It is in the interest of the Matabeleland movement to rise above sectarian and individual interests and show our communities the value of all people, accommodation of difference, respect for individual talent, inclusion and acceptance. We are unapologetic about our desire for political change and greater inclusion within the movement. Talent must not be lost to the gutter of cultural exclusivity. We insist that tolerance, diversity and inclusion are not political opinions but human rights that should be protected within our space.
Ideological difference should not translate into exclusion of certain individuals or groups or communities in our nation. We can be both diverse and inclusive, hold different opinions at the same time working together, and growing together. It is important that the movement is not seen to and does not minimise concerns of marginalisation from some communities, let us look at practical ways of building a culturally diverse and anti-tribalist movement.
The sensitive concerns of some BaKalanga individuals and/ or groups of alleged Nguni dominance of the movement including their rejection of the name Mthwakazi must be tackled with sincerity and sensitivity it deserves. There is no doubt the movement has made little progress in building tribal diversity, but differences need to be debated without fracturing communities; we must never underestimate how much we need each other; the second one community withholds its commitment to the movement the hopes of the whole nation will collapse.
You will be forgiven for thinking Matabeleland inhabitants were only Nguni and Kalanga. The reality is that the Matabeleland movement is not a ‘Nguni or Kalanga’ movement — it is a movement inspired and rooted among all people of Matabeleland who are survivors of ethnic Shona brutality.
Self-awareness is essential to build a genuinely inclusive political space. Different groups must look at their own unconscious biases, at their failure to bring people from some ethnic groups into the core of the movement’s key operational authority body, lack of desire in working on the issues that concern certain ethnic groups and not recognising the leadership and organisations of some ethnic groups.
We still see that even in groups that define themselves as Matabeleland movements and want to be welcoming to all people of Matabeleland and to broaden their diversity, oppressive behaviour exists. Groups dominated by certain ethnicities will go to other communities to impose their ideas instead of listening to the local leadership and seeking to work with local groups as equals.
We note too that whenever the unawareness is challenged, some members of the group do not see the problem, deny it when confronted, invalidate the perceptions and feelings of the aggrieved members, become defensive, angry, make tepid excuses, make token reforms, and conjure new ways of retaining unfair advantage.
Building a truly diverse and inclusive movement would not involve the recruitment of people from smaller ethnic groups into bigger ethnic groups, but by raising the consciousness of bigger ethnic group communities for them to respect other communities’ abilities to lead their own causes hence create genuine space for all groups to thrive.
Groups must not be incapacitated through a process of co-optation that renders their priorities secondary to other communities’; they should be able to set their own agenda, work on the issues of local interest and organise in the style that is compatible with their values, and which empowers them.
The movement will need to be good allies of a broad range of diverse groups and peoples. We must appreciate many small ethnic groups are focused on the immediate local issues that most directly impact their lives. The movement with its broader Matabeleland focus must reshape to adopt and support these local issues, by so doing it will not only expand its base but also learn to address the real complexities of Matabeleland issues.
To conclude, we argue that for the Matabeleland movement to survive and grow there must be an understanding that no one is special, and everyone is needed. Alienating any one community compromises the whole nation. The movement must be able to build broad and healthy alliances; it must open safe spaces for diverse groups to participate. When communities can see themselves in a project, they tend to show a willingness to make necessary sacrifices for its success. The movement must reconstitute itself to identify with local community struggles, respect local leadership and issues. Significantly, a review of the power structure would be essential in building confidence across the spectrum.