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#Zim@42: Memoirs of Independence Day

In 1980, we hailed Robert Mugabe’s inauguration as the first Prime Minister of an independent Zimbabwe.  Rufaro Stadium, joy in the prevaili...

In 1980, we hailed Robert Mugabe’s inauguration as the first Prime Minister of an independent Zimbabwe. 

Rufaro Stadium, joy in the prevailing Shona language was the venue. Crowds had gathered from every city for the event. And more followed the proceedings from nearby, sagging treetops. 

The mood was rapturous, the purpose was mutual. The Union Jack was lowered, replaced by the Zimbabwean flag.

By @Comic24Derick

The multicoloured congregation and every facet were well represented by the new floating flag. Black represented us the majority, red for the fallen comrades, yellow for the minerals. Green stood for the vegetation, and white stood for peace. I was aged two then, rested on my father’s broad shoulders. 

We all predicted a novel Zimbabwe. Like the decorated flag, it was a country for all, where everyone was represented, equally. Races blended freely. Liquor flowed in tandem with the unfolding triumphant mood. Bob Marley recited a rendition for us:

“Africans are a-liberate (Zimbabwe),

No more power struggle.”

Liberation had indeed come to anchor on our shores.
The then Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe Lights the Independence Flame in 1980 (Image: AP) 
Mugabe beseeched eloquently then. “Stay with us, please remain in this country and constitute a nation based on national unity.” 

The war was not about skin color, it was about equitable distribution of resources. Everyone applauded. I am not sure how I reacted, but I am certain, I reciprocated the existing temperate. 

Like father like son, I assume. Our new leader had a vision for the nation and was affixed to its revival and growth. 

At least, we were not destined to be a failed, pariah state statistic, similar to our neighbours who had discarded their former settlers. The bespectacled past guerilla spoke like a true leader, overlooking race nor colour.

I began primary school in 1985. It was free. It was exciting. My aunt availed stickers of Mugabe, young and energetic, and pregnant with promise. 

I proudly plastered them on my brown school pack, ruler and even school books. He was everyone’s hero then and he radiated promises for a better nation, in sync with his 1962 vision. 

“Africa must revert to what it was before the imperialists divided it. These are artificial divisions which we, in our pan-African concept, will seek to remove.”

As school children, we were impatient to be chosen to attend the 21st February movement to celebrate Mugabe’s birthdate. 

It was a moment for a feast, to be merry, and later declared a yearly holiday. Mugabe’s name became sacred, elevated, as places, streets were retitled after him, after his gallant exploits. 

Nobody mentioned any other political party besides the ruling party, it was taboo. 

My parents were invited to a jacket and tie fetes to conclude his excellence’s birthday at exclusive hotels. On offer were cognacs, imported winery, and lobster platters. 

Every April 18, our Independence Day, we assembled in respective party districts, provinces to observe the day, led by the ruling party. 

Each family contributed to the cause financially, materially. Or otherwise.

Spurs of confrontation were ignited later in the early 1980s. There were pockets of rebellion around the second city. Dissidents, they were branded. Dissidents we called them. And dissidents had to die, Mugabe persuaded us.

Mugabe pledged to crash any potential rebellion. The tone had shifted. The mood was now sour. Unity was at stake. His power base was at stake, too. 

An estimated 20,000 were excusably exterminated. We had entered another war phase. They were insurgents bent on fathoming confusion, we were assured. 

But the real recipe for retaining power was yet to erupt, this was just the initiation. And when it did, it resonated for decades under the leadership of Mugabe who had earlier promised to unite us all, and we had naively urged him on.

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