The Struggle for a Free Zimbabwe: Whose freedom is it, anyway?

Reading time 5 min.

It is the morning after Robert Mugabe’s wasteful pomp and ceremony disguised as ‘independence celebration’ when the music has died down, euphoria subsided and the stately wine glasses are dry. ZANU-PF fat cats have retired to their expropriated farms while their famished supporters ponder over the source of the next free meal.

The Zimbabwean media, as usual saw things differently. The ZANU-PF
Herald, as expected, is singing the praises of Mugabe, claiming he
received a resounding welcome at the citadel of celebrations, Harare’s
Chinese-built second grade National Sports Stadium. In the rest of its
editorials, there is no reference to the fact that Zimbabweans have
wasted thirty years of their lives in search of true freedom. As with
tradition, The Herald sees no evil in Mugabe except portraying him as
a victim of ‘illegal Western sanctions’; choosing to ignore that his
party is globally known as a purveyor of violence and merchant of

Thanks to advances in technology, there is more objective news than
The Herald can offer in a lifetime. Mugabe’s self-praises of freedom
ring hollow when one considers that thirty years on, his government
presides over some of the harshest media laws in the world. What this
actually means is the man has no morsel of a clue in the difference
between ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. For a man who spent eleven years
in detention, he should know better. While in custody, he was
independent enough to do his own things – bath, eat, exercise and even
study, but he was not a free man. That is my point. I may be
independent from British colonial rule, but definitely not free from
Mugabe’s fascist dictatorship, usually legitimized by, in addition to
the dysfunctional SADC, five-year fake elections.

Both ZANU-PF and fellow liberators ZAPU did most in bringing
independence to Zimbabwe, but Zimbabweans are still not free to
assembly, associate and express themselves. Journalists who work in
the only three ‘free’ newspapers – Standard, Independent and
Zimbabwean – are routinely arrested and intimidated. MDC and civil
society still need police permission to hold public meetings. Thirty
years after ‘independence’, there is only one state-controlled
broadcaster in Zimbabwe. The media graveyard is teeming with
publications and broadcasters that were bullied into closure by
Mugabe’s secret service. Those who are brave enough to broadcast from
abroad are branded pirates, as if ZANU-PF owns the atmosphere. Show me
the freedom, Mr. Mugabe!

In pursuit of more news, I also come across pro-freedom activities by
the restive Zimbabwean Diaspora in England. Political activist Gabriel
Shumba is then quoted as having ‘advised the Diaspora that there must
be rule of law in Zimbabwe before they could safely go home – so they
would be free from harassment, torture and intimidation. …. [He] said
that people could not go home to Zimbabwe to find the perpetrators of
the violence against them were still in place.” My question: if Mugabe
has for the past thirty years subjected Zimbabwe citizens to both
independence and misery, whose responsibility is it to create an
environment “free from harassment, torture and intimidation”?

Unsubstantiated reports are that there are no less than a million
‘productive’ Zimbabwean citizens in the Diaspora. The bulk of this
number is in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Ironically, only
thirty thousand guerrillas combined efforts with villagers to wage a
war of political independence between 1965 and 1979. The reality that
should confront Mr. Shumba and his fellow activists is that there is
no freedom that will come to Zimbabwe through lofty statements and
wishful thinking.

Harassment, torture, violence and intimidation are being perpetrated
by Mugabe and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, so this institution will remain
intact until someone in Zimbabwe participates in reversing the trend.
And who does Mr. Shumba assign that responsibility – to the elderly
parents that he and his fellow Diasporas left in Zimbabwe?

In many ways, this shows the vast difference between pre-independence
‘hands-on activism’ and Mr Shumba’s post independence ‘megaphone’
liberation tactics. Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe put together a
system where fighters actually crossed into Zimbabwe and motivated
villagers to struggle for their rights. I am not so sure how vigils
and candles in London, thirteen thousand kilometres away can possibly
evict Mugabe from state house on Seventh Street, Harare!

My humble submission is that Zimbabweans should forfeit their luxury
at Tottenham Court road London, Bree street Johannesburg and come home
to wage a sustainable struggle for freedom on Seventh Street in
Harare. Just like the red shirts of Bangkok, we want to see clouds of
tear gas and body bags as Zimbabweans fight to reclaim their freedom
from misguided ZANU-PF zealots. There should be no illusion that
freedom comes cheap. We will have to be prepared to starve, get
arrested and possibly die.

It is too late to start blaming Morgan Tsvangirayi and Arthur
Mutambara for ‘defeating the course of freedom in participating in the
government of national unity’. They only did what seemed to be right
then. The forces of emancipation have one foot in the chariot. Imagine
how much critical advantage the movement would have if Mr. Shumba and
the other one million citizens in the Diaspora directly confronted
ZANU-PF this year! Not even talking about mass demonstrations, just
the ballot box itself would give our thirty-year oppressors a fatal
blow. It is a fact that our country’s weak commercial and industrial
base cannot absorb one million citizens all at once, but the longer Mr
Shumba and his colleagues play ‘safe’ vigil, the more difficult it
will be to unseat ZANU-PF. It is better to run the trenches on empty
stomachs for now in preparation for the good times in future. Freedom
is, after all not for so free.

Rejoice Ngwenya is President of Harare-based Coalition for Liberal
Market Solutions and an affiliate of [African Liberty.


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Rejoice Ngwenya is a regular columnist for African Liberty. He is a Zimbabwean Freemarket Activist and Political Analyst based in Harare.
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