By Prince Tongogara
Harare, April 17, 2014 – Zimbabwe turns 34 on Thursday after gaining its independence from the colonial British regime and the planned celebrations take one back to the old adage – the more the things change, the more they remain the same.
For the 34th time, President Robert Mugabe will give a keynote address at a football pitch. The emphasis in his speeches could vary as they have over the years but to a discerning audience – his theme has largely remained the same archaic one – Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again.
Mugabe has become Zimbabwe. He has straddled over the nation’s history for close to two generations since he assumed the mantle to lead the liberation struggle in Mozambique. Since then, his legacy is synonymous with Zimbabwe’s triumphs and losses. He has seen it all but forgot to leave the stage to give a new impetus to new politics and new visions.
For 34 years the country has remained steeped in the war mode, trying to solve our problems as if we are still in 1980 when the world was still bipolar – cleanly divided between the East and West. In that time warp, the Zanu PF government continues to fiddle while the economy regresses and a whole generation has never known any other leader besides Mugabe. This is a whole generation that has been locked out of the political discussions and decision-making as they wait for the older generation to exit the stage.
After the chaotic land reform and economic empowerment programmes, the majority of Zimbabweans still remain outside the mainstream economic activities while a small, new black elite – the noveau rich – has developed in a fashion that replicates the colonial era.
The big liberation struggle questions still remain unanswered. Can Zimbabwe take a new socio-economic trajectory? Is Zanu PF ready for leadership renewal as opposed to succession? (Succession is simply taking over without making significant structural changes while renewal is having a new distinct structurally different leadership with a defined new vision and economic model for the country.)
Mugabe and his government over the years have remained on the same political-economic paradigm despite that their claimed ally China renews its leadership every decade. This renewal has given China a new economic impetus and a positive international relations compass.
It remains a moot case that Mugabe, one way or the other despite his liberation credentials, social programmes and pan-Africanism, has failed in this one great respect – to lay a foundation or even encourage leadership renewal.
It is unfortunate that that this same weakness has become pervasive in Zimbabwe – in opposition politics and even in some public and private enterprises. There has been no significant change in the political leadership and company boardrooms for the past 20 years.
One can safely conclude, as the southern African country celebrates its 34th anniversary of independence, that Zimbabwe has been caught in a time warp, living in its own bubble that sooner or later will burst with devastating effects for the country. Renewal could be a new word in our politics, economics and social lives or soon it becomes a country of old men and women.