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For Zimbabweans, Meaning of Africa Day is in the Eye of the Beholder

Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mawapanga Mwana Nanga of the Democratic Republic of Congo led celebrations in Harare under the theme 'Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development,' which comforted ZANU-PF proponents of indigenizing foreign enterprises

Zimbabweans marked Africa Day on Wednesday in different ways, some lamenting the country’s lack of media diversity, others talking up a black empowerment initiative.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa lamented the absence of independent broadcasting outlets 31 years after independence.

MISA's Zimbabwe chapter said President Robert Mugabe maintains a "stranglehold" on broadcasting in the country at the expense of ordinary Zimbabweans.

The media watchdog said that with just one broadcast station, Zimbabwe lags behind most other African countries in opening the airwaves to free expression.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Africa Day remains important for the country, declaring in a statement that while Zimbabwe has stagnated, hope is not lost with new elections on the horizon.

"To us in Zimbabwe, the day represents a cherished dream," the MDC statement said.

"We fought gallantly against colonialism in a national project whose ideals unfortunately have yet to be realized after a colossal betrayal by an elite we sincerely entrusted with our mandate to help us assume a new identity in the changed circumstances."

The former opposition party continued: "Our African culture is clear and unambiguous: we celebrate our diversity; dialogue and democracy; we see our differences as invaluable sources of strength; and love peace and security."

In official observations in Harare, Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mawapanga Mwana Nanga of the Democratic Republic of Congo led celebrations under the theme “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.”

Youth and Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the AU theme this year was very much in line with Harare’s initiative to empower indigenous people, especially youth.

Addressing ZANU-PF youths later at his party's headquarters after the festivities in Africa Unity Square in downtown Harare, Kasukuwere said his party was not going back on its indigenization plans. Acting Foreign Minister Herbert Murwera said the West was merely continuing its agenda of regime change with its military operations in Libya.

“We struggled against colonization to ensure that the people enjoyed their rights and freedoms," Murerwa said. In the current situation, "our systems and institutions are manipulated under the cover of democracy, good governance and the rule of law.”

Executive Secretary Takura Zhangazha of the Voluntary Media Council, a self-regulatory body, said Zimbabweans should continue to embrace Africa Day. He was one of the main speakers at an event held to mark Africa Day in Harare.

"This event was organized by the National Constitutional Assembly and the Media Institute of Southern Africa in order to remember and place into context Zimbabwe role in Africa vis-a-vis the theme of this year's Africa Day theme," said Zhangazha "As well as our issues in relation to SADC mediation and in general the condition of African people in the whole, so it's a very significant day indeed which reflects our understanding of our history."

London-based political analyst George Shire says Zimbabweans must decide collectively to move forward instead of politically tearing the country apart.