Matabeleland movement programmes need to protect society from elite capture

Divide and conquer tactics and the deception of independence is not going unnoticed in Matabeleland; we did not fight colonial rule so we could be open to oppression by a black government. The Matabele bourgeoisie promoted by Harare will neither heal nor silence the brutalised majority. Decades of damaging mental prison has left the region today further from freedom than it ever was before 1980.

In response to the 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and the systemic racism practised by the Ian Smith government black citizens seized the initiative to fight for racial equality, proposing the dismantling of discriminatory policies and institutions. While they fought against systems that dehumanised the black person, parallel concerns about the growing tribal conflict and imbalance in power distribution within the liberation movement, its domination by an unaccountable military wing, technocrats and the elite — a danger that could derail all plans for equality and equity — were supressed, if not ignored.

Independence aims and goals were betrayed the minute ZANU led government on the 18th April 1980. What was acquired that day was nowhere near freedom and liberation for all but a substitution of racism with tribalism and elitism. Ethnic Shona elite became the patrons of the broken system and institutions adopted from the racist Smith-led Rhodesian government. Where power was once concentrated in the minority white citizens, ethnic Shona citizens took over, the past was shaped by ZANU through history and Shona creed turned into law. The rest of the citizens were expected to adapt to fit in or suffer marginalisation.

Central to the state operation was public fear; fear became a fundamental tool through which ZANU government pushed through its agenda; Gukurahundi genocide set the tone for what ZANU was prepared to do to achieve its goals and what happens when one does not fit in or resists. Ndebele people and PF ZAPU were perceived as a threat to ZANU’s goal of one nation, one identity, they were a swamp that needed draining.

Two types of Matabeles have since emerged in Matabeleland. There is the bourgeoisie type who blinds himself to the condition of his people, and who is satisfied with token solutions from Harare. He is the pet and gatekeeper of the Harare regime and does a good job of shutting down all local voices for real change, but it must be made clear that he is in the minority. He is often the handpicked Ndebele who has lost his sense of pride and direction and directly benefits from token solutions. And then we have the ordinary Matabele people who are clobbered by the brutality and the conditions that exist in Zimbabwe.

Nobody will teach you how to stop him from controlling you, you will have to figure it out yourself. Those who suffer the indignity of dehumanisation and abuse from the tribal State of Zimbabwe must take control of the solutions. Like everybody in our position, every nation that finally figured out its worth has packed its bags of pride, upped sticks and engaged in a journey to freedom which ended in the valley of change.

A strong, radically democratic vision for the Matabeleland movement must combine its fight against the capture of the region’s political interests by the Matabele elite (in cahoots with Harare) with demands for more effective citizen oversight and participation. The movement needs more than good policy, it needs serious, creative proposals for how to avoid the capture of political power by the Matabeleland elite and wealthy.

It is becoming clear that the Matabele elite cannot conceivably play a constructive role in the efforts to free Matabeleland. Rather, there needs to be a substantive withdrawal of political power from the ZANU PF/ MDC aligned Matabele elite to the public. For that to happen the mentality of the ordinary man and woman needs to shift from looking for the elite to provide solutions to going out to find solutions for everyone. The Matabeleland movement must focus its attention away from the Matabele bourgeoisie to reigniting self-pride and self-confidence in ordinary men and women who make the majority of the population.

By leaving air-conditioned offices and reaching out to the ordinary man on the street and helping him to understand and to accept himself for who he is we stand a better chance to open wide the doors to real freedom. When people no longer want the indignity to aspire to be somebody else, but want to take the pride in who they are, they are ready for a good fight.

Through years of systemic mental manipulation, our people have been made to believe economic opportunities, including local ones, are lost to them because they lack the essential education and skills needed for them to fully participate in the economy. But how do locals lack skills even to be tour guides in local tourist resorts or dig storm drains?

We need to understand how it even is remotely appropriate that labour has to be imported from other parts of the country for what are essentially non-specialised jobs. What is wrong with the idea of localisation? Why is the Zimbabwean government not investing in training programmes so that locals are trained to fill in identified skills shortage areas?

You cannot work in cahoots with mainstream political parties of Zimbabwe and be a believer in Matabele liberty and freedom because the aim of mainstream politics is to manage instead of empowering Matabeleland.

The Matabele elite cannot be a solution to Matabeleland problems because it is under the thumb of the regime and the primary enabler of the suffering in the region. Even those people who may have Matabeleland at heart cannot do well by Matabeleland as long as their role is merely administrative overseeing the implementation of Mashonaland biased policies. Our solution lies in extraordinary men and women taking and using power, and withdrawing power from the Matabele elite should be the Matabeleland movement’s aim. People must be educated so they are content to be themselves. 

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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