On April 18 1980, Rufaro Stadium, Harare at the inaugural Independence Day celebrations, Tanzania’s president Julius Nyerere, addressing the public, advised President Robert Mugabe not to destroy the “jewel economy” of Africa.
Holding the microphone for “Mwalimu” (Swahili for teacher) Nyerere, was Emmerson Mnangagwa — at the time state security minister and one of Mugabe’s most trusted allies.
There was euphoria in the air. With black majority rule many wished for jobs, peace and economic growth. However, for 37 years Mugabe had his share of economic, human rights and democratic ruin.
Then the man who held the microphone, Mnangagwa came into power through a military coup in November 2017.
With Nyerere and Mugabe both deceased, Zimbabwe seems to be continuously moving backwards into political intolerance, corruption and a failing economy, with a few regional peers openly trying to direct Mnangagwa in the right direction.
But celebrating his fourth Independence Day since coming into power, President Mnangagwa’s theme is: “Zimbabwe at 41 — Together, Growing our Economy for a Prosperous, Resilient and Inclusive Society”.
With annual inflation positioned at 220%, high unemployment and gross human rights violations, in an interview broadcast on state television on Saturday night, Mnangagwa insisted that he has so far done well under the “second republic” to improve the country.
“When the second republic came, there were so many challenges. It was necessary that if we had to bring about prosperity certain things had to be done. Painful or not painful it was necessary for us to introduce measures that made us unpopular, but we knew that the fruits of that process will bring about prosperity and recovery of our economy,” he said.
Top of the list of his achievements he said was the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar, which he said was “stabilising”, addressing fuel shortages, electricity generation for industry and fighting corruption.
Happy Independence Day Zimbabwe 🇿🇼
41 years ago, our great nation broke free from colonial rule. Today we come together not only to honour our past, but to celebrate our future.
I have no doubt that through the genius and passion of our people, Zimbabwe shall rise once again!
— President of Zimbabwe (@edmnangagwa) April 18, 2021
But fuel is still sold in foreign currency and there’s hardly any sold in local dollars as the economy continues to reject them.
Novelist Tsitsi Dangarembwa in an interview with the BBC painted a different picture.
“We are living at the very edge of survival ... anything that is available to us to improve the quality of our lives is something we are willing to give something for,” she said.
During the week leading to Independence Day, the regime’s signature suppression tool of abduction and torture of opposition members was reactivated.
Activists Lengwani Mavhunga and Munyaradzi Mafararikwa were assaulted while in police detention facing charges of obstructing or endangering free movement of persons or traffic after they attended the court case of the MDC Alliance’s vice chair, Job Sikhala.
Zim@41 Saluting our struggle veterans for the sacrifice.Independence was a product of citizens’ convergence for a liberation promise.Lets make the promise a reality. A great Zimbabwe is loading.The fight for freedom is continuous.Blessed Independence Day Zimbabwe. #GreatZimbabwe
— nelson chamisa🇿🇼 (@nelsonchamisa) April 18, 2021
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the two were tortured in custody and Mavhunga was “sprayed with a white substance” which has since burnt his face.
But for the president, the blame should be placed on opposition leader Nelson Chamisa who disputes the July 2018 presidential election results.
The state media called Chamisa “an errant child” who the president said should “cut the umbilical cord with America”.
Mnangagwa said because of Chamisa, people have died and property has been vandalised in his quest for political power with the help of foreign powers.
Home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe this week accused foreign organisations alleged to be funding the MDC Alliance and civic groups of criminality.
“Local and internationally-based organisations who are providing funding through individuals and the so-called civic organisations’ proxies are duly warned to stop fomenting disorder in the country and will be held accountable for any criminal acts perpetrated by groups who are obviously bidding for opposition political parties in the country,” he said.
Zimbabwe will hold its next general elections in 2023 and Mnangagwa is confident of victory, “based on the work that we are doing and the positive reception that we receive from the people of Zimbabwe”.