Tomorrow marks the 26th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain. President Robert Mugabe's government is said to be planning huge celebrations throughout the country. This come as millions of Zimbabweans struggle to survive in an economy that has shrunk nearly 40% over the past eight years. Mr. Mugabe blames foreign and domestic opponents: he says they have sabotaged his country's economy because they object to his land reforms. The Zimbabwean leader says his land redistribution program has been necessary to redress ownership imbalances caused by colonialism.
John Macumbe is an associate professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe. In an interview with English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje, Macumbe describes the mood among Zimbabweans on the eve of their independence anniversary. “Unfortunately it is very gloomy, because the majority of Zimbabweans cannot afford most of the basic necessities of life and doesn’t seem to be any prospect for productive change in the near future.” He says the economic difficulties are “essentially making people look at this independence as a non-event.”
The Mugabe government encourages Zimbabweans to put aside their hardships and celebrate their independence anniversary with a sense of pride. Macumbe says that idea is a minority viewpoint among Zimbabweans. “In fact,” he says, “there are a number of articles in the local media comparing us today with the period before independence, and saying we were probably better off before 1980 than we are today. That is a serious indictment of the current Mugabe regime.”
Macumbe says perhaps the one thing most Zimbabweans agree has been achieved in 26 years of independence is “the Zimbabwean passport.” He says this allows people to travel outside and look for greener pastures, to buy food and bring it back home.” “Apart from this,” he says, “ I cannot think of much else.”