Zimbabwe Independence Day: what's there to celebrate?

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Today Zimbabwe celebrates 33 years of independence. But to many the day has ceased to mean anything, finds our blogger.

By Mwana wevhu, Harare

To a lot of people, this is just a day like any other. In fact, some business owners would rather keep operating and capitalize on the day than allow their employees to take off and celebrate the day that Zimbabwe was born.

Independence Day is largely seen as a Zanu-PF day and the celebrations, as Zanu-PF celebrations. The rhetoric is all about how the country was liberated, how much the young generation should appreciate the ‘hard-won’ independence and how they should ‘jealously guard the country’s sovereignty’.

In the Bible, Joshua 24:13 reads: “I gave you a land on which you had not laboured and cities which you had not built and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant.”

This much sounds like the rhetoric that, year after year, is churned out by the leaders who fought in the war of liberation. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Station – not only government-controlled but also the only TV station operating in the country – also does a pretty great job of reminding us of this every single day. A million times a day. They start counting down the days to independence. They’ll profile some of the dearly departed heroes (God bless their souls). They do it in such a way you feel sick to the stomach.

Not supposed to question
Also in the Book of Joshua, the children of Israel say: “It is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage...therefore we also will serve the Lord for he is our God.”

It is in the same manner that the people of Zimbabwe are expected to remain grateful and forever indebted to the liberators of the country. We are supposed to not question things that have happened over the years since independence. We are not supposed to question the social injustices, such as the inability to provide safe and clean drinking water to the masses, unequal distribution of wealth, a staggering 90 percent unemployment rate and a whole lot of things that have gone wrong in our country.

Come on. Please! Yes, we are very grateful to be free, whatever that is. And some are grateful for the land – those who got some anyway. But is it not time to give us something else? Shall we remain stuck in the past, dwelling on how hard the war was and why it had to be fought? Was the war’s point not to ensure a better life for the black majority?

And is life any better? Sadly no. Even after going to school and getting a good education, a lot of people remain unemployed. They have hardly enough money to pay rent, or to feed their families. On top of that, they have no electricity and no running water – despite living in the capital city of Harare!

So what, really, is there to glorify on Independence Day? As some Zimbabweans celebrate and ululate, others will continue with business as usual, trying to make ends meet.