Happy Independence Day fellow Zimbabweans, wherever you are and whatever your political affiliation or station in life.
As I wish you happy Uhuru Day,
I know and I understand that some of you might feel a tinge of some discomfort; because of the very difficult times that you are going through as individuals, families, organisations or communities in your endeavours to make ends meet to sustain your livelihoods.
I also am fully aware that your difficulties have been compounded by impact of the coronavirus pandemic which is threatening lives and livelihoods in our country in ways that, from public health point of view, have not been seen or experienced not perhaps since 1918 when the Spanish Flu attacked humanity resulting in untold loss of life.
Be this as it may, the 40 years of our nationhood is not a short period to be ignored; the attainment of 40 years as an independent nation is a milestone.
Applied to an individual, 40 years mark the beginning of life; hence the saying that life begins at 40.
But of course, the life of a nation cannot be compared to that of human.
It is worth recalling that the number 40 itself, is biblically and spiritually an important symbolic number; not as a judgment point or day as some are wont to see it, but as a period of trials and tribulations that enjoins all of us, as a people united as one nation, to retrospect, introspect and prospect together; in terms of where we have come from, where we are and where we should be going.
It is this opportunity of collective reflection that makes this day, the 40th anniversary of our Independence, an important day in our country’s history.
As such, it is with humility that I have the honour and privilege to extend to you my compatriots, Fortieth Independence Day felicitations to each and all of you in recognition of the milestone we have reached as a nation.
It is such a treasurable honour and proud privilege that we have many who were willing to sacrifice all for all. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude and special tribute of adoration to our forebears for answering the call of national duty.
All this for a new and independent Zimbabwe.
And such a vision.
For themselves and for future generations.
Over the last 40 years, our country has made remarkable strides to redress the injustices visited upon us by and under some one hundred years of brutal and dehumanising colonial rule.
The first two or so decades of our independence inspired hope, raised national expectations and instilled broad-based confidence in our country; as the new national leadership from the heroic liberation struggle laid a promising foundation for radical transformation in the key areas of reconciliation, education, health and agriculture.
In the circumstances, Zimbabwe became a beacon of peace and stability in the region and our security forces were sought after by the United Nations as peacemakers and peace enforcers around the world; our exemplary primary education system saw the country recording the highest literacy rate in Africa; our healthcare system became second to none; while our agriculture transformed the country into Africa’s breadbasket.
It is also a tragic truth that the same two decades of commendable success, witnessed the marginalisation parts of our country – notably in the Matabeleland region – where some 20,000 citizens were massacred with many more tortured, while thousands were internally or eternally displaced amid untold destruction of livelihoods in what has come to be known as the Gukurahundi atrocities.
Related to this, another tragic truth is that the last 20 years have witnessed wanton use of violence in our politics.
Cases in point are what happened in the implementation of the land reform programme, while a necessary fulfilment of a fundamental goal of the liberation struggle; its violent implementation, which bordered on racism, was unnecessary, unwarranted and unjustifiable.
Other challenges of our heroic independence over the last 20 years include Operation Murambatsvina; the shocking violence in the 2008 presidential runoff election; the 2017 political developments; the August 1, 2018 massacre of citizens in Harare which was repeated between
January 14 and 28, 2019 across the country’s urban centres.
On balance, our country’s performance over the last 40 years can be assessed on the basis of key national grievances that were behind the national liberation struggle:
1. Addressing the land question to reclaim the people’s land rights.
2. Addressing the national question to unify the country.
3. Addressing the democratic question to ensure that every Zimbabwean has a right to vote and that the exercise of that right is respected and honoured.
4. Addressing the sovereignty question, which is the essence of national independence, to ensure that sovereignty belongs to the people, and not to a few individuals who call themselves the State.
The land reform programme is now irreversible, notwithstanding the fact that its implementation left a lot to be desired.
Going forward, there’s a need for radical transformation by the next generation of leadership to rationalise land tenure issues and to give title deeds and promote productivity on the land.
On the national question, Zimbabweans are today more divided than they were at independence in 1980.
The liberation struggle generation has failed to address the national question.
What is now needed is radical transformation by the next generation of leadership to create an
enabling environment for an inclusive sense of belonging among Zimbabweans to build the kind of nation that Zimbabweans have always wanted to be.
And the hitherto elusive democratic question must be resolved.
There’s a need for the radical transformation of Zimbabwe’s electoral politics to put an end to the era of disputed elections.
This is a challenge that the next generation of leadership must resolve.
Lastly, while sovereignty, that is to say, independence, has over the last 40 years been for the State; a new paradigm – through radical transformation consistent with our new Constitution – is needed to make clear that sovereignty belongs to the people, not to the State.
It’s the people who are free and who should define their sovereignty.
