GWERU, MIDLANDS PROVINCE —
Some Zimbabweans, who were born after the country attained independence, say there is no reason to celebrate on April 18th, as they are currently struggling to make ends meet.
But those that are in the ruling Zanu PF party believe that Zimbabwe has a lot to offer the young generation through the controversial black economic empowerment program and land reforms.
Esnath Ruzara was born in 1981, a year after the Zimbabwe African People's Union then led by Joshua Nkomo, and Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union, liberated the country from British colonial rule.
Ruzara, who earns a living through selling an assortment of goods at Gweru's Mkoba 6 Shopping Center and is among Zimbabweans commonly referred to as born-frees, says it will be business as usual on Independence Day.
“I am indeed aware of the importance of Independence Day and it is also significant to me. But I'll be at work on that day because I am self-employed and I can't take a break from work. I'll commemorate Independence Day but I'll be at work,” says Ruzara.
Another vendor, 35-year-old Judith Ndlovu, will be joining Ruzara at the same flea market, where she also sells goods such as blankets, jackets and similar wares.
Ndlovu says ordinary Zimbabweans and the country's leaders should use Zimbabwe's Independence Day commemorations to resolve issues bedeviling the country.
Thirty-two year-old women's rights activist, Vimbai Chadya, who is also a born-free, agrees. She argues that it is not surprising that most people - especially young women - can no longer find time to commemorate Independence Day as they have to contend with putting food on the table.
“Most women my age are family women, and most of their husbands are out of jobs because of the situation in the country. So the women often take this day to be a day on which they can work as most of them are self-employed. Yes they know it's Independence Day but they take advantage of the holiday to try and help their husbands try to make a little extra money for their families,” says Chadya.
Brian Dube, a lawyer and national spokesperson of the Youth Wing of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai, shares the same views. He says Independence Day commemorations are a big farce for most youths.
“I cannot say there's any born-free in Zimbabwe in the real sense because we are experiencing a new bondage where our liberators have become our oppressors. So what I can tell is that yes, 18th April marks a very important day but it has lost its meaning as a result of the behaviour of our current leaders.”
Dube says he disagrees with the view that Zimbabwe's young generation lacks the capacity to lead in resolving the country's problems.
He says youths are upright and patriotic citizens with many of them having brilliant ideas that can take the country forward. Dube blames the country's leadership, which he says has frustrated the youths through bad governance.
Youthful development, peace and conflict management lecturer at the Zimbabwe Open University, Dydmus Dewa, is surprised that young people have over the years remained resilient and peaceful under challenging times.
But Dosman Mangisi, who is a public relations officer in the Zimbabwe Miners Federation and Zanu PF activist, says instead of moaning about lack of job opportunities, young people should take advantage of land reforms and the country's indigenization program in order to venture into business.
“Youth must not be cry-babies. We see that people who have gone into the small-scale mining sector have done so as a result of economic hardships, but a number of them are doing well there.
"Now I'm challenging youths who are graduate geologists, surveyors, metallurgists and the like to join forces and approach government or us with their skills and they can be assisted to start their own small-scale mining ventures. They can do the same in agriculture or other sectors.”
Some born-frees claim that these programs are only tailor-made for supporters of President Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party and not all 8 million Zimbabwean youths.