Independence is not necessarily freedom

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I HAVE an abiding admiration for the brave people of this country who saw it fit to fight, in whatever form, against settlerism and colonialism. There is a certain dignity in refusing to live under the bondage of foreigners.

Candid Comment with Brian Mangwende

There are those masses who assiduously set out to resist settler supremacist racism, and then there are those, like the late Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema, George Nyandoro, Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Mugabe, Eddison Zvobgo and many others, who more robustly opposed the system.

There are those brothers and sisters in our neighbouring countries, like Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and many more who gave us moral and material support as well as sanctuary during our trying times. Not to forget those in the East who gave us weapons with which to fight the enemy and those in the West who were sympathetic to our cause and supported it.

Then there are those who saw it fit to take up arms and bring some measure of equilibrium against the settlers’ fighting machinery. Many died in the process, but not in vain.

The dignity that comes with self-determination and self-rule is sometimes worth dying for. This creed continues even in post-colonial times, in the event that a country is seized by selfish elites and tyrannical oligarchs.

I take my hat off to all those who made it possible for us to be independent.

But independence and freedom are not necessarily mutually inclusive. They are two very distinct ideals that are often conflated. It’s possible to be independent without being free.

Not everyone who fights for national liberation from colonists necessarily wants for that liberation to evolve to freedom for the people. Some fight simply to seize power for themselves, and they will fight tooth and nail against the very people they purport to have liberated to ensure that liberation does not metamorphose to freedom.

When a section of those who purport to have brought about liberation use all sorts of means at their disposal to thwart people’s quest for freedom you have a new and unanticipated outcome.

All too often former liberation movements resort to oppression to suppress the same people they claim to have liberated. Africa is replete with such dispensations.

We have, in Zimbabwe, a few individuals who have re-written contemporary history in a bid to idealise themselves. These people claim to have single-handedly liberated Zimbabwe. These individuals have supplanted the people’s most inalienable right to elect their own leaders and have arrogated to themselves the right to choose who will rule Zimbabwe.

Given, it matters a lot what role one played in the liberation of the nation, but that role does not confer on that individual or individuals, the right to choose for the people who will rule Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not a personal property of anybody. It belongs to all of us who live in it.

As Frantz Fanon said in one of his works: “No leader, however valuable he may be, can substitute himself for the popular will!”

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