Maleme Ranch saga angers Matabeleland

AN unprecedented move by chiefs, villagers, political parties and civic groups to gang up in resisting the takeover of Maleme Ranch, in Matobo, Matabeleland South by State spy Rodney Mashingaidze showcases ethnic-driven frustrations over perceived dominance of people from the region by outsiders, analysts said.

NQOBANI NDLOVU
STAFF REPORTER

Such frustrations have reached a dangerous stage, as shown by the militant approach taken by Matobo people, and could easily result in widespread violence especially if the State fails to take necessary measures to cool flaring tempers of perceived ethnic marginalisation over opportunities and jobs.

Villagers, chiefs, political parties and civic groups in Matabeleland on Sunday said Mashingaidze should go and grab a farm in his home province, saying that they were fed up with situations where people from outside the region seemed to be coming to “grab everything” from jobs to farms.

Mashingaidze claimed Maleme, owned by Peter Cunningham, now belonged to him and has changed padlocks to bar the owner, his workers and villagers.

Maleme Ranch offered grazing pastures to villagers who were given pieces of land by Cunningham to conduct small-scale agricultural projects, like poultry farming.

“It is our Canaan and we will not allow Mashingaidze to take away our only source of livelihood,” Dindila Dube, a businessman in Nathisa business centre near Maleme Ranch, said on Sunday.

Zipra Veterans’ Trust and Mthwakazi Liberation Party (MLP) activists visited the property to confront and evict Mashingaidze, however, he was away.

South Africa-based political analyst Trust Matsilele said the militant approach showed increasing frustrations to perceived tribal dominance and could spark unprecedented violence against those seen to be in the forefront of “stealing” their opportunities.

“We know that President Robert Mugabe always uses State apparatus to entrench his policies and depending on Mashingaidze’s proximity to Mugabe, the army or police might be deployed to deal with the situation and ensure Mashingaidze gets the farm and this will surely spark violence,” he said.

“This resistance is tribe-based and tribe-driven and is not necessarily on the issue of invasion, but on who is invading.”

Methuseli Moyo, a journalist, weighed in saying “people have complained for too long about marginalisation” and the Maleme villagers are simply saying “enough is enough and will from now on take the bull by the horns and resist, physically, any attempts to marginalise and humiliate them”.

“From now on, the politics of Matabeleland is going radical and we might see skirmishes,” he claimed.

A host of problems bedevilling Matabeleland, like perennial water shortages, are blamed on deliberate marginalisation policy of central government.

In 2013, police arrested activists belonging to the Mthwakazi Youth Leaders’ Joint Resolution who took to the streets to protest against Zesa for reportedly hiring hundreds of youths from outside Bulawayo to dig trenches for the Insukamini substation in Emganwini.

“The sons and daughters of Maleme and the Matabele nation are in no doubt possessed by the militant spirit of our forefathers, that spirit of acting in a revolutionary manner against tribal imperialism and colonialism and its ugly face of injustice that has been commissioned by Zanu PF and its hegemonic security apparatus,” Mqondisi Moyo, the MLP president said.

Blessing Vava, a political analyst, said little had been done since independence to heal differences, especially after the Gukurahundi genocide that left 20 000 people dead in Matabeleland.

He said the differences are further fuelled by the alleged marginalisation of the provinces.

“The tribal differences in this country will take time to heal despite the so-called Unity Accord signed by Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo in 1987,” Vava said.

“It was just an elite pact, whereas down the communities no efforts have been made to mend tribal differences.

“The process will take time until this generation of nationalists is no longer on the scene, remember the perpetrators of Gukurahundi are still walking scot-free and this is something that has further exacerbated the rift between Harare and Bulawayo.”

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