I was a 17-year-old boy in Lower Six at Fletcher High School in Gweru when Zimbabwe attained independence from Britain on April 18, 1980.
I will never forget the euphoria, excitement and sheer delirium that gripped the whole nation on that day.
The mere fact that the global reggae icon, Robert Nesta Marley, played at Rufaro Stadium on the eve of independence just goes to show the level of attention and expectation that was placed on the new independent republic of Zimbabwe by the entire world.
For we all know that wherever Bob Marley staged a show, the global mainstream media would stick to him like glue. Such was the legend called Bob Marley. May his departed soul rest in eternal peace!
It has been 30 years since Zimbabwe took her place among the sovereign nations of the world.
I am now a grown-up man with a family and in this article I will attempt to provide a post-mortem of Zimbabwe post-April 1980.The diagnosis is most unpleasant.
I would be lying were I to state that Zimbabwe has successfully navigated her national affairs in the three decades since independence.
In fact, in more ways than one, as a nation, we have taken several steps backwards since 1980.
Instead of fostering a spirit of oneness and nationhood since April 1980, we allowed a culture of greed, intolerance, ineptitude, cronyism, laziness and corruption to firmly take root in our motherland. Merit, forthrightness, decency, hard work and honesty were deliberately subordinated to patronage, tribalism, regionalism and villageism.
Instead of embracing the whole of Zimbabwe as one unit deserving of a holistic approach on the development agenda, certain parts of the country, particularly the Matabeleland provinces, were selectively treated and as a result, these provinces remain largely underdeveloped to date.
I am not a messenger of tribalism when I boldly state that it is a national scandal that 30 years after independence, the Zambezi water project (which would have transformed the Matabeleland region into a lush green zone by now), has still not seen the light of day.
I am not a harbinger of alarm and despondency when I boldly state that 30 years after independence, most major roads in Matabeleland are still untarred and most infrastructure is still desolate and dilapidated.
Certainly, it is not the so-called “illegal” sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Britain and her allies that have led to the backwardness of most rural areas outside the Mashonaland provinces.
We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and say that everything is okay when it is anything but.
For too long, Zimbabwe has been swayed to live in a fool’s paradise.
We have been bombarded with propaganda aimed at misconstruing and distorting the country’s political history, particularly the history of the liberation struggle. Cowards, criminals and war deserters have been painted as gallant fighters and defenders of Zimbabwe’s nationhood.
People who escaped into the Americas and the rest of Europe, purportedly to further their studies while the real heroes and heroines were sweating it out in the bushes during the liberation war, are now masquerading as the “owners” of the revolution.
This shameless bunch of no-hopers even has the tenacity of describing some of us who were barely in our teens as the war of liberation reached its peak, as cowards and “sellouts”.
The converse is, in fact, true. It is this greedy bunch of cowards and pretenders that has sold out our nationhood as Zimbabweans.
It is this greedy bunch, some of whom returned from overseas with fake doctorates from some dubious universities, who have spared no opportunity to loot public resources and to generally run down hitherto very profitable and well-administered parastatals.
The case of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) is a classic and unmitigated example of how this hopeless bunch of greedy and corrupt pretenders has run down State institutions.
I have studied the political and life story of one of my foremost heroes and role models, Joshua Nkomo.
I have studied his autobiography Joshua Nkomo — The Story of My Life. From this book (which should be a must-read for all Zimbabwean patriots), I got to understand how and why most of the real heroes of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle will remain unsung.
In emotionally charged language, the late gallant Father of the Nation, Joshua Nkomo, narrates how his vision of a free and democratic Zimbabwe that shunned racism and tribalism, was shattered by some of his colleagues whose sole agenda seemed to be power retention at whatever cost.
When the departed national hero narrates how he was forced to escape into exile dressed as a woman in 1983, I feel so sad, so despondent that a tear or two will run down my cheeks.
This is how Zimbabwe lost the plot. We were focusing on personalities instead of on issues and the broader national agenda.
For some of us, where you come from counts for nothing when it comes to matters of national good governance. Whether you are Karanga, Kalanga, Zezuru or Ndebele, I do not give a hoot. What I want is a leader who perceives Zimbabwe on a broad and holistic national prospectus.
This is why Joshua Nkomo will forever remain my hero and role model but I am neither Kalanga nor Ndebele.
I am a New African. I despise Afro-pessimism with a passion. I also denounce tribalism, racism, regionalism and villageism.
I will not be locked up in history, live in the past and forget to engage the future.
I will not waste my time lambasting people whose political beliefs and ethos do not dovetail with my own.
I will strive to cultivate tolerance of opposing views.
Instead of using machetes and knobkerries to mobilise support for my political convictions, I would rather use verbal engagement and debate to propagate what I believe in. I am a New African.
And I cannot wait to march to a New Zimbabwe where I will find real change.
Obert Gutu is a practicing lawyer based in Harare