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Premature death of independence

18 Apr 2020 at 08:40hrs | Views
BITRHDAYS are important days in one's life. They are observed to mark the passage of time, reflecting on achievements of the past year and recreating new dreams to carry one through the new year. Or celebrating may at times become an empty ritual.

It is not easy to celebrate a birthday that never was. There are many parents out there who cannot celebrate birthdays of their children - the promise their pregnancies held - after suffering a miscarriage or the child died in infancy. Can they commemorate the birthday of the child they had or did not have? Can they forget they were once pregnant and held lots of expectations?

April 17, 1980 holds a special place in many Zimbabweans' lives. It was a day that many who participated in the liberation struggle looked forward to - even those who did not participate - for the day held something significant. It was a day Rhodesia died and Zimbabwe was born.

As symbolic as it was - Prince Charles - representing the British Crown lowered the Union Jack - a symbol of the empire where the sun never set. In its place the Zimbabwean flag was hoisted to much enthusiasm and hope. Reggae icon - Robert Nester Marley - was there and unveiled his song, Zimbabwe.

The spectacle was held at Rufaro Stadium in the suburb of Harare. Yes, Mbare was Harare township and the city was Salisbury. The suburb has memories, deep memories - it has Matapi Flats, Mai Musodzi Hall, Stoddart Hall and Rufaro Stadium.

The suburb has the highest number of hostels in the country. It has Matapi, Matererini, Nenyere, Shawasha and Mbare flats. They are concrete edifices that most Zimbabweans could not call home - they were simply hostels to put up between Monday and Friday before they would go to spend a restful weekend in Mrewa, Mahusekwa, Seke or Mhondoro communal areas.

The hostels were a subtle apartheid symbol of the Ian Smith colonial regime. They were meant for young black single men who worked in the city's industrial sites such as Willowvale, Graniteside and Workington. The hostels led to a certain depravity - prostitution - by thousands of young verile men staying in single quarters who could not live with their young families.

Independence meant a lot of things to the people of Harare - Mbare. They dreamt of better working conditions in the industries, better living conditions in the hostels, better healthcare - something more than an infectious hospital to treat veneral diseases. They expected better schools and for some, they expected to walk along Charter Road to live north of Jameson Avenue (Samora Machel).

From 1980 to 1990, the golden decade of independence the Zanu PF regime carried the hopes of many. The industrial workers had a minimum wage, many who had hitherto been contract workers became permanent employees and those who had been allocated homes in Mbare National became landlords under the homeownership scheme.

The schools and clinics provided better services. Harare High School produced a fair share of students who went to the University of Zimbabwe, then the only citadel of tertiary education in the country.

The university was still attended for free, students had grants from the State. Those who could not make it to the University of Zimbabwe still had options to go to Harare Institute of Technology, Belvedere Teachers College or Harare Polytechnic College which were all within the vicinity of Mbare.

By the end of the first decade of independence, many a dream died. Independence died to Mbare residents. Zanu PF's dalliance with the International Monetary Fund was a bitter economic prescription - a diagnosis that sent the economy and the promise of independence to an early grave. Just 10 years and the light was snuffed and the capitalist rat-races begun.

The IMF prescribed privatisation of State-owned enterprises, a steep cut in social spending (education and health) and layoffs of civil servants. Foreign currency was deregulated and the dollar slid against hard currencies, weighing down industrial production and increasing reliance on imports. Many workers lost their jobs, creating a new informal economy at Magaba, Siya-So and Mupedzanhamo to complement vending at Mbare Musika and the green vegetables market.

The independence celebrations were taken away from Mbare to the north of Samora at the giant Chinese-built multi-purpose National Sports Stadium. Independence became a fast-fading reality to most young people of Mbare. The only ceremonial activities left to show for independence is the odd lying in state of national heroes at Stoddart Hall before they are interred at the National Heroes Acre.

By the end of the second decade of independence, Mbare residents had turned their backs on Zanu PF - a party that played a significant role in the country's gaining independence. Independence assumed a new meaning - a betrayal by a regime that looked after its elite. The late former President Robert Mugabe had the temerity to call people of Mbare "totemless" after perennial losses in the constituency.

As the country today celebrates the 40th anniversary of independence, people of Mbare and others like them feel betrayed just like parents who lost their children in infancy. They have nothing to celebrate but are reminded of their dreams of what it could have been having their children turning 40. A people who would remember that their independence lived only 10 years - and dreaming is a new luxury they cannot afford.

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Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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