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Gukurahundi solution is to tackle poverty

28 Jul 2019 at 09:57hrs | 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 out on the issue of Gukurahundi.

Gukurahundi remains a thorny issue and tribute goes to the new dispensation under President Mnangagwa for allowing people to discuss and debate Gukurahundi freely, openly and without fear. Some might question Dr Mpofu's sincerity in the Gukurahundi debate, judging from his political history and ethnicity, but Dr Mpofu is probably a victim of Gukurahundi and one would expect him to be compelled to an emotional argument without looking at the intellectual factors and facts at play.

It is however, interesting to note that Dr Mpofu presented an intellectually valid case in two of his instalments in this paper.  The articles by Dr 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 businesspersons.

Tribal politics at play

Gukurahundi has been a trump card and definite winner for those who are politically bankrupt. When politicians come to Matabeleland 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 businesspersons from the region also found it profitable to package and sell the Gukurahundi story as a story of tribal supremacy.

The MDC was a major beneficiary of the Gukurahundi debate and now the chickens are coming home to roost as people in the region and particularly Bulawayo now blame the MDC for their problems and a campaign has begun in earnest to kick the MDC out of Matabeleland. But the recent incident between Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube and the Deputy Mayor reminded Zimbabwe and Sadc that Matabeleland has some unresolved issues which need to be discussed and solved peacefully. Dr 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 to 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 a 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 one 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 colonisation, and exploded at the end of the 20th century.

Now applied to our Mthwakazi context the real issue is that local people believe that a certain group of people has been favoured to come and grab resources and wealth in Matabeleland. 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 Matabeleland.

We could argue on ethnicity and tribal supremacy but that is not the real issue. Mthwakazi Republic Party and other Gukurahundi businesspersons 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 ethnic and religious diversity. Using recently developed models of the overall prevalence of civil wars in 161 countries between 1960 and 1999, we draw lessons with special reference to Africa, showing that the relatively higher prevalence of war in Africa is not due to the ethno-linguistic 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 tension in Zimbabwe is to institute democratic reforms that effectively manage the challenges facing Zimbabwe's diverse societies. To promote inter-group co-operation, 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 for federalism. The wording and the systems will not matter if the challenge of poverty is not solved. The people of Matabeleland 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 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.  Dr 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. Matabeleland needs more than apologies, truth commissions and other suggested platforms, I argue that in the wake of Vuzu parties and harsh economic conditions, Matabeleland needs to fight poverty.

The Gukurahundi debate must bring tangible solutions that will develop Matabeleland which I deliberately call Mthwakazi.

I stand with Dr Mpofu, let's tackle Gukurahundi from an intellectual perspective and let's bring lasting solutions that benefit the people of Matabeleland now and forever-more.

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

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