A new political movement in Zimbabwe under the name Mthwakazi Liberation Front is calling for the country to be divided into two separate entities, claiming that the Matabeleland region is heavily marginalized.
Mthwakazi is a collective name for the Matabeleland region, located in the southern part of the country. And the independence movement Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) has already mapped out the envisaged new state of Matabeleland.
The Bulawayo-based movement, led by Fidelis Ncube, former commander of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) in the 1970s liberation war, claims that their following runs into “millions” from locals and Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.
David Magagula, spokesperson for the group, says that their “membership runs into millions” and “some are drawn from both ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change.”
“The major objective is to liberate the people of Mthwakazi. It is because of the marginalization of the people of Matabeleland who are seen as part of Zimbabwe yet they are not,” he said.
Formed on June 6, 2006 by South Africa-based Zimbabweans from Matabeleland, the group has been active in South Africa and has actively been using the Internet, especially Facebook, to mobilise Zimbabweans.
However, Stephen Mpofu, a columnist at the state-run paper based in Bulawayo, Matabeleland, said the action by MLF to parcel out Zimbabwe should be described “as treasonable act.”
“With the wave of the hand, skeptics will probably dismiss the MLF, an upgrade from a pressure group, as an election year joke intended to fleece money out of imperialists always keen to throw anything in the hat of anyone,” wrote Mpofu.
Previous calls to partition the country have been dismissed as coming from people with tribal motives.
President Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has dismissed calls for a breakaway state, claiming that “the comical launch of Mthwakazi Liberation Front (MLF) becomes a serious affair when one asks what political ecology and possibly shared temperament make such a political proposition conceivable.”
In the shadow of South Sudan
MLF says it is “encouraged” by events in Sudan, where the southern region is currently undergoing a referendum to break away from the north.
On January 9, 2011, Sudan, a country the size of over a quarter of the United States, began a week-long referendum in the southern part of the country, which will decide whether this vast oil- and mineral-rich state remains united or splits into two distinct countries: the predominantly Muslim and Arab north and the Christian, Black south.
In Zimbabwe, the southern part has vast untapped natural resources ranging from coal, methane gas, tin, uranium, gold, diamonds and vast tracks of timber. And MLF says these resources are not benefiting their region, as all resources are taken to Harare to develop the northern part of the country.
During the gathering of views for a new constitution last year, there was a loud call from the Matabeleland region advocating for a devolution of power that would see regions administering their own resources.
MLF is determined with its project to the extent that its leaders are working on a position document and putting together a delegation to meet the Zimbabwean government over the problems affecting Matabeleland.
Said Magagula, “We have told people that, as a party, we will take the path that is acceptable worldwide, which negotiations are. We will negotiate with the Zimbabwean government over the problems of Matabeleland.
“We are preparing a document that we will send to Harare. We are also putting together a delegation that will meet the Zimbabwean government.
Out of a national population of close to 14 million, the Matabeleland region has close to four million, according to the last census in 2002.