THAT 2016 was annus horribilis — a horrible year; a year of disaster or misfortune — is not in doubt. It’s as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
However, the subject of my column this week has nothing to do with that. It is about the Unity Day public holiday, which we commemorated — not celebrated — yesterday.
The holiday, which comes annually on December 22, commemorates the unity accord between the country’s two liberation movement parties, Zapu and Zanu. It was necessitated by Gukurahundi atrocities.
The history of Gukurahundi massacres, in which 20 000 people in the Midlands and south-western regions were killed by security forces as President Robert Mugabe battled for a one-party state, is well-known. It’s one of the darkest periods in Zimbabwe’s modern and post-colonial history.
However, we must also connect the dots. After 2000 hundreds of people were also killed in a fierce campaign of violence and brutality as Mugabe struggled for political survival.
Whereas in the 1980s, Mugabe wanted to crush and eliminate Zapu as the biggest opposition and its supporters — most of them ethnic minority Ndebeles — after 2000 he wanted to liquidate the new biggest opposition, the MDC.
Zapu and its leader Joshua Nkomo had remained a threat even after Mugabe and his party had balkanised the country and its politics through identity regimentation. Not only had Zapu remained the biggest opposition, but was also led by some of the liberation struggle’s luminaries and pioneers, including Nkomo.
Zimbabwe faced and still faces a familiar crisis of the African state, particularly the challenge posed by a rent-seeking elite, ethnicity and political violence, which fits contemporary discourse of the failed neo-patrimonial state where patrons use state resources to buy the loyalty of clients among the general population.
Frantz Fanon talks about this problem in his seminal book Wretched of the Earth.
Zanu PF’s opportunistic elites mobilised ethnicity for power and economic gain, a sign of a weak state or a state still mired in ancient loyalties.
Problems which the country faces now are largely about leadership, governance and policy failures, yet there are always underlying regional and ethnic tensions as reflected by the current Zanu PF succession power struggle where rival factions at each other’s throats are along the party’s regional and ethnic fault lines.
The succession crisis is an explosive issue which could have serious consequences for the ruling party and the country.
Since 1980, Zimbabwe has not had lasting peace and stability, yet, its citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity, have not contested its territorial integrity until recently. Instead debate revolves around contested claims for enrichment, representation and security as expected from a model state, a prerequisite for a stable democracy.
In order to adequately address the current challenges, Zimbabwe needs a new political model and culture which is inclusive and democratic. It needs a new vision which will deliver freedom, equal opportunity and prosperity for all.
In the Gukurahundi case, without official admission, full disclosure and reparations, as well as healing and reconciliation the annual commemorations of unity day will increasingly become meaningless.
We are now slowly moving away from the Unity Accord and “Ndexit”, a clamour for secession by radical Matabeleland civil society and politics groups, such as Mthwakazi Republic Party and Matabeleland Liberation Organisation.
Although some may see these groups as peripheral extremist outfits which do not represent the popular view of the people, the fact is that we have moved away from talking about a unitary state to devolution and now secession, partly because of these centrifugal forces, fuelled by protests over marginalisation and exclusion.
To resolve this problem, we need acknowledgement of all memory — that of victims, perpetrators and bystanders in Gukurahundi — to deliver justice and reconciliation.
Peace preservation or its breakdown is dependent on the type of leadership, political model and effectiveness of conflict management mechanisms, as well as government’s policy choices and decisions.