Zimbabwe’s independence on 18 April 1980 was preceded by the Lancaster House agreement of December 1979.
The agreement paved way for the country first democratic elections. Analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans say the period running up to the elections, announcement of the results and the Independence Day was tense, joyous and hopes were high for the black majority.
The two liberation movements, Zanu PF led by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu resoundingly won the elections with Mr. Mugabe becoming the first black prime minister in 1980.
Political commentator, Ibbo Mandaza, who attended the Lancaster House conference, says the announcement of the victory for the liberation movements threw the country into a frenzy with wild celebrations as white Rhodesians collapsed and fainted following in their homes and streets following their heavy their defeat.
He says amid the joy, were fears that the Rhodesians could do anything to prevent the smooth transition of the black majority into power.
“When the results were announced the city went wild, buses hooting, youth and I think it was clear and the British warned General Walls that ‘if you try anything, the blood of the whites would be on your hands’ because I think the population was ready for anything.”
He says thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans thronged Rufaro Stadium for the independence celebrations and hoisting of the Zimbabwe flag despite reports the venue had been mined by the Rhodesians.
For retired General Mike Nyambuya, the announcement of the March 1980 election results and the run-up to Independence Day compares to no day in the country’s history. At that time, Retired General Nyambuya was commanding Dzapasi Assembly Point, one of the largest assembly centres for the liberation fighters who had returned from Mozambique.
“There was jubilation and celebration in the country….so we were then tasked with the task of preparing for the parade, main parade in Harare and then in other provincial centers as well and it was announced that Prince Charles was coming to lower the Union Jack and we lift the Zimbabwean flag.”
He adds that people couldn’t t sleep as they celebrated victory after a protracted liberation war in which thousands of their loved one perished.
“It was those days up to the 18th April ...Were full of excitement and celebrations and on the 17th April we did not sleep so the Union Jack was lowered on 17th midnight and the new flag was raised.”
Zaka senator, Misheck Marava, says he was excited to vote in the March 1980 elections. A then young Marava, working as cost clerk in Harare’s Msasa industrial area, voted in Harare’s Mabvuku high density suburb.
Marava says he was very happy when Mr. Mugabe and his Zanu party won the elections.
“I am one of those people who almost touched the sky by happiness and almost every youth tried to imitate or draw President Mugabe. I am one those people who tried to draw his portrait, we were so happy then.”
He still remembers that the period between announcement of the election results and Independence Day was full of joy and happiness. But for Marava, now a lawmaker for an opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, formed 19 years after independence, things have changed.
He says the important national day has been monopolized by Zanu PF and it has lost its significance.
“This time independence has become a party issue, it belongs to a certain party and the other parties are not involved yet during the first independence celebrations other parties were not there everybody was one person, we all were Zimbabweans it was not much of the party. No one knew of a party, we only knew of the independence fought for by the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe.”
BOB NESTA MARLEY GIG
For economic analyst, Masimba Manyanya, who enjoyed Jamaican reggae star, Bob Marley’s independence celebrations gig at Rufaro Stadium, expectations were high.
He says each time he passes by Rufaro Stadium he remembers 18 April 1980, a day he describes as the highest point of his life. But he is depressed by the current state of affairs in the country.
Today my thinking is, yes we are politically independent but we are not free, because the freedoms that we thought we had won in 1980 don’t seem to materialize before us, economically we are enslaved.”
He says Zimbabwe is an impoverished nation, worse than it was in 1980. Mandaza is equally concerned. He says it’s sad little or nothing has added to the independence.
“It’s very sad, there is no comparison between the eighties and now. Eighties was a period of contagious patriotism, hard work, commitment it was an era of non-partisanship and nonpartisan nationalism where we all wanted to build Zimbabwe.”
Mandaza, like many Zimbabweans, believes that another Zimbabwe will emerge from the disastrous Mugabe era. He says Zimbabwe’s restoration cannot be done by the current crop of leaders but by young people.