The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on April 15, 2021, hosted a virtual public discussion to commemorate 41 years since Zimbabwe attained Independence.
The meeting was held under the theme “Zim @41: Unpacking a Progressive Approach Towards a Nation-State”.
Renowned academic, Professor Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu gave the keynote address during the meeting.
Professor Ndlovu noted with regret that 41 years after the end of colonial rule, Zimbabwe is failing to make progress towards nation-building and has failed to realize the gains of independence.
He highlighted that after the attainment of independence in 1980, there was no clear blueprint in terms of nation-building and the focus by political leaders has been rather on consolidating political power at the expense of national interests.
Professor Ndlovu said that Zimbabwe missed a number of opportunities that could have provided the foundation for the building of a united and peaceful nation after the attainment of independence.
“When the nationalists came back from Zambia, Mozambique in 1980, they did not come back as a united front. They came back fragmented. The other opportunity we missed during that early period was the integration of the armed forces into the Zimbabwe National Army. I think that was going to be an important lever of nation-building if we had handled it with care,” said Professor Ndlovu.
He noted with concern that the pursuit of a one-party state by Zanu PF in the 1980s worked against efforts at nation-building and fragmented the nation.
According to Professor Ndlovu, efforts towards nation-building were dealt a huge blow by the Gukurahundi massacres (from 1983-1987) which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 20 000 civilians as Zanu PF embarked on a campaign to consolidate power and create a one-party state.
He added that it is imperative to address the issue of Gukurahundi as part of efforts towards nation-building.
The Gukurahundi massacres marked the beginning of state-sponsored terror against civilians, a trend that continues up to date; according to Professor Ndlovu.
“When we think about nation-building, we need to go back to the issue of Gukurahundi. The open veins of Gukurahundi offer a rallying point to bring the nation-building project on the agenda. By making it a Matabeleland problem, we are giving the perpetrators an escape route from accountability and minimizing its foundational negative consequences for governance and the nation.
“We cannot be spectators once again, if not complicit once more on an issue which has now engulfed the entire nation. We must take the issue of Zimbabwe as an ongoing construction by us,” said Professor Ndlovu.
He noted that patriotism should never be forced or imposed on citizens but should rather be as a result of a proper nation-building exercise as well as respect for constitutionalism.
‘Where the nation-building project has been abandoned, there is no nationalism and patriotism. A state that terrorizes the nation cannot cultivate, let alone expect patriotism. We have to make sure that the 2013 constitution is alive and made the basis of our political conduct” said Professor Ndlovu.
He implored the government of Zimbabwe to take a leaf from South Africa’s Freedom Charter developed in 1955 which speaks to the concept of nation-building.
Speaking at the same meeting, Academic, Tamuka Chirimambowa bemoaned the events that unfolded since Zimbabwe attained independence disqualifies the country from being labeled a nation. He also expressed concern that over the years, Zanu PF has consistently derailed efforts towards nation-building.
“We have an unfinished business of nation-building. The fact that nation-building was not resolved created the ground for rights violations and forced patriotism. The Unity Accord and the Government of National Unity were more about power consolidation rather than nation-building.
“We should take the issue of Zimbabwe as a concept that has to be brought to its logical conclusion. We need to borrow from the South African Freedom Charter to say Zimbabwe belongs to all who live in it,” said Chirimambowa.
Giving the church’s perspectives on Zimbabwe’s independence during the meeting, the leader of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya said it was unfortunate that 41 years after independence, citizens continue to bear the scars of state brutality.
“We continue to witness corruption, deception, abductions, selective application of the law, and reversal of the gains of the democratic struggle through Parliamentary recalls. The result of all this has been a divided nation and the absence of a unifying vision. There is no nation to talk about because our leadership has failed to rally the nation together,” said Bishop Magaya.
He said nation-building requires truth-telling and restorative justice.
The Director of Zimbabwe Organization of Youth in Politics (ZOYP) Nkosilathi Moyo bemoaned that since the attainment of independence, the government has turned into a fascist regime and this has led to the shrinking of the democratic space in the country. He added that youth inclusion in nation-building is critical.
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) President, Takudzwa Ngadziore said that despite the attainment of independence, the people of Zimbabwe are not yet free.
He called for truth, reconciliation and forgiveness, social and economic reforms, health care for all, and also rallied citizens to join hands in the fight against corruption and abuse of national resources.