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Independence: Betrayal of hope
April 12, 2013
It is a hectic Thursday morning in the sprawling Mbare township
of Harare and the sweltering heat scorches fiercely on the overcrowded
suburb’s residents as the sun rises.
The actual day
is April 11 2013 – yesterday – exactly a week before
Zimbabwe marks the 33rd anniversary of Independence from British
colonial rule but there is nothing in the air to suggest the country
is approaching such a momentous occasion which is only being hyped
in the state-controlled media daily through advertorials and songs.
The people appear
oblivious of Independence Day which has increasingly become a drab
occasion that instead of making them proud of self-rule reminds
them of the ravages of misrule surrounding them.
In place of
joy and expectations about the looming celebrations, the air in
Mbare rather reeks of a suffocating stink of human waste, decaying
garbage and a grating blast of music from squalid apartments whose
trademark is now dilapidation and filth.
Still in their
state of disrepair and griminess, they are homes to peace-loving
and law-abiding Zimbabweans whose dreams of better lives promised
during the liberation struggle have been betrayed and shattered
by their yesteryear liberators.
the air of jubilation and hope which gripped Mbare after President
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF swept to victory in 1980, the situation
in Harare’s most famous township is now a monument to national
and squalor symbolises and reflects shattered dreams and betrayal.
A day before
Independence, Mugabe had promised: “Tomorrow is thus our birthday,
the birth of a great Zimbabwe, and the birth of its nation.”
Even if the
words “Black Empowerment” are inscribed right next to
the Zanu PF mantra of “Unity, Peace and Development”
on the Magaba Flats, the reality inside them speaks of disempowerment,
poverty and suffering. Magaba is part of the collection of dilapidated
flats, including Shawasha and Matapi, where throngs of this township’s
most enterprising yet poor people reside.
stairs, one is almost knocked over by the mad rush of children stampeding
downwards in the opposite direction almost gasping for fresh air
and greater space in the outside world which offers them only false
from a room on the first floor and cascades down below to the basement
where a dreadlocked young man engages in the seemingly futile task
of scooping it away.
Looking at the
lad’s endeavours the visitor immediately recalls the army
of vendors selling wares on every pathway in the township, a common
phenomenon across Zimbabwe.
The young man’s
grim, but vain determination encapsulates the general spirit of
fortitude of millions of Zimbabweans, seemingly abandoned by their
political leaders and left to their own devices to fight herculean
struggles against poverty and squalor.
The young man
is 26-year old Francis Shumba and he has lived in Matapi flats since
1995. Shumba has known no other president since birth except Mugabe
who came to power 33 years ago promising to create a democratic
and prosperous society with equal opportunities for all.
that we have councillors, MPS and a black government,” Shumba
says. “All my life I have only known a black independence
government but I have never seen any one of these top leaders around
this place where I share one room with four other family members.
The only time they come here is when they are being taken to Stodart
Hall in coffins during parades before burial at the Heroes Acre.”
life is a tale of personal struggles and sacrifices.
For him, life
appears “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
– the Hobbesian way. Shumba’s experiences are a microcosm
of the struggles of many ordinary Zimbabweans.
for long periods without water forcing us to rely on one borehole
which we often share with people from Matapi and Shawasha flats.
When the pressure is too much women and children fetch water from
the polluted Mukuvisi River,” Shumba says.
shortages, there are frequent power outages and a general chronic
lack of social service delivery.
From being a
relative prosperous country, Zimbabwe is now wedged in political
instability and economic doldrums. The country has been ruined by
extended periods of political repression and economic mismanagement.
It is nowadays
the Zimbabwe in which, according to the late prolific writer Dambudzo
Marechera, “every morsel of sanity is snatched from you in
the house of hunger”
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