Doing better today than we did yesterday must be our goal every day. There is not an ounce of nobility in being superior to ZANU PF or the MDC when at the end of the day we would be inferior to our former selves.
Core to Mthwakazi’s problems are two historical episodes: 1) colonial powers’ economic and political administration convenience driven consolidation of Mashonaland and Matabeleland, and 2) ZANU PF’s crude identity politics – a hateful, hurtful, harmful, brutal tribal crusade. The two episodes have placed pressure on smaller and less powerful communities to conform to dominant linguistic and cultural norms.
The result is clear for all to see, local black people have been conditioned to look down upon local traditions and culture, development and progress are measured on how distant one is from local norms and values, including eloquence in the English language; the further away one is from themselves, the more ‘educated’ they are said to be. In the independent Zimbabwe being subservient or connected to ethnic Shona people and/ or competence in the Shona language determines one’s access to opportunity, and rather strangely, it has become an informal barometer of tribalism with the ability to engage in Shona being perceived as a sign of ‘education’, ‘progress’ and not being a tribalist.
Given colonialism and the tribally divisive politics of Zimbabwe has destroyed and disenfranchised our communities’ social and cultural fabric rendering us almost incapable of effectively articulating ourselves and navigating our political path even within our territory, a change in philosophy is possible to help us navigate the political mine field laid on our path by ZANU PF.
If social media activity can be used to assess the mood within Mthwakazi, heated arguments and at times absence of input from some Mthwakazi communities tell us a clear story of internal anxieties and suspicions about the pro-Mthwakazi objectives. The biggest concern is the perceived and real exclusion of smaller or less powerful communities in the broader scheme of the pro-Mthwakazi project.
Objectivity is the answer; let us not take comfort in opinion for the fear of the discomfort of thought. Ethnocentric tensions in Mthwakazi are real; we are seeing allies vacillate between disinterest and outright aggression in pro-Mthwakazi social media discussions. The social media confrontations are perhaps clear signs that the current attempts at building an all-powerful Mthwakazi focused politics are wholly inadequate.
Judging by the uncouth language of some activists whenever they make reference to other ethnic groups and tribes, the problem – as highlighted earlier – is the apparent exclusion of vast sections of the population in the politics. There are many population groups who feel left out from current endeavours and are rightly suspicious and fearful of the wider intentions of some movements and the pro-Mthwakazi agenda in general, hence they are fearful of their future and safety.
Yes, politics is about ideas and by their nature, ideas are open to interpretation; like in every revolution, there would be disagreements and people may have to agree to disagree for progress to take place. But we must appreciate every concern is valid and important, disagreeing with it does not make it less significant. No teardrop should be ignored, no fear or worry should be dismissed; no tribe or ethnicity or race or any individual characteristic should be left out of what we do.
Let us go up the mountains and down the valleys to reach out every community in Mthwakazi, invite every member of that community and clearly explain the aims and goals of the pro-Mthwakazi agenda in the language and format they understand. Even more significant, movements should not see themselves as primarily leaders of change but students who want to learn and understand people’s needs and take themselves as conduits through which that change can be attained.
People know themselves and their needs better; movements will be expected to own the resources that help effect real change. But movements need to listen to what different communities feel and how they understand the whole project and how best they think they can be served. It is from that data that truly representative policies will be drawn and truly representative organisations built.
We need to create systems that make us superior to our previous selves not just better than ZANU PF or MDC bigotry; our focus must be to build a politics that is better and right for Mthwakazi and not just different from the ZANU PF/ MDC toxins that have ripped society apart, wrecked the economy and shattered many dreams in the process.
Going forward, we must move to protect the Mthwakazi agenda from being hijacked by individuals and groups who seem to be deliberately or inadvertently imposing Ndebele language and culture over other communities. Political movements must actively practice inclusivity, isiNdebele must not be presumed to be the medium of communication in the whole of Mthwakazi; it (Ndebele) is not a national language but a language spoken and understood by many in the territory.
Inclusivity is when every community sees itself in the national agenda; political posters in a region should be in the main language spoken in that region, e.g. campaign posters in Binga must be primarily written in Tonga, posters in Plumtree in Kalanga, posters in Beitbridge in Venda, etc. with easy access to versions in other languages to those who may need them.
Unless pro-Mthwakazi groups have a clear understanding of every community’s needs and their structures reflect that, they cannot in good countenance continue to claim their actions to be representative of Mthwakazi (or whatever name is preferred). Public expectation of politicians and politics is shifting; fighting ZANU PF/ MDC is not of itself a solution, and pro-Mthwakazi parties will have to adjust their strategies accordingly. Political movements must be inclusive at every level; it is not the duty of the community to seek and join a political movement but that of the movements to go into every community and sell their ideas.