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Take BaKalanga’s co-optation fears serious

No question is too big or too small to be addressed; we must be mature enough to be comfortable with our ideology being questioned. When skeptical communities enquire about the degree of inclusivity of the pro-Mthwakazi agenda and even challenge the use of the name ‘Mthwakazi’, we owe it to the agenda to truthfully address those concerns and forcefully confront damaging conspiracy theories. We want every race, every tribe – large or small – to get involved in the struggle for the betterment of livelihoods of all who call Mthwakazi home. This is not a tribal or racial issue but a human rights matter. No nation must be left uncertain of its benefits in a self-determining Mthwakazi/ Matabeleland.

It would be a folly to underestimate the power of doubt; our doubts are traitors that snatch victory from under our noses by making us fear taking those vital steps to freedom. The pro-Mthwakazi agenda is threatened by the doubt in the hearts and minds of some communities, communities who fear the project may extract rather than extend power to them, so the sooner we clear those doubts the better the chance of managing conspiracies being generated to undermine the movement.  

Continuing uncertainty, fear and anxiety among some of our brothers and sisters from BuKalanga over the political aims of the pro-Mthwakazi agenda is a serious thing; far from dismissing these fears, it is important to acknowledge and stress the legitimacy of these concerns; let us listen carefully to all citizens in our territory and help them distinguish between misinformation and accurate information, based on the project’s legitimate founding goals. 

Perhaps the greatest and openly expressed fear of some of our BuKalanga brothers/ sisters is that of co-optation yet they have yet to provide objective evidence that forms their concerns. Yes, there have been heated arguments on social media (some unsavoury and often based on unhelpful supremacy ideals from individuals) between Nguni individuals and Kalanga individuals on the Mthwakazi political agenda. However, it can be argued these individuals’ opinions are not representative of Mthwakazi communities, and do not reflect on the broader pro-Mthwakazi movement.

Allegations of co-optation are unfounded and untrue. We will define co-optation as a deceptive political strategy in which the elite use seemingly cooperative practices to absorb those who seek change – to make them work with elites without giving them any new advantages. Now, to suggest that Ngunis are the elite within the Mthwakazi political space today is absurd, to say the least; the reality on the ground is that Ngunis do not hold political clout in Mthwakazi while the pro-Mthwakazi movement, which to date has openly embraced federalism and decentralisation as the political foundation is multi-tribal in its composition across all its levels of authority.

To date there is no objective evidence of a desire by any one tribe carrying clout in Mthwakazi and attempting to use that to co-opt others, but there is a shared desire to alter the political course to empower Mthwakazi. It is in our fight to break off the clutches of ZANU PF that we should be wary of co-optation because it is real and actively practised by ZANU PF. ZANU PF allows the presence of opposition parties, ‘free speech’, internet access, ‘free media operations’, etc. not out of respect for freedom of expression and democracy but as a valuable tool of identifying and monitoring its enemies.

Over the years ZANU PF has made conciliatory offers and made positive calls to all nationals to join in the nation rebuilding exercise. And each time some within the opposition have fallen for the rhetoric to join hands with ZANU PF; the biggest scam was the 1987 Unity Accord that saw the effective demise of PF ZAPU as an opposition party; in 2008 the MDC was drawn in to govern alongside ZANU PF; remember the Matabeleland Collective? Recently we have seen defections from the MDC and other opposition parties to ZANU PF.

This is exactly what co-optation seeks to achieve; ZANU PF’s successful co-optation exercise has overseen those who seek change altering their positions when working with elites, hoping to gain new strategic advantages through compromising, but those advantages have not materialised and instead ZANU PF’s position has prevailed. In contrast to violent suppression, through co-optation ZANU PF has accomplished its goals without significant political or financial cost. The consequence is that the challengers have become politically irrelevant.

For the sake of the next generation, Mthwakazi politics must build on the principles of tolerance with access to good quality information being central to it. The concept of democracy cannot be limited to ‘majority rule’; it means that individuals enjoy certain rights against the State which will trump the will of the majority. We want to protect the right of every man and woman walking the soil of Mthwakazi thus, we do not need a system that condones the abuse of dominance of certain population groups; we cannot look away when small gains to the majority outweigh large losses to the minority and betray the ethics and philosophical understanding of Mthwakazi as a nation of diverse nations but equal people.


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