ZIMBABWEANS yesterday celebrated the 44th independence anniversary amid gloom over the effects of the El-Nino-induced drought and an economy that has been tanking in the past months.

Yesterday’s main celebration was held in Murambinda, Buhera, the third consecutive year the event has been taken out of Harare, thanks to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administrative thrust of leaving no one and no place behind.

 Attendees were pampered with food and maize meal to spice up the celebrations.

 However, beyond the celebrations, the future looks not so bright given that Mnangagwa declared the drought a state of national disaster as he launched an appeal to raise US$2 billion to avert famine.

 Aid agencies estimate that so far over 2,7 million people will require food aid, with the number expected to increase in the last quarter of the year.

 There are fears that food aid distribution will be conducted using political lenses after Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said the governing party would be superintending the exercise using its mobilisation prowess to ensure that “no one starves”.

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 This comes as the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) reported an increase in violence emanating from partisan distribution of food aid across the country.

ZPP recorded a total of 167 violations of human rights across the country — 108 involved intimidation and harassment in March this year.

The report also revealed that 12 cases of human rights abuses involving food aid were recorded last month.

“A high ranking Zanu PF official and Member of Parliament for Nkayi North, Sithembiso Nyoni, was on record warning citizens that in the wake of the drought, ‘non-Zanu PF members should join the ruling party or risk being left out in receiving food aid’. Nyoni was distributing food aid in ward 5 at Shu Shine under Gobhi village,” part of the report read.

The moribund economy has also taken the cheer out of the festivities despite authorities’ claims that it is on a rebound.

 New Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mushayavanhu is confident that the measures he put in place recently will be the magic wand.

 He has introduced a structured currency, Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG), is seen  as a long-term solution to exchange-rate volatility as it is backed by reserves in the form of gold and cash.

 However, he is not the first RBZ governor to say that. Former governors promised heaven on earth declaring that their measures would take Zimbabwe to the promised land.

 By the time the governors left office, the challenges had escalated, underscoring the widely held view that Zimbabwe’s problems are political that require a political solution.

 The cost of living has gone haywire while companies are struggling to stay afloat.

 As independence celebrations roll into the weekend, Zimbabweans should not lose sight of the challenges ahead which are tough but not insurmountable. For Zimbabweans across the length and breadth of the country, the priority now is to put food on the table.