- Last Updated on 17 April 2013
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Zimbabwe celebrates 33 years of independence, tomorrow, 18 April 2013. Zimbabwe's independence was hard won, after a Liberation struggle waged by Liberation movements of ZANLA and ZIPRA, and their political parties ZANU and ZAPU.
The liberation war was predicated on the need for the black majority to totally remove the fetters of white oppression and domination at the time. Issues that ranked highly and inspired the "comrades € to take up arms and wage the 2nd Chimurenga, were issues related to self-governance, majority rule, and economic emancipation- with the land at the centre of this issue - and many other reasons.
Tomorrow, our politicians will give their speeches and hopefully present a candid assessment on whether the revolution that brought about independence is still on track or been derailed or partially deferred.
THE Crisis Report (CR) caught up with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Spokesperson and Bulawayo Agenda (BA) Director Thabani Nyoni (TN) who managed to share his insights on the meaning of the day, 33 years on. Below we publish excerpts from the exclusive interview.
CR: On the eve of the Independence Day Commemorations, what do you think have been the successes and failures of the independence years?
TN: In terms of successes they are not many and the few have been eroded by the deterioration of the situation in the country. The successes that I am talking about are to do with the expansion of universal suffrage. There was an expansion of universal suffrage to all Zimbabweans. There was an expansion of the access to education and healthcare. I say they have been eroded by the deteriorating situation because 33 years after independence citizens still have to go to elections without choice. They have no freedom of assembly, no freedom of association. For instance the colonially constructed Law Order and Maintenance Act has been transformed into Public Order and Security Act, women's freedom of movement continue to be curtailed by the colonially constructed legislation like that of loitering for the purposes of prostitution. The once striving health and education sectors have deteriorated to levels where citizens die due to such diseases as cholera while a total of 15 000 teachers had to migrate to South Africa, 1300 to 2800 women die of maternal mortality every year, another 26000 to 84 000 will suffer from disabilities caused during pregnancy and child birth every year and most of these are avoidable.
CR: Recalling that one of the defining things in the armed struggle for Zimbabwe's independence was the quest or principle of One Man One Vote; can you assess this pre-independence aspiration as we head towards the crucial elections in 2013?
TN: One thing I have to clarify is that the freedom fighters and their collaborators were not racist but they fought against racism and colonialism in favour of democracy. In fact, the fight for democracy we see today is a continuation of that aspiration. They fought for an opportunity to elect their leaders and then be able to monitor and constrain their use and abuse of power. That was part of the meaning of freedom; the freedom to choose, the freedom to associate and even the freedom to disassociate. It is sad that a group of opportunists and dictators have revised the narrative of the liberation struggle to the convenience of their selfish political agenda.
CR: What then is the present-day meaning or import of one man one vote as you see it?
TN: There is always a standard meaning of one man one vote which is that every vote counts, every vote is equal and must be respected. It means that the gun after having achieved its purpose has to give way to the ballot. One man one vote means free and fair elections. In the current context we see constant use of the gun to subvert the one man one vote principle as if the gun was not the means to an end. In this case the end being the one man one vote principle. On September 15 2008 the President Robert Mugabe said democracy was a difficult proposition, actually meaning that he did not fully understand or fully subscribe to the concept of democracy. Ironically, the very same principle of one man one vote which his liberation movement purportedly fought for can only be respected through democratic political processes. So what it means is that the succession of controversial electoral processes and electoral outcomes has been as a result of the contempt of the principle of one man one vote which the liberation movement purportedly fought for. Is this not a case of a hijacked liberation process?
CR: Some people have always held the understandable view that there can not be any meaningful independence whilst there is no economic prosperity for the masses. What is your view on this?
TN: My view is that political independence should have been used by the successive governments of Zimbabwe to provide citizens with three things: survival, dignity and material growth. If you look at development programs since independence beginning with the five year development plans, the land resettlement program in the first decade, the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), the land reform process of 2000 and the current indigenization you will realize that meaningful initiatives of expanding opportunities for income and wealth generation for citizens have been used for electoral constituency building. Take indigenization for example, I am sure very few people will disagree with the concept but what we see in terms of implementation is that the little and small productive sectors of the economy are being disrupted rather than expanded. In much the same way as our arable land on which production drastically decreased after the unplanned land reform program was put to waste. In many instances many people with no idea on how to utilize land found themselves with acres of land and became landlords rather than farmers. If you drive around the country you will not fail to notice that there are certain formerly greenbelts that are now lying idle with destroyed infrastructure and no single sign of activity or production. So is this independence? Is this independence where the country has to depend on maize imports from Malawi and Zambia for its staple food? Is this good self -governance?
CR: Given at the eve of the independence Zimbabwe wrote a new constitutional pact at Lancaster House - which some have qualified as a 'ceasefire document' - in late 1979 which we have now replaced with, though pending enactment, a new one after it was endorsed at the historic referendum; does it signify a new era in Zimbabwe's statehood 33 years on?
TN: To think that it has taken us 33 years as a country and citizens to reconstitute ourselves under a new constitutional framework is an embarrassment to say the least. We have literally spent all these years organizing ourselves around a ceasefire document simply because the independence era ushered in a new breed of oppressors who were not interested in the popular will or consent of the citizens not even their rights and dignity. The current draft is heavily compromised due to the fact that the process of constitutional reform has been hugely controlled by our post-colonial oppressors who fear the democratic and expressed will of the citizens. Of course the referendum approved draft has progressive elements such as an expansion of the bill of rights, accountability by the executive, an acknowledgement of a devolved system, recognition of women's rights, it marks an end to the victimization of migrant population (aliens) among other things. This shows some progress on the road to reclaiming the meaning of our independence.