Underhand political activities that threaten to reshape the Matabeleland social space must be confronted for our nation to live. We have always defined Matabeleland as a peaceful nation, a culturally diverse society made up of communities with divergent backgrounds, perspectives, and ideas. It would appear that narrative is based on a pervasive selectivity and sanitisation of history, and even more important, the trivialisation of current internal conflict of interest and associated turbulence. Divergent views over the restoration of the monarch, Joshua Nkomo’s contribution to Matabeleland, what the region should be called – Matabeleland or Mthwakazi – and on whether or not the territory should be an independent state give a taste of our clashing realities.
Re-enacting again and again the same interventions that have torn communities apart has brought us to our present extremity. Quality and not quantity of solutions is the way forward if differences of opinion and divergence of ideas are to be resolved for the benefit of the nation. Unless we self-reflect, we run the risk of destroying ourselves.
Our nation is in bad shape. Struggling to focus and redesign itself to deal with this generation’s challenges, we have resorted to fishing for conflict. Let us face the hard truths head on today so we do not leave a burden for future generations.
Discussion and dialogue over issues, big and small, in our society will always be welcome but destructive self-indulgence must be avoided. Finding solutions to challenges of the day comes before blaming the past because we do not have control over the past but do have total control over our response to its impact.
Efforts towards addressing our challenges require an ocean of resources (human, financial and others) and we simply do not have the capacity. Living in the past is our biggest problem, and there is a danger in exaggerated self-perception, let us acknowledge there is a limit to resources at our disposal and recognise we cannot fight every conflict before us; we must prioritise our ‘wars’.
Destructive attitudes must be curtailed. Our society cannot politically and morally sustain the misplaced, self-serving agendas triggering conflict and hostility; we are where we are today because of decisions taken over the years and these are subject to our priorities.
Plan the next steps, the mark of a great nation is one that knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the essential ones. The restoration of the monarch may be important to some communities but political and economic freedom and civil liberties are essential to every community.
Some may argue the important and the essential issues can be pursued simultaneously, but I will dispute the notion in the knowledge that the emotive issue of the restoration of a Matabeleland king is a self-perpetuating bushfire more likely to divide than unite society for a very long time. Not all communities are keen on the revival of a monarchy while those who do are divided on the rightful heir.
An emotionally charged social environment coupled with political fragility is fertile ground for the creation and maintenance of conflict; this is a society least prepared to fight for our broader interests; our political and social interests do not show a sign of convergence not because they are too diverse but due to lack of desire to hold meaningful discussion and dialogue.
Research and activism may be our saviour yet the blurring of boundaries between activism and research that has seen some of our academics being consumed by the temperament of activism is threatening the credibility of their academic endeavours and increasing personal vilification. Impartiality of academics, clarity of their methodologies and conclusive findings will be crucial in the detoxification of the space and building of an enabling environment for a unity of purpose.
Disorganisation in our search for facts and isolating those from opinion to find solutions threatens to create more conflict than it is resolving. We are causing unimagined self-destruction to the Matabeleland social and political space. We are mutilating our communities in the process incapacitating the nation; a weakened Matabeleland strengthens Harare tyranny and gives it little motivation to change.
Our diverse communities have collectively fought wars in the past, they will do again; divergent views cannot be justification for people to fail to work together to break down barriers to the empowerment of society. Yes, internal ties may have been limited by divergent ideologies, but our communities’ mutual antipathy toward the ZANU PF backed mainstream system should mean that tactical cooperation between communities is possible.
We argue that there is disproportionate focus on what has gone wrong in the past over how to respond to the impact of that past. The blame culture is burdensome, contrary to dignity and ethically distressing for the Matabeleland socio-political territory. We may not have caused our problems but we do have a responsibility to change things for the better. Looking after ourselves with the intention of improving or restoring our political and economic conditions, preventing collapse is our own responsibility and no one else can do it for us, not men and women from the past.