A few weeks ago, I read an article in one of the so-called independent papers claiming that Independence means nothing to them. It may be that the writer and maybe others from the same newspaper were just bystanders when so many people
were fighting the indignity of being classified and treated as second class citizens in a land of their birth.
Be that as it may, I ventured out to speak to the those I came across to find out what celebrating 32 years of Independence meant to them.
The first person I bumped into was a vagrant on one of the streets in Harare. I asked him what he could tell me about the Independence the country was celebrating on April 18, 2012.
He looked at me and I am sure to size me up. He then said: “ Zvinoreva kuti nyika yakauya ne vakomana.” It means that the country was freed by the Boys. Of course the country was freed not only by the boys but by the girls as well who took up arms to go and fight the liberation war.
In my discussion with this man, we touched on many issues about the freeing of this country from domination by the white settlers.
To him it did not matter that he was scrounging on the streets for food and living in the open, but that he was happy that the country was freed together with its indigenous citizens.
One young man said he could be celebrating Independence if he had a job.
To him, to celebrate meant that he was happy. But he was not happy with his life. I asked him that if he was old enough before Independence whether he could have been happy? He said he could not have been happy from the stories of racial discrimination he has heard from his parents and relatives.
But still he was still not happy. One vendor said she was happy to celebrate Independence because she has worked hard to send her children to school and build a house in one of the suburbs, something her parents could not have done before Independence where she could only have become a maid to some madam.
In order to understand what Independence means, one would have to relive the memories of being helpless in a country of your birth. It was not only the injustice one suffered but the indignity of watching your white colleagues at work behaving as though they owned the whole world.
Take for example, the behaviour of some white lecturers at University of Rhodesia then, now renamed University of Zimbabwe. Doctors for that matter would come to lecture medical students in army uniforms with gun holsters around their waists. I remember one surgeon bragging that that he was a helicopter pilot and operating in Muzarabani.
He was not treating the sick and injured but firing bullets at what he called the, “the terrs,” meaning the terrorists. I could not dare even ask about the Hippocratic Oath he swore to save lives rather than take lives. He was happy to talk about taking lives of liberation fighters.
That was the indignity so many people suffered in silence but in their hearts supporting the efforts of the guerrillas in the bush.
Therefore, celebrating Independence can be likened to being born again, to start believing that you are after all a human being that deserves respect and acknowledgement of your place in society of the civilised world.
But, the major hurdle has not just been to overcome discrimination or social exclusion. It is to overcome the mindset of helplessness or what others call, the dependence syndrome.
It is like the stories being told of American slaves when they got their freedom and found life difficult outside the plantations. The same may be true for some of our citizens who long for the days when they were told what to do not what they think they could do themselves on their own. It is this dependence syndrome which has to be banished from our minds.
Like some social scientists have always said, to be independent means to take responsibility for one’s life.
Just as citizens in an independent country, we have to take responsibility for the development of our country.
Whether it is farming, mining, manufacturing or processing of products, everybody has to take responsibility.
It is wishful thinking to expect that the country can develop through donor funding. The world has become a jungle where survival depends on hunting as a pack. Zimbabweans cannot expect manna from somewhere.
Everything has to be earned and worked for. Therefore, celebrating Independence, which is, freedom from oppression, freedom to chart our own way, freedom to believe that we are actually free at last, cannot be synonymous with freedom to die of hunger or idleness.
There is a Jewish saying that idle hands lead to poverty. Their culture is full of deprivation, persecution and perseverance which has translated itself to success despite the adversities endured.
Building a nation or democracy or embracing independence of mind or thought cannot be achieved in just 32 years. Celebrating Independence is just like celebrating the birth of a child.
The full potential of that child may not be achieved in 32 years, maybe in years to come. The same with a country. Building an independent country is a process which has its pitfalls as we go along, picking ourselves up, strengthening our resolve that a better society is achievable.