By Eunice Masunungure
ON April 18 2021, Zimbabwe is celebrating its 41st birthday still under sanctions from the US and the West.
Independence Day marked the end of racial discrimination and enabled the restoration of land to Zimbabweans.
When the Union Jack was lowered, the Eternal Flame lit and the Zimbabwean flag raised, it was the beginning of a new era of empowerment of the locals.
It was the beginning of yet another journey for Zimbabweans to determine their own destiny as President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in his 2020 virtual speech, engendered by COVID-19 restrictions.
“Independence is about determining our own fate and choosing to take our destiny into our hands,” he said.
Indeed, independence became the reward for the historical pain of the loss of children, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers who never came back from the liberation struggle.
It set itself up as a condition in which Zimbabweans exercise self-governance and sovereignty over their territory.
President Mnangagwa is on record saying: “(We) became a self-governing people after nearly a century of settler-colonial rule; a sovereign nation born out of protracted armed struggle.
As we celebrate this important milestone in our history, let us not forget those who started the journey, the thousands of gallant freedom fighters who lost limbs.
All of them made sacrifices so that we can today stand tall, as masters of our own destiny; a free people in our own land.
May our children and grand-children always enjoy freedom, while defending their rich cultural heritage and working hard, in unity, for an ever prosperous future.”
Turning to sanctions, it is important to note that illegal sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe by the US, the UK and the EU following her decision to embark on the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
Before the programme, a paltry 4 000 white farmers owned the country’s prime land, but after it’s implementation, over 400 000 black households got land.
The US, which deems itself ‘big brother’ in world politics, also influenced other international stakeholders to take a similar position against Zimbabwe.
The UK imposed unilateral sanctions on some members of Zimbabwe’s Government upon its exit from the EU.
No doubt sanctions dampen Zimbabweans’ outlook for empowerment and prosperity ushered by independence and being spearheaded by President Mnangagwa.
After the Pioneer Column colonised the country in September 1890, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was run as a company and only became a country with a Government on October 1 1923.
Black people were dehumanised and not allowed to vote.
The colonisers confiscated their lands and homes, enslaved them and suppressed their culture, while at the same time exterminating large portions of their populations.
Laws like the Animal Husbandry Act and the Land Apportionment Act entrenched white supremacy.
Whites dispossessed blacks of their fertile land and chased them to dry areas known as reserves.
Whites got huge farms and protected land rights through title deeds such that their land became private property and the trespassing laws were invoked against blacks.
Education for blacks was streamlined and the curriculum was only sufficient to enable a chosen few to take instructions, while racism reached unimaginable levels.
Need for reparations
According to Anna Dunham (2012) in Should there be Reparations to Post Colonial States: “The achievement of independence did not bring an end to the unequal economic, social and political structures that were established under colonial rule.”
The Abuja Proclamation (2011) also argues: “There is a unique and unprecedented moral debt owed to the African peoples which has yet to be paid — the debt of compensation to the Africans as the most humiliated, exploited people of the last four centuries of modern history.”
Zimbabwe was born out of a bloody fight against the British and over the years the subject of reparations has been raised.
Zimbabweans have not forgotten the genocide committed by Rhodesians at Chimoio, Nyadzonia and Chifombo, among other camps, during the liberation war.
In celebrating this year’s independence, lest we forget!