We greet you all on this 41st anniversary of the dawn of independence in our country.
On April 18, 2021, we commemorate 41 years since the attainment of independence and as the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition; we join the nation in these commemorations.
We must reflect on the journey before and after independence to take stock of the gains brought about by the attainment of independence.
Today we are celebrating the heroic struggles waged by gallant men and women who understood that freedom could not be given to them as a gift. They knew it had to be relentlessly fought for and achieved.
We, therefore, pay tribute to all the ordinary men and women of our country who contributed in various ways to the attainment of freedom.
As we commemorate Independence, we would like to make a call for Zimbabwe to return to full compliance with modern statecraft by implementing comprehensive electoral, social, economic and political reforms. Such reforms must be undergirded by a firm commitment to return to political legitimacy and the restoration of Constitutionalism.
Therefore, Zimbabweans across societal cleavages (political, religious, civic, business and labor) must engage in collective dialogue on the fundamental challenges facing the country and fashion a shared vision that moves the country forward towards democratization and away from the twin crises of poor governance and illegitimacy.
Building from the different capacity strengths the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition will this year convene a national convention that will develop a road map for national reforms and stir the country towards a democratic transition.
This allows for CSOs and other non-state actors to determine the agenda for transformation in Zimbabwe and further strengthen a national resolve by non-state actors to demand a Transitional Roadmap ahead of the 2023 elections stirring the country towards a credible, free and fair election.
Critical to this platform will be the development of the Terms of Reference for the national convergence, development and launch of a national political advocacy campaign and a Transitional Roadmap. The convention will be attended by delegates from across the different interests groups in Zimbabwe and will make reference to the People’s Charter of 2006 as a foundation document that defines the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.
I would like to revisit the famous quote from the late former President, Robert Mugabe who in March 1980 said, “Peace and stability can only be achieved if all of us, first as individuals and secondly as part of the whole Zimbabwe national community feel a definite sense of individual security on the one hand and have an assurance of national peace and security on the other.”
It is evident from this speech that there was a realization that nation-building and development should be anchored on peace and stability but events that later unfolded following this famous speech by the late former President revealed a departure from the founding ethos and values of a united, peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation.
The determination by ZANU PF to create a one-party state led to state terror against perceived opponents of the party.
We remember with great sorrow and sadness the Gukurahundi Massacres in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces which led to the deaths of an estimated 20 000 civilians (between 1983-1987) as Zanu PF sought to create a one-party state.
The Gukurahundi massacres also dealt a huge blow to the concept of nation building and marked the beginning of state-sponsored terror against civilians.
A spate of state-sanctioned acts of terror followed the Gukurahundi massacres as well when the ruling party, Zanu PF resorted to the use of terror to consolidate political power.
The state deployed the military against civilians, resorted to abductions, torture and killing of perceived opponents, denied food aid to perceived opponents, resorted to rape, arbitrary arrests and detention of political opponents among other terror tactics.
These acts of terror by the State not only worked against nation-building but also worked against the concept of patriotism as the State sought to impose its concept of patriotism on citizens. This concept was anchored on allegiance to Zanu PF.
Following the formation of Zimbabwe’s main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, the State responded with brute force in attempts to decimate and silence the opposition.
Resultantly, opposition activists and civic society activists working to promote respect for human rights and democracy fell victim to State brutality.
Arbitrary arrests, rape, torture and murder of opposition and civic society activists was perpetrated by Zanu PF militia groups with the aid of security forces and war veterans loyal to the ruling party.
The nation remembers with sadness the death of more than 200 opposition supporters during the bloody 2008 runoff election as Zanu PF sought to silence the opposition.
Electoral theft, violence and state-sponsored brutality became Zanu PF major tools to cling to power.
This was compounded by a series of rights violations that were being perpetrated by the State such as Operation Murambatsvina which led to displacements and loss of livelihoods.
The State continued to respond with brute force to genuine calls for political and economic reforms from suffering Zimbabweans.
