Zimbabwe: A gloomy independence day for a former African jewel

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Zimbabwe commemorates 30 years of independence on Sunday, but the
festive mood has been dampened by United Nations announcement on
Friday that the country’s humanitarian crisis is escalating with
another poor harvest projected.

The celebrations will be held under the theme “A shared vision in defence of our independence and sovereignty”. President Mugabe who critics say has “ruthlessly” ruled Zimbabwe without interruption since it won independence 30 years ago will tomorrow preside over the celebrations in Harare.

Independence Day in Zimbabwe is usually celebrated by a rally of Zanu-PF
faithful in a stadium, a military display and a speech by Mugabe, in which he usually tilts at the West.

Saturday, an all-night concert in the capital would be held and a Jamaican reggae singer Sizzla Kalonji has been hired to perform.

On April 18, 1980 Bob Marley held in concert in Harare and Prince Charles came to watch the British flag lowered for the last time.

But for many Zimbabweans reeling under the decade-long economic collapse of the former breadbasket of southern Africa, it will likely be just another day.

Crisis ahead

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian coordinator in Zimbabwe Elizabeth Lwanga appealed to the international world to assist the former British colony.

“Unfortunately, in 2010 we have so far been confronted with serious cuts in funding. As of today, the CAP (Consolidated Appeal Process) is funded at 26 per cent, an all-time low in the history of CAP in Zimbabwe,” she said, adding; “It is clear that humanitarian assistance is still urgently required.”

A joint government and United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation crop assessment report released in March urged Harare to start emergency food relief programmes to areas that have been affected by drought, while 500 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize should be set aside annually to mitigate any food deficits.

Mugabe is accused of turning one of the most beautiful and bountiful lands in Africa into a disaster zone that mixes corruption, mismanagement, violence and human rights violations on a scale that almost ranks alongside some of the worst on the continent.

On Friday before he jetted out to Malawi, he apologized to teachers for continued low pay, “To the teachers, it is with regret and apologies that your reward has been nothing but a mere pittance; not worthy to be called salaries at all but just allowances.

Robert Mugabe was once a teacher.

A liability

Analysts in Zimbabwe say there is little to celebrate on Sunday.

“The first 10 years of his rule were fruitful and he was well-loved across the world and credited for bringing democracy, improved education and health facilities and investment coming to Zimbabwe,” political analyst Takavafira Zhou said.

“He has overstayed and he is now a liability both to his party and to the country. People want jobs and better lives. The essence of good governance is you make life easy for the people, but Mugabe has nothing to offer the people now.”

Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe is quoted saying that between 1980 to the early 1990s Zimbabwe was full of promise.

“The graph showed an upward trend for the first 10 years, goes flat for the next decade and the next decade was a nightmare which many would not want to relive,” he said.

But the economic downturn began in 1997, when Mugabe gave in to pressure from war veterans waging violent protests for pensions, reports say.

Average life expectancy is only 45, down from 61 in the 1980s.

But on Sunday Zimbabweans will listen to speeches about the jewel their nation was, remember the polls that freed them, and brace for new elections that could come as early as next year.

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