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Zimbabwe Parties Resolve to Set Aside Politics to Mark 30 Years of Independence

Zimbabwe has faced many problems since it shook off white colonial rule in 1980 including internal warfare between the two main liberation parties, an often violent land reform exercise and a seemingly intractable political crisis

Zimbabweans across the political spectrum were gearing up for a weekend of Independence Day observations culminating on Sunday with all parties encouraging their supporters to join festivities in a nonpartisan spirit.

To depoliticize the Independence Day holiday, long a monopoly of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, the national organizing committee has banned political party regalia and slogans at the main event on Sunday at Harare's National Sports Stadium.

Committee chairman and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo urged Zimbabweans to “bury their political differences" at least for the day.

Political sources said both formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change will be represented Sunday as Mr. Mugabe gives the keynote address. Though the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai declined to confirm whether he would be there, sources indicated this was expected.

The Tsvangirai MDC issued a statement saying that Zimbabweans should unite regardless of their political affiliations in celebrating 30 years of independence.

Nonetheless, the party said that for many years the national holiday had been tainted by politics.

Elsewhere, the activist group Restoration of Human Rights said Zimbabwe had little to show after three decades of independence.

But spokesman Methuseli Moyo of the revived ZAPU liberation party - a ZANU-PF rival at independence in 1980 but subsequently absorbed - said Zimbabweans should focus on the nation’s accomplishments as well as its failures after the end of colonial rule.

"As a party that pioneered the struggle for independence, we urge our supporters to cherish this historic day," Moyo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo. "We still face problems as a nation, but independence should unite people despite their political affiliation."

Political analyst Qhubani Moyo commended the political parties for resolving to set politics aside for the day.

Zimbabwe has battled an array of problems since it shook off white colonial rule, including conflict between ZANU-PF and ZAPU in Matabeleland in the 1980s in which thousands were massacred, an often violent land reform exercise that most observers blame for a decade of economic decline, chronic political crisis following the emergence of the MDC in 1999 to challenge ZANU-PF supremacy, political violence, HIV/AIDS, cholera, hyperinflation and massive emigration.

The formation of a national unity government in February 2009 following the traumatic 2008 elections offered hope that the country might emerge from crisis, but the so-called inclusive government according to most analysts has yet to live up to expectations.

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