WHEN the history of Zimbabwe — which commemorated Independence Day yesterday — is eventually written properly, as intellectually competent and candid as possible, it shall partly record that after years of oppression and patient sufferance local people revolted against their oppressors to fight a war of liberation during the 1970s.
Editor’s Memo with Dumisani Muleya
It shall document sacrifices and losses people suffered during that struggle; things done in their name and promises made by their leaders either to motivate them to fight on or as part of their vision for the future or both.
Like all liberation movements, Zanu PF, which fought alongside the now defunct Zapu, promised to liberate people to ensure freedom and create equal opportunities in a reasonably free and democratic society in which everyone is equal before the law.
It also undertook to eradicate discrimination on the basis of race, tribe, colour or creed; that there would be tolerance of diversity, freedom and justice.
Naturally, people thought they were assured and rightly hoped for better lives in which critical social services such as shelter, water, electricity, education, health, transport and others would be available.
People were also told they would recover their land and get equal economic opportunities to improve their lives.
But it was the idea of liberty, in its most basic form and broadest sense, that seemed to appeal to many the most. Some hoped for liberty in the Hobbesian sense or Sir Robert Filmer’s way, while the more realistic had John Locke’s philosophy of restrained liberty in mind.
However, as Zimbabweans commemorated Independence Day yesterday, the reality of betrayal, broken promises and post-Independence horrors was inescapable.
Of course, fat cats, who have benefited immensely from Independence, would downplay this because their lives are heavenly compared to the hellish existence of the poor.
This has been the story of Zimbabwe Independence commemorations for many years now.
The political and business elites, who always place adverts all over the media and make some self-serving noises about it, have always been more enthusiastic to celebrate Independence Day than the ordinary people themselves who fought the liberation war.
In many respects, the history of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF is a history of betrayal, human rights violations and usurpations as well as disastrous economic failure.
To prove this, let facts speak for themselves: Mugabe’s regime right from the start violated human rights on a horrific scale as shown by Gukurahundi, later Murambatsvina and the 2008 electoral killings, among other brutalities.
More dramatically, some who fought the struggle, including its heroes like Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku, among others, were rewarded with arrest, torture and death, on false charges.
Ordinary people across the country who lost relatives, friends and their possessions supporting the struggle are not just living in misery, but under Rhodesian-like conditions, daily facing poor service delivery; without water, electricity, education, health and public transport facilities, besides restricted civil and political liberties.
The facts also show Mugabe’s regime ruined the economy through misrule and mismanagement manifested via unprecedented hyperinflation before 2009 and liquidation of the local currency.
Further evidence of that is to be found in the running down of public enterprises, utilities and infrastructure.
Liberty is virtually non-existent as people now have to apply to police to gather and are punished for voting as they wish — in other words denied their basic rights.
These catastrophes and their ramifications inevitably show Zimbabwe is independent, but not free. As Joshua Nkomo, also hounded after Independence, wrote in his memoirs, The Story of My Life, freedom in Zimbabwe still lies ahead.