Generations of black Zimbabweans had been oppressed and denied basic human rights and freedoms counting from the day in 1890 that the Pioneer Column set foot in what was later to be called Southern Rhodesia.
The black majority endured oppressive, degrading and sub-human treatment from self-appointed supremacist white settler rulers.
African nationalism was to follow and this ultimately evolved into the protracted guerrilla war of liberation, referred to as the Second Chimurenga. Ultimately, pressure was brought to bear on Ian Smith’s regime until he agreed to sit down and negotiate the orderly hand-over of power to the black majority at the Lancaster House Conference in 1979.
We need to understand what it was that we were fighting for all those years and what it is that we expected from black majority rule in order to fully appreciate the euphoria of our celebrations of April 18.
The constitutions of both Zanu and Zapu, the organisations that led the liberation war effort, were very clear about our expectations. These could be summarised as land (to the extent that it is the base resource on which all other factors of production are based), equal access to other resources, universal suffrage (one man one vote), equality before the law, justice, peace, democracy and respect of human rights.
One can be excused for thinking that these expectations were premised on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It just seems so natural that humanity should crave and strive for equality,
justice and peace regardless of ethnicity or race. What was to follow after those first celebrations was an enduring 30-year nightmare from which we hope to wake up one day.
From as early as 1981, following the Entumbane and associated Matabeleland disturbances, brutal repression and intolerance by a black “majority” government reared its ugly head. This was to be followed by a five-or-so-year siege of Matabeleland by the Five Brigade, Zanu PF Youth Brigade and CIO. Whilst this was happening the press was not only gagged but also literally barred from following the atrocious events taking place in Matabeleland.
Over 20 000 of our fellow unarmed innocent civilian citizens were killed, genocide style. It then became clear that the new black government was more intolerant to divergent views and more ruthless than the previous white regimes.
A new social order was imposed upon the people of Zimbabwe. There was a suffusion of Zanu PF’s system of patronage, corruption and violence. All sorts of leagues, committees, movements, and brigades were set up by all sorts of comrades with the ultimate aim of indoctrinating the masses. Over the years, the ideals that we fought for were changed.
Some people became more equal than others. Universal suffrage assumed a whole new meaning. It now meant one of two things: either that a person was being watched while casting their vote, or where it was deemed not expedient to watch a person vote, 10 or more ballots in favour of Zanu PF were stuffed for every person that could not be watched. Freedom of speech now meant that one was indeed free to speak but if what they spoke was deemed to be against the government, one lost their freedom immediately thereafter.
Effectively, we even lost our right to elect a government of our own choice. Every election was time for intimidation, physical torture, displacement and even death for those who dared openly campaign for the opposition.
Sad as it may sound, reality is such that the people of Zimbabwe have been made to chase illusions by Robert Mugabe over the past three decades. Here are some of the illusions, in brief:
The Zanu PF government has held timely elections, without fail, according to the constitution. The trick though lay in the fact that the process was fraught with bias and irregularities. The process was just a formality. The result was always pre-determined.
Despite the government boasting that we were and are a free people, the reality is that one is never free to exercise their rights to freedom of speech, association, worship etc. You have to watch over your shoulder whenever you want to say something that is critical of the government.
Every other person has been enlisted to spy against fellow citizens. You cannot trust even your own siblings. One has to toe the Zanu PF line in whatever endeavour in order to be said to be free. What good is it, then, to be told that you are free when you can only be free if you are doing things in a predetermined fashion?
This is an emotive issue indeed, but for all the hullabaloo that comes with it, hands up all those who legally own the land that was allocated to them under the land redistribution exercise. Do you hold title to that land? Can you use it as collateral to secure loans from financial institutions? Do you have security of tenure?
To celebrate “Independence” would be like celebrating bondage, institutionalised physical and psychological repression. — newzimbabwe.com