Zimbabwe’s political independence: Reality or illusion?

As Zimbabwe approaches its 44th anniversary on April 18, 2024, the Zanu PF administration claims the country is transitioning from political independence to economic prosperity.

However, a closer look at the political landscape, alleged state capture, and economic disparities raises questions about the true nature of this “independence” for Zimbabwe’s citizens.

Opposition politicians argue that true independence remains elusive. Zanu PF’s “scorched earth” tactics in past elections, characterised by a winner-takes-all approach, leave the opposition and their supporters with little recourse.

ZAPU national spokesperson, Richard Gandari, aptly summarises the situation: “Unfortunately, a miss is as good as a mile. There are no consolation prizes in Zimbabwe’s winner-takes-all politics. Zanu PF’s scorched earth policy forces the losers to surrender and apologize for daring to compete.”

Despite opposition efforts to free Zimbabweans from oppression and poverty, Zanu PF’s continued grip on power after each election cycle crushes their aspirations.

Swithern Chirowodza, an opposition politician, attributes this failure to achieve true political independence to the abuse of state security forces and the capture of state institutions that favour Zanu PF while suppressing the opposition.

“The opposition has faced numerous challenges, particularly violence from state-sponsored actors and assaults on its democratic movement,” Chirowodza stated. “Opposition leaders have been attacked for opposing Zanu PF.”

He further highlights how authorities banned opposition rallies ahead of the 2023 elections, aiming to limit their impact and influence voters.

Chirowodza argues that this manipulation of state institutions and security forces hinders citizens from fully experiencing political independence.

“The narrative presented by Zanu PF mouthpieces on Zimbabwe’s independence might deceive the uninformed. However, political independence holds no value if citizens aren’t free, especially when their Bill of Rights protections are violated.”

Chirowodza cites the continued use of repressive legislation as evidence. The colonial Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA) was merely repackaged as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and later the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA).

“The abuse of state security and captured institutions makes it impossible for citizens to perceive the touted political independence,” Chirowodza concludes.

He further questions Zanu PF’s claims of economic prosperity when the benefits seem to concentrate on a select few, particularly those with political connections.

“Independence Day serves as a stark reminder that foreigners mine and own Zimbabwe’s minerals, while Zimbabweans have no access to their wealth,” Chirowodza said. “It’s a reminder of how the government loots the Reserve Bank’s USD and issues worthless local currency unusable outside Zimbabwe.”

Chirowodza noted that Independence Day should not celebrate the impoverishment of Zimbabweans orchestrated by the Zanu PF government, which regional bodies like SADC shield from peaceful power transitions.

Iphithule Maphosa, the spokesperson for the Congress for Transformation Party, adds another layer to the discussion. He suggests that Zimbabwe’s political landscape is skewed in favour of the ruling party due to the state’s symbiotic relationship with Zanu PF.

“Zimbabwe operates as a deep state where the establishment uses the ruling party as a political front,” Maphosa claims, identifying the “military and rogue business people” as the core of this deep state.

Maphosa argues that the establishment maintains its control through violence, intimidation, and patronage, particularly targeting opposition figures.

“Many may believe Zanu PF is in charge, but in reality, it benefits from the protection and pampering of the deep state establishment,” he concludes.

Maphosa suggests that this pampering hinders efforts to eradicate political violence against opposition members and dismantle the ruling party’s use of patronage to control the masses through debt and blackmail.

Zimbabwe’s 44th independence anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of freedom. While the nation celebrates political liberation, questions linger about the reality of economic and political participation for all citizens.

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