I see my father, with his dear friends – as they openly expressed ecstatic transports of joy – at the occasion of our great country, Zimbabwe, finally gaining her independence from Britain on 18th April 1980.
This was after a gruelling and most harrowing protracted liberation struggle – spanning 15 years, from 1964 to 1979 – in which thousands selflessly or unwillingly sacrificed their lives.
My own father, like countless others, supported this quest for independence – resulting in him being a proud tirelessly active member of ZANU PF – thereby, rising up the ranks of the then revolutionary movement, up to the Midlands provincial structures.
In fact, he was not alone on this tedious, and at times perilous, journey – since my mother was always by his side, similarly holding the secretary position at our local branch level.
The memories are still fresh in my mind, of when our small family (as I am their only child) would sit quietly around the radio in the evenings, in tremendous fear of being found out by the colonial regime.
We would be listening to broadcasts by our liberation forces (ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU PF) – which were aired by LM (Lourenço Marques) Radio, later changed to Radio Maputo, in Mozambique.
These always got us fired up and filled with hope of the new dawn for our country fast beckoning – where each and every Zimbabwean would be treated as an equal, whilst fully enjoying the fruits of this hard-won independence.
We envisioned a country where there would no longer be a special class of people – regarded as more equal than the rest of us, worthy of the fat of the land – as millions languished in subjugation, misery and poverty.
We, especially my parents who understood these issues better, genuinely believed that independence would bring with it real democracy – where one’s vote counted, as cast freely without intimidation or force, and never stolen or manipulated.
We thought that being arrested or living in fear of the state – on account of one’s political beliefs and even opposition to the ruling establishment – would be a thing of the past under a free Zimbabwe.
Never in a million years could my parents ever have imagined that those dark horrendous colonial days would return – this time, at the hands of the same leaders they supported during the liberation struggle.
That is what makes my heart bleed when I look at this picture.
My father passed away 23 years ago, on 31 August 2000 – and I can not help wondering if he is not turning in his grave at what is happening in the country, whose independence he celebrated so excitedly.
Did he ever dream, even in his most haunting nightmares, that the president and his family would establish a dynasty in the country – placing themselves in positions of power and privilege above all else?
What would he have thought upon hearing that President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa had appointed his son and nephew as deputy ministers – whilst his wife bestowed national medals and honorary doctorates by state universities?
What about the pillaging of our national resources by those in power – who are living in obscene opulence and enjoying lifestyles only experienced by American celebrities and superstars?
This is whilst half the population of Zimbabwe lives in extreme poverty, and two-thirds earn below the poverty datum line.
Those in the ruling elite do not even care about our suffering – as they readily and arrogantly flaunt their sickening ill-gotten wealth for all to see – in the midst of a sea of poverty and need.
Our healthcare institutions have become death traps – where even the most basic medications, functional cancer machines, reliable ambulances, patient beds, and even desperately needed maternity facilities are lacking.
In rural areas, most clinics are tens of kilometers away – where those in critical health have to be ferried by wheelbarrow or cattle/donkey drawn scotch carts for hours, along treacherous paths (as roads are virtually non-existent).
Consequently, on average four women die every day in Zimbabwe giving birth – meaning a staggering 1,500 each year, according to the ZimStats (Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency).
Of course, the actual figure can easily be three or four times higher – since most maternal deaths (especially occurring in rural homes, in some Christian sects, or administered by traditional midwives) are seldom reported.
Nonetheless, the reason most pregnant women resort to these other less-than-safe means is primarily due to the deplorable and even inaccessible state of our public health institutions, as mentioned earlier.
Our children spend their entire schooling years having learnt absolutely nothing of value – due to a stifling shortage of learning material, and even the absence of modern science and technology equipment.
To cap it all, they are taught to be severely demoralized teaching staff, whose measly salaries can not afford them a decent livelihood, worthy of their standing in society.
After school, another form of hell menacingly awaits them – as they expect a life of perennial struggles, with very little prospects of any gainful employment.
They are then forced into a miserable existence of street vending or so-called ‘projects’, illegal and dangerous artisanal mining, or criminality and prostitution.
All this, as the country is prejudiced over US$2 billion each year in our mineral resources, about US$3 billion to illicit cross-border financial transactions, and half the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in corrupt economic activities.
Yet, none of those involved are ever brought to book – since they are the ones in power or those aligned to them.
At the same time, the vast majority of Zimbabweans still reside and eke out an unbearable living on the same overused dry infertile lands – in native reserves established under the colonial Land Apportionment Act, some 93 years ago.
