SOME see him as a controversial politician while others view him as an eccentric tribalist driven by the nostalgia to revive King Mzilikazi’s long lost Ndebele State.
Report by Njabulo Ncube
Like him or hate him, Paul Siwela is a maverick politician who has spent time behind bars due to his eccentric ideas and sharp tongue, but he takes no prisoners. Siwela speaks passionately about his secessionist agenda, critics say it is a critical reminder of what is wrong with Zimbabwe.
They accuse Zanu PF, in power for 33 years, of failing to mould the competing tribal, racial and linguistic loyalties into a nation which citizens can proudly associate themselves with.
Siwela, the leader of the Matabeleland Liberation Organisation (MLO), said his organisation was born in 2011 as a result of the “unmet” political expectations and grievances of the people of Matabeleland since November 4, 1893 when the British colonial masters annexed Matabeleland.
“That date is significant in that it marked the time Matabeleland lost its sovereignty, independence, its gold and other mineral riches through unprovoked political and military aggression,” Siwela said in an interview at his Woodville residence in Bulawayo.
“Even after attaining independence from Britain in 1980, Matabeleland has been subjected to genocide, is facing discrimination and marginalisation on a daily basis.”
Siwela says his main objective is to attain full sovereignty and independence of the people of Matabeleland by establishing a State independent of Mashonaland. He vehemently denies that he is a tribalist or a mole paid by the State to confuse the people of Matabeleland.
Questions have been raised about Siwela’s loyalties, with some accusing him of double dipping, advising both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on the Matabeleland issue.
“As MLO we care less about what people say, but care more about our drive to reclaim our independence,” he said.
“Why would the CIO, which is controlled by Mugabe, actively help me to break-away from this colonial creation called Zimbabwe? It will be treasonous on the part of the CIO.”
He said calls for an independent State of Matabeleland were not being driven by nostalgia or tribalism.
“I don’t know what tribalism is, but what I know is that the people of Matabeleland want their own sovereignty and independence,” he said.
“For instance, since 1893 Matabeleland has not produced a Prime Minister, a Chief Justice or Judge President, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the Airforce, the Director-General of the CIO, the governor of the Reserve Bank, the list is endless.”
Effie Ncube, a political analyst, says as a politician, Siwela is very unorthodox in his approaches but, however, reflects the deep alienation that some people in Matabeleland feel. Despite claiming to be fighting against Mugabe in Matabeleland, Siwela says he sees the veteran ruler continuing in power until 2018.
“There is a possibility Mugabe will contest his last election in 2018,” he said. “It is then that Zanu PF will capitulate and then the independence of Matabeleland will be delivered.”
The MLO leader, together with Charles Thomas and Jonh Gazi, are accused of plotting to topple Mugabe after they allegedly distributed flyers calling for the secession of Matabeleland from the rest of the country. The trio is out on $2 000 bail and is waiting for the High Court to decide on their plea to have the case dismissed.