“MLF (Mthwakazi Liberation Front) has nothing and will have nothing to do with Zimbabwe, let alone elections that serve no purpose. All MLF wants from Zimbabwe is Mthwakazi independence,” remarked the MLF spokesman, quoted in an interview last year. Mthwakazians, the secessionist extremists want the separation of Mthwakazi, which is the present day Matabeleland and some parts of Midlands, from Zimbabwe and full independence. They are of the belief that this full independence of Mthwakazi will be fully realized by 2018.
The Mthwakazi state existed in the area that is now Matabeleland and Midlands and was made up of various tribes and cultures that were settled in those dry plains. Led by king Mzilikazi, who had fled to those parts after fleeing the raids of the Zulu king, Shaka, during the period of mfecane in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa in the 19th century. It is from there where they established their territory which they named Mthwakazi, led from the start by Mzilikazi and later his son, king Lobengula.
Mthwakazians claim that their territory and “state” was recognized at the Berlin Conference in 1885 when the European powers demarcated Africa as they divided it amongst themselves for settling and business. They claim that the territory was also ratified by the United Nations when it came to being. Further claims to this “state” of Mthwakazi come from the pact king Lobengula had with Jameson that led to the creation of the Jameson Line which created physical boundaries separating the present day Matabeleland and Mashonaland. Mthwakazi was thus created in an already existing state of the Mutapa, a predominantly Shona dominated area of various dialects.
With colonization and later the war of liberation, both the Shona and the Ndebele, the dominant group of the Mthwakazi, fought for the common cause of liberating Zimbabwe. This is despite the fact that they both had different armies that were aligned to their tribes, ZANLA to the Shona and Zipra to the Ndebeles. They were both determined to the liberation of all the children of Zimbabwe and not merely the Mthwakazi or the Shona only. Mthwakazians claim that they were duped by Mugabe and the negotiators at the Lancaster House Conference that paved way for the independence of Zimbabwe.
Led by the MLF, a grassroots movement that seeks to liberate the people Mthwakazi from the “invading Shonas” they want their territory to be separate from Zimbabwe so that they can grow and develop their state to the benefit of its citizens. They argue that the Shona have deliberately ignored and left to rot the industrial city of Bulawayo as well as the whole of Matabeleland. This comes from the fact that the Mugabe led government wanted to rid Zimbabwe of all the people of Mthwakazi during the Gukurahundi massacres of the early 1980s. As a result of such, the people of Mthwakazi have been intimidated, exploited and largely marginalized in an area that they should be calling home.
In 2012 leaders of MLF were arrested and charged with charges of high treason after being found with subversive materials. Such materials had the effect of destabilizing Zimbabwe because they were talking of establishing a small state within Zimbabwe, a Lesotho-like state within the already existing state of Zimbabwe.
Their claims that they be granted independence from Zimbabwe are unfounded in the sense that they came to settle in what was an already existing state back in the 19th century. They further claim that they have the full support of the whole of Matabeleland and Midlands in their future plans but the truth is that people barely know who Mthwakazi is or what they stand for. People at the forefront of this whole Mthwakazi liberation are just overzealous extremists whose intentions and dreams will only bring gloom to them. Not all the Ndebele are in support of such claims because in this day and age we no longer talk of tribe but we are all Zimbabweans and determined to work for the benefit of the country as a whole not merely for the Shona or the Ndebele alone.
Such plans of giving Mthwakazi independence border on destabilization and treason. Zimbabwe belongs to everyone. They seem to be oblivious of how state-making works. One cannot just wake up and decide to create a new state within another existing state. Somaliland, the breakaway state from conflict-ridden Somalia was established four years ago but to this day they are yet to be recognized internationally. Zimbabwe is not suffering from the same fate that faced states like Sudan that led to the international community supporting the establishment of South Sudan. We are a peaceful country and these Mthwakazians will find it hard to sell their case internationally.
Mthwakazians are calling for President Robert Mugabe to grant them a referendum to allow people to vote for their independence. What they do not understand is that such a move has to be approved by parliament. It is highly unlikely that parliament will have time to deliberate on such issues considering that the country as a whole has other pressing issues that are far much important than that. Such claims for a referendum are unfounded because Zimbabwe at present can barely afford to fund its own constitution referendum and the impending elections. Mthwakazi on their own can barely afford to fund the referendum for their independence because they are broke, relying on Welshman Ncube to bail one of their leaders who was arrested last year.
In the event that they are granted the referendum, they will hardly make the numbers tally. To Mthwakazi, their move is highly tribalistic because they blame the Shona for all their misfortune. The Shona make up the majority and it is not even likely that all the Ndebele and other smaller minority tribes that were part of the Mthwakazi “state” are in on their plans. They might afford the few votes of the elderly but the y need the support of the youth. How are they going to influence the youth when they can barely fill halls in Bulawayo for their rallies? They lack funding and order.
MLF is calling for non-participation in the upcoming elections whilst another party, the Mthwakazi National Party is of the opinion that it is important for Mthwakazians to be involved in elections but will only contest in Mthwakazi areas. Already there is confusion as to who is really representing the best interests of this so called Mthwakazi state. They are divided because these groups claiming to be representing them are only concerned about publicity and being heard first. They are misrepresenting the people because they will have people pin their hopes on them when in fact they are little more than money mongers and power hungry people who want to cause chaos for the whole of Zimbabwe.
In the event, hypothetically speaking, that they are granted independence what will happen when one day Binga decides that they no longer want to be part of Mthwakazi and want their own independence. Victoria Falls does the same and Bulawayo as well, what then will become of Mthwakazi? Zimbabwe is doing well at the moment and such claims for independence by overzealous extremists is unfounded and not given room for future trouble. They will be allowed to talk because they are entitled to their opinion but Zimbabwe is for every person who is Zimbabwean. Shona, Ndebele, Tonga, Ndau, white or whatever tribe, Zimbabwe belongs to all of us equally. It does not matter where you come from, Zimbabwe belongs to all of us.