HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsSeparatism or devolution of power?

Separatism or devolution of power?

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The International Court of Justice has ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 was valid at international law, much to the chagrin of Serbia.
Liberals the world over, would be in support of such an exercise of the right to self-determination. And being one of such ideological persuasion myself, I hold in high esteem those people who seek to define their destiny through own governance systems.
I am of Matabele origin, but a continental animal sucked voluntarily into the vortex of globalisation. My sympathies lie in market domination defined by superiority of quality over mediocrity.
I am an ardent anti-Gukurahundi activist, yet if the demand for a separate state by the Ndebeles is that of a people wallowing in self-pity padded in an inferno of inferiority complex, it exposes us to national ridicule, if not ideological annihilation. And that is why the Nation of Israel has stood the test of time, whether in the Middle East or in the bustling centre of civilisation – United States of America. They have dared to be different, yet remained in the confines of global influence.
Reading Raisedon Baya’s treatise on devolution in Friday’s edition of NewsDay, one is left with a sense of satisfaction that Matabeleland ought to be prepared to now try a new menu of governance.
Yet he has read the signals completely wrong, at least according to the “separatist group” Umhlahlo weSizwe sika Mthwakazi. In a circulated statement entitled “All in My Name”, the Bulawayo outfit dismisses Zenzele Ndebele’s strategic partner, Bulawayo Agenda as misrepresenting the wishes of the people of Matabeleland. The author of this document says: “I was surprised the following week to learn that political parties who claim to champion the cause in the name of MDC-M, MDC-T, Zapu organised by Bulawayo Agenda had called for a public meeting to humiliate the head of State’s — Chief Kaisa Ndiweni — statement on self determination and sell the slogan of devolution of power.
The meeting was well-attended but the head of state did not attend.
However when the three representatives of three political parties took off the crowd booed them and asked them to sit down; people from the floor took turns to call for self determination. MDC-T was represented by Alex Mafa, MDC-M was represented by Mr Ndlovu yet Zapu was represented by Mr Nkiwane.
The following morning The Chronicle reported that people of Bulawayo want devolution of power, a clear misrepresentation of facts.”
It would seem devolution is as much about Bulawayo’s splendid isolation as it is about others wanting more than just “empowerment and popular participation”. In this respect, Chief Kaisa Ndiweni has placed himself in an unenviable position of defining autonomy as cessation, and will take with him gullible citizens who entertain perishable thoughts of regional self-rule.
In simply stating that devolution is about decentralisation and local development, Baya’s observation does not go deep enough at least in the context of nationhood. To a great extent, one could easily sympathise with the extreme and self-defeating stance of Umhlahlo weSizwe sika Mthwakazi, who seek a higher order of autonomy under the State of Mthwakazi. They represent a growing and excitable radical block of civic society that correctly sees 30 years of abuse by Zanu PF as a deliberate attempt at relegating the Ndebele to the fringes of political significance.
And so the agenda of devolution, though noble, may not go far enough in pacifying those who feel betrayed by Gukurahundi, perennial haggling of Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project and Ekusileni Hospital. I myself do not consider Ndiweni a credible political force, not least for his brief flirtations with the Rhodesian Front.
Yet subsequent generations of political misfits from Matabeleland who sold their souls to Zanu-PF sowed seeds of resentment and anger in elements like Umhlahlo weSizwe sika Mthwakazi, Imbovane kaMahlabezulu, Federal Party et al. The rational arguments that Baya raises about the “sustainability” and “readiness” of devolution ring hollow in a region that has taken the fullest brunt of Gukurahundi-type oppression.
I for one am irritated by small minds that spend valuable time and energy confusing devolution, self-determination and separatism.
It is a narrow road of the uninitiated, the naive and intellectual midgets. To me, the desperate cry for identity goes well beyond geographical alienation and isolation.
It is about equal control of national resources. My humble opinion is that we Ndebeles must be aiming at colonising the front row of regional economic domination, given that we are historical products of a kingdom that stretched from the shores of KwaZulu Natal to the valleys of the great Zambezi River. Confining our eco-political ambitions to a tiny part of South West Zimbabwe is limiting our potential. When people of “Mthwakazi” ask how I have carved a niche of influence in “hostile Mashonaland”, my reply is that I see myself as a broad-based citizen competing for national resources and attention without crying foul! Each time someone seeks to know my family name!
If devolution is therefore, as Baya puts it, “granting powers from central government of a sovereign state to government at sub-national level, such as region…” one can argue that Umhlahlo weSizwe sika Mthwakazi could still have its cake and eat it. Yet their extremist opinion is a direct result of the symptoms of a failed state in that Zanu PF abused the generosity of the Ndebeles who surrendered their “sovereignty” in the 1987 “unity agreement”. Were it that Mugabe had treated us with respect, there was enough in the marrow of Zimbabwe’s local government laws to derive satisfaction.
In a normal state of sensible rule, a region can assume dominance by simply asserting local governance. President Mugabe’s obsession with centrist authoritarian control means that he perceives power through the prism of tribal repression, rather than national collaboration.
He is driven by the desire for subservience and servitude – the very aspects he gets readily from so-called modern day Ndebele “nationalists” like Simon Khaya Moyo, Obert Mpofu, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Kembo Mohadi, Angeline Masuku, Cain Mathema and others — the great pretenders to the throne of Mthwakazi.
Thus as it turns out, there IS after all something “sinister in calling for devolution”, at least according to Umhlahlo weSizwe sika Mthwakazi.
However, I would consider the presence of the MDCs in government a healthy beginning towards value-adding national integration.
This in itself lends credence to the demands of devolution and autonomy, but not cessation or separatism.
However, the number of Ndebeles in these political parties counts little for me, because in my world, ideas are bigger than numbers. I am for the bigger picture, the pixel of national agenda rather than narrow regional interests motivated by separatist paranoia.

Rejoice Ngwenya is a social commentator

Feedback: vincent@newsday.co.zw

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