Uhuru celebrations without Mugabe

By  Tendai Kamhungira

Zimbabwe celebrates its 38 years of independence on Wednesday in a rare occasion which for the first time is not going to be presided over by former president Robert Mugabe, who resigned in November last year following a military intervention.

Then Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses party supporters during a gathering to honor the country’s dead heroes, at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. The commemorations are held annually to honor the southern African country’s dead heroes, particularly those who fought in the 1970s independence war. Leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, who broke away from the 92-year-old president in July, boycotted the event. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Since the country’s independence from the British colonial rule in 1980, Mugabe, who was the only leader the country had ever known for 37 years, had always been the one to preside over such national events, which will for the first time be presided over by a different president, Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured, right).

A South African think tank, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told News24 of South Africa recently that the country’s independence celebrations will likely be different from those during Mugabe’s era.

Senior researcher at ISS, Derek Matyszak, said Mnangagwa’s speech is going to be different from that of Mugabe, who used such events to attack the West using hate speech.

“Mnangagwa’s speech is likely to be forward looking, emphasising that Zimbabwe is under a new dispensation and that the economy, freed from ‘Mugabenomics’, will now be able to recover.

“If the rhetoric translates to action and some investment does come into the county, living standards will improve, but only in the medium term,” Matyszak said.

He added: “The focus now is on elections. If Zanu PF wins, it is expected that Zimbabwe’s governance may start to look much like that of Rwanda, with a focus on development and restricted democratic spaces.”

During Mugabe’s time such events were funded by the rural struggling folks and civil servants through force and coercion, which has not been the case this time around.

In many of the cases during Mugabe’s reign, it was the civil servants who worked in outlying areas — such as teachers stationed in rural areas — who bore the heaviest brunt of this thuggish fund-raising modus operandi by ruling party apparatchiks, who often threatened to unleash terror and unprecedented harassment on those who resisted the coercion.

The Independence Day was not the only event that struggling civil servants complained about being coerced to make financial contributions to, but even Mugabe’s birthday was sponsored by members of the public.

His birthdays were usually opulent affairs, with huge sums of funds being used every year.

And with Zanu PF holding the keys to lucrative government contracts, mining licences and virtually everything else happening in the country, many businesses that hoped to curry favour with the ruling party had made it a habit to contribute towards the celebrations.

This was despite revelations and evidence on the ground that several people were living on less than a dollar a day and below the poverty datum line, with several companies closing down and people being condemned to vending as the only source of income.

This year’s celebrations are coming at a time when Zimbabweans still feel they have not achieved all of what was fought for during the war of liberation as many people are still suffering while only a few are enjoying the benefits, but it presents a ray of hope.

“April 18, 1980 #Zimbabwe’s alleged #IndependenceDay was a betrayal of the promise of independence from British colonialism to a tyrannical & brutal colonialism under #Mugabe’s #ZanuPF regime.

“Post illegitimate #Mnangagwa’s militarily coup, Zimbabwe at 38 is still not independent,” Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation said on Twitter.

And with just five months after Mnangagwa’s inauguration as president, many struggling ordinary Zimbabweans are hoping the country will take a different political and economic course.

Tens of thousands of vendors are still fighting for survival on congested urban streets, where they still have running battles with authorities.

This event is also going to be Mnangagwa’s first mass event uniting all Zimbabweans for a common purpose, since his inauguration on November 24, 2017.

He is likely going to use this platform to outline the country’s road towards economic recovery and preach hope, with huge emphasis on the forthcoming elections, and cementing his government’s commitment to hold free, fair and credible elections. Daily News

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