A chance for deep reflection

As we prepare to mark Independence Day tomorrow, it would be a suitable moment to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and how much further we have to proceed in the business of nation-building.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

At this time 35 years ago there was a need to celebrate the nation’s coming of age as thousands gathered at Rufaro Stadium on the eve of Independence. And it was entirely understandable that the new government should feel the need to address colonial anomalies given the lopsided patterns of the past.

Education and health were given priority but so were agriculture and roads and transport, as commercial farmers stayed on the land in response to Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s appeal for whites generally to stay on. His pre-Independence broadcast set the stage for a rapprochement among those who had been on opposing sides prior to 1980.

The British military training scheme provided a framework for the new armed forces which incorporated Zanu and Zapu from the Patriotic Front. But there the indulgent narrative must stop. The account becomes in many respects a horror story.

Some 20 000 Zimbabweans were killed by the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade as it rampaged through Matabeleland and the Midlands. To date the only public comment Mugabe has made on the episode was that it was “a moment of madness”. There has been no apology for what were truly appalling atrocities.

With the amendment to the constitution that Eddison Zvobgo presided over in 1986, Mugabe was able to acquire the trappings of a dictatorship. That is everywhere evident today as we enter the 35th year of Independence. The Mbare residential flats provide a good insight into the shocking conditions prevailing around the capital.

Meant for workers, they now house criminals and are a breeding ground for the drugs trade.

Health delivery of which Mugabe boasted in the 1980s is now a shadow of its former self. Hospitals built in the 1960s have not been improved since. Nor have roads and other infrastructure.
The University of Zimbabwe was a first class tertiary institution at Independence in 1980. Now it is second rate and despite the advent of 10 others the standard of education is poor.

What is extraordinary in any mention of communications is that a country like Zimbabwe with its size and wealth has only one television station — the same one it had in 1960!

Given this record of mediocrity, you would have thought Zimbabwe was on the move. It is, but in the wrong direction. The failure to cultivate our businesses and attract investment has led to impoverishment across the board. At Independence in 1980 we made a range of products that led to self-sufficiency. And public corporations were free of corruption and actually worked.

Now there is only a handful which are not corrupt. Air Zimbabwe provides an example of a public corporation that does not serve the public. The railways are even worse.

The state media keeps insisting we should celebrate tomorrow. That will only happen when there is something to celebrate.

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