To placate this restless population, the Mnangagwa administration gives them free agricultural inputs to engage in subsistence farming – which only manages to keep them alive, but never lifts them out of poverty.
If anything, these rural folk have been callously turned into captives, who can no longer stand against the untold injustices meted upon them by those in power – in fear of losing the only means of survival they receive from the government.
They have been so traumatized and terrified that they ever fail to grasp that these supposedly ‘free’ inputs are actually bought through taxpayers’ money – and will still be available even under a different political party in government.
In all this, those at the top of Zimbabwe’s political echelons are proud owners of multiple massive farms – which they awarded themselves during the height of the country’s controversial and oftentimes murderous land reforms program, at the turn of the millennium.
Bona Mugabe alone – daughter of the late founding president Robert Gabriel Mugabe – reportedly owns 21 farms!
When Zimbabweans, who have had enough of this subjugation and marginalization, decide to oppose or elect another political party – they are met with brazen violence or threats of violence.
As witnessed in the just-ended elections, voters are reminded of the horrors of war – with threats of their return, should ZANU PF and Mnangagwa be voted out of power.
This was taken a step further, with rural folk being frog-marched to polling stations, towed by their village heads – where they were instructed to vote for the ruling party and its leader, or be ‘assisted’ in doing so.
Who can forget those disturbing scenes of so-called ‘exit survey’ tables set up by the shadowy ZANU PF affiliate FAZ (Forever Associates Zimbabwe) near polling stations – where voters’ names were taken down, whilst being questioned for which party they had voted?
In addition, during the campaign period, ruling party candidates were caught several times, telling the electorate that the authorities had ways and means of determining for which political party one had voted – with unspecified consequences awaiting them.
Fortunately, all these despicable attacks on democracy were not just witnessed by us (Zimbabweans) – about which I also wrote in several articles.
However, these were also meticulously captured by various election observer missions (EOMs) – such as SADC, the AU-COMESA, Commonwealth, and EU – who were on the ground during the plebiscite.
They did not mince their words in condemning these elections as woefully falling short of the country’s own Constitution and electoral laws, as well as regional and international guidelines governing democratic elections.
Furthermore, soon after the elections were announced – which were justifiably disputed by the main opposition CCC party, on the basis that the elections were deemed not free, fair and credible – there is seemingly a campaign to crackdown on winning opposition CCC candidates.
This is largely suspected to be a sinister plot to reverse ZANU PF’s loss of its absolute (two thirds) majority in parliament – which means they no longer have the power to amend the country’s Constitution.
For some time now, it has been suspected that Mnangagwa has no plans of vacating office at the end of his legal two terms in 2028 – and the ruling party is adamant in removing this constitutional provision, by hook or crook.
One way of achieving this goal is to ‘get rid’ of enough CCC legislators, so as to give ZANU PF the numbers they require.
We have already seen how then CCC MP for Zengeza West Job Sikhala was arrested in 2022 and has since been languishing in prison without trial and repeatedly denied his constitutional right to bail.
It is quite possible that a similar fate may be awaiting other opposition members of parliament – so that ZANU PF can amend the Constitution during their incarceration.
In fact, the whole Sikhala affair was not without a long-term plan.
The ZANU PF regime was fully aware that the CCC was practically toothless, gutless and ineffective without Sikhala – who needed to be eliminated from the political scene, in preparation for a likely rigged election in 2023.
Those in power knew that in the absence of the fearless firebrand legislator – who could easily galvanize the population into the standing firm for their rights – there will be a docile and lackluster reaction in the event of a stolen election.
That is exactly what we are observing today!
Nonetheless, whether Zimbabweans are brave and selfless enough to stand up against their oppressors or not – the fact still remains that, what we are witnessing in the country is not the independence we envisioned.
I look again at the image of my father and his friends in their jubilation when the people of Zimbabwe finally attained our independence.
Is this the Zimbabwe he imagined would become today?
Surely, did he lose one of his shoes, in a crowd scramble to have a glimpse of their hero Mugabe in Gweru – soon after his return from leading the struggle in Mozambique – for this misery, oppression and poverty?
Did my father travel all the way to the then Salisbury (now Harare) on 17th April 1980, for the independence celebrations – so that only one family can behave as if Zimbabwe was their own personal property, and we their servants?
This is definitely not the independence my father celebrated.
May his dear soul rest in peace – something so difficult when what he hoped and struggled for has been subverted and perverted by one man and his cronies!
Cry our beloved Zimbabwe!
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com, or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/