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Zimbabweans Express Mixed Feelings on Political Independence

President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe this week marks 34 years of independence from colonial rule amid concerns from many citizens that President Robert Mugabe is using the suppression of the people's will to extend his rule.

When President Mugabe assumed office in 1980, many Zimbabweans believed the country would literally overflow with milk and honey as promised by the ZANLA and ZIPRA guerilla fighters during the struggle for independence.

Thirty-four years down the line, many Zimbabweans such as Godknows Shumba say that life is becoming more difficult under Mr. Mugabe's stewardship.

Shumba says the electorate has long decided to vote Mr. Mugabe out of power but claims the nonagenarian leader has been using an iron fist to suppress the will of the majority during elections.

Another Zimbabwean, Democratic Party president Urayayi Zembe, says Mr. Mugabe's biggest undoing of his legacy was the militarization of elections.

Zembe adds that President Mugabe has survived at the helm of the country this long because of diversionary politics. The Zimbabwean leader has since early 2000 accused the opposition and non-governmental organizations of being agents of what he calls "illegal regime change".

MDC-T national organizing secretary Nelson Chamisa says the "big man mentality" has led Mr. Mugabe to abandon democratic processes resulting in dictatorial tendencies.

Zembe says Mr. Mugabe would have long left office if the two MDC formations led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube had not accepted to form a unity government with President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

But the MDC formations argue that they entered into the power-sharing arrangement to save ordinary Zimbabweans who they say were reeling under abject poverty caused by poor governance of the country by the Mugabe administration.

Former student leader Blessing Vava says it is not surprising that Mr. Mugabe is still in power because the revolutionary party has a one party state mentality.

Meanwhile, Zembe says the opposition has been failing to take over power from Mr. Mugabe because it remains fragmented. Opposition parties like the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, Forum Party, Zimbabwe Unity Movement and the MDC and several others were formed after independence but they have all failed to remove Zanu PF from power.

But political analyst and director of the Media Centre, Earnest Mudzengi, says the major problem in Zanu PF is that President Mugabe has failed to groom a successor, resulting in factionalism within the revolutionary party.

He adds that the opposition's biggest undoing, on the other hand, has been greed on the part of the leadership. The opposition has failed to form a loose coalition for the purposes of an election.

Results of the 2008 national elections show that combined opposition votes were much higher than those garnered by Mr. Mugabe but they failed to get an outright win resulting in negotiations that led to the formation of the unity government that was characterized by policy discord.

In recent weeks, MDC founding president and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been calling for a united front to mount what he says would be a strong challenge to President Mugabe in elections expected in 2018.

The call came as his party was riddled by divisions with former close colleagues calling on him to step down ahead of 2018.

Chamisa says his party will do all it can, including forming election alliances with other parties, to defeat Zanu PF in the 2018 elections.

But Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo says Zimbabwe has made tremendous political achievements since independence in 1980 such as creating a stable political environment in the country under President Mugabe’s leadership.

However, Political analyst Shadreck Guto of the University of South Africa says President Mugabe has overstayed in power which has resulted in the entrenchment of his autocratic rule.