by Nonsikelelo Ndlovu
On April 18, thirty two years ago Zimbabweans celebrated independence from British colonial rule. This was a historical moment for every Zimbabwean because it not only meant freedom from colonialism but hope for a Government for the people by the people. The day also brought with it hopes that the land stolen from the Zimbabwean people would be returned to its rightful hands and would benefit those of Zimbabwean origin.
This day also brought with it hopes of an end to all forms of oppression that the black person faced in the hands of white oppressors, to all draconian laws that were used to oppress the black majority. The vision was of a Zimbabwe in which all citizens would enjoy all freedoms.
Thirty two years later the freedom that sons and daughters of Zimbabwe fought for has become a privilege for a few elite, especially those who participated and those who purport to have participated in the liberation struggle. The government continues to suppress the rights of its citizens, with the State intimidating and unleashing violence on ordinary civilians as a means of holding on to power. Just like in the colonial rule, anyone who insists on exercising their rights to freedom of association and assembly has to pay the price of arbitrary arrest and torture. There is continued arrest and torture of political activists and an evident closure of democratic civic space. Any criticism of the government and its head is tantamount to treason.
This is also worsened by the continuous marginalisation of some regions at the expense of others. As such, some regions have been developed more than others and many citizens have been denied a piece of the national cake, leading to extremist views of cessation coming up as a solution. To make matters worse, such marginalisation has witnessed polarisation of a people on the basis of ethnicity as some tribes are more advantaged than others in the broader socio-economic and political processes.
We have therefore witnessed a recurrence of the same oppressive regime that was fought against. Instead of adhering to the tenets of good governance and democratic values, the current regime has in the thirty two years been impeding on human rights which they so advocated against in the struggle.
Because Zimbabweans have suffered in the hands of liberation war heroes for the past 32 years, Independence Day has lost its meaning to them. To some of us born after independence, April 18 has little significance. Instead of marking a historical moment of freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, it marks a shift from white colonial rule to a new form of oppression by a few black elites who believe they fought in the war for independence therefore are more Zimbabwean than others. Because they fought the liberation struggle, they have become untouchable and a culture of impunity makes them get away with gross abuse of human rights. Rule of Law does not exist in Zimbabwe; there are some who are seemingly above the law.
As a young Zimbabwean born after Independence, my dream, I am sure of many others too, is to see Independence celebrations being a national event rather than party celebrations and Zimbabwean citizens who can relate to their national flag and its significance to their lives. I envision a Zimbabwe that has respect for human rights and one that is governed by people who pay attention to the plight of the ordinary Zimbabwean, even though they have no liberation war credentials. Above all, Zimbabwe has an outstanding nation building project that if left unaddressed may result in her disintegration. There is need to build a strong national identity in which all citizens would enjoy the full liberties of being citizens of Zimbabwe.
Nonsikelelo Ndlovu is a journalist whose career has been dedicated to advocating for the rights of Young Zimbabweans. She is currently employed as an Information Officer by the National Youth Development Trust, a youth focused civil society organisation in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.