By mentioning places like the National Heroes Acre, Nyadzonia, Wha Wha and Sikombela, Zimbabwe’s state media has tried to sensationalise Independence Day that falls on 18th April. Other countries have these national monuments where they honour the heroes and heroins who sacrificed for their countries like the USA has the Arlington National Cemetery which have gained popularity to rank amongst tourist sites. Zimbabwe has failed to raise our historical sites because of the way ZANU controls and manages the monuments.
Every year, a few select loyalists of the ruling party to go visit shrines like Chimoio. They have turned the shrines into their retreat camps where they regroup periodically to strategize on party policies. The National Heroes Acre is not national in the actual sense. The youth in Zimbabwe view the national shrine as but a burial site for ZANU crooks. It sounds ridiculous when names like Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika who have no documented war credentials are mentioned alongside Jason Moyo and Joshua Nyongolo Nkomo yet ZANU founder Ndabaningi Sithole was denied the hero status.
Independence Day has lost its lustre because the youth who make up >60% of the population are struggling to get the basics. Many youths anxiously watch as their dreams are shattered despite their academic, sport, or artistic talents. With high unemployment and lack of opportunities for income generating projects, youths concentrate on these more pressing issues other than celebrate an event that has been personalized by a select few. It is difficult to create hype around an event where the background history, information, and event organization is left exclusive to a few. Party loyalists use the event to enjoy what the rest of Zimbabwe is lacking.
Easter and related paschal events like Judgment Night have overshadowed this year’s Independence Day because no one can personalize Easter.
As long as government wants to personalize these shrines, we will let them but they should be rest assured that it is them and their fanatics that will attend those ceremonies. There is no reason to create hype around an event where one has to endure either scorching sun or cold winter drizzle packed at the National Sports Stadium for the whole of the official proceedings. It unfathomable to get excited about a happening where the same man says the same rhetoric he has shared for the past 3 decades like a broken record. The attendees return home empty handed, unchanged to reawaken to the harsh realities of poverty that faces them.
To many, Independence Day brought no meaningful changes to their lives. The same oppressive laws and organs that existed before 1980 still exist today. The masters simply changed faces, General Peter Walls and Ian Smith may be gone, but Zimbabweans still feel unsafe in their own country. To many youths, Independence Day is a commemoration of the day when slave master turned black. In the rural areas, local political leaders target civil servants (whom the government underpays) when it comes to fund raising for the event. On the day of this event, the same civil servants are sidelined at the festivities. The day to celebrate freedom is to most the day when the slave master manifests.
Yes, we may try to create hype around the 18th of April and the day deserves as it came after a protracted struggle. However, the way independence (history, celebrations and shrines) has been handled or mishandled has dampened the spirit of most Zimbabweans. The blame is not on the youth for their indifference to the day but on the ZANU PF-led government for treating the event as a party issue.