34 years on: Heavy hearts and empty stomachs

An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or by black against white, said President Robert Mugabe in his speech on the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

The National Co-ordinator for Youth Forum, Wellington Zindove
The National Co-ordinator for Youth Forum, Wellington Zindove

“Our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us,” he said. “Our independence must not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will. It is not the right to negate the freedom of others to think and act, as they desire,” he said.

34 years on, Zimbabwean youths reflect on what Independence means to them with Zanu (PF) in power. The National Co-ordinator for Youth Forum, Wellington Zindove, said: “I celebrate the day with a heavy heart and an empty stomach. Corruption is rampant and the same people that we entrusted with leading us are short-changing youths. We are still a long way from the Zimbabwe that we envisioned.”

Starich Simukai, 23, from Hatfield in Harare expressed bitterness and said the day meant nothing to him. “What is independence without jobs, food and a good standard of living? Looking at the kind of life that the majority of the young people are leading, I sometimes question whether this is what the people that fought the armed struggle wanted.”

He said because the majority of the promises made by government had not been fulfilled, it was very difficult for people to appreciate the meaning of independence.

“Everything is very expensive, there is no water, electricity and quality health care is beyond the reach of the majority,” he said, adding that the day meant nothing to the majority of young people.

“The corrupt and politically muscled are the ones that appreciate independence. The minority few are enjoying the fruits of independence at the expense of the majority.”

In his April 17, 1980 speech, Mugabe assured the nation that his government was determined to transform people’s lives and bring about meaningful change to their standard of living.

“But I must ask you to be patient and allow my government time to organize programmes that will effectively yield that change,” he said. “There are people without land who need land, people without jobs who need jobs, children without schools who need schools and patients without hospitals who need them. We are also fully aware of the need for increased wages in all sectors of employment.”

She said she believed that all the promises made on the eve on independence in 1980 were meant to portray the incoming government as if it was sincere and representative of the majority.

“Independence was supposed to come with economic independence. Yet we are using other countries’ currencies and that means that we still have a long way to go. Until the time when we are at liberty to define our economic path, then independence is meaningless.”

Patricia Bhaureni, 25, from Sunningdale in Harare expressed bitterness at the current leadership, arguing that they had inflicted on the ordinary black majority worse challenges than those that they experienced under colonial rule.

“They fought the war and we are grateful and happy, but if they are failing to deliver, they must not hold onto power on the basis that they liberated this country. But this does not justify their monopoly over power. It was their time and this is our time now. We cannot continue wallowing in poverty because we are being held ransom because they freed us from colonial rule.”

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