HARARE - Zimbabwe will tomorrow mark 34 years of independence.
For many, the celebrations will be overshadowed by the country’s economic meltdown under President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF.
Economic and political analysts say the former liberation movement, which extended its grip on the country last year after a controversial ballot outcome, has failed to come up with concrete policies to rescue the country from sliding into a full blown economic crisis.
Zimbabwe will mark its independence anniversary tomorrow with rallies, military displays and sports festivities around the country. Mugabe, as is custom, will address the main rally in Harare.
University of Zimbabwe political analyst Eldred Masunungure said this was a special day for the country to celebrate its liberation irrespective of the fact that people come from different stations of life.
“We need to celebrate independence and from there on we can go on and reflect on our achievements and failures,” Masunungure said.
“It is important that we separate the independence and then we go on to analyse whether we have made the right choices or not. If we use the day to scrutinise our successes and failures, we risk devaluing the day.
“But l can say it has been a case of ups and downs. People see things differently. For Zanu PF, the grass has been growing up. People have been given land and natural resources through indigenisation and empowerment, whilst for some people and the MDC, the grass has been going down. People are poor and the economy has collapsed.
“As such, we cannot have a blanket assessment of independence as people have different opinions. Also you need to factor in the demographics. Independence is seen differently by those who were there during the liberation struggle and the born-frees. The born-frees might not see the value of independence because they were born in an independent Zimbabwe.”
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said while it was Zimbabwe’s birthday, there was need to reflect on failures and there were many especially on the economic front.
“Our economy is not performing well,” Mandaza said. “As we celebrate, we need to resolve the crisis by coming up with a programme of recovery. The question is how do we get out the mess that we are in? We need to develop a national convention to address the crisis and the convention should be non- partisan. We need national convergence on how best we can move as a country.”
For the majority of the population, the focus will be their daily struggle to put food on the table.
“I don’t think there is any question of people wishing to go back to colonialism or white racist rule, but for many of us, these celebrations have become muted because we are worrying about survival,” said Melinda Ndlovu, a saleslady in a Chinese clothes shop in Harare.
“It’s food, rent, transport, and school fees and in the end, that’s what is occupying your mind, and you have no time to think about these things.”
Political commentator Francis Mukora said other than an increase in the number of years of Zimbabwe’s independence, the majority of citizens have nothing to celebrate in the midst of alarming levels of poverty, near breakdown of service delivery, job retrenchments and an economy already on its knees.
Eddie Cross, the MDC Member of Parliament said Zimbabwe had regressed and now has one of the lowest incomes per capita in the world, with all social indicators in the negative.
“Right now, we are unable to pay our civil service in any kind of decent way,” he said. “Our public administration is viewed as one of the most corrupt in the world and is bloated and inefficient.”
Speaking at a SAPES Trust meeting on Tuesday evening in Bulawayo, opposition Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa said Zimbabweans were yet to enjoy the full benefits of independence.
“When you ask me whether the ideals and objectives of the liberation struggle have been fulfilled, my answer is definitely no,” Dabengwa said.
“You cannot say the ideals have been fulfilled when laws such as Public Order and Security Act (Posa) continue to suppress our people. Our human rights record has been on the spotlight. There is no freedom of expression and association.”
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Zanu PF secretary for Education, told the SAPES Trust meeting that there was rapid expansion in education and health sectors since independence.
“At independence, we had only one university but right now we have nine state universities. We have also built more hospitals and redistributed the land to landless blacks,” said Ndlovu.
“Our national institutions such as the army consist of people who fought for the country. These institutions are manned by people who are concerned with Zimbabwe’s development.”
Cross noted that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was currently airing a clip of Mugabe speaking about Zimbabwe’s natural resources and saying that we will never again allow foreigners to control the land and minerals and then being saluted by security commanders.
“That sums it up for his regime, empty rhetoric and pride,” Cross said. “He needs to be reminded that his cat does not catch mice, never did and will not do so in the future. It is time to change the cat; it might be the only way forward.”