IT is shocking and indeed unacceptable that 33 years after independence and 50 years after the advent of the liberation struggle, there are still some Zimbabweans who believe that anything led by a person from Matabeleland is tribal or regional.
REPORT BY DUMISANI NKOMO
The insinuation is that anybody originating from Matabeleland must be a deputy or vice that. Notable exceptions over the years are the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) led by George Nkiwane and the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union which has had the likes of Fortune Mguni, Promise Mkwananzi and Nkululeko Sibanda leading in the past and in the case of Nkiwane, currently. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce are trendsetters in pushing for a merit-based non-tribalistic dispensation .
The nationalism of the ’40s and ’50s was non-ethnic with nationalists of various ethnic groups including George Nyandoro, James Chikerema and Edward Ndlovu pursuing a national non-ethnic agenda. The advent of Zanu was accompanied by the rise of tribal politics and this was particularly distinct in the run-up to the 1980 elections when Joshua Nkomo leading the nationalist movement was suddenly branded as the leader of a regional party. This was in spite of the fact that Nkomo’s Zapu executive consisted of the following non-Ndebele national hierachy member: Josiah Chinamano (vice-president), Joseph Msika (secretary-general), Amon Jirira, Willie Musarurwa (information and publicity secretary), Clement Muchachi, Daniel Madzimbamuto, Ariston Chambati, among others.
In spite of this, President Robert Mugabe at once pointed out that Nkomo was now leading a regional party which had no chance of winning the 1980 elections. This was the beginning of the ideology or rather idiocy that anything led by a Ndebele is “tribal”, or anybody of any other ethnic groups besides the Shona cannot be a leader of a party regardless of how cosmopolitan that party could be.
When the MDC was formed, Gibson Sibanda was the initial choice as president since he was also president of the ZCTU and Morgan Tsvangirai was the secretary-general. Due to a combination of inferiority complex and strategic incompetence, Gibson Sibanda became Morgan Tsvangirai’s vice-president. Can we say this MDC formation of the early 2000 era was not ethnocentric merely because it was headed by Morgan Tsvangirai and the bulk of the top six executive members hailed from Matabeleland? The top six included Gibson Sibanda (vice-president), Welshman Ncube (secretary-general), Fletcher Dulini (tresurer–general) and Paul Themba Nyathi (spokesperson).Can it be assumed then this MDC was non-ethnic because the president was not Ndebele even though up to five of the top leaders were Ndebele? Does being Ndebele make one tribal and does having a Ndebele leader make the institution that he or she leads tribal?
The Dumiso Dabengwa party has a Shona vice-president (Emelia Mukaratiwa) and once again analysts and others have dismissed his party as tribal merely because the party is led by a person from Matabeleland. Does it mean that Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn and MDC-T coalition is a tribal outfit because Simba Makoni comes from Manicaland and Morgan Tsvangirai hails from the same province?
Is Zanu PF a tribal outfit because its president and current vice-president come from the Mashonaland provinces and Didymus Mutasa (secretary administrative) comes from Manicaland? Should we assume that Zanu PF is a tribal party because Robert Mugabe, Joice Mujuru, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo come from the same ethnic group?
Welshman Ncube’s MDC formation has a vice-president Edwin Mushoriwa, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (secretary-general) who is non-Ndebele, a national chairman who is non-Ndebele and a deputy spokesperson who is non-Ndebele and yet that party is viewed as a regional party by some sections of the media and others.
To add insult to injury, when Dumiso Dabengwa and Welshman Ncube signed an electoral pact, it was condemned by some including Zanu PF as a tribal alliance. I am not necessarily a member of any of these two parties, but as a matter of principle, it is diabolically wrong to label an entity, institution, formation, association or body of individuals as tribal merely because they are led by a person from a group which is viewed as a minority group. This is simply unacceptable behaviour which has no room in a modern democracy. What is important is merit.
Surprisingly, even civic organisations which are based in Matabeleland are branded as regional while those based in Harare are recognised as national. Is Harare Zimbabwe?
Is Zimbabwe Harare? The minute one says they are from an organisation in Matabeleland or any other part of the country for that matter, one is branded as a leader of a regional outfit when an organisation with an office in Harare and annual conference or two in one or two parts of the country is described as national. This is a gigantic political scandal of monumental proportions.
I have nothing against Harare, neither do I have anything against non-Ndebeles. Even Ndebeles should not discriminate against Shonas because this too is unacceptable. Merit is what should guide us in the choice of our political leaders.
Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader