Zimbabweans on Monday commemorated Africa Day with calls for transparent leadership, economic empowerment of the poor and more political freedom.
The majority of people marked the day, celebrated each year on May 25th to commemorate the inception of the Organization of African Unity, at their homes while others attended several political functions in Harare and Bulawayo arranged by Zanu PF and independent groups.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 the OAU played a crucial role in the liberation of Zimbabwe and other countries from colonial rule and as a result local people should wholeheartedly commemorate Africa Day.
Gumbo said, “We witnessed quite a number of people gathered talking about the freedom of Africa. There were lots of commentaries made by various intellectuals, leaders of various organizations churches and so forth because it’s a very important day to Africa and Zimbabwe as a whole.
“The OAU played a critical role in the liberation of countries in the southern African region and to that extent we attach great importance to Africa Day.”
Director Roderick Fayayo of the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association argued that only the elite are enjoying freedom in Zimbabwe and other African nations.
“In terms of the OAU and vision it’s worth celebrating but there are a number of things that have not been done that make us wonder if we should celebrate this day.
“For instance if you look around Africa and look at the high level of poverty, the levels of dictatorship and look at the way the elite have been able to amass wealth at the expense of the ordinary people, I think for me those are issues that raise questions when it comes to celebrating Africa Day,” said Fayayo.
Political scientist Professor Shadreck Guto of the University of South Africa said African countries’ political and economic freedom has been crippled by neo-colonialism.
Professor Guto said, “We are dealing with a new phase of neo-colonialism where the same countries that colonialized us remained in terms of companies, transnational corporations controlling the economies of the countries and their leaders continuously pretending to be giving us aid when that is to just suit the plunder that they continue to carry out on the continent.
“ … And leaders who tried after independence to be independent some were assassinated, coups were held to remove them and so on but we are in a new era where people are trying to use at least on the main the ballot box to change governments.”
Professor Guto also said the continent continues to witness political upheavals “as we still have problems of rebels and military coups but there are not as much as they used to be in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.”
The OAU was formed in 1963 primarily to cater for the liberation of African nations that were occupied by colonial settlers. The organization is now known as the African Union.