Nationwide festivities are underway in Zimbabwe as the country marks 26 years of independence from British rule. The anniversary comes with many Zimbabweans feeling they have little to celebrate as they face severe economic hardships. Unemployment exceeds 70%, and the inflation rate is the highest in the world – over 900%. The government's violent seizure of white-owned farms in recent years has also led to food shortages. President Robert Mugabe defends the transfer of farms to blacks as necessary to correct imbalances in ownership caused by colonialism.
William Nara is the secretary of information for the Harare region of the ruling party, ZANU-PF. He told English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje the turnout for today’s celebrations was “wonderful and very much encouraging.” Nara says he disagrees with economically disadvantaged Zimbabweans who say they have nothing to celebrate on this occasion. He makes the analogy that “even in an individual’s life, there are ups and downs. But that doesn’t stop an individual from celebrating his birthday.” The ZANU-PF official says, “That’s what we have done. We have celebrated our 26 years of independence in spite of the hardships. The people that turned out, they do understand the situation we are facing.”
Nara lists three things he says his government has achieved over the past 26 years. “The first one will be the universal high-quality education we have provided for our Zimbabwean population. Secondly, we have managed to provide health care. It is not up to the standard we want, but people are able to access services within about ten kilometers from their rural areas. The third major issue is that we fought for this country, we fought for the land. And through constitutional amendment, we managed to return the land back to its indigenous black people.”
The ZANU-PF official says, “What makes us especially proud is that the majority of our young people are proud to be Zimbabweans. That’s why they continue defending the independence that their parents or themselves died for.”