Prosperity eludes majority 41 years on

This Sunday, Zimbabwe celebrates 41 years of independence from colonial rule.

On April 18, 1980, millions of Zimbabwe were ecstatic, hopeful, full of energy and looking forward to the dawn of a new era … an era which lasted for a short while.

The current state of is a direct contrast to the people’s hopes in 1980.

The people had faith in the new leader, Robert Mugabe, but all hope was lost as the country started going on a downward spiral, making them believe Rhodesia was better despite the brutality and the other issues that made life under the white Rhodesians unbearable.

Thirty-seven years after Independence, the situation had become unbearable and the people decided to support a coup that was to remove long standing leader (dictator) Robert Mugabe, as they felt they had had enough under his leadership.

Hopes were high of a second republic, but only time will tell if indeed “the voice of the people was the voice of God” as at that turning point in November 2017.

To date, people have their own views regarding the current situation. Below are excerpts of a speech from last year’s Independence Day celebrations by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and leader of the main opposition party, MDC-Alliance, Nelson Chamisa:

Mnangagwa’s speech

Forty years ago, we became a self-governing people after nearly a century of settler colonial rule; a sovereign nation born out of protracted armed struggle.

As we celebrate this important milestone in our history, let us not forget those who started the journey, the thousands of gallant freedom fighters who lost their lives and others who lost limbs. All of them made sacrifices so that we can today stand tall, as masters of our own destiny; a free people in our own land.

Fellow Zimbabweans; 40 years after Independence, let us remain hopeful and steadfast in spirit. Vision 2030 is alive and beyond Covid-19, its accomplishment must be accelerated.

Our present experiences, in the wake of this pandemic, teach us that friends and investors may assist us. However, it is the collective efforts of all of our nationals across all sectors, that will make the difference. We must, thus, scale up dialogue among each other to harness our abilities, competencies, skills and resources.

Achieving food security remains a key priority to my government. Today our stocks are being replenished through massive food imports. Food will reach vulnerable households so that no one will starve.

This includes those in urban areas. Orphans and vulnerable children continue to benefit from the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), with a total of 1,2 million children expected to be on the scheme this year.

I am aware that our economy is now highly informal. My administration under the 2nd Republic will accelerate multi-pronged empowerment initiatives for start-ups and SMEs, especially those run by the youth and women, to grow and strengthen our manufacturing industrial base.

My administration will carry on using the law as a tool for development. Hence, the legislative agenda will be informed by this underlying principle.

The modernisation, improvement and strengthening of our public service, institutions and state-controlled commercial entities, in line with global best practices, is ongoing.

Inclusion of women and youth in decision making positions in the public sector, will also be consolidated. My government made devolution a key tenet of governance under the 2nd Republic. To this end, I am happy that the constitutional requirement of devolution has taken effect and has gained traction.

The culture of reconciliation remains a fundamental foundation for national unity and racial harmony. Consequently, our socio-economic stature since Independence in 1980, has been greatly transformed.

From a racially divided society, riddled with inequities; we have become a united, non-racial society where our citizens mix and mingle without any regard to colour, creed, tribe or region.

On the international relations front, we remain committed to our Engagement and Re-engagement Policy. Forty years later, Zimbabwe continues to make new friends, while deepening relations with old, established allies and friends.

The country’s diplomatic missions have refocused towards economic diplomacy, through the promotion of trade and investment, for win-win partnerships.

Although our country has been a victim of unjustified illegal economic sanctions and other hostile measures, we continue to reach out for unqualified friendship.

We harbour no ill-will against any nation. Zimbabwe seeks and pursues friendship with all peoples and nations. We are further optimistic that those Nations which have wronged and hurt us, will realize that there is more to be gained from friendship and alliances. Meanwhile, we thank all those who have weighed in to call for the lifting of these illegal sanctions.

Chamisa’s speech

Be this as it may, the 40 years of our nationhood is not a short period to be ignored; the attainment of 40 years as an independent nation is a milestone. Applied to an individual, 40 years mark the beginning of life; hence the saying that life begins at 40. But of course, the life of a nation cannot be compared to that of nation.

Over the last 40 years, our country has made remarkable strides to redress the injustices visited upon us by and under some one hundred years of brutal and dehumanising colonial rule.

The first two or so decades of our Independence inspired hope, raised national expectations and instilled broad-based confidence in our country; as the new national leadership from the heroic liberation struggle laid a promising foundation for radical transformation in the key areas of reconciliation, education, health and agriculture.

In the circumstances, Zimbabwe became a beacon of peace and stability in the region and our security forces were sought after by the United Nations as peacemakers and peace enforcers around the world; our exemplary primary education system saw the country recording the highest literacy rate in Africa; our healthcare system became second to none; while our agriculture transformed the country into Africa’s breadbasket.

On the national question, Zimbabweans are today more divided than they were at Independence in 1980.