Zimbabwe celebrates 36 years of independence tomorrow, but some of the country’s liberators say they are not looking forward to the day because of unfulfilled promises.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Some war veterans have been demanding that President Robert Mugabe must step down for failing to revive the economy and his alleged attempts to impose First Lady Grace Mugabe as his successor.
Thousands of people left the country and trained to fight the oppressive colonial rule and their motivation was a common goal — to have an independent and free Zimbabwe for everyone.
But nearly four decades after gaining independence, many of them are now accusing the ruling party led by Mugabe of stifling real freedom in Zimbabwe.
In separate interviews with The Standard, representatives of war veterans said the struggle for freedom was still on.
“Of course, we should celebrate independence, but we should also be able to express what we want,” former Zanla commander Parker Chipoyera, who led some of his colleagues on Tuesday to “withdraw” the mandate they bestowed on Mugabe, said.
“There was a national effort to fight colonisers and during that time, people died for that cause.
“The war was about independence and freedom, but we only got independence without freedom.”
He added: “There is a lot of intimidation in Zimbabwe, but I don’t know what is wrong with criticising some leaders.
“During the war, we told the people that we would have freedom after independence, but that is not happening. There is a lot of surveillance and on association, you have to seek clearance from someone.”
Chipoyera said Zimbabweans must unite for a common purpose and peacefully demand another government which respects the rule of law and is willing to promote and defend people’s freedoms.
“The only way forward for Zimbabweans is to claim their democratic space,” he said.
“We know what we want and we should do it without any violence, but through elections.
There should be free expression of what we want. That democratic space should be broadened.”
Chipoyera said there was need for tolerance and an end to political intimidation.
He urged political parties to accept criticism and stop labelling their colleagues as sell-outs for simply expressing different opinions.
“There should also be inter-party democracy and people must stop describing those who criticise the leadership as sell-outs,” he said.
“Those who formed Zanu during the liberation war also revolted against Zapu and it was a free expression at that time.
“Therefore, independence we got, yes, from the British and we can now fly our own flag and debate in our own language in Parliament, but there are limitations in terms of democratic space.”
Zimbabwe Liberators’ Platform (ZLP) director Wilson Nharingo accused the Zanu PF government of running down the country, saying under the circumstances, there was nothing to celebrate on Independence Day.
“There is nothing to celebrate because all the ideals of the liberation struggle have not been realised,” he said.
“These ideals are freedom, democracy, peace, social justice and respect for human dignity. All these things have not been realised. So what will people be celebrating?
“Over and above that, people are wallowing in poverty which is worse than there was during the Smith regime,” he said, drawing comparisons between Mugabe’s government and the colonial regime of Ian Smith.
Nharingo said Zimbabweans must unite for a common cause to remove tyranny.
“All Zimbabweans should come together to remove Zanu PF. All Zimbabweans are affected, including even those in Zanu PF,” he added.
“They are affected by the situation prevailing and they could also be axed from Zanu PF and all their benefits will cease.”
In some parts of the country, there were reports that people were being forced to contribute varying amounts of money towards the independence celebrations.