April 18th for some is just an ordinary day on the calendar, but for others it’s a time to remember Zimbabwe’s independence from the yoke of colonialism.
But the question remains if this day really serves a purpose for the country’s citizens living in the diaspora.
Twenty-eight year old Tsungi Gotora, who lives in the state of Texas in America, and was born in USA but raised and schooled in Zimbabwe, said she has pride in her history and acknowledges the tough struggles taken by those who fought hard to liberate the southern African nation from colonial rule.
But she said being back in America has barred her from properly marking Independence Day.
“Ever since I’ve been here in the US, I’ve never really celebrated Independence, I acknowledge the date but I’ve never really celebrated it because where I used to live in New Mexico I was the only Zimbabwean there on campus,” said Gotora.
She said her knowledge of not only Zimbabwe’s history but that of Africa has made her to understand a lot of issues about the continent and beyond.
“I actually majored in history for my ‘A’ levels, I did history my whole six years in high school, so the more I learned about history the more I understood where, not just Zimbabwe, but any other African country.”
Munyaradzi Munochiveyi, assistant professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross in the Worcester Massachusetts in the United States, identifies himself as a child of independence, as he was born in April, 1980.
Munochiveyi said though living in the diaspora, independence for him serves as a point of reflection on the past, present and future of Zimbabwe.
“For most Zimbabweans despite the tumultuous road that we have trodden for the past 35 years, it is not very easy to think of the occasion of Zimbabwean independence as irrelevant. Of course Zimbabwean independence is relevant regardless of the difficult journey that has characterized our country for the past 3 decades and a half,” said Munochiveyi.
Professor Munochiveyi said keeping Zimbabwe’s history relevant remains the single hardest challenge in the diaspora as children growing up in foreign nations aren’t learning about their history, culture and traditions.
And as a father of four young children, Munochiveyi added the burden is on the larger Zimbabwean community.
“As a parent teaching children about the Zimbabwean past means imparting a very important lesson particularly in the virtue of belonging, think about it everyone in the world feels a very strong impulse to belong somewhere and for immigrants like Zimbabweans no matter where you live, you always feel that same impulse.”
For some growing up in the diaspora, like Chido Kututwa, simple history lessons on Zimbabwe can come far and few in-between. Kututwa said having other Zimbabweans, including his own father, allowed him to have a greater understanding of the significance of the country’s independence.
Down under in Perth, Austrialia, Shephard Chipfunde, a Zimbabwean who has spent years in the country, said for many Independence Day is a communal celebration.
Chipfunde said being Zimbabwean in most countries means something, whether good or bad, but a person must never shy away from that.
“You’ve got to understand who you are and where you come from, once you’ve got that it’s easier to relate, it’s better to have something on the table from your own culture and it’s easier when you understand where you come from.”
But for others, Independence Day bears a reminder of the sad struggles Zimbabweans are facing back home and why some are living in the diaspora.
Anesu Ruwodo, a Zimbabwean living in Washington said she understands independence as a celebration of freedom despite the fact that for younger Zimbabweans learning their history is at times confusing.
“I don’t think other fellow Zimbabweans who are young would really get the meaning of Independence because they didn’t know how freedom is; especially now with the current conditions in Zimbabwe you don’t see much of the freedom,” said Ruwodo
She said for many like her, Independence Day is just like any other day.
Although April 18th may appear like an ordinary day for some Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, it still remains a big day to some millions of people back home even if they are grappling with the current harsh socio-economic and political environment.