Alex Tawanda Magaisa has described the Zimbabwean Independence as a cheque that continues to bounce as promises of freedoms and liberties that were made before Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980 remain a fantasy.
He says at 41, Zimbabwe is engulfed in socio-economic issues that have made the future for most young Zimbabweans so bleak that they are forced to leave the country like millions of fellow citizens who have departed over the last two decades.
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Magaisa, a former Chief of Staff in the office of the late former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai equated the prevailing situation to the period after the USA attained Independence from Britain.
He quotes Dr Martin Luyther Jr who felt disillusioned in his great speech “I have a Dream” which recounts the promises of freedoms and liberties to all that had not materialised. Magaisa said:
It was, he said, a “promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. The problem, Dr. King says was that it was “obvious” that America had “defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned”. In his view, it was “a bad check” which had “come back marked “insufficient funds.” He went on to list several challenges that were being faced by “citizens of colour” at the time. The power of these words is that they are as relevant to today’s America as they were back in 1963. But they also ring true for many people in other places around the world.
The promissory note is an appropriate metaphor for many Zimbabweans who at independence in 1980 believed they had escaped repression, gained freedom, and could pursue better and more fulfilling lives. For most of them, the cheque has bounced several times. It has been returned marked “insufficient funds,” In the case of the older generation, the notion of insufficient funds is literal. Consider a retired person who after working more than 40 years and faithfully contributing to a pension fund every month is earning less than US$10 in pension. Remittances from the diaspora have become the new social safety net. But spare a thought for families that have no one in foreign lands to help them.
He identifies a number of issues that everybody thought would be resolved when Zimbabwe attains independence. Below are some of the issues:
- Unemployment: Many young people have never been formally employed, they spend their time loitering in the ghettoes, find refuge in drugs and other intoxicating substances. Some take risks crossing the crocodile-infested Limpopo River into South Africa where they are met with hostile exhortations to return home.
- Human rights violations: Despite the liberation war premised on the restoration of the dignity of the African, to free citizens from the dehumanizing experience of colonial rule, and to ensure control of resources by citizens, Zimbabweans, 41 years after independence, are denied their dignity, people who hold different political views are imprisoned and the bulk of national resources are parcelled out among a few political and military elites and their associates.
- Developmental Question: There is a view that the country has regressed since 1980. The education, health sectors have collapsed reversing gains registered in the early years into independence.
- The Democratic Question: The liberation struggle was aimed at establishing a political system built on the foundations of democracy. Independence was not just a matter of replacing white minority rule with black majority rule, however, democracy is more than majoritarianism.
- The Gukurahundi Question: It was a genocidal campaign by the State which was concentrated in a specific region and deliberately targeted members of an ethnic and political community. Civilians were killed in cold blood. Women and girls were raped. There were enforced disappearances. There was torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. These were grievous crimes committed by the state.
- The Constitutional Question: At the heart of this question is an inquiry into how exactly Zimbabweans want their country to be governed? Even devolution, which is in the current Constitution has not been implemented, 8 years after it was adopted.
- The Land Question: The politics of land allocation is still fraught with the vices of cronyism, favouritism, and corruption. As in other areas of resource allocation, politically exposed persons (PEPs) invariably get the lion’s share.