Against this backdrop, when we look back over the last 40 years, and especially when we focus on the last two decades, the milestone we rightly commemorate today is a mixed bag; we have made some strides, but we have also failed ourselves in a big way.
However, a new beginning is not only possible but is necessary and is coming.
For it to happen, we must each and all of us, play our part and behold the new!
The deomacratic transformation task
As Zimbabwe turns 40 today, a new nation has to be born.
The nation has just to be born again.
The next generation has to kick in to rebuild our country.
As we approach the decade before us, we need a new consensus, the intergenerational consensus.
This inter-generational consensus is an agreement on solutions to the challenges facing the broad masses of Zimbabwe, namely the struggle for social justice and prosperity.
The old should work with the young.
The young must take the lead.
We must [strive] to create a socially just democratic transformative state with a humble and empathetic God fearing and God Loving leadership in respect of which will adhere to the values of social justice, transparency, accountability and equality.
We also must fulfill the unfinished agenda of the liberation struggle, in particular, the economic emancipation of our people.
We must establish a sustainable, democratic Zimbabwe.
In short, we pledge to create a free new Zimbabwe in respect of which the citizen does not live in fear and is free to pursue her aspirations.
A transformed new Zimbabwe, in respect of which strong institutions, big ideas and a functional state prevails over tyranny, autocracy, big men syndrome and fear.
Let us all build a new nation and a new Zimbabwe built on pillars of forgiveness, peace, great ideas, progressive alternative policies, freedom, tolerance and patriotism.
We must make Zimbabwe the jewel of Africa and indeed the jewel of the world.
We must all take this moment to press a reset button so as to start promoting greater social cohesion and unity of purpose while discouraging the toxic levels of hostility and intolerance that sometimes characterise much of political discourse.
In building our nation, we must focus on building strong institutions to curtail the vices of the past.
Strong institutions are inclusive in both their character and effect.
Most countries that have made economic, social and political progress have usually done so on the back of strong institutions.
It is these strong institutions that form pillars of the nation.
They provide the social and moral compass.
These pillars are the referees that restrain men and women with or without power from indulging in excesses that harm society.
Even nations that have had strong personalities, such as South Korea, have developed strong institutions along the way, placing them in good stead for life long after the departure of the strong leader.
Strong institutions must be able to survive governments, which are transient.
Strong institutions are able to resist the corrupting influence of personalities and political factions.
Strong institutions stand firm in the face of demagogues and populists.
The first 40 years of our independence have shown us ample evidence of the danger of extractive institutions which benefit only a few elites and their associates.
The catalogue of corruption fills many pages.
We do not have to look far.
The blessings of Chiadzwa diamonds turned out to be a curse for the local community and the nation at large because of extractive institutions.
In the next 40 years, we have a generational challenge to build inclusive institutions and to dismantle extractive institutions.
We must decisively deal with corruption.
We must build strong and modern infrastructure for our great country.
We need spaghetti roads, bullet trains, skyscrapers, SMART agriculture, new smart cities and towns, urbanised smart villages and world-class digital health facilities and digital government.
Going forward, we must rediscover and nurture our national values.
Our home-grown constitution has a provision which outlines the founding values and principles of the nation.
They include constitutional supremacy, the rule of law, good governance, gender equality and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.
There are many more values which derive from our culture as African people.
They include Ubuntu, fairness, mutual respect, restraint and co-operation.
These values, which are present in our day to day lives, must also inform how we conduct our politics at national level.
Nation-building and economic prosperity require a progressive national vision.
All great nations of this world have been driven by a firm national vision.
A national vision can outlive its authors.
Some nations have continued to pursue visions crafted more than one hundred years ago.
We need a collective effort to craft a national vision.
Seven years ago, we achieved something outstanding; a national constitution.
It was a product of collective effort, not unilateralism.
We must use the same spirit to craft a national vision as an economic, political and social compass for our nation.
Indeed, we are 10 years to our silver jubilee.
Our target should not be that we should still be here in 2030.
Rather, it must be that our nation will be the jewel of the world.
We have a limited time remaining to complete a jubilee with great successes.
Let us join hands and combine minds in a new amity, givenness and oneness derived from our common essence and desire to build a great Zimbabwe that will be the pride of all Africa and the jewel of the world.
The beauty about our circumstances is that the best days of our lives haven’t happened and are yet to come!
This is the beginning of a new era.
Let us embrace it. Let us cherish it.
We dare not fail.
I would like to assure you again, that the new independence is here.
It has arrived.
Remember to wash your hands, keep good hygiene, maintain social distance and spread the message.
Remember to pray for our country and indeed the entire world.
Happy birthday Zimbabwe!
God bless you,
God bless Zimbabwe,
God bless AFRICA.
Nelson Chamisa is the leader of the MDC Alliance