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Zimbabwe at 38: Decades of Independence without freedom

By Tererai Obey Sithole

April 18 is an outstanding day for the nation of Zimbabwe, it is a day on which the land locked country in Southern Africa celebrates its hard-won independence. As such I join the entire Zimbabwean family, both home and abroad in celebrating 38 years of independence.

Tererai Obey Sithole
Tererai Obey Sithole

History has devotedly taught us that our elders took up arms following the continued mistreatment by our former colonial masters. It was out of anger and pain of being enslaved and treated badly that our respected liberation fighters took it upon themselves to fight for the restoration of dignity.

Out of that momentous fight which was steered then, Zimbabwe was born on 18 April 1980, making it 38 years this year.

Personally, I unreservedly salute the gallant sons and daughters who fought for the reclamation of our country from the hands of the British imperialists who had relegated the black majority to the peripherals of development on their own land.

I pay inordinate tribute to the genuine fighters who took the bold decision to confront the colonial rulership, because injustice in all its forms should and must be fought vehemently.

I acknowledge the significance of this day because it gives room to every Zimbabwean to reflect on their sad past and to take stock of the journey travelled so far in the post-colonial Zimbabwe.

I always try so hard to identify the positive steps which the Zimbabwean independence brought to its people. In the process of doing so, it appears to be so difficult to locate the significant differences between the colonial era and the post-colonial era.

Many may question why I say its hard to see the difference, that’s well acceptable but it is the purpose of this piece to enlighten the reader on the grounds of my submission. It is known that what motivated the liberation heroes to fight during the colonial era was the need to gain freedom.

Multitudes perished in the process, they paid the ultimate price all in the need for freedom and bringing an end to inequalities which where prevalent then. Now we are in 2018, 38 years after the successful reclamation of control by the black majority, we ask ourselves an important question, are Zimbabweans really getting what was fought for?

To assist in responding to that question I quote Adam Kokesh, who in his book titled Freedom writes, freedom is not just an ideal state of society, but a moral code for respecting the rights of others. Working on this brief description of freedom, it may not be wrong to conclude that 38 years on, Zimbabwe is yet to be fully observe freedom because we still witness utter disrespect of people’s rights.

To give weight to a clear fact that freedom is far from being practical, I will refer you to the abduction of Itai Dzamara, a Zimbabwean human rights activist. The activist was abducted on 9 March 2015, some few months after he had petitioned the then President, Robert Mugabe to step down followed by a campaign in which he advocated for the same.

The decision by Dzamara to call for Mugabe to step down was unarguably an exercise of the freedom to demonstrate and petition; freedom of expression and freedom of media as enshrined in sections 59 and 61 of the Constitution respectively.

What can be deduced from this abduction case is a reflection that while the freedoms are on paper, they are imaginary and practically non-existent in the present-day day Zimbabwe.

It is of importance to make it known that it is not only Dzamara who has been abducted in the post-colonial Zimbabwe on grounds of expressing their displeasure on the way things are managed in the country. The list of abductees is long, multitudes have been butchered for exercising their right to associate with the opposition and others have been maimed.

Several Zimbabweans are scattered all over the globe, fleeing from the politically harsh environment and for supporting opposition or perceived to be supporting opposition, some have been jailed on politically motivated grounds.

Many may choose to argue that the cases highlighted above were perpetrated under the presidency of Robert Mugabe but that is not enough to exonerate the current leader Emmerson Mnangagwa because while that was happening he was a close confidante of the former President. More so, even now with Mnangagwa as the President, so many cases indicative of the disrespect of people’s rights can be cited.

Few days ago, we read that a whole Deputy Minister of Finance violently attacked a staffer in the same ministry on a case linked to the assaulter claiming that he had been given a lesser allowance than what he thought he deserved.  

Reading this story gave me vivid reflections of the colonial stories whereby the black workers frequently fell victim of thorough beatings for working at a slower pace than that which was expected by their ruthless British employers. With this case, one can note that while Zimbabweans are now independent, some of the colonial practices are still inherent and being perpetrated by the few elite in power.

Only a day ago, the eve of this year’s independence commemoration, the government of Zimbabwe issued a directive firing all nurses who had chosen to exercise their right to participate in industrial action in protesting against the paltry salaries they were subjected to.

These punitive measures being directed to the people of Zimbabwe for exercising their right on genuine causes serve to demonstrate that even after 38 years of independence in Zimbabwe, freedom is yet to be evident.

Seemingly Zimbabweans don’t have rights, if they have, they are not respected by the government. Close to four decades after a hard-won independence from colonialism, Zimbabweans still live without freedom.

Tererai Obey Sithole – Youth Leader and a Development Scholar. I write in my own personal capacity and can be contacted via email: [email protected]