Opinionista Thandekile Moyo 13 April 2021

‘Kaliqunywe!’ Secession might be the only thing that can free Matabeleland (Part Three)

Kaliqunywe means ‘cut it’ – in this case, ‘cut’ the country, divide it. It is a demand for independence by the people of Matabeleland, or Mthwakazi as the Mthwakazi Republic Party calls it.

What the party is advocating for resonates with many in Matabeleland and I believe that, were it not for its approach, which is militant and at times borders on hate speech, it would have more (open) support. I explored the background to the rise of the party in parts one and two of this series.

Unfortunately, it attacks both Shona speakers and the same people it claims to fight for with a similar level of viciousness. Its way, it believes, is the only way and nobody from Matabeleland should concern themselves with Zimbabwean issues.

In 2020, I found myself a victim of the party’s wrath after publishing articles about Zimbabwe’s problems in general; it called me a traitor, a Shona lover, who is prostituting herself to Shonas by entertaining (writing about) Shonas yet they killed our parents. 

I was shaken.

But love it or hate it, whenever the marginalisation of people in the region occurs, it is the first to rise up against it.

In October 2019, the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) petitioned Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo (Matabeleland) and the health ministry over what it termed unfair recruitment of student nurses at training hospitals in Matabeleland.

This was after the hospital recruited 24 trainee nurses – 20 from Mashonaland provinces and only four from Bulawayo and the rest of Matabeleland. It argued that this was a clear case of marginalisation and institutionalised tribalism. 

In 2019, the Ministry of Lands evicted a white farmer from a farm in Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland, and allocated it to a man called Floyd Ambrose. After his eviction, Davies approached the courts who ruled in his favour and gave Ambrose until 6 March 2021 to vacate the farm. 

The MRP refused to be intimidated and showed the armed team the high court ruling showing the intruder was in fact Ambrose. The armed gang eventually left.

Ambrose defied the order and instead removed Davies’s belongings from the property and dumped them outside the gate.

On 8 March, apparently at the request of Chief Khayisa Ndiweni and the Ntabazinduna community, the MRP, led by its president, Mqondisi Moyo, went to the farm to ask Ambrose why he was defying the order.

The party said it was acting on behalf of the people of Ntabazinduna who felt there was no justification for evicting Davies because he was an asset to the community and had been allowed to stay there by the chief and the community.

The MRP said the Zanu-PF government defies the Zimbabwean Constitution and the Traditional Leaders Act which says that wherever there is land, traditional leaders must be involved in its distribution. The Davies family had apparently been granted authority by the late chief to build a lodge on the land in question.

When they got to the farm, the MRP alleges that Ambrose refused to hear them and became violent, firing two gunshots before running away with his aides.

The MRP says that after such a response to their negotiation attempt, it had no choice but to remove the invaders’ belongings from the property and return Davies’s belongings to their rightful place. It said it did this peacefully and some of the activities were broadcast live on Facebook.

The party says Ambrose later returned to the farm with his brother, anti-riot police, the Central Intelligence Organisation, CID Law and Order officials and unknown men carrying axes, machetes and guns, in a bid to intimidate MRP officials.

The MRP refused to be intimidated and showed the armed team the high court ruling showing the intruder was in fact Ambrose. The armed gang eventually left.

I was shocked to realise that some Zimbabweans, including fellow human rights defenders, were willing to outsource justice from Zanu-PF to people they considered enemies.

In an interview with the Centre for Innovation and Technology, Moyo said: “As MRP we have come here to make sure sanity prevails and that Davies is given back his place. We were touched because Davies agreed with our chiefs to modify this place into a tourist attraction that preserves Ndebele culture and values. We will not allow anyone to destroy Ndebele cultural values. Zanu-PF tried to destroy them for the past 30 years, but as MRP we are saying enough is enough.”

On the night of 9 March, a team of more than 12 armed state agents raided the homes of MRP leaders Moyo, Nqobani Donga and Mongameli Mlotshwa in an attempt to abduct them. By morning, nobody had heard from Moyo so members of the MRP decided to protest in front of the police station, demanding that the police produce their president. 

The police fired shots to try to disperse the crowd and arrested nine party members – Sibongile Banda, Tinos Nkomo, Livson Ncube, Maxwell Nkosi, Mongameli Mlotshwa, Welcome Moyo, Nkosilathi Ncube, Akim Ndebele and Busi Moyo.

They apparently told them they would only release them if their president presented himself. It then emerged that the midnight raid had been fruitless and Moyo had gone into hiding. The nine were taken to court and denied bail. 

They were still in custody at the time this article was written.

Mbonisi Gumbo, former information secretary of the MRP, explained that the party had been reliably informed that Floyd Ambrose’s brother is former vice-president Kembo Mohadi’s son-in-law. Mohadi is still a member of the politburo and Ambrose has apparently been using that relationship to intimidate the Davies family and the community of Ntabazinduna.

Gumbo said: “The Mthwakazi Republic Party will remain resolute in fighting economic destruction activities and human rights violations of the Mthwakazi people.”

Zimbabweans, who usually unite against the wrongful arrests of opposition members, are for the most part mum about the persecution of the MRP by the government. When I asked on Twitter why people were not calling for their freedom, I was told that the MRP was a party of tribalists and secessionists and therefore deserved to be in jail. 

This harsh treatment of a party that advocates for the emancipation of Matabeleland shows that we may be in agreement about many things concerning Zanu-PF, but not anything that threatens Shona privilege.

I was shocked to realise that some Zimbabweans, including fellow human rights defenders, were willing to outsource justice from Zanu-PF to people they considered enemies.

The arrest of the nine MRP members has exposed hidden fissures in the Zimbabwean struggle for freedom. The silence of many usually vocal people from Mashonaland has shown that tribalism against and the marginalisation of people from Matabeleland is not perpetrated by Zanu-PF alone. 

As we speak, Twitter is awash with cries to free political detainees from Mashonaland, but very few voices advocating for the release of the MRP nine.

I find the excuse that people will not support them because they are tribalists quite hypocritical. Zimbabweans have proven time and again that they are forgiving. They embraced Emmerson Mnangagwa as acting president after the coup, in spite of him being a Gukurahundi perpetrator. They forgave activists and journalists who supported the junta after the coup and harassed opposition and human rights defenders with much passion, but have since seen the light. 

This harsh treatment of a party that advocates for the emancipation of Matabeleland shows that we may be in agreement about many things concerning Zanu-PF, but not anything that threatens Shona privilege.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if I am for secession. I said: “No! I am not, but I believe it is an option.” 

But now, after weeks of coming face-to-face with Gukurahundi denialism among peers and seeing how justice for Gukurahundi and the dismantling of institutionalised tribalism does not seem to be a shared priority, I am struggling to find myself, a Gukurahundi victim, in the vision for Zimbabwe, even after Zanu-PF is gone.

Is there any wisdom, I ask myself, in fighting for Zimbabwe’s freedom, alongside comrades whose position on Shona supremacism is unclear?

Will we, the people of Matabeleland, not find ourselves still considered second-class citizens in a new Zimbabwe? 

What if, I ask myself, the MRP is right after all, that only secession can free Matabeleland? DM/MC

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