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To independence and freedom!

18 Apr, 2018 - 00:04 0 Views
To independence and freedom!

The Herald

Just recently a radio promotion on Zimbabwe’s Independence Day – which the nation celebrates today – struck me for its continued reference to the term “freedom” instead of “independence”. Zimbabwe attained its Independence from colonial power Britain on April 18, 1980 following a long war waged against the settler regime by black nationalists.

The imperialist Britain colonised Zimbabwe in 1890.
The term “independence” has always been associated with this political fact of history and the attendant symbolism and emotion.

There are physical artifacts and vestiges to mark the occasion – the iconic Independence Flame and nationwide celebrations held annually.

The day is unmistakable, with celebrations in rural areas, in particular, being marked by gatherings where people eat and drink – that ritual where a beast loses its life as the ultimate sacrifice to the gods of the occasion.
In urban areas, celebrations are less cultured.
The explanation is simple enough.

Rural folk bore the brunt of the war and mark the remembrance with greater sentimentality and in the traditional manner of folk gatherings.
Independence is alive here.
It will live long here.
Is independence dying slowly in urban areas and being replaced by an abstract idea called freedom?

It kind of reminds one of the proliferation of such nomenclature in neighbouring South Africa.
If independence dies and we get “freedom”, one can safely guess that a sense of perspective; a sense of history will be lost – slowly and unconsciously.

Independence Day is about the end of colonisation and the bitter war it occasioned.
Independence is about identifying those that denied a people their rights to self-govern, and the rape and plunder that came with that denial.

It is something “freedom” may never adequately capture, if the deployment of the term is not in itself an erasure of history.
Perhaps that is an exaggeration.
Times are changing.
Independence happened nearly 40 years ago.
Some might argue that it’s meaning is being renegotiated and given new frames.
President Mnangagwa’s statement ahead of today’s celebrations is instructive.

He told the nation that: “This year’s celebrations carry even greater resonance, as we have entered a new period in our history; a period of freedom, openness and opportunity.”

He added: “In this new era, we must be liberated not only from without, but also from within, from hate, prejudice and discord.
“Let us always remain united, working together with our brothers and sisters to build a strong and open Zimbabwe for all.”
There are new values espoused in this: freedom, openness and opportunity.

Independence would guarantee all of them, but you cannot miss the liberal drift and departure from the slogans of sovereignty, patriotism, self-determination, territorial integrity; etc, values that defined an earlier era.
It’s a transition.
Zimbabwe is growing up.
A new epoch has just begun.

Yet it will be completely disingenuous to abandon our sense of history: 38 years is not a big number.
Consider for a moment just how the Americans celebrate their own Declaration of Independence that took place three centuries ago.

They still hold up the values of the founding fathers.
July 4 is coming and we will soon witness them in the same festival of celebration that long predates our own independence.
It never goes out of fashion.
They never forget their foundational values.

The young polity that is Zimbabwe would do well to stay true to its own founding values and the processes that underpinned them.

Independence came on the back of a protracted war of liberation that fought the dispossession of land, the theft of resources, the oppression of blacks and their denial of fundamental human rights.
Independence brought civil and political liberties that white had settlers denied indigenous peoples.

Over the years, Zimbabwe sought to consolidate this political independence by bringing an economic dimension that was wrought in the indigenisation and empowerment drives.
We called this a quest for economic independence.
It is a score that we have not fared well on.

Which reminds one of the task that Zimbabweans have of preserving the memory and perspective of Independence that nationalists fought for, four short decades ago.
It is fundamental.

It would be good to reflect on these things, the sacrifices made by men and women who brought independence not least.
As we embrace new values and nomenclatures, it should be critical not to lose perspective and what Independence really means and the vision of the founding fathers.

Fate has just made us celebrate this year’s independence without the country’s first leader, Robert Mugabe.
For all his faults, he gave us valuable teachings that we should not forget.
For now it is party time.
To independence and freedom!

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