As Zimbabwe commemorates 40 years of independence from British colonial rule, Bulawayo residents have said a lot still needs to be done for citizens to fully appreciate their freedom.
The Southern African country attained its independence on April 18 1980 and since then festivities have been organised every year to commemorate this significant day on the country’s calendar.
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, after the capital, Harare, was this year, for the first time in four decades, set to host the national celebrations at Barbourfields Stadium, had it not been for the outbreak of COVID-19, which has brought the whole world to a standstill.
This year’s commemorations will be held at a time when the country is under an unprecedented 21-day national lockdown to curb the spread of the pandemic which has infected over two million and claimed thousand lives globally.
Nhlalwenhle Ngwenya said there was a need for the country’s leaders to be accountable for every move they make.
“Independence heralded financial freedom, freedom of speech and so forth,” said Ngwenya.
“If these are still a struggle post-independence, it means a lot has to be done.”
He said the fact that Bulawayo was going to host the national celebrations for the first time since independence, was on its own, an indication that not all was well in the administration of the country.
“It’s sad that it took 40 years for the second largest city in the country to host such a huge event in the city,” he bemoaned, adding the development was a missed opportunity for the city and Matabeleland.
Mhlangabezi Ndlovu, who was born on the Independence Day said a lot has to be done for many people to appreciate independence in Zimbabwe.
“Our Politics is polarised, the economy is crumbling in the hands of partisan and corrupt few,” he lamented.
“Our social fibre as a nation is broken. This has to change if everyone is to enjoy the fruits of independence. Let us free the political space and practice democracy of which we claim to be practising as a nation. Let us agree to disagree. May I not be intimidated, maimed and killed, hunted down just because I have a different opinion or view point from you.”
He said the economy needed to be fixed as matter of urgency.
“Let’s get our economy running again; we can’t be a nation that has its millionaires living in exile,” he said.
“Something is wrong there. Let’s fix this and deal with institutionalised corruption, which is the cancer that has eaten our country to the ground. Can we utilise our resources as a nation. That’s where I support the notion of devolution of power. You can’t have the amount of gold coming out of Matabeleland and their people being poor. We can’t mine diamonds in Marange, Manicaland and yet the people are the poorest. Something is wrong. You can’t explain why a country rich as Zimbabwe with all the minerals that you can think of is where it is. We need to fix that, build infrastructure, equip our hospitals, make education and health care affordable to an ordinary citizen, then, and only then can we say we are independent.”
Ndlovu said Bulawayo would not lose anything by not hosting this year’s independence celebration as had been earlier planned by government before COVID-19 spread into the country.
“But how does a one day celebration change the lives of people in Bulawayo and Matabeleland,” he queried.
“I think politicians are the ones who lost their stage to grand stand and showcase their pomp and fanfare. Bulawayo and Matabeleland lost when ZITF was postponed because of COVID- 19. As for Independence celebrations I don’t think we lost anything. People in this region have been marginalised and overlooked in the distribution of wealth in this nation. I don’t think it’s something that a day’s celebration can solve.”
He said Zimbabweans needed to rethink and revisit the way things have been done in the country.
“The fact that the second largest city in the nation was supposed to host a national event of that magnitude for the first time in 40 years speaks volumes about our politics as a nation,” he said.
“We can’t be this divided and claim we are independent. We can’t be having other regions who think they are superior or other tribes who think they are more equal than others and expect to enjoy the fruits of independence. We need a rethink as a nation. Let us first be independent in the mind then we can talk of our land being independent.”
Methuseli Moyo said devolution of power and decision making must happen quickly and meaningfully to bring governance near the people.
“Harare is not Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Secondly, rights have to be entrenched, and the economy fixed for people to enjoy the fruits of their labour.”
He however said the fact that Bulawayo would not host this year’s national celebrations, was a missed opportunity for all.
Moyo added: “It is a missed opportunity for all, not only Byo. It has denied or delayed all of us from witnessing something ground breaking, whereby another part of the country which is not Harare hosts Uhuru Day.”
Khanyile Mlotshwa said it was important for the political leadership to facilitate a situation where citizens can fully embrace the freedom that came on 18 April.
“Freedom is an empty signifier which we have to fill with content and meaning through what we do,” he argued.
“The ruling elite must let us be proudly Zimbabwean in our diversity.”
For Sipho Nyoni, Zimbabwe needs a paradigm shift before citizens can fully appreciate their independence.
“We need to go back to the early 80s where indeed Zimbabwean education was not only the envy of the world but affordable and subsidised,” he suggested.
“As we speak unemployment hovers around the 90 percent mark. There are no jobs. So creation of jobs as well as resuscitation of industry is more than a priority.”
He added: “Politically, space has to be opened up. We are still zoning in on that era after independence where dissenting voices were suppressed.”