“Umntanenkosi yisigqili kwelinye ilizwe” (The king’s child is a slave in another land). I heard this proverb in one of Dudu Manhenga’s new songs last week and it got me thinking about the amplified conversation currently taking place concerning the marginalisation of Matabeleland.
In a classic example of what my colleague, Conway Tutani, would describe as denialism, Zanu PF politburo member Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu is quoted in the State media saying:
“When you go hunting, there are big dogs that chase after an animal and otitisi (mongrels) that will bark and make noise in the dust that would have been created by the big dogs yet they do not see anything. Big dogs do not make noise, but chase after their prey until they get it. These people are just otitisi. They don’t see where big dogs are and do not know what they are talking about or want. Saying Matabeleland is marginalised is just beer hall talk . . .”
The esteemed elder is right about the hunting scenario. I hate to continue the unsavoury analogy, but the truth is we have seen the “big dogs” in action, in footage from the farm invasions of the last decade, we have seen them in photographs of young people threatening to take over other people’s businesses in the name of indigenisation; we have seen them in press reports and speeches where democracy is decried in the name of sovereignty and self-determination.
Sure we have.
The entire country is indeed choking in the dust raised by these “big dogs” as they go hunting.
And it’s true that the rest of us really can’t see anything but the dust. The question arising is:
If the “big dogs” are looting and pillaging, killing prey and eating greedily on their own, should all other dogs do the same?
If the “big dogs” are concerned only with catching their prey and devouring it without concern for anyone else should the rest of the pack emulate them?
Surely a thinking, reasoning, intelligent dog can use its own judgment to see that this method is counterproductive and devise its own ideas about possible solutions to the problem?
We cannot have a “monkey see, monkey do” approach to development.
Ndlovu went on to give the example of the music industry, explaining that the first musicians were from the Matabeleland region and suggesting that the current lot of inhabitants are somewhat backward.
Ironically, just the previous day, The Standard had published a piece in which a top dramatist, Michael Moyo, was quoted complaining about the lack of support for the arts from the Bulawayo community.
He said the business community needed to do more to help artists so that the industry, which has been vibrant before, may grow. What business community? Are we all reading the same papers?
Are we talking about the city in which 87 companies have shut down in the past year?
So the issue of marginalisation is not a figment of the imagination of drunken Ndebeles. If everything was so hunky-dory in Bulawayo why did Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere announce in May to Bulawayo captains of industry that a policy document, Let Bulawayo Survive, had been adopted? Why should the government want to revive a thriving city?
In mid-May, Cabinet set up a seven-member ministerial team to look at possibilities of reviving Bulawayo’s industrial sector that has virtually collapsed.
Kasukuwere admitted that Bulawayo has for long been sidelined in the mainstream economy of the country and has therefore lagged behind in development.
All around us there are casualties of marginalisation, I know because I am one of them! Marginalisation simply means exclusion from meaningful participation in mainstream society.
There are many Zimbabweans who are marginalised; for instance women, the youth, the disabled and certain controversial sections of society like gays and lesbians.
The simple fact is that the whole of Zimbabwe needs development opportunities in order to realise its potential. Companies have closed down in Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Kadoma and Norton.
Young people from Kezi to Kanyemba can tell you about unemployment, about lack of opportunity, about the pressure to resort to crime, about the temptation to cross the borders.
But yes, there are specific issues that are peculiar to Matabeleland.
It’s not going to help to keep throwing insults and indignant analogies back and forth. We don’t need it.
We don’t need politicians hurling verbal slurs at each other or at the people. We don’t need another taskforce or commission to “investigate” the problems in Matabeleland.
What we need is just a handful of creative thinkers and movers who are serious about getting Matabeleland back on its feet, people who are not constrained by the craziness going on in the government and who are empowered to act.
I am all for initiative and self-motivation. Among my own I have sometimes accused fellow tribesman of having a victim mentality, but of course they have their own unique range of experiences which one cannot easily dismiss if one is serious about solving the problem.
Failure on the part of a parent to provide adequately for a child does not absolve the child from exercising his/her initiative to better themselves.
Similarly, bucketloads of initiative in a child do not absolve parents from their responsibility to adequately provide for the child.
If I were in charge I would take seriously complaints and grievances from Matabeleland and make the development of Matabeleland a priority, for the simple reason that the last thing you want to lead is a bunch of disgruntled Ndebeles, just ask Shaka.