Build Back Better Mthwakazi

If we want to know the reason for the lack of political progress in Mthwakazi or Matabeleland, we just got to stand in front of the mirror, and there we will see our nemesis. We are stuck in an oversimplified polarised conflict and we need to deconstruct the current political framework that hinders our transformative potential for achieving right and equitable internal relationships. 

The most striking feature of the present-day Mthwakazi political space is the degree of polarisation caused by competing tribal and national interests; whether real or imagined, the expressed adversarial nature of the Ndebele versus Kalanga construct and the rampant and growing culture of dehumanisation of the opposite side is both frightening and unhinging progress on the ground. 

A disjointed political environment whose main players specialise in the abuse of opponents and deliberate isolation and dehumanisation of specific population groups on the basis of their tribe/ ethnicity/ race cannot be conceived as a departure from what we are already victims of under the current Zimbabwe regime. This framework goes against our dreams of justice for all.

It is our contention that the underlying problem with our political framework is that we are not arguing policies but arguing about identities, and therefore compromise is never considered a principled realisation that opponents might have some legitimate concerns. The politics has a more narrowly tailored focus on tribal and/ or ethnic supremacism which limits the scope of imaginative political solutions that seek to establish a broader political toolkit for the exploration of multivariate possibilities within our territory.

What we are left with is a system which is a mere replication of the ZANU PF template and only altering aggressors and victims; this is unhelpful in both the short and long-term efforts of building a fairer Mthwakazi state.  

Any institution must have political support or it will implode. Leaders of the Mthwakazi political agenda must appreciate that a pursuit for tribal supremacy may be of interest to the elite but is not aligned to public interest. We, the public, are crying out for a progressive politics that welcomes all citizens of Matabeleland, that is, people from all races, all tribes, immigrants, and women as full participants in the economy, politics and social life of the country; a politics that does not see difference as a threat but embraces diversity.

The fact remains that Mthwakazi is a collective work of the imagination whose making will never end, and once that sense of collectivism and mutual respect is broken the possibilities of Matabeleness begin to unravel. Only an inclusive, transparent politics will safeguard human rights, safety and security for all citizens.

We have to contend with issues of the monarchy: its jurisdiction; deal with the anxieties expressed by BaKalanga of assimilation by Ndebeles hence their resentment and rejection of the name Mthwakazi; address the Ndebele fears of the possibility of BaKalanga opting to lean towards Harare and scupper the Mthwakazi/ Matabeleland independence project. Even more dangerous is the exclusion and silence of other population groups in the intractable tension in the region.

Thankfully, not all hope is lost, a Mthwakazi that reflects the interests of all citizens is possible. We recognise that Zimbabwean politics marginalises citizens from executive decisions, we want to correct that anomaly and ensure the transference of power back to the people who will wilfully delegate the power to elected officials through periodic elections in order to represent or act in their interest.

‘No decision about communities without communities’ is the solution; direct democracy should be the main feature of our politics, and mandatory, popular initiative and optional referendums will be the core instruments available to citizens at all levels of government. A vote will be held on any amendment to the constitution resulting in a mandatory referendum. A double majority (the consent of a majority of the people and of the states) will be required to amend the country’s constitution.

Public empowerment and ownership of the laws is our primary goal. To facilitate that, Mthwakazi citizens eligible to vote will be entitled to launch a popular initiative to demand a change to the constitution. Any eligible citizen will be able to sign a popular initiative and a group of at least seven citizens (the initiative committee) will be able to launch their own popular initiative. For a popular initiative to be voted on, the initiative committee will have to collect a specified number of valid signatures, say 100,000, in favour of the proposal within a set period.

The government and Parliament will recommend whether the proposal should be accepted or rejected. A double majority will be required for the proposal to be accepted; if accepted, new legislation or an amendment to existing legislation would be required to implement the new constitutional provision.

Self-awareness is important for people to affect change. We must take full responsibility for the political mess the pro-Matabeleland agenda finds itself in. External enemies did not cause the chaos we are witnessing, they did not convince us to start hating each other; we did that ourselves. We wanted to believe that there were superior population groups and some inferior in the region; that some groups somehow wanted to assimilate others, and that others despised their own country to an extent they did not care whether it gained independence or not, and we paid scant attention to the existence of other population groups whose interests needed to be heard and included in the wider political discourse in the territory.

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