Zimbabwe’s independence paradox

The end of the white racists’ Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) and the attainment of independence in 1980 was supposed to usher in a new world order; a political dispensation in which no man would decidedly order another’s life; the expectation was of a country in which the law was going to shout out loud in support of the masses struggling to gain and keep their rights.

A few years after gaining independence, Zimbabwe seemed on the right track; it was the chosen destination for foreign investors and an exporter of food. Socioeconomic indicators were great for much of the 1980s. However, underneath the great socioeconomic indicators and the noses of the international community a very dark side of Zimbabwean history was being created. Under the cloud of excitement, Zimbabwe eluded international scrutiny; human rights abuses in Matabeleland were passed as legitimate security measures while endemic corruption was ignored by the international community.

When Zimbabwe’s independence illusion was finally unmasked, the country was seen for what it really was: an extremely dependent country, a net importer of food, a major recipient of Western charity, a corrupt country, a wilful abuser of human rights and a net exporter of economic migrants.

Whatever existed of the law went silent in 1983 when the State sanctioned the butcher of innocent civilians. For the large proportion of the Matabeleland population, the ZANU PF regime set the limits of the region’s development. Ethnic subjugation and overt reverse racism have now become the marker of Zimbabwean independence; white people and Matabeleland citizens – in particular – have felt the brunt of an independent Zimbabwe.

Arguably, Matabeleland enjoyed better independence before than after 1980. Since the 1980 independence illusion, there has been a conscientious and deliberate political agenda aimed at disabling the region. Before 1980, locals had relatively more control over local resources and over their lives. Some form of cultural imperialism is happening in the region right now; the government manages instead of empowering the region. Increasingly, knowledge of the Shona language is becoming a necessity for economic survival in the region and this is by no means accidental but a well planned ZANU PF socioeconomic pet project.

Matabeleland socioeconomic indicators are worse than those in most of the predominantly ethnic Shona people inhabited regions. Biased economic investment has led to rapid industrial decline. Bulawayo is boasting of all the wrong reasons from low marriage rates to highest unemployment rates and depopulation.

The scale of socioeconomic and political decline is unprecedented in recent human development history; Zimbabwean independence has been the freedom of high ranking politicians and their allies. The ordinary Zimbabwean is no closer to freedom today than he/she was in 1960. What freedom is there when speculating on the president’s health or a joke about the President is potentially a criminal offence?

The colonial period and the subsequent UDI was by no means a kind period for a black person in Zimbabwe and this blog does not pretend otherwise. In three decades ZANU PF has achieved what the UDI leaders could only dream of; the government has done a sterling job of dehumanising black people. The country is more dependent now than it ever was during the UDI era, a period characterised by a punitive sanctions regime! Zimbabwe has effectively become a currency-less and lawless country.


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