Zimbabwe: Re-Defining the Independence Epoch

As has been the practice since 1981 the Zimbabwean government shall play the lead-role in choreographing the meeting of our contemporary politics with memories of our liberation struggle.

This will be done on April 18, 2012, the country's Independence Day. In so doing leaders in government will seek to use the occasion of these commemorations to demonstrate what they perceive to be their "democratic" commitment to the historically definitive values of our national liberation struggle.

Some more than others, but all the same, they will all insist on having played or intending to play a role relevant to the purposes and values of our national independence. It is however necessary to point out it is not the sole prerogative of our national leaders to remember and commemorate our national independence. Indeed they may lead official state functions to remember the same, but recognising the significance of our freedom from minority rule is the task of every Zimbabwean.

This recognition is not, however; a call to joining the party-led messaging political egos for propagandistic or electioneering purposes. Instead, we should recognise the national significance of independence on the basis of the initial fact that it was a historical and nation-defining occurrence. This especially after a drawn out and painful liberation war.

In the second instance, we must all celebrate our national independence with the intention of insisting that "never again!" shall we or our children bear witness to such repression either by way of racism (of any kind), social and economic injustice or the wanton killing of innocent civilians and deprivation of human rights to all. This is regardless of whatever government is in charge at any given time in present or the future.

Thirdly, we must recognise our national independence in order to understand the historical and progressive democratic reasons why the Zimbabwean state was established. While the political parties may give their own politicised reasons, our collective understanding should be pre-disposed to understanding that we raised our national flag in April 1980 with the explicit intention of ensuring a democratic and better life for all Zimbabweans regardless of race, colour or class. It is from such a premise that we must measure, even 32 years afterwards, to see if our country and its successive governments (even if dominated by one party) have adhered to this key noble intention of our independence.

This would include taking into account the policies that have been implemented since 1980. These would include the expansion of social service provision by the state, the establishment of a justiciable bill of rights (however flawed), the tragic conflict that was Gukurahundi, economic structural adjustment, the continually repressive political environment as well as the continually disputed and historically politicised land re-distribution and indigenisation programmes.

Some would argue that the verdict is easy, meaning that perhaps 32 years on, we are yet to realise the objectives of our national independence and liberation struggle. That, however, would be to potentially fall into the trap of continually politicising our collective history just as some political parties have consistently sought to do.

Many mistakes were made and continue to be made across political lines since 1980 to present day. Indeed it is the liberation parties that took and remain in power that are most culpable for real and perceived failures that are associated with our post independence society. But it must now become increasingly clear that the country should no longer be viewed as being the responsibility of these movements alone. It belongs to all who live in it, and therefore we all have a responsibility to ensure that it pursues the path of making progressive and democratic history. It is no longer adequate to merely claim political party membership as the reason for seeking recognition as an active citizen with claim to the legacy of the liberation struggle. This is particularly so for the younger generations of adult Zimbabweans who may not have seen or participated either in the liberation war or the independence celebrations at Rufaro stadium in 1980.

As a fourth and final point, it must be emphasised that the path that Zimbabwe must now pursue is one that, while being conscious of our history, must not be imprisoned by it. In celebrating or commemorating 32 years of our national independence, we must think more of the future than the past.

We must grasp that our existence as a country is based on what were essentially struggles for the freedom of all and not the few. In so doing, we must carry forward the burden of the mistakes made more honestly and with the clear intentions of ensuring that these mistakes never occur again of our own volition.

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