Economic nationalism amid ethnic disharmony in postcolonial Zimbabwe (1980-2013): a case of Matabeleland Provinces
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The colonial legacy of uneven economic development in Zimbabwe and the use of such constructs as ‘Mashonaland’, ‘Matabeleland’ and ‘Manicaland’ have remained substantially unaltered under the post-colonial government. Those regions and peoples with privileged access to national economic resources after independence have implemented policies to ensure that this advantage has continued. The unintended resultant effect is the stimulation of ethnic consciousness on the part of those social groups that believe that they are economically marginalized because of their ethnicity. This article focuses on the distributive concerns that have arisen since independence in Zimbabwe in terms of which the lack of economic development parity in the colonially conceived provinces of Zimbabwe has given rise to ethnically motivated political contestation and national economic stagnation. It argues that the economic disparity and the concomitant ‘diaspora’ phenomenon in Zimbabwe can be dealt with if policies based on ethnic considerations and favouritism give way to merit-oriented ones. This article argues that distributive concerns are situated at the heart of Zimbabwe’s economic and political challenges which inevitably feed into each other to concoct an economic dispensation that rewards the dominant ethnic group in the echelons of power. This is based on an observational or ethnographic qualitative research methodology that was used to collect data through in-depth interviews. Document analysis of the diverse works on Matabeleland complemented the interview data. The research found that uneven economic development and patron-client ties contributed to the politicization of ethnicity, thus relegating groups that are not represented in the higher echelons of power to the fringes of the national economy. It concludes by suggesting that the reconciliation process must be ongoing and genuinely supported by transparent mechanisms to get rid of the “victims” mentality amongst the people of Matabeleland for lasting peace and unity to prevail.