My classmates could not hide their disappointment and anger. How could a renowned terrorist become the new President? What had happened to their UANC led by a moderate Bishop Abel Muzorewa? They had become comfortable with him during the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia era and expected him to win? It was the worst of times.
Personally, I was elated but could not show it on my face. Finally, I thought, we were our own people. We would never again be discriminated against, never be called “Kaffir” again. I could not imagine how bright our future was going to be. Us educated black Zimbabweans had so many expectations and thought that the sky was now the limit. We now could be doctors, engineers, economists and could choose from an array of professions not available to us during colonial times. We could now earn as much as the whites did, live wherever we wished and be free in the country of our birth. Finally the whites would respect us.
On the eve of Independence Day we all went to Rufaro stadium to watch Robert Mugabe take the oath of office and see a new Zimbabwe flag rising up in the sky – as we expected our lives to.
We were not disappointed. I managed to go to university and study economics on a government grant. In fact by the time I got to University in 1982, blacks were in the majority – something unheard of pre 1980. Funny enough, all my white schoolmates had gone to university elsewhere, mainly to South Africa. Racists I thought, but it was their loss.
I remember Bob Marley singing; “every man got a right to decide his own destiny; and in this judgement there ain’t no partiality!” It was the best of times.
I think things went well for the first 10 years of independence. I think Mugabe did very well to change our social circumstances. He valued our education so much that budgeted social spending on public services increased significantly.
New schools, clinics and colleges emerged. All fully staffed with well-trained black professionals. Education was free at primary level, affordable at secondary level and subsidised at tertiary level. To this day, I am truly grateful for that.
Growth with Equity was the economic policy then. The army and the police were professional services. It was then an honourable profession.
Never saw it
What we never imagined was that 34 years later, Mugabe would still be in power. We never saw it coming, we were naive and not involved in politics at all, but busy with our careers and trusting that Mugabe would look after our future and that of our country. We gave him carte blanche to do as he pleased and now we must pay the price of that naivety.
Our first shock was Gukurahundi but this was framed to us in Harare as the necessary crushing of an Ndebele uprising; a threat to our peace and prosperity. We also heard about Edgar Tekere, the rebel, forming a new political party – the Zimbabwe Unity Movement. Sadly we never smelt the coffee and actually wondered what his problem was. In retrospect we should have realised our problem, but we didn’t. It is a sad story from then on and the rest is history.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. As I look back, I think we Zimbabweans are to blame. First, we did not involve ourselves in politics and second we assumed too much goodwill from our politicians and put them on a pedestal.
On Independence day in 2014 I am so embarrassed of what my country has become and who we have become as a nation. Hopelessness, lack of pride, apathy and poverty are our lot.
However, we must take note that ours is a young nation – born of a struggle that still dominates the minds of those in power today. I understand where they are coming from but we cannot wait.
We must now take our country to the next level – that is the reconstruction of our socio-political narrative led by the younger generation.
This trajectory must be significantly different from the past and we must create it now. It must be based on a new philosophy of equity, liberty and justice. We dare not leave it to the politicians again, regardless of who they are. We cannot afford another dictatorship.
I therefore plead that we all look back and learn from our experience in the last 34 years. We must realise that the only people responsible for creating the circumstances we want is us, the ordinary people. Only we are the true captains of our destiny. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]Post published in: Opinions & Analysis