Raise the moral bar to better Matabeleland political systems and institutions

Public disenchantment has become a key feature in independent Zimbabwe, particularly in Matabeleland where under the pretext of addressing insecurity in the region, thousands of Ndebele civilians were starved, tortured, raped, abducted and murdered in a state conjured military operation. Following the tribal, hate-fuelled murderous and dehumanising military activities of the 5th Brigade in an operation codenamed Gukurahundi, politicians are viewed with suspicion and distrust in Matabeleland, and apathy best defines public engagement in Zimbabwean political activities.

We argue that given ZANU PF’s history of tribalism and its continued indifference towards Matabeleland specific issues, public display of contempt towards mainstream politics of Zimbabwe is justified. ZANU PF-led systems and institutions do not seem to pay attention to morals and ethics; the party pursues immoral policies that have no place in a civilised society.

In the 41 years of ZANU PF governance — which is likely to continue come 2023 elections — we face the reality that the party’s major political interest is power for the sake of power; over the years public behaviour has shown our total underestimation of this party’s depraved disregard for rules, norms, and any sense of basic decency and responsibility to citizens.

However, despondency is turning into action with calls for an independent Mthwakazi/ Matabeleland getting louder by the day. Greater care needs to be taken as the push for a free and independent Matabeleland grows that our politics is built on our moral and ethical code that is entirely different from ZANU PF. While ZANU PF has eliminated ethics and oversight in its pursuit of absolute power, we need our politics to be founded on and reined in by morality and ethics so that it serves all communities in equal measure regardless of tribe or race or gender or social class or political affiliation.

What is ethics?

Velasquez, et al. (1987, revised 2010), identify two attributes to which ethics refers: firstly, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Examples will include those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that entail virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty. Also under ethical standards are standards relating to rights, e.g. the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons; and secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one’s ethical standards. It has to be noted that feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical, hence it is necessary to constantly examine one’s standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Thus, ethics also means the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct, and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly-based.

Also visit: What is ethics?

Defining morals

Morals refer to principles that a person or society sanction as right and acceptable standards especially in regards to a person’s behaviour; they are the prevailing standards of behaviour that enable people to live cooperatively in groups. Morals guide individual conduct within society. Although morals may change over time and location, they remain the standards of behaviour that society uses to judge ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Also visit: Morals

Morals v Ethics

While morals are considered guidelines that affect individuals, ethics are considered guideposts for entire larger groups or communities. It can be argued that morals are an individual’s interpretation of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ while ethics are standards imposed by external forces, e.g. employers.

Both morality and ethics are relative. Morality is determined individually from person to person. In addition, morals can be heavily influenced by families and even religious beliefs, as well as past experiences.

Ethics are relative to different communities and cultures, e.g. the ethical guidelines for the medical or military community do not necessarily have an impact on people outside of that community although they remain important in that they help protect the whole community.

What does that mean to our politics?

We are a diverse nation, it would be important for systems and institutions to be inclusive. We need to infuse our organisations with a culture of ethical behaviour that will applaud ethical decisions and frown on efforts to play “fast and loose”.

All communities need to see their reflection whenever they look at the system. As has become the norm for this website, we call for separation of powers which we believe is essential to maintain an oversight of the system and protect all citizens. We are enthusiastic about a decentralised federal system for improved accountability and effective functioning of our politics and state.

Right to life is absolute, all people living within our territory must be protected from threat and actual harm, and must be allowed to live their lives to the fullest without undue state interference.

Our history with ethnic Shona people is tainted and strained by the Gukurahundi genocide, but tribe or race must never be a factor in accessing services within Matabeleland; calls to expel ethnic Shona people are irrational, have no legal ground, they set bad precedence thus, must not be entertained if we are to meet our own moral and ethical codes and internationally recognised obligations to society.

Climate change is an essential factor in modern politics and economy, this brings about interesting challenges in modernising our economic policies and establishing international partnerships.

Conclusion

We need a system that will do what is right by our people. Communities will have to be given adequate autonomy to shape their politics, business, education, etc. according to their local needs but also recognising the shared interests of the federal state. We will not reward chaos over moral and ethical integrity; what we do will only be a reflection of our societal, economic and cultural needs and our shared values with the international community.

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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