PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week led Zimbabweans to mark the country’s 36th Independence anniversary, but for once the celebrations were held as a growing number of those who waged the protracted war against the colonial regime are convinced that the country’s leadership has abandoned the ideals of the liberation struggle, for which thousands of people shed their blood.
A group of war veterans, believed to be sympathetic to former vice-president Joice Mujuru, a fortnight ago declared they had withdrawn their support for Mugabe and demanded he steps down, as he was “no longer fit for the presidency”. The war veterans, who include ex-Zanla commander Parker Chipoyera, said their move was a follow up to the mandate they bestowed on Mugabe during the liberation war.
“We, the war veterans who agreed to the authorship of the Mgagao Document (of, 1975, which led to Mugabe assuming the leadership of Zanu PF) and appended our signatures to it, now withdraw the mandate we gave to Robert Mugabe to be the leader,” Chipoyera said.
“To our fellow comrades, we take this opportunity to remind you that Mugabe no longer represents your interests.”
Chipoyera accused Mugabe of destroying a once promising country.
“Zimbabwe, once the jewel and breadbasket of Africa, is now a failed state and a laughing stock, even among the poorest of nations … and the economy is in doldrums.”
His message came days after Mugabe held a crunch meeting with war veterans who are still active members of Zanu PF.
The ex-combatants told him that under his watch, the ruling Zanu PF had departed from the ideals of the liberation struggle leading to massive infighting, lawlessness, corruption and economic problems. They rejected his assertion that the war veterans were just an affiliate of Zanu PF, who could not play a role in determining its course, by telling him they were an integral part of the party.
Former Zanu PF national commissariat director Munyaradzi Machacha told Mugabe: “Internal democracy, the party constitution and ideology are in danger … When the party is under threat, as war veterans, we have the mandate to save it and return it onto its rails when it deviates.”
The war veterans thus added their voice to the chorus of criticism by opposition parties and disillusioned citizens ahead of the Independence Day celebrations, by departing from the usual praise-singing.
Events on the ground, as Zimbabwe celebrated Independence pointed to the fact that more needed to be done if the country was to enjoy the fruits of independence.
The MDC-T, for example, had to go to the High Court to be allowed to hold a demonstration last Thursday after the police turned down their request, in contravention of Section 59 of the constitution which guarantees freedom to demonstrate and petition.
Also last week actor Silvanos Mudzvova was arrested for staging a one-man play titled “Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share” inspired by Mugabe’s revelation that only US$2 billion out of US$15 billion worth of diamonds could be accounted for.
These two events as well as the government’s continued reluctance to find missing political activist Itai Dzamara who was abducted by suspected state agents, more than a year ago, after demonstrating against Mugabe, are a microcosm of the democracy deficit the country still faces 36 years after independence.
The ruthless crushing of lawful demonstrations remain commonplace and even the war veterans, found out in February that they are not immune to police brutality after they were dispersed with teargas and water cannons for daring to protest against First lady Grace Mugabe.
The Independence Day commemorations came at a time there is a bitter succession battle in Zanu PF pitting two faction one led by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Generation (G40) faction, backed by Grace.
Mugabe (92) has not shown willingness to relinquish power with some in his party such as Zanu PF youth deputy secretary Kudzai Chipanga declaring he should die in office.
This is despite his leadership failures which have spawned a multi-faceted crisis which includes a debilitating liquidity squeeze, low capacity utilisation of less than 35%, company closures and massive job losses.
Due to Mugabe’s ruinous policies, the country marked 36 years of Independence without its own currency. The Zimbabwean dollar was decimated by world record levels of hyperinflation which resulted in the country adopting a multi-currency regime in 2009.
The country has high unemployment levels with a report by the International Labour Organisation showing that only 5% of the population is formally employed.
The statistics fly in the face of Zanu PF’s 2013 electoral promise to create 2,2 million jobs between 2013 and 2018. Instead, the country has seen massive retrenchments with thousands being rendered jobless after last year’s July 17 Supreme Court ruling which allowed employers to dismiss workers on three months’ notice without paying a retrenchment package.
Alex Chikwida, who recently graduated from one of the country’s universities, is frustrated by the state of the country.
“It is naive to speak of celebrating independence when Zimbabweans in all social strata are facing insurmountable pressures,” Chikwida, who graduated with a degree in commerce, but is now running a tuck shop said.
“The gains of Independence have been eroded by an oppressive regime hell bent on enriching a few at the expense of the majority. I have been reduced to running a tuck-shop. This was not the objective when I enrolled for my degree programme.”
Chikwida’s frustrations mirror that of the majority of Zimbabweans, which explains why thousands responded to MDCT’s call to demonstrate against Zanu PF’s misrule last week on Thursday despite the threat of baton-wielding police.
Despite the grim set of circumstances 36 years after Independence, the country should celebrate the contributions of those who died for the liberation of the country, according to political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya.
“I think when we celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence we should separate between the decolonisation period and the post colonial era,” Ruhanya said. “We should celebrate the men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country who did not know how today’s leaders would behave.”
He said the sacrifices of liberation luminaries such as Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara should be celebrated and not eroded by the current culture of negligence and impunity as well as human right abuses by the government.
Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross said despite the many challenges facing the country, the fact that the country has not resorted to the violence that has torn other countries such as Libya and Syria is cause to celebrate.