ZIMBABWE celebrates its 44th independence anniversary today.  The independence was attained through a protracted armed struggle that began at the tail end of the 19th century as the First Chimurenga.

The battle was won in the Second Chimurenga.

April 18 is a day of reflection as we pay tribute to the gallant sons and daughters of the land that paid a supreme price for the attainment of independence. Some are either buried in mass graves at Chimoio and Nyadzonia or in unmarked graves in Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania or Zimbabwe.

Their sacrifices should forever be remembered.

The blood shed during the liberation struggle should not be in vain. Universal suffrage, equality before the law and ownership of the means of production — the triggers of the war against colonial rule — must be cherished.

It is the only way we can repay the sacrifices made by citizens. We should never forget the masses in the rural areas who bore the brunt of the colonial rule, especially during the liberation struggle. They became the sea in which the fish (liberation fighters) swam.

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Whenever the freedom fighters speak of their roles in the armed struggle, the masses are always forgotten, relegated to historical footnotes.

On reflection, have our leaders addressed the concerns that ignite the liberation struggle? It is still a long way out. The white oppressor has been replaced by a black one.

On the eve of independence in 1980, then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe (late) exhorted citizens to forgive and forget the wrongs of the past.

He said the past should offer lessons that “oppression and racism are inequities that must never again find scope in our political and social systems”.

“Our independence  must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others into acting against their will. It is not right to negate the freedom of others to think and act as they desire,” Mugabe said.

That message lost relevance three years into independence  with the Gukurahundi killings in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

Forty-four years after independence, we still have people who are above the law. Corruption has intensified such that being corrupt is a badge of honour especially in the ruling Zanu PF party that has become a haven for people of questionable standing.

Colonial laws are being rehashed to constrain the free participation of citizens in political processes.

The battle for independence was also about the land. The chefs have taken over productive prime land. Early this year, we witnessed mass evictions of people from communal lands. Houses were razed to the ground leaving citizens stranded. The evictions were only halted following the intervention of human rights lawyers.

For ordinary citizens to appreciate the significance of Uhuru, we need to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Have we ticked all the boxes? Certainly not. It is a long way to go for us to repay the sacrifices made by Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Nikita Mangena, Chief Rekai Tangwena and Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo, among others.

Only unity can take us far as a nation.

 Happy Independence Zimbabwe!