Resolving political challenges faced by Matabeleland requires an acknowledgement that a policy of appeasement has been the only constant and significant enemy of our political prosperity and peace. The appeasers have been powerful; they have controlled the Matabeleland political landscape; they have been largely drawn from the PF ZAPU political elite, and their betrayal of Mthwakazi’s greatness would be neither forgotten nor forgiven by the public who for many years after independence had believed that PF ZAPU represented Matabeleland interests and that liberation movements would govern better. The appeasers destroyed the Matabeleland power base and transferred all authority to Harare.
You begin to lose the essence of your life the moment you bend to appease those people whose opinion of you has somehow become your obsession and source of worry. By so doing, you lose control of your own identity and your life slowly degenerates and becomes that of those who sway your choices because you have inadvertently let them.
Appeasement as a conflict resolution tool is a slippery slope; it means you want to work with the enemy. It means you would rather join him than beat him. PF ZAPU tried that with ZANU in 1987 and it turned out into a disastrous political arrangement for PF ZAPU leaders and supporters when the party was literally gobbled up by ZANU to form ZANU PF.
We are not comfortable with the state of Matabeleland under ZANU PF rule. It is becoming increasingly clear that we should not have let the early 1980s discomfort of ZANU PF rule compromise our integrity; our decision to give up essential liberty in exchange for a little temporary safety in 1987 was foolhardy. We should have maintained principle over convenience.
The reality to be accepted is that appeasing ZANU PF is not a solution but a dangerous compromise of principle. We can never work on the same side with ZANU PF if we are to achieve true peace and retain integrity. Instead of appeasement, we should have demonstrated what we learned from our forebears, that when you are dissatisfied with your situation you let it be known through protest and fight a good fight where you have to. Today we should encourage this.
Local people from all backgrounds need to appreciate that over the entirety of Zimbabwean independence, we have made uncomfortable concessions in our attempts to work with ZANU PF within its created systems and institutions but that has not yielded positive outcomes for us, rather the outcome has been our marginalisation from all entities of state significance and the predictable degradation of our sphere of influence within our own territory.
What we have learned with respect to ZANU PF is that weakness invites the wolves; now we are shutting doors to appeasement policies and appeasers; we are going to swap meekness for bravery, swap compliance for resistance and we are going to swap fear for desire. Our goal is a freer political space, a stronger local economy, equitable development, inclusive communities and a safer Matabeleland nation.
It must be our immediate and long-term plan that if Zimbabwean systems will not unconditionally and fully accommodate us, we will make them obsolete and/ or create viable alternatives in our territory. We are under no illusion that economic mainstream development policy is failing to ensure that economic gains and wealth are delivering socially or at scale. Poverty and underinvestment, low productivity and widening inequalities of income and wealth that have become a permanent fixture of Matabeleland and many local economies in Zimbabwe result from central government economic and political systems failures.
Talking is done with, now the time for our many local social and political organisations to perform has arrived. At the centre of our activities should be the creation of policies that make possible effective ‘trickle down’ and a geographic ‘trickle outward’ of economic benefits. Also central to our reforms is planning the democratisation of the economy which seeks to provide resilience where there is risk and local economic security where there is fragility.
A local wealth building policy to be advanced by local leadership, interested private individuals and local communities would have as its main objective the reorganisation and transformation of the Matabeleland economic space to ensure wealth is extracted less and the environment is exploited less.
Contingency measures are afoot to build an economic foundation that will bring the business community and the consuming public together. We have the Mthwakazi Heritage Investment Fund (click link for details), a Mthwakazi nationals’ (both in the diaspora and local) initiative undertaking work to build a long-term Matabeleland economic capital fund through open membership and contributions.
Integral to building a good local economy is local economic development. This will mean a deliberate practice which ensures that Matabeleland’s economy is developed in a way in which local people and communities benefit, social outcomes are secured and wealth is fairly distributed.
Deindustrialisation of Bulawayo is evidence enough that politics mainstream cannot be part of Matabeleland’s economic solution. We do not need to appease ZANU PF but certainly need organisations that appreciate and identify with our difficulties. Those who have travelled our route understand it better and can represent us better. Locals need to start to engage with local-focused political organisations but we expect those organisations to earn people’s votes, and they must articulate their policies to the public.