Forty years ago just after midnight on April 17, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the Zimbabwean flag was raised to represent a new era in the city of Salisbury, which became Harare. The fall of one flag and the rise of another symbolised the sunset of Rhodesia and the dawn of Zimbabwe.
Ever since that day, Zimbabweans all over the world have faithfully celebrated April 18 as Independence Day from colonial rule. At the initial celebrations, then prime minister Robert Gabriel Mugabe delivered a speech where he urged the people “as Zimbabweans, to trample upon racism, tribalism and regionalism and work hard to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery”.
His speech inspired Zimbabweans to be hopeful and to be proud of their newly gained freedom. He went on to say “only a government that subjects itself to the rule of law has any moral right to demand of its citizens obedience to the rule of law . . . Our Constitution equally circumscribes the powers of the government by declaring certain civil rights and freedoms as fundamental. We intend to uphold these fundamental rights and freedoms to the full”.
This year marks the 40th anniversary since the day Zimbabwe gained its Independence. This year, the day was celebrated under the theme Defining the Decade Towards 2030. The theme is an echo of the values President Emmerson Mnangagwa set out at the start of his tenure, where he indicated he would like to see major improvements in all areas in Zimbabwe by 2030. The theme also indicates Zimbabwe’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a set of goals each country is to strive to achieve by year 2030. The goals include eradication of poverty, commitment to quality education, decent work and economic growth — to name a few.
The President took the opportunity to address the nation on this momentous occasion. His speech mapped Zimbabwe’s journey throughout the 40 years but focused on the road ahead for the nation. He began the speech by congratulating the nation on reaching 40 years of Independence, while calling Zimbabwe a “mature democracy”.
Mnangagwa expressed his sadness over the fact that this day of celebration has fallen in the midst of a global pandemic but reminded the people that though we are “physically separated, we are united in spirit”.
The President went on to commend the nation for coming together as one during this difficult time in our global history and said although we have had outside help, the epidemic has proved that only nationals have the power to make a difference in such a time as this. He urged us all to remain hopeful and steadfast in spirit.
In his address, he assured the nation that no household will starve during these times. He then went on to look at the progress each pivotal sector in our country has made and highlighted some of the future measures to be taken to improve the overall quality of life in Zimbabwe.
He commended local industries and universities, which have become hubs for import-substitution and hopes that such innovation will live beyond the global pandemic. The President further emphasised that the development of rural areas should not be put on the back burner of the development agenda. In the spirit of achieving Vision 2030, no one should be left behind.
Mnangagwa did not forget to thank countries that had eased sanctions on Zimbabwe as he urged other nations that have imposed such measures to follow suit. He also thanked all those nations that have made donations to the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As he ended his speech, the President stressed the importance of constitutionalism, peace, development, love and harmony in the second republic of Zimbabwe. He said Zimbabwe is a republic of rights, dialogue and inclusive development with law-abiding citizens. Mnangagwa reiterated that Zimbabwe has no tolerance for armed crime and has taken several steps and leadership positions in the region to show its commitment to democracy and good governance.
In conclusion, the leader of Zimbabwe declared the next decade for Zimbabwe to be a decade of action.
Zim at forty and beyond
The past 40 years have not been easy for all Zimbabweans. Some have suffered at the hands of the very people who freed them from colonial rule. Citizens have had to endure police brutality, forced evictions, arbitrary demolitions, starvation, poverty and a breakdown in health, education and social services.
Corruption, poor service delivery and selfishness has riddled the country over the past 40 years.Zimbabwe lost its legacy of being the breadbasket of Africa and became the begging basket of Africa. For years, individual citizens have risen to take a stand and call for change, but for years their liberators easily became their oppressors. Those who have fought for the rule of law to prevail and for peace in the past 40 years, as well as those who became martyrs of this cause cannot be forgotten.
As we celebrate Zimbabwe at 40 and reminisce over the past, let us not forget the road ahead. Although it may not be easy, there is a chance to forge a new future for the nation. This chance requires all of us to come together and unite as a people to be the change that we want to see. Such a new path calls for every single individual including entities such as the government to uproot corruption and strive for accountability and transparency. That change calls for every individual to work towards doing the right thing always. For the years to come, we urge government to be a government that puts the needs and the well-being of the people first. As we seek to define the decade we are in, as Mnangagwa has indicated, may we seek to better the past narrative of the Zimbabwean story.
May both government and citizens strive to improve the economy, to improve the human rights landscape and overall respect the rule of law. As Zimbabweans may we always call for accountability and transparency. The next 40 years have the potential to be better than the last. Each and every one of us has a role to play in making it so.