Matabeleland: Put brakes on toxic political conspiracies

Conspiracy theorists believe in conspiracy because it is comforting. The truth of the Matabeleland internal politics is that it is frighteningly chaotic; nobody is in control, not even the Nguni legion. Contrary to conspiracy theorists’ assertions, Nguni people weld no control over the politics pertaining in Matabeleland. A well-known Kalanga conspiracy theorist suggest that Matabeleland society is an organised Ndebele (sic) conspiracy to oppress and degrade BaKalanga. We are clear that the Ndebele being referred to here are Nguni and that the view is not representative of the Kalanga people but individuals’, and it must be taken that way.

No ethnic group should allow itself the ignominy of being the weakest link in Matabeleland; an attack on one is an attack on all. The attack on Nguni people by a Kalanga supremacist is offensive and a blatant attempt to divide and rule. The accusation that the Matabeleland movement’s narrative is Nguni-centric lacks merit; the agenda does not characterise itself as a Nguni protector, instead it emphasises the importance of the three ‘R’s: “rights, representation and resources”.

Our working philosophy is: ‘Your rights are protected when everybody’s rights are protected’. We will not tolerate xenophobia and all forms of hate. Nguni-phobic online comments suggesting they were appropriating the suffering of other nations in Matabeleland to further their political end have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate our nation’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.

The generator of the conspiracy is a well-known xenophobe whose view of the current Matabeleland socio-political setting is an embarrassing defeat for the Kalanga kingdom and undue dominance of Ndebele people – but who are Ndebele? This man’s overriding desire is not only the restoration of Kalanga dominance, but to squeeze out all perceived symbols of Nguni culture. This is a grotesque political manoeuvre that seeks to isolate and disenfranchise Ngunis in Matabeleland.

Joshua Nkomo’s views on who the Ndebele are. Nkomo did not see the Ndebele as a tribe but a nation of different ethnic groups.

Matabeleland requires a leadership that confronts with awareness and competence the urgency and challenges of our time, but deep and intractable divisions in the region make it impossible for people to coalesce around any single principle and prioritise interventions. However, many understand the value of unity and the risk of the disintegration of our nation.

Nguni-phobic conspiracies are misguided and pose an existential threat to the Matabeleland nation; any notion of a Nguni power grab of Kalanga responsibilities is patently wrong and devoid of evidence.

We strongly reject the allegation that the Matabeleland political narrative is Nguni-phonic, and people must not use it as a pretext for escalating ethnic division. We do not object to ideological differences and grievances, these are as old as human society, but peddling conspiracies and malice threatens territorial integrity, and society has the responsibility to put a stop to that.

No patriotic person will have any objection to individuals and groups critiquing the Matabeleland narrative, its principal aims, goals, and objectives, and their impact on the nation; we believe that honest debate – not propaganda – and free speech remain an essential tool to attaining our goals. However, what we have witnessed recently is not a critique but people peddling false claims on an epic scale, and such behaviour bears no benefit to the nation.

The whole furore is clearly a case of a man unlikely to ever be on the leadership podium of Matabeleland and therefore looking for their own sense of purpose. Here we are staring at a highly deceptive person with selfish personal desires. Our major concern is that, not does this individual not share scholarly data of their serious allegation of Ngunis appropriating the struggles of other ethnic groups in Matabeleland, but also people are not asking the questions.

An unprincipled man should not be allowed unquestioned power over the Matabeleland narrative. He is fine with the territory being called Matabeleland but is offended by use of the collective noun Ndebele to refer to the inhabitants. His agenda is clear and not favourable to his target of hate, the Nguni. 

As alluded to earlier, the intention is not to shield the current narrative from scrutiny, but we need cool heads to address concerns without fracturing communities. We note with concern that the conspiracy theorist also talks without consent on behalf of other communities merely to give false impression of the popularity of his opinion. Subjective matters are best left to the subjects; a critique from other entities of the current Matabeleland narrative would be progressive. Opinion cannot be taken for fact, but people need to produce evidence of their allegations to inform a viable alternative narrative.

We must be clear though that any intervention that attempts to highlight the plight of one community by minimising the plight of another is unacceptable and will be resisted by any means at our disposal. The fact remains that the mainstream Zimbabwe politics negatively affects all Matabeleland communities, and favours Mashonaland.  The power and influence that Ngunis supposedly weld in the region is fictitious.

Tearing the nation apart and reducing ourselves into stubbornly insular ethnic groups and clans bring risk to every population group in the region.

For peace and stability to prevail we need to build constructive working relationships. As a nation we have adopted an inclusive position on many internal matters with a political dimension and we intend to continue to do so going forward.

No society is perfect, but it is important that we strive for the betterment of our nation. We emphasise our profound respect for individual freedom of opinion and speech, but conspiracy has no place; stereotypes are dangerous self-serving misrepresentations not facts. A Nguni community must not be hounded due to controversial opinions of a few individuals; equally, it would be wrong to vent anger towards the whole Kalanga community because of controversial views of Kalanga individuals.

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