Zimbabwe at 32: A dream deferredBy KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Wednesday, April 18 2012 at 12:06
On the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence from colonial Britain on April 18, 1980, the newly elected Prime Minister Robert Mugabe took to the podium with one of his most memorable speeches.
The world watched stunned and in awe as President Mugabe eloquently gave the world his vision for Zimbabwe, promising “a better Zimbabwe for all.”
“An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or by black against white.
“Our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us,” the former guerrilla leader said, presenting his policy on reconciliation.
“Democracy is never mob rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules.”
The promise seemed to hold for the first few years of independence as Zimbabwe made giant strides in education and social services.
But 32 years down the line, President Mugabe who made that inaugural speech and the ones who presides today are worlds apart.
In the past 10 years, Zimbabwe has seen the promise extinguished.
President Mugabe has gone on what others say is a vindictive drive, pushing out white farmers en masse under a much reviled land reform programme.
Zimbabwe in a couple of years transformed from being a bread basket for the region to a basket case, relying on donors to feed almost three quarters if its population.
As if that was not enough, the ageing leader has now come up with an indigenisation and empowerment programme that will almost certainly drive out the remaining foreigners and whites in the southern African nation.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined President Mugabe in a coalition government in 2009, has also been feeling the heat.
He and his main MDC party have been battling President Mugabe over the theme of this year’s Independence Day celebrations.
The veteran ruler and his Zanu PF party want a theme based on indigenisation and empowerment, but Mr Tsvangirai feels this is too partisan to be the subject of a national holiday.
“We have disagreed in this government because there are others who want to perpetuate the old culture of expropriation, looting and self aggrandisement clad in new and misleading nomenclature such as indigenisation,” he said in a speech to mark independence.
Frustrated at the pace the inclusive government was implementing reforms, Mr Tsvangirai accused the 88-year-old ruler and his party of betraying the values of the liberation struggle, with “repression, violence and looting being the order of the day”.
He said he would attend the celebrations to be addressed by his nemesis on Wednesday under protest against the theme celebrating the seizure of white-owned companies.
The Prime Minister is also disillusioned by the erosion of personal freedoms and the poverty ushered in by the new dispensation.
“Many people gave the new leadership the benefit of the doubt,” he said.
“We all expected our leaders to return our dignity by crafting policies that benefit the ordinary citizens and poise the country for economic growth and development.
“Contrary to expectations, the new leadership did not take long to betray the very values central to the liberation struggle. Repression, violence and looting became the order of the day.”
President Mugabe triumphantly declared in 1980: “Indeed, many countries in the international community are amazed at how we have so quickly and unexpectedly moved from war to peace.”
But that same international community is now shocked how a country with such bright prospects could all but collapse overnight.
For the past three decades Zimbabwe has been under the spotlight for alleged human rights violations, spectacular economic collapse, an unrelenting HIV/Aids scourge and stolen elections.
Millions of Zimbabweans have flocked to neighbouring countries especially South Africa and Botswana in search of a better life.
The majority will mark the Independence Day with protests against President Mugabe’s continued rule at Zimbabwean embassies across the globe.
Mr Daniel Molokele, the international coordinator of the Global Zimbabwe Forum, said most Zimbabweans in the Diaspora felt sidelined and would not have much to celebrate.
“It is our strong view that Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora should be accorded both dual citizenship status and the right to participate in all the major elections in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mr Molokele said Diasporans were concerned by the unresolved political conflict.
“We would like to urge all the relevant political parties especially those working under the all-inclusive government to put aside their personal interests for the sake of progress in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Back home, several are expected to fill the 60,000-seat National Sports Stadium in Harare where President Mugabe will deliver the main speech but few will be there voluntarily.
On the eve of the big day, Zanu-PF supporters were closing popular joints and markets in Harare to force people to prepare for the event.
Industry and Commerce minister and leader of the smaller MDC formation Prof Welshman Ncube also lamented the ‘betrayal of independence values.”
“We are aware that as a nation we never fought for poverty, we never spent all that time in the struggle fighting for corruption which we selflessly condemned even during our struggle,” he said.
“We therefore condemn it today even with those that seek to apportion themselves the liberation struggle yet on a daily basis betray it.”
Mr Job Sikhala, leader of the MDC99 party, called on his supporters to boycott the countrywide celebrations, describing them as “immoral”.
He insisted that Zimbabwe is not independent under President Mugabe’s “tyrannical” rule.
“(President) Robert Mugabe is a tyrannical oppressor masquerading as a liberator who must be shunned by all right thinking people,” Mr Sikhala said in an interview on the eve of Independence Day.
“Mugabe has monopolised Independence Day to equate it to himself and his party to suit his own delusional agendas. Those who gate-crashed it, we have seen them being ridiculed last year.”
Mr Sikhala, who formed his own party citing disillusionment with the major MDC factions, said Independence Day should instead be a day of mourning.
“This day, of the so-called Independence, is a day of mourning, mourning the loss of our true independence and also the loss of our true heroes who died fighting for our freedom such as Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Lookout Masuku amongst others,” he continued.
Despite discord in the country on the meaning of Independence Day, President Mugabe will again reiterate his stand against neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism.
The president feels his hold on power is being undermined by malevolent forces who seek to recolonise the country disguised as human rights activists.
President Mugabe believes he and his party are a bastion against an invasion by the West and Zimbabweans should stand by him in these trying times, a message that hardly resonates with many in the country, who feel he has ruled for too long.
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