35 years ago, we collectively said goodbye to Rhodesia and introduced a new, independent country into the world – Zimbabwe. The joy, hope and positivity of a peoples who finally had achieved majority rule was palpable. From the stories I’ve heard from my parents and older relatives, it was the zenith of their national pride and patriotism. For them, 1980 will forever remain a beautiful memory, that moment when we hoisted the Zimbabwe flag for the first time. Bob Marley even celebrated with us – how many countries can say that the great reggae legend wrote a song for them?
More than three decades later, and that flag is still up high. However, with a large percentage of Zimbabweans under the age of 30, does Independence resonate with them? Not having gone through the experience of the liberation wars, not witnessing the country transform into a republic, could colour their perceptions of Independence Day, and whether it’s really anything to celebrate. For a young Zimbabwean living outside the country, what does Independence mean?
As a Law student at Rhodes University, Tatenda feels now more than ever, Zimbabwe is a presence in Africa and the world. “We’re everywhere”, she says, as Zimbabweans have spread all over the world, leaving their mark. And it’s thanks to Independence that many people like her have the chance to pursue their dreams, get an education, and be proud of Zimbabwe’s history, resilience, and determination.
Half Ndebele and half Shona, Sarah has a deep connection to her country and its culture. She is proud that 35 years on Zimbabwe is still independent, but that there hasn’t been much progress. “I don’t know if we’re moving forward or backward.” Sarah is fiercely patriotic, with a large Zimbabwe flag hanging over her bed, but is unsure as to what exactly victories gained in 1980 have improved life in 2015.
Richard is currently studying for his third degree, a Masters degree in Business. For him, he couldn’t be where he is now were it not for the sacrifices that people before him made. He’s grateful for the men and women that decided to change an unjust system to provide equal opportunities for all, without discrimination. “The life that I have now, the opportunities that I have now, have been secured for.”
As a young Zimbabwean studying outside of the country, Rangarirai is well aware that were it not for Independence, he wouldn’t be where he is now. He has nothing but absolute respect for the people that fought for liberation, and hopes that Independence Day is never devalued or unappreciated. “We have been uplifted by our forefathers, and we’re really grateful for that.”
There are many other young Zimbabweans out there, with views, opinions and criticism of Independence. Nonetheless, they are proud of their country, and proud to be called Zimbabwean. So as we celebrate 35 years of Independence, let us recall what it took for us to get here, and what we can learn from Independence to shape our future.