Corruption and plunder of national resources by the political elite worsened the already dire situation for Zimbabweans. A lot of high profile corruption cases remain unresolved up to now.
It is therefore, imperative for the government to arrest the economic downturn in Zimbabwe based on a clear reform roadmap and implementation of pro-poor and inclusive economic policies. Efforts at economic transformation, stabilization and growth should be aimed at achieving inclusive sustainable economic growth and development.
After the late former President, Robert Mugabe was deposed from power through a military coup disguised as ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ in 2017 there were promises of a new dispensation but again, events that later unfolded proved otherwise.
The 2017 military coup implied that Zimbabwe had been plunged into a constitutional crisis.
There was an intensification of the military's involvement in the country's political affairs against the dictates of the country's constitution.
The military was heavily involved in the 2018 elections which largely failed the credibility test. Following protests by disgruntled citizens against electoral theft in August 2018, the State unleashed the military and about 7 protestors were shot in cold blood.
After this, the State also unleashed the army against citizens protesting against the continued economic decline in the country and a total of 12 deaths were recorded.
Cases of abductions, torture and rape were also recorded.
It is unfortunate that Zimbabwe is commemorating 41 years since the attainment of independence at a time when the democratic space continues to shrink while the State is making frantic efforts to criminalize civic society work through draconian legislation such as the Patriotic Bill.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also issued threats to descend on civic society organisations critical to his regime and this in essence is an attempt to erode the gains brought about by the attainment of independence.
Through the weaponization of the judiciary, the so-called new dispensation has failed the democratic test as evidenced by the continued persecution of the opposition and civil society activists.
At the moment around 11 opposition activists are incarcerated on flimsy charges.
The State has also made deliberate attempts to disregard the will of the people by choosing to amend the 2013 constitution before its full implementation. The amendments are an attempt to consolidate political power.
Authoritarianism means that the people of Zimbabwe are independent but not free. Nation building has suffered a huge blow due to the pre-occupation by the ruling party to entrench political power at all costs.
It is in this regard that we prefer the term commemoration rather than a celebration of independence.
State-sponsored terror, corruption, electoral theft, party-state conflation and militarization of key state institutions, unequal distribution of national resources among other ills have eroded the gains of independence.
The majority of our people are still economically disempowered and are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation.
The level of inequality remains high.
As Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we shall continue with our efforts to achieve a democratic and economically developed Zimbabwe.
As we reflect on our Independence we cherish the critical role that our neighbours played in supporting Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, democracy and human rights. We therefore, would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the people of Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, with a special mention to Mozambique.
We recall with gratitude that Mozambique at one point closed its borders with the then Southern Rhodesia, in compliance with a United Nations resolution to end minority rule in Zimbabwe. The great leaders of Mozambique, including Samora Machel, clearly realized that, although Mozambique was the first country in southern Africa to gain independence in June 1975, it could not be truly independent without freedom in its neighbours including Zimbabwe and South Africa.
We are forever grateful of the solidarity and unparalleled support that we have enjoyed as a people from the times of the liberation struggles against colonialism to the time of attaining independence. This is the kind of solidarity that we should give to the people of Mozambique in these difficult times because of the insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
And in this light we call upon the government of Zimbabwe and SADC to immediately establish the Mozambique Humanitarian Fund to assist the displaced people and those in need of food, clothes and shelter as a result of the insurgency.
As the nation commemorates Independence Day, we implore the State to uphold the values of constitutional democracy and respect citizens’ fundamental rights.
The State must lay the ground for nation-building and this should be anchored on respect for the constitution as well as genuine reconciliation processes to heal the wounds inflicted by atrocities such as Gukurahundi, the bloody 2008 election violence among other acts of terror by the State.
As Zimbabwe commemorates 41 years of Independence, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition pays tribute to living and fallen heroes of the struggle for an independent Zimbabwe and in the same vein, we also pay tribute to champions of democracy who fell victim to state brutality post the colonial era.
May their souls rest in eternal peace.
I thank you.
Watch video of the speech here