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Independence marked new era
Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2005

THE following is the full text of the speech delivered by President Mugabe on the occasion of the Independence Silver Jubilee celebrations yesterday.

Twenty-five years have gone by since that eventful midnight of 18th April, when our country was born, proudly taking up her place among members of the community of nations as a full, independent and sovereign State. This birth followed bitter struggles and wars of resistance waged by our people for nearly a century, struggles meant to dislodge British settler colonialism which, in 1890, had planted itself on our soil through force of arms.

When this day finally arrived, we had paid the price of British bondage for ninety long and arduous years of systematic assault and injury to our body and soul as a Nation under occupation. To this day, we bear the lasting scars of that dark encounter with colonialism, often described as civilising.

Important as it is, this magic day of 18th April did not mark our destination or herald the end of our struggles. April 18 announced the beginning of new and even more demanding struggles ahead. We had to secure peace; we had to integrate three previously warring armies; we had to resettle thousands of displaced persons and refugees from the war; and we had to rehabilitate a war-ravaged countryside. The challenge was daunting, a real matter of faith.

Twenty-five years later, we have an opportunity to look at how we have lived as a Nation since then. But we do so having achieved the landmark of 25 years which this day, the 18th of April represents, for it was the day on which, in 1980, we proclaimed our birth and presence to the world with a collective voice. The emotion-laden visual of that proclamation was the lowering of the Union Jack - the British flag - and its subsequent replacement by our own.

The lowering of the Union Jack was a ceremony performed by a British royal person - His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, now being maligned for recently shaking my hand in Rome, at the funeral of our Pontiff, Pope John Paul II. But I had met him several times before. Was it not one revered Briton who said a century or so ago that "small minds and great empires go ill together?" Comrades and Friends, when we ascended to full sovereignty and freedom, we clearly communicated our resolve never again to be in bondage.

The new flag represented the wealth we carry as a Nation, although, sadly, it was wealth we were not able to control or take over quickly. That, of course, included our land, all that which grows on it, and all that which is embedded deep within its bowels.

The new flag also expressed our deep compassion, our wish and offer of peace to the world. As a war-weary people, we badly needed it, both at home and abroad. And the circumstances were most delicate, for the embittered Rhodesians were plotting the reversal of the people’s revolution.

The same flag, yes, carried our dreams, our hopes, our lofty and boundless ambitions. It represented our colour and our past, both combining to give identity to a young and achieving African Nation steeped in proud history. We hoisted all these things on 18th April, the day we joyously mark today. We thus struck a covenant with ourselves and those to come after us. We are the living, the independent and an African people firmly rooted.

In celebrating our coming into being, we acknowledge the founding struggles waged by our forbears. Their brave resistance started from the last decade of the 19th Century and went into the first decade of the 20th Century. From that historical experience, we have gleaned life-long lessons for building this Nation which has turned twenty-five today.

Our Chimurenga or liberation struggle was "a people’s war" and thus demonstrates the imperative need for national unity not only in winning and defending our sovereignty but also in pursuing the post-war struggles against poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance. A united people can never be really defeated. This reckoning thus impels us to be on a tireless search for unity even as we uphold the Unity Accord of 1987. Our people are, indeed, united and we therefore dare not undermine the Accord.

Above all, our struggles have taught us that sacrifices are an integral part and signify the element of bravery and courage. For Africa, freedom has never come cheap and easy. Colonisers do not freely let go of nations they occupy. Their hold has to be broken through bitter and bloody struggles by the oppressed. Such struggles have always demanded sacrifices.

Today, we tell our children that the joys of 18th April emanate from the hapless villager slaughtered in cold blood only yesterday, for supporting the struggle. We tell them that today’s joy is the product of the strangled shriek of a guerrilla bravely facing execution, it comes from his corpse as his body dangled from the noose of an inhuman white settler hangman. We tell them real stories of battle-hardened cadres who fell in battle singing "Ropa rangu muchazoriona pamureza weZimbabwe." (My blood shall colour the flag of a free Zimbabwe") all such sacrifices colour our joy today.

