No moral duty to entertain destructive criticism

The sustained destructive campaign of punching down on every effort of the Matabeleland movement and the ridicule directed at it by a section of Matabeleland Zimbabwe conservatives and/ or lobbyists who would rather preserve the status quo whatever the cost of doing so cannot be called a critique of the Matabeleland movement but deplorable destructive criticism. While constructive critics punch across lines, identify specific areas and more important, give specific, actionable suggestions, destructive critics target the whole organisation in an attempt to tear it down.

Opposition to the Matabeleland movement is no surprise. It is almost always comfortable for people to sit on the sidelines and critique the builder from afar. But the reality is that those who will cause changes to the Matabeleland space are those who build not ones who persistently question the qualifications of the bricklayers.  

The torrent of destructive criticism of the Matabeleland movement by a small group of locals raises internal political concerns. We understand criticism, but mockery of ideologies you disagree with is neither constructive nor respectful nor helpful, and when you cannot respect those you disagree with, it is arrogant to expect to be listened to by the same people.

How we deal with these destructive critics will define the movement’s trajectory; we will either be distracted or consumed by the comments from these people. The bigger question is: Do we need to invest time engaging with people who are opposed to the ideology? How do you start to negotiate with people whose sole purpose is your destruction?

Every one of us is a leader in their own way and our focus should be improvement of people’s lives, and human rights and freedoms go beyond political partisanship; leaders are judged by their ability to negotiate and work with others to achieve goals, and not rewarded for obstruction, standoffs, and single-minded focus on ideological victories and pandering to their political base.

The power to assert the Matabeleland movement ultimately rests with the current generation of Matabeleland leaders who, we believe, have a duty, capacity and privilege to take the movement to heights previously unimagined. To do that, we should reflect on the systemic threat and attacks to the Matabeleland movement posed by such toxic critics as those often encountered on social media.

It is appalling that the toxic political climate perpetrated in Matabeleland by a few but persistent and committed individuals is becoming a major threat to progress; ultimately, it is making it untenable for Matabeleland movements to effectively express their aims and goals on the ground.

We are not against or afraid of critics or criticism of movements, indeed no one and no opinion should be insulated from critique if we desire accountability and progress within the political space. The biggest difference and problem in the Matabeleland situation is that the loudest critics are not even remotely fans of the movement and all it stands for; they say things not to build but to silence and destroy the movement because they are essentially opposed and hate it. We are not talking of well-intentioned critics of an ideology but haters with ulterior motives.

This is obtuse criticism from individuals whose criticism is outright malicious, demeaning and totally off-base. To call it by its rightful name, this is “destructive criticism” and we must not entertain it. This form of criticism is, by design, intended to harm, undermine, or even destroy the very soul of the Matabeleland movement, reputation and capital. These individuals are mercilessly attempting to rip apart the Matabeleland movement ideology by publicly denigrating its credibility and abilities.

Destructive criticism differs from constructive or even negative feedback because it is not intended to help the movement, in fact it is just the opposite. The critics have an agenda to push, that is, to silence the Matabeleland movement while promoting mainstream, one Zimbabwe, politics.

In principle, this destructive criticism is a by-product of a longstanding toxic politics of Zimbabwe where intolerance, abuse of opposition, impunity, corruption, lack of accountability among other inappropriate behaviour has permanently shaped the political culture. In the Zimbabwe political space, destructive criticism is condoned (or even encouraged).

In our conclusion we emphasise that we have no objection to criticism but it is specifically destructive criticism that we are rejecting, and we will actively pay no attention to it. Nothing constructive can be built from investing time to destructive posturing; destructive criticism does not build fundamentally because it is not meant to, rather it is meant to undermine hence it is characterised by an emphasis on objection to something, only with the purpose of showing that it is wrong, false, mistaken, nonsensical, objectionable, or disreputable. It is a blanket disapproval of something – it emphasises the downside without offering credible, actionable alternatives to remedy any perceived deficiencies.

Published by THE RESEARCH HUB

a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Matabeleland human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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