51 years of Uhuru not 36

HARARE - Due to widely-held beliefs based on a flawed analysis of history and misinterpretation of past political events, the majority of Zimbabweans and indeed the world at large believe that the territory between the Limpopo and the Zambezi, formerly known as Rhodesia and now called Zimbabwe, has enjoyed independence (which according to the Cambridge Dictionary is freedom from being governed or ruled by another country) for 36 years.

This is not the case.

As the country celebrates Independence Day this year, decades after two separate liberation movements fought a protracted war against Ian Smith’s white supremacist regime that culminated in the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement, it is crucial to set the record straight on one of the nation’s biggest and most widely publicised misunderstandings of all time.

Here are the facts.

Zimbabwe formally became a colony of Great Britain in 1922; prior to that it was a British protectorate governed by the British South Africa Company (BSAC).

After being officially annexed by Britain, it continued being a colony until 1965 when Ian Smith’s government unilaterally declared independence from England.

The phenomenon of white settlers declaring independence from the United Kingdom is not altogether a new one.

In July 4, 1776, a group of 13 American states under British control adopted the Declaration of Independence and declared themselves free from British rule.

Close to two centuries later, the Rhodesian Front led by Ian Douglas Smith did the same in Rhodesia.

Now while all historical records will show that Smith’s UDI was not recognised by the British government, nationalist leaders or the international community, it is a fact that the government that was in effective control of Rhodesia from 1965 up to 1979, though it was considered be de facto, was Smith’s government which was independent from the control of the British Crown.

In other words, during the period mentioned above, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was not a British colony where white settlers practised self-governance, it was an independent State that was governed by an authoritarian government of white supremacists that oppressed the black majority.

If one is to understand Zimbabwe’s history from this perspective, the guerrilla war that was wedged against Smith’s government by Zanla and Zipra was not a war of independence but a revolutionary war to remove a racist authoritarian government in a State that was already independent from colonial rule.

Of course, one might argue that as Zimbabweans, we cannot recognise UDI because the black majority were not part of the political setup that led to its declaration.

But this does not change the fact that Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, effectively stopped being a colony of Britain in 1965.

There was a brief period before the independence of April 18, 1980, three months to be exact, when Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, as the country was known then, reverted back to colonial rule after the government of Abel Muzorewa revoked UDI.

But those few months do not change the fact that prior to that fleeting period, the land between the Limpopo and the Zambezi had been independent for nearly 15 years.

Following those few months of reverting back to colonial rule in which the British government suspended the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia constitution and vested full executive and legislative powers in Lord Soames who oversaw a ceasefire and fresh elections, our country has been independent for another thirty six years.

This makes the total number of years that the country has been independent from colonial rule at 51, not 36.

While as a nation we celebrate that our country is free from colonial rule, it is very unfortunate that all of Zimbabwe’s 51 years of independence have been under authoritarian governance; first that of the Rhodesian Front and now that of Zanu PF.

Many mistake the independence we enjoy in Zimbabwe for total freedom — it is not.

We enjoy freedom from colonial rule but we are not free from the oppression of our own government.

Comments (3)

The defination then should be 51years of Independence from Britain of which 36 years is under Majority Blacks while the remainder was under Minority White Rule, Both odd enough attracted sanctions from Britain. The other prospered and built industry as sanction busting while the other has been unable to innovate around the sanctions.

Kambiri - 19 April 2016

The defination then should be 51years of Independence from Britain of which 36 years is under Majority Blacks while the remainder was under Minority White Rule, Both odd enough attracted sanctions from Britain. The other prospered and built industry as sanction busting while the other has been unable to innovate around the sanctions.

Kambiri - 19 April 2016

This is a flawed understanding of history and politics. If you are a Rhodie then you can be forgiven for xcelebrating 51 years on 11 Septrember. If you are Zimbabwean, its 36 years on 18 April. Its very sad for a black person to recognise UDI and also to forget that in 1980 what was lowered was the union jack and not the illegitimate Rhodesian flag.

Cde Tinashe - 20 April 2016

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