We shall never forget that we shared the sacrifices with our brothers and sisters in all the neighbouring countries we used as rear bases for our struggle: Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola and Botswana. Their blood too, emblazons our flag, making them deserving shareholders in our freedom and pride. The honour we extended to their leaders last night, most of them posthumously, recognises and celebrates this hushamwari hweropa - friendship born of blood. Their sacrifices towards our cause are infinite and priceless, bonding our peoples forever. Again, let the children know this sacred story of their freedom, namely, that it was secured through collaborative African efforts and sacrifices, which have provided a firm foundation for our pan-African spirit and character.

But we also recall and take pride in the fact that we opened our Independence with a demonstration of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, unexampled in European history. Confounding all expectations and fears of retributive justice against Rhodesian war criminals, we, in March 1980, proclaimed a Policy of National Reconciliation by which we forgave their heinous sins and atrocities against our people. By this policy, their war crimes stood forgiven, expiated not by restitution or even a show of contrition on their part, but simply by our own forgiving consciences. Against that bitter history, we still gave our hand, gave our hearts and our love to the erstwhile oppressor, in clear demonstration of African humanity. Today, Ian Smith, himself racist Rhodesian incarnate, still lives a free man. Out of this policy, we built peace, healed weeping wounds, pacified restless souls of all those disconsolately bitter and deeply injured. Yes, we freed the oppressor. Who, in the Anglo-Saxon West would have done what we did?

Democracy has come during the same 25 years, not as a hand-down from Europe, but as a natural offshoot of our struggle. We made our democracy and owe it to no one, least of all Europeans. Until we beat them on the battlefield, Britain and her kith and kin here would not concede voting rights to Africans. The one-person-one-vote we have enjoyed since 1980 is a gain from our liberation struggle. Let it be forever remembered it was the bullet that brought the ballot.

The twenty-five years we celebrate today have been years of regular elections in 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2002, and, just slightly over two weeks ago, in March 2005. Our polls have not needed Anglo-American validation. They are validated by fellow Africans and friendly countries from the Third World. That is our humane universe, not Europe, not America. We never agitate to observe their elections, and, therefore, let them keep away from our affairs.

We thank Africa for her support as we prepared for our polls. We thank all the political players and their supporters for heeding the call for peace. We thank our people for ensuring peace throughout the entire election period. Indeed, this is as it should always be.

The twenty-five years that have gone by have taught us that democracy cannot grow well on the soil of racial poverty and inequality. Genuine democracy cannot co-exist with structural deprivation and racial inequality. It cannot be an escape from addressing the national question. Such a model of democracy we reject for it is meant to give the oppressed an illusion of power and control.

The historical fact of land, at the heart of our liberation struggle, necessarily forges this vital connection in our political circumstances. In Zimbabwe, land governs the ballot. It is a symbol of sovereignty; it is the economy, indeed, the source of our welfare as Africans. It remains the core social question of our time, as, indeed, it was the main grievance on which our liberation struggle was based.

Today, 25 years later, we rejoice that this fundamental goal of our struggle has been achieved. We have resolved the long outstanding national land question, and the land has now come to its rightful owners, and with it, our sovereignty. Our people are happy and fulfiled, and this is all that matters to us. Let the grief and bitterness that has visited Europe following the repossession of our land heal on its own, in its time. Zimbabwe is in Africa, not Europe!

We have done much more in the 25 years which have gone by. We have built schools, colleges, polytechnics and universities. We have trained teachers and expanded education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have educated our children and with a literacy rate of well over 86 percent, Zimbabwe far surpasses most nations of the world in education, which is why our skilled people are much sought after in most parts of the world. The coming years will see resolute steps taken to review and overhaul certain aspects of the current education system, placing emphasis on development-related education, Information Technology, vocationalisation and entrepreneurship for self-job creation.

