Polarising Zimbabwe Independence Day celebrations 

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Opposition leader Tsvangirai

«The government sustained acts of intimidation, arson, torture, rape and even murder.»

Morgan Tsvangirai

afrol News, 23 April - Last week's Independence Day celebrations in Zimbabwe did little to bridge political differences or even underline national unity. While President Mugabe used his speech to criticise foreigners and the opposition, the opposition maintained there "was nothing to celebrate".

President Robert Mugabe spoke to an audience of several thousands at the National Sports Stadium in Harare marking Independence Day on 18 April. He focused on blaming "other people for each and every ill that befell" Zimbabwe, as former minister and political heavyweight Eddison Zvobgo told the Zimbabwe Independent.

Mugabe criticised the opposition for the political turbulence in the country. He blamed the outside world, especially former colonial power Britain, for inappropriate interference; "Mr Blair, hands off please." And he focused on the highly polarising and controversial "land reform", saying that his government would press it further ahead.

- Going by the President's speech, it is quite clear that [governing party] ZANU (PF) has nothing new to offer the nation. We can expect more of the same bad policies, said the Zimbabwean opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a statement today. "Independence Day celebrations are meant to be national in character and yet the President used that occasion to criticize the MDC," it went on. 

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, in his Independence Day speech, on the other side said Zimbabwe's 21st anniversary of independence had "to go down as one of the most depressing moments in our history." According to Mr. Tsvangirai, "the aspirations of the war of liberation remain unfulfilled. Instead your health care, security, education for yourselves and your children, your job and your home stand threatened."

Zimbabwe's free media supported Tsvangirai's assessment. Dumisani Muleya in an analysis in the Zimbabwe Independent said government had "hosted uninspiring Independence anniversary celebrations accompanied by a torrent of official propaganda that did little to stir a restive population." A staff reporter from the Financial Gazette went even further, saying there was "little, if anything, to celebrate," and that Zimbabweans were "victims of two lost decades that turned into a real nightmare on earth."


President Robert Mugabe

«Mr Blair, hands off please.»

President Robert Mugabe

Only government close media and the Panafrican news agency Pana found reason to glorify Independence Day and President Mugabe, claiming that independence for Zimbabwean peasants was just about to arrive through the "land reform". Pana even claimed Zimbabwean peasants were celebrating their "first real independence" this 18 April. Local and international critics however maintain that the unconstitutional "land reform" initiated mostly allocates land to government party and war veterans.

Also MDC leader Tsvangirai addressed the most controversial political topic of the country, the land reforms, saying the MDC had "always recognised that the existing imbalance in the racial landholding is obscene. The MDC also recognises the existence of the racial inequity in among others, industry, commerce as well as the service sectors." He repeated the party's well known argument that a "change in land and economic distribution and utilisation in Zimbabwe must be based on a sustainable programme."

Adding to the political polarisation in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said, "The government, in its desperation for self-preservation has, through its various structures and functionaries, (including state apparatus), subjected all to sustained acts of intimidation, arson, torture, rape and even murder." He claimed there had been "massive destruction of property, disruption of income generation projects and business. As a result Zimbabwe stands polarised along party, racial and social lines."

Sources: MDC, Zim government, Zimbabwe Independent, Financial Gazette

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