Watch Nyasha Karo Mutizwa’s full report
April 18, 1980, marked the end of British rule in Africa but more importantly the birth of a new nation called Zimbabwe. The British Union Jack was replaced by the green, yellow, red, black, white and the Zimbabwe bird symbolizing peace, agriculture, minerals, the blood shed during the two Chimurenga wars and the black majority race became the country’s flag.
At independence Tanzania’s former president Julius Nyerere told Robert Mugabe that he had inherited the ‘‘jewel of Africa’‘, encouraging him to take care of it. And in the early years he brilliantly did so! The nation experienced an explosive boom and by 1997 it was recognised as the fastest growing economy on the continent, earning the honorary title of ‘‘breadbasket of Africa’‘.
Everyone wanted to get their hands on the home of the Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world at the time including famous celebrities. In 1998, Michael Jackson, the “king of pop” visited the nation for a secret business meeting with Robert Mugabe.
So how did a country so loved and so revered, go from the breadbasket of Africa, to the basket case of the continent? Well it began as a result of Mugabe’s so called “Land Reform Programme” resulting in the violent seizure of most of the country’s 5,000 white-owned farms. This reform was ostensibly done to give back the country’s arable lands back to the black majority. The reality was that most of these were given to Mugabe’s cronies.
As monies disappeared, voices were repressed, Mugabe continued to win elections. As opposition MDC fought the government, production rates depleted leading to the record hyperinflation and cash crisis. At its peak Zimbabweans moved around with 100 trillion dollar banknotes .That’s 14 zeros, for those counting!
Its impossible to speak of these 40 years without making mention of Grace Mugabe or “Gucci Grace”, as she was often referred to by many Zimbabweans owing to her lavish spending. The wife of the late former president, went from typist to first lady to phd graduate in a record breaking 3 months. She also nursed presidential ambitions. An ambition that ultimately led to Mugabe’s fall.
Despite the southern African nation’s well-documented crisis, it has chalked some notable successes that somehow seem to miss the headlines. Zimbabwe’s education has retained its ranking among the best in Africa with a literacy rate of 89%. The nation also boasts of 8 olympic medals, most of them won olympian and current Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry…And music. The implementation of the 100% local music policy in the early 2000’s led to major advancements in the local ‘Urban Grooves’, ‘Sungura’ genres and pushed the platform for one of the nation’s and Africa’s biggest exports – the late musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi…
As Zimbabwe celebrates 40 years of statehood, some questions still remain. Questions of justice.. justice for brutally repressed activists like Itai Dzamara abducted in 2015 to this day remains “missing”. Justice for the victims of rape and human rights atrocities committed in the lead up to several contested elections. But above all, answers for the families of the victims of Gukurahundi – the genocidal war of the 80s that left over 25,000 people dead mainly from the Ndebele tribe.
40 — the number of years taken by the Biblical children of Israel to reach the promised land… For the children of Zimbabwe the journey continues…@NyashaKMutizwa