Only yesterday, Zimbabwe completed the first year of its fourth decade of independence.
At 31, it should be possible to draw a conclusion on one’s character and no doubt a journey of 31 years must and should be filled with experiences, opportunities secured and squandered and more significantly setbacks encountered and overcome.
History is always kind to those that dare and as we look back into the bank of experiences that Zimbabweans have built over the last 31 years, we will find the millions of stories of ordinary people who through actions have something to show in helping us understand where the country is and what needs to happen for Zimbabwe to deliver the promise its constitution projected.
Many of the people born on April 18 1980 are now parents, professionals and businesspersons who have acquired a separate and distinct personality from their parents.
It would be absurd to hear 31-year-olds blaming their parents for giving them a life instead of taking responsibility for the decisions and actions that cumulatively have helped to define and shape the character of a nation credited with intelligence at the personal level and yet at the collective level such intelligence is missing in action.
The significance of the Lancaster House Constitution in shaping the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe cannot be understated.
After 31 years of independence, it is significant that the minds of Zimbabweans, particularly political actors, are seized with the issue of drafting a new constitution an exercise that, if anything, exposes the challenges and fault lines of the nation -building experience.
If we were to calculate the fruits of freedom, I have no doubt that the scoreboard would yield mixed results.
In some ways, the choices made at independence have produced enormous private benefits for the citizens who took advantage of the educational opportunities that independence brought about.
The social investments that were made from a very limited tax base have produced the kind of outcomes that make the Zimbabwean brand a complex but misunderstood and promising product.
In many ways, poverty, inequality, unemployment, and more recently HIV/Aids remain serious challenges to the enterprise of nation-state building.
In writing this article, I am inviting each Zimbabwean, especially the born-free, to study carefully and critically this remarkable 31 years of Zimbabwe’s history.
It is often easy to point a finger at only those who chose to play their part as state actors in the business of nation building as we try to find fault in the causes of the Zimbabwean contemporary condition.
It is important that we be aware of the history particularly what we at the personal, family and national level failed to do to make Zimbabwe what was projected in the constitution.
We often take for granted the fact that Zimbabwe has held elections frequently since independence only to be reminded of what the consequences of a one party state could have been by the events that have unfolded in other countries.
To whom should the burden of defining and shaping the character of a nation fall? There are many who believe that this is and ought to be the preserve of political actors.
Rarely do we see in evidence the role of businesspersons and professional groups in defining and shaping the destiny of their countries of birth.
Ultimately, nation building is character building.
It is and should not just be about sovereignty in a vacuum but about whose responsibility it is to build it.
Nation building is about people first and when a phenomenon like “brain drain” takes root, one is compelled to take note of what should have been done to make the Zimbabwean story as attractive to foreigners than it is to Zimbabwean born persons.
There is nothing that can be done to change the past but what is clear is that after 31 years of independence Zimbabweans do not share a common vision and future.
One would have expected that the common grounds that informed the liberation struggle would bear the seeds of nationhood, being the collective state and struggle of people to attain their higher aspirations.
From the womb of colonialism characterised by violence, the use of State power to impose unaccepted will, of exploitation of position and power for personal gain, we all expected that after 31 years of independence, we would move to the state where the law was applied equally, an end to abuse of power, the promotion of social justice and respect for human rights and more significantly to the recognition and respect of a human being’s alienable rights and liberty.
The constitution that informed the transition was clear regarding where Zimbabwe should go and yet along the way, people abdicated their responsibility to ensure that the eye remained on the price.
It is not, therefore, sufficient to blame others for the failure of a project that was meant to be inclusive and in which the nation’s identity was not defined by birth, race, tribe or any other attribute.
Zimbabwe in 2011 must and should belong to all those who choose to be part of it.
The nation’s character ought to reflect the experiences of all and not only those that are held to be the true owners of the country when in truth and fact no human being is capable of appropriating a country to himself/herself.
How has the relationship between the state and its citizens evolved?
How has the relationship between citizens evolved? After 31 years of independence, we have no better opportunity to reflect on the role of the state in defining and shaping the nation’s character.
It is easy to forget that the State is nothing but a creature of citizens to serve their needs on the simple principle that it cannot have a life that is independent of its masters and yet after 31 years of independence, we seem to have placed more reliance on the state to provide answers to issues of economic empowerment, justice and equity.