory of Zimbabwe’s independence to assess if it served our best interest and identify those aspects that required replacing. PF ZAPU then a de facto representative of the region assumed the responsibility of reviewing the relationship between the Zimbabwe State and Matabeleland.
While it was obvious the whole package simply had to be replaced because it was vastly broken, toxic and irrelevant to us, our PF ZAPU representatives were powerless to put up a genuine fight; under pressure, they ‘surrendered’ under the auspices of the 1987 Unity Accord.
The next step was a blind walk into a submissive politics trap zone that saw us swallowed into the ZANU PF nationalist project which in essence was a one-party state programme and an elimination of difference. It was a pro-Mashonaland programme and a toxic anti-Matabeleland agenda. Instead of challenging it, people got used to anything ZANU PF imposed. The few brave men and women who questioned the oppressive effect of ZANU PF systems in Matabeleland were ostracised and silenced in one way or the other, and as we thought less and less about our oppression, the more our tolerance for it grew. Oppression became our political norm.
Breaking that norm is our target. To become free, one has to have an insight of being a slave. We are at a stage now where we can say with confidence that the 1987 Unity Accord is tired, hurtful, harmful, dangerous and obstructive to Mthwakazi progress. And the rightful step is to walk away from that imposed piece of legislation.
Our indulgence now is the planning process of organising our suffering so as to bear only the most necessary pain. Zimbabwean independence is not our independence that is why we cannot stare down at it and make it work for us, we are not its authors and not its intended target.
There are two kinds of strength that we will have to pay attention to so as to inform our decision-making: (a) power and the ability to wield it, which is an obvious form of strength and (b) resilience, the ability to resist power, the less obvious yet fundamental form. As Mthwakazi, let us be mindful that we make the choice and then the choice makes us, what we choose to do now will define us in the next generation.
Gaining political control is the primary goal. Denying and resisting ZANU PF and the MDC’s dominance and authority in our political space is the target. We will need effective planning for robust programmes to help us build political capital and to resist forms of authority that are both harmful and irrelevant to our territory and citizens.
To participate or not to participate in elections is a major point of argument in the region’s politics. There are no rights or wrongs in these things; after all what we see and what we hear depends to a great extent on where we are standing. On this blog we have previously argued for selective participation in elections where organisations focus on participating in specific elections where our interests are at stake.
Voting for local MPs and other local leaders who will genuinely represent our interests in Harare is a fundamental step. Campaigning for elections will also help organisations familiarise themselves with the public. At present only a handful of our people (the voting adults/ elderly population) know local parties but most perceive them to be rowdy groupings of young men and women.
Perceptions of these groups are subject to interpretation, unfortunately the interpretation that prevails today is a function of the power of a ZANU PF controlled media and not the truth. For all we know pro-Mthwakazi organisations have been on the receiving end of ZANU PF injustice after challenging the ZANU PF-led government and public institutions to account for their actions in Matabeleland, be it employment of outsiders at the expense of locals or the recruitment of students to colleges (nursing and teaching) and universities.
An alliance of Mthwakazi organisations needs to be created to bring together great ideas. A connection between political organisations and the public is an urgent and mandatory matter; our planning has to focus on the aggressive engagement with the public.
Sharing of ideas and mutual respect between pro-Mthwakazi political parties is fundamental for progress. If our organisations cannot set aside their party interests for the sustainability of our nation, then our politics will be no better than the failing politics of ZANU PF and the MDC formations. If progress is hindered because each party thinks any idea from the other organisation must be stupid or lacks validity, our goals of political independence will become a distant dream blocked by egos.
The obstacles thrown our direction by the Zimbabwean state have not stopped us, but we have grown stronger. We have proven through our experience of the ‘independent Zimbabwe’ that resilience is our identity and runs deeply into our social and cultural fabric. To create a Mthwakazi that meets our needs, it cannot be business as usual; we – the public who are closer to the impact of political decisions – will take back control of politics from career politicians. A trickle up system that sees a complete and true decentralisation of power within the Mthwakazi territory will be non-negotiable.