18 April 1980 looked like one big party. In fact, from the video footage that’s played on repeat as Independence Day draws closer, 1980 in general looked like one big party. It’s understandable: after almost a century of colonial rule and war, majority rule was reality. Even Bob Marley came to celebrate with us! Which other country can say that the reggae legend penned and performed a whole song for them?
I often wonder about the people captured in those videos. Their carefree smiles, the way they walked down the street in confidence – streets that they weren’t able to walk down before. What happened to them? When did that exuberance become despair, anger, then resignation? After all, they’re the generation that witnessed everything: Ian Smith’s government, the Second Chimurenga, Independence Day, then the slow descent into the Zimbabwe of 2018.
It’s painful to watch those videos from 1980, seeing such hope for a brighter future, only to arrive at that future and find their dreams turn to dust.
As a country, we’ve been through the highs and the lows. Colonisation. Oppressive racial rule. Struggle. Liberation. Freedom. Black empowerment. Censorship. Fear. No money. No jobs. It’s painful to watch those videos from 1980, seeing such hope for a brighter future, only to arrive at that future and find their dreams turn to dust.
Daring to hope
But here’s the funny thing about hope: it’s incredibly difficult to shake off. Even when there seem to be no prospects on the horizon, hope sneaks up on you and takes hold. And so even now, after over 20 years of countrywide decline, I have hope. I have hope because I think of the people in those videos. They were young, in their 20s – just like I am. They’d hoped and prayed for a day where freedom would come. At times it must have felt like it would never come. They were fighting against near impossible odds, against a system that resisted change. They were fighting to reclaim their future and the opportunity to build a life for themselves in their country.
Hope assures me that this is not the only Zimbabwe I will ever know
They had hope, and on 18 April 1980, their hopes were realised. It was not an easy or short journey to Independence, but it happened. So I have hope and faith that one day, Zimbabwe will get back on its feet. Hope is powerful because it’s a rejection of present circumstances. It lets you look beyond the despair of the present and envision a better reality. Hope assures me that this is not the only Zimbabwe I will ever know. That’s what Independence Day should symbolise: not grandstanding or political rhetoric, but a validation and realisation of hope. Because if no one back then had hope that independence from colonial rule would become reality, where would Zimbabwe be now?
Header image sourced from John Mauluka
Photos in collage sourced from NewZimbabawe and Stan Winer.