Zimbabwe still waits for liberation

Waiting for uhuru: The Independence Day celebrations in Zimbabwe couldn’t mask the fact that President Robert Mugabe’s promised economic liberation has yet to materialise. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP)

Waiting for uhuru: The Independence Day celebrations in Zimbabwe couldn’t mask the fact that President Robert Mugabe’s promised economic liberation has yet to materialise. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP)

Marching bands, long speeches and colourful acrobatic displays marked Zimbabwe’s 37th independence celebrations held around the country on Tuesday.

People filled Bulawayo’s White City Stadium, just as they do every year, to hear politicians wax lyrical about the nation’s hard-won freedom while the crowd burns in the hot sun.

The end of white minority rule will, naturally, always be reason to cheer — especially here, the last African country to be freed from British ­colonial rule.

Like most born-frees, I’m thankful I never had the displeasure of living under white rule, but growing up under a black regime that has its own record of horrors and crises has shown that freedom is not a simple story of black triumph over white oppression.

Unlike South Africa, another April freedom child, Zimbabwe’s land and economy now largely lie in black hands. But whether state or private actors, the wealthy are a well-connected elite and the masses surviving on less than $2 a day are yet to attain their economic freedom.

In his 37th uhuru speech, and those read on his behalf by officials around the country, President Robert Mugabe spoke optimistically about translating the gains of liberation into economic empowerment. One of the last hurdles, he said, was reorganising the mining sector and transferring 51% ownership of companies through a 2008 law to black Zimbabweans. In a speech, reform of the mining industry sounds wonderful, but the memories of Zimbabwe’s chaotic fast-track land reform programme of the 2000s are still too raw to take Mugabe’s proposal as a good-hearted nationalist’s gesture towards the people’s full liberation.

But still, some believe this economic uhuru shall come to pass. And, until then, the people shall eat the fruits of the land.

Unlike last year’s independence dinner on April 17, when the food ran out and sadza, the maize meal staple dish, and boiled cabbage were the only things left, this year’s freedom ball seemed better financed. So was the independence day lunch — buffalo and elephant meat were on the menu. The department of parks and wildlife donated the game meat.

Much to the ire of animal rights activists, elephants and buffaloes are eaten at some special gatherings in Zimbabwe.

Game is considered a delicacy among people in the drier, less fertile Matabeleland regions in the southern and western parts of the country. As a non-meat-eater it’s hard to see animals as food and I wouldn’t know if elephant tastes like spam or stewed biltong.

After 37 years of Mugabe rule, it’s neither here nor there what’s on the April  18 menu. What matters is the people with empty stomachs and pockets struggling through every day while corrupt liberators scoff from the trough.

Zimbabwe has a long way to go to achieve the resource transformation Mugabe talks of. Knowing his Chimurenga way, an independence speech on economic reform under the theme “Ease of Doing Business” is just sparring for another tug-of-war between patriots and capitalists that could leave many civilian casualties, if and when it comes to pass. — The Daily Vox

Client Media Releases

PRAGMA helps its own through social economic development
MTN announces its first Spin 'n Win millionaire
Imperial Logistics offers pharmaceutical bonded facilities in Africa