We have also built health institutions throughout the country and have stepped up the training of health personnel, albeit against the challenges of induced skills flight. Today, every community has a clinic or health centre on the basis of which our national primary health care programme has been an example to, and the envy of the developing world. However, the biggest challenge we face as a nation is the HIV/Aids pandemic, which has really strained our health delivery system. Definitive steps are being undertaken to address the challenge, including greater local manufacturing of anti-retrovirals, as well as significant subsidies for HIV-related drugs and treatments. But the achievements in the health sector have been enormous and we can only improve in the years ahead.

Dramatic gains have been registered in opening up rural areas through greater infrastructural development. From a road and rail network designed to serve white interests, we have expanded the road network to bring hitherto neglected rural areas within the national developmental grid. We have built an effective system of feeder roads, overcoming natural barriers through a network of bridges. However, a lot more still needs to be done.

We have expanded rural electrification, covering the far reaches of our country. We have lit up rural service centres, rural schools, offices and homesteads of traditional and community leaders. With electric power in place, it is now possible to attract meaningful small to medium scale investments into rural areas, in the process, tackling rural unemployment.

Complementary to the rural electrification programme has been the provision of rural telecommunication services.

Our water sector has also enjoyed huge investments during the same period. We have built many dams of all sizes in all provinces, especially the drought prone provinces of Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo.

But not all has been rosy in these 25 years that we are taking stock of today. The spectre of drought has repeatedly visited us, seemingly increasing in frequency in the new millennium. And although we have invested heavily in harvesting water, not much has been done to harness that water for irrigation purposes. We, thus, suffer repeated "wet" droughts. Increasing irrigable land is the surest insurance and no effort will be spared from this very year.

While our detractors claim that our economy has not done that well, we are happy that it has delivered spectacularly on our social goals, thereby laying a firm foundation for our future growth policies. It has delivered on education, health, infrastructure, water, energy and communication. These happen to be prerequisites for an economic take-off. And we now have them in place. True, business has not expanded as fast as we would have wished, and much remains to be done for that to happen.

Until recently, the economy had suffered a general rise in inflation and price instability. Businesses either closed or contracted. Wages were eroded, while unemployment rose quite markedly. Punishing interest rates have also dissuaded investments or business expansions. Our experiments with the ruinous economic structural adjustment programme appear to have unleashed mayhem in the economy. We are a lot wiser now.

We are clear and definite on the way forward in the years ahead. We need to protect our people from the ravages of drought that have afflicted us for years. We shall continue to organise ourselves in order to resist droughts and when they occur to be in a position to prevent hunger. The responsibility of sustaining our people during challenging periods is primarily that of our Government. We shall always live up to this responsibility.

All these efforts naturally must unfold within the framework of our Economic Turnaround Programme which has already registered dramatic gains in restoring macroeconomic balance. While these gains have been generated by reforms championed by our Reserve Bank, they need an emphatic supply response to remain sustainable. Agriculture must grow and expand. Industry and mining must respond positively to the turnaround, as indeed should commerce and the service sector.

The hostility we have faced from western countries in response to our Land Reform has taught us to diversify our source and export markets. We have turned East; we have turned to our region and other sub-regions on our continent. With this support, we have started building mutually beneficial partnerships that will help us build a strong national economy, our ultimate goal.

Let me conclude by thanking leaders from our neighbouring countries who have agreed to grace our Silver Jubilee Celebrations. Some of them lead countries that produced heroes we honoured just yesterday. We hold them in great affection and cherish this deep relationship forged through shared struggles and sacrifices.

I also thank friends and supporters of Zimbabwe, friends and supporters who have stood by us through thick and thin. They are friends indeed and we shall not fail them. Gone are the days when Africa produced tragic revolutions. We have to defend our own space by any means necessary. We have to defend our policies and pursue them unhindered. Africa for Africans! Long live the African Union!

Long Live Zimbabwe!

Long Live the People of Zimbabwe!

Long Live our Independence!

Long Live Africa!

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