Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Gukurahundi and the battle against Shona supremacy

25 Jul 2019 at 06:40hrs | Views
Gukurahundi has long been debated as a tribal issue and was presented to the younger generations and the world at large as a battle for tribal supremacy. This was until former ZAPU cadre and former Minister of Home Affairs Dr Obert Moses Mpofu broke the ranks and spoke on the issue of Gukurahundi. Gukurahundi remains a thorny issue and tribute goes to the new dispensation under Emmerson Mnangagwa for allowing people to discuss and debate Gukurahundi freely, openly and without fear. Some might question Obert Mpofu's sincerity in the Gukurahundi debate, judging from his political history and ethnicity  Obert Mpofu is probably a victim of Gukurahundi and would be compelled to an emotional argument without looking at the intellectual factors and facts at play in the Gukurahundi issue.

It is interesting to note that Dr Obert Mpofu presents an intellectually valid case in his weekly column. We were misled into assuming that Dr Obert Mpofu was intellectually defunct, most people insult Obert Mpofu saying he has a big body with a small brain but this time the intellectual in Obert Mpofu jumped out and came to play. The articles by Obert Mpofu are rich in-depth and intellectual argument which takes the spotlight off the emotional side of the debate that has been touted by Gukurahundi business persons.

Tribal politics at play

Gukurahundi has been a trump card and definite winner for those who are politically bankrupt. When politicians come to Matebeleland or address the people of Mthwakazi they play on the Gukurahundi card because they have very little else to dwell on. The Great African Afro-Centric philosopher Mwalimu Julius Nyerere said that those that are politically and intellectually bankrupt turn to ethnicity and religion as their major tool for mobilisation. I will add that human rights business persons from the region also found it profitable to package and sell the Gukurahundi story as a story of a tribal supremacy.

The MDC was a major beneficiary of the Gukurahundi debate and now the chickens are coming home to roost as Mthwakazi now blames the MDC for its problems and a campaign has begun in earnest to kick the MDC out of Matebeleland. The ugly face of tribalism is rearing its head and the MDC will not be safe as the people of Mthwakazi repeatedly call for the ouster of MDC in Bulawayo starting with city councillors who are likely to be replaced by a commission. The recent incident between the Town Clerk and the Deputy Mayor reminded Zimbabwe and SADC that Matebeleland has some unresolved issues which need to be discussed and solved peacefully.

Dr Obert Mpofu submits that Gukurahundi was beyond ethnicity and there were greater forces at play that influenced the events of the Gukurahundi period. This submission caused me to think and reflect on African conflicts and ethnicity.

Real issues at the core

Allow me to put it you that there is a Realistic Conflict theory. The realistic conflict theory is a model of intergroup conflict, arguing that in a real or perceived zero-sum system, conflicts arise over shared interests for finite resources. This leads me to the conclusion that language, tribe and ethnicity alone were not and will not be the single cause of conflict. My father is a ZIPRA cadre and I was born in 1982 implying that to a certain extent I too am a victim directly and indirectly of the Gukurahundi operation. My opinion today is influenced by both emotional and intellectual arguments.

The issues at the core of the present Gukurahundi are summed up in 1 word which is poverty.

The current Gukurahundi debate is no different from the Hutu-Tutsi debate.

Generally, the Hutu-Tutsi strife stems from class warfare, with the Tutsis perceived to have greater wealth and social status (as well as favouring cattle ranching over what is seen as the lower-class farming of the Hutus). These class differences started during the 19th century, were exacerbated by colonization, and exploded at the end of the 20th century.

Now applied to our Mthwakazi context the real issue is that Shona people are perceived to be living the good life, plundering the resources of Matebeleland regions at the expense of the Ndebele people. This is the core of the present-day debate. Poverty is the real issue and any solution to the Gukurahundi issue must address poverty in Matebeleland.

We could argue on ethnicity and tribal supremacy but that is not the real issue. Mthwakazi Republic Party and other Gukurahundi business persons who make a living from throwing the tribal supremacy card have no intellectual basis for their argument.  

Contrary to popular belief, Africa's civil wars are not due to its ethnic and religious diversity. Using recently developed models of the overall prevalence of  civil wars in 161 countries between 1960-1999, we draw lessons with special
reference to Africa, showing that the relatively higher prevalence of war in Africa  is not due to the ethnolinguistic fragmentation of its countries, but rather to high  levels of poverty, failed political institutions, and economic dependence on natural  resources. I, therefore, argue that the best and fastest strategy to reduce the Shona-Ndebele tension in Zimbabwe is to institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing Zimbabwe's diverse societies. To promote inter-group cooperation, specially tailored political governance and economic management institutions are needed in Zimbabwe.

Devolution as a solution

Some have argued the case for devolution while others are all for federalism. The wording and the systems will not matter if the challenge of poverty is not solved. The people of Matebeleland want to live good lives, they don't want to do menial jobs in Botswana or South Africa. The people of Mthwakazi want opportunities, good governance and systems that help them put food on the table.

I put it to you that Dr Obert Mpofu as a political and intellectual mind argued his case and school of thought very well. However, beyond the genesis of the crisis, we need to discuss lasting solutions. People from Mashonaland will attack Obert Mpofu for opening up on the issue while they are busy enjoying the benefits of Matebeleland. People from Matebeleland will equally attack Obert Mpofu for not taking the anti-Shona and anti-Mnangagwa stance on Gukurahundi as the Chiefs is Matebeleland have done. Obert Mpofu is a political strategist who will argue from a political vantage point that makes intellectual and emotional sense. I, on the other hand, argue from a generational perspective. Matebeleland needs more than apologies, truth commissions and other suggested platforms, I argue that in the wake of Vuzu parties and harsh economic conditions, Matebeleland needs to fight poverty. The Gukurahundi debate must bring tangible solutions that will develop Matebeleland which I deliberately call Mthwakazi.

I stand with Dr Obert Mpofu, let's tackle Gukurahundi from an intellectual perspective and let's bring lasting solutions that benefit the people of Matebeleland now and forevermore.

I remain Nicholas Ncube

Nicholas Ncube is a researcher and blogger based in Ontario Canada and is originally from Tsholotsho

Source - Nichola Ncube
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.