Why Zimbabwe’s Independence Means Something And Nothing At The Same Time



Now that I have put my gun down 
For almost obvious reasons 
The enemy still is here invisible 
My barrel has no definite target
Let my hands work –
My mouth sing –
My pencil write –
About the same things my bullet 
aimed at.
— Freedom Nyamubaya, On the Road Again, 1986

Thirty four years ago Zimbabwe got its independence from a racist and minority Rhodesian government. During the last years of this struggle, Zimbabwe then Rhodesia, was under the leadership of Ian  Smith who is (in)famous for his declaration that there would be no black majority rule, not even in an thousand years. 

For most ‘young’ Zimbabweans like me, we never experienced the war for our independence- we are the 'bornfree' generation. As a kid independence day celebration, was not something I could comprehend personally, but I grew to understand a little bit through the songs and narratives that my parents and family elders would tell us from time to time. Their collective memory particularly of the war of liberation, though stingily shared, consistently offered a lot of insights on our stories and the struggle for self rule. My father’s  memorization of the Maoist doctrine through songs of comradeship and collective ownership of the burden of war is as vivid as it gets. The songs contain things like a moral code of conduct that emphasize on treating the masses with respect and not to plunder their resources. To be one with the mass like fish and water. To always keep the goals of the people’s organisation at heart. Some songs, usually from my mother, paint evocative images of the battlefront. Scenes of helicopters, fighter jets, and bombs scorching innocent civilians- a people fighting for self-determination. Some songs summon the spirits to intervene while others portray larger than life individual sacrifices for the greater good.



Thirty four years on, it is important to relive those experiences, celebrate the gains but most importantly reflect on where we are today. If Zimbabwe's independence is looked at from a war point of view, that war was brutal and no price tag can ever make up for it. Nonetheless, it is crucial to go a step further and ask why we lost all those good people? 

I cannot easily comprehend how painful the war was, but through the distant gazes, tales and songs from my family I can attempt to imagine the grueling experiences they went through. This pain should not overshadow the reasons that sent people into the trenches. If anything, the pain of the war should remind us of the product  which was paid by our forbearers paid with sweat and blood. Over three decades later, we have to reflect and ask the questions;  Have we got what we paid for? The land, the freedoms, economic independence, and the right to self determination. What does independence mean to our generation, do we need to renew our idea of being independent? Can we genuinly take stock of what we have achieved or failed? Are we on the right path of developing our country? Is our democracy (even by our local definition) growing? Is the majority ruling? What will the future Zimbabweans think about us when they look back at these moments? Are we even safe to ask these questions?

I love Zimbabwe but it will be important to have ‘A different kind of love’ .  My final thoughts are yet again borrowed from  Freedom Nyamubaya; 

Some people loved this country so much

That they died for it

Their skeletons are scattered all over Zimbabwe

The skeletons are still dying for this country As they turn into useful manure

The survivors do not seem to love

This country at all

Now Zimbabwe is dying

On their behalf

Who loves Zimbabwe to save it from dying for us?