Zimbabwe marks its 38th independence anniversary on Wednesday, the first to be celebrated under a Government not led by former President Mr Robert Mugabe since 1980.
Before his resignation in November last year, he had been in office as executive president for 30 years, having served as Prime Minister for the first seven years of independence. This year’s event is therefore a significant moment in a few ways.
April 18, 1980, was a momentous occasion for Zimbabwe as that is the day when British colonial rule officially ended to be replaced by a new majority Government arising from the first democratic elections in the history of this land. Also, it came after a bitter liberation struggle that claimed thousands of combatants and civilians who were caught in the crossfire.
Looking back, we see that the country has made great strides over the past 38 years. Its democracy has evolved into one of Africa’s strongest. Elections are held every time they are due and a multiplicity of political parties contest with the electorate always coming out to exercise their right to vote all the time.
While in the first 20 or so years of Independence the national economy was strong; one of the strongest and most diversified in Africa, illegal Western sanctions that were imposed on the country in 2000 in response to the fast track land reform and redistribution programme have taken a heavy toll on it.
The past 17 years have been difficult for the economy with hundreds of companies folding up amid the economic challenges. Many people have resultantly lost jobs. Infrastructure has been affected too as the Government struggles to keep it in shape and as the country’s former partners in the West refuse to play a part in building new and maintaining roads, railway lines, power generation plants and so on.
However, we have every reason to be optimistic that the challenges we are facing as a country are being resolved thanks to the efforts being made by the new Government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He took over after a dramatic two weeks in November last year which saw the military stepping in under Operation Restore Legacy which entailed accounting for elements that were compromising the former President. The elements sought to take advantage of Mr Mugabe’s advanced age to effect illegal regime change.
Just as the military was dealing with the elements, Zanu-PF was putting its house in order by recalling Mr Mugabe from office and pressing for his impeachment through parliament. War veterans, whose efforts led to the attainment of Independence in 1980 were also mobilising the general public to stage peaceful demonstrations against Mr Mugabe and those who were compromising him.
Facing a double assault from his own party through parliament and public demonstrations, Mr Mugabe resigned from his post as president on November 21. This paved the way for Zanu-PF to, in terms of the national Constitution to nominate his successor.
Cde Mnangagwa was reinstated in the party as its as Vice-President and Second Secretary, having been removed from this position a few weeks earlier. Following the dictates of the Constitution, Zanu-PF nominated him as successor to Mr Mugabe resulting in his swearing as President of the Republic on November 24.
This was an exceedingly smooth transition that surprised the world. Every country has welcomed President Mnangagwa — Sadc, African Union and the United Nations. More importantly, his people have endorsed him as their leader.
President Mnangagwa’s new Government is prioritising building a national consensus at home, marshalling people’s energies towards building the country in peace, love and harmony. The President has always urged the people to remember that they are Zimbabweans who must work together to develop their own country, not to be always fighting against each other.
He is telling the people not to allow political differences to create enmity between them. He wants a new political culture in which ideas contest against each other. President Mnangagwa’s message of national unity is informed by events of the past 17 years which gave rise to a deeply polarised country that was at war with itself. There is no victor in such a war and the country suffers.
The President is also prioritising reengagement with the international community. He wants the country to be part of the global community of nations. He is rebuilding bridges with the European Union, Britain and the United States. Relations between Zimbabwe and these countries were at their lowest ebb which is why they imposed sanctions on us. He is consolidating the already strong ones with Asia and Africa.
We are seeing positive developments all around. Tension among our people and local political parties is going away. The economy is showing signs of recovery while foreign direct investment, the lack of which is the reason why the economy is in such a sorry state, is flowing back.
Wednesday is indeed a unique moment for our country.
Happy birthday Zimbabwe! Long live Zimbabwe! A luta continua!