Participatory democracy is Matabeleland’s best approach

Vital questions that cannot be ignored in our socio-political space are those to do with the threat to the community’s right to being; we want to be at the centre of whatever happens in our community and to be the centre of what happens in our community. We insist that for Zimbabwean politics to do what it claims to be its purpose – serving and empowering the public – democratic participation in local activities that include economic, social, and cultural activities is a must to protect every community’s dignity. Politics must be about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness.

Correcting anomalies is not an opportunity for finger-pointing, it requires that one has a good understanding of what the problem is. Two arguments are made: 1. we argue that mainstream politics in Zimbabwe is elitist and primarily a reflection of Mashonaland interests and in that frame Matabeles have been turned into an appendage of ethnic Shona interests, and 2. we understand poverty to be a multidimensional phenomenon that extends beyond financial means to education, access to healthcare, political participation and promotion of one’s cultural and social dignity.

Real change will require a swift shift in the mind-set of the oppressed people of Matabeleland; vulnerable communities in Matabeleland cannot be expected to compromise or inhibit their independence just to give a false sense of serenity to Zimbabwean politics. Voices against injustice must ring louder not less; the oppressed must not be educated to be silent about their existential struggles but to point them out loud every time they experience and/ or observe them.

Sitting back is of no public benefit, progress will only be made by rejecting the political status quo and countering indicators of civic disengagement in the form of low and declining public participation in democratic processes (voter registration and turnout), increasing disillusionment in politicians and democratic processes, and declining levels of participation in organised socio-political activity by actively promoting citizens’ involvement in important decision-making processes at local level where the impact of political decisions to the people can be easily seen.

It must be made clear that to voice concern against the hijacking and mutilation of those vital local organs of authority and challenging the consequent estrangement of our communities from national power is not tribalism but a matter of survival. Zimbabwe’s independence has long become an open prison for Matabeleland and Matabeles, but some Matabele elite and other beneficiaries of the current madness become so upset whenever we openly object to Shona privilege yet they have no compassion for our suffering under a rogue ZANU PF regime. Fighting for one’s survival and tribalism cannot even be compared yet when someone is in denial about what is happening they cannot perceive what is true.

As highlighted earlier, we are feeling cynical and disillusioned with the foundations of politics in Zimbabwe and what it stands for. From our experience of living in Zimbabwe we argue that representative democracy has failed; mainstream politics in Zimbabwe is a true reflection of Mashonaland interests. It is for that reason that we believe democracy’s value can best be realised through the direct participation of citizens, rather than in proxy through the actions of representatives who, truth be told, are mere agents of mainstream politics as subscribed to by ZANU PF and not local communities.

It is important to empower local problem-solving mechanism because citizens’ interests and needs should be the focus of every political decision-making process at all different governance levels. Participatory democracy emphasises citizen engagement in both formal activities such as consultations, committee hearings and participatory budgeting sessions, as well as subtly ‘political’ action such as spontaneous protests, volunteering, active involvement in workers’ unions, etc.

It is the heart of democracy that citizens’ concerns are the basis for change. Participatory processes allow exactly for that– they give citizens the possibility to take part in decision-making and to give impulse for change.

When your response to disillusionment from political injustice is disengagement you empower the aggressor and help maintain the status quo. Democratic participation in all activities in our communities is a right that must never be surrendered to politicians. Let us not give in to the blatant emotional blackmail that seeks to label Matabele opponents of the status quo as tribalists; no matter what the elite and our own Matabele beneficiaries of the current political system may say, we are victims of an intentional system not lazy, perennial complainers. Victims of the crooked system of Zimbabwe must not be made to feel guilty for complaining about the same abusive systems.

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