I wonder if you know who said the following? I’ll reveal the answer after the quote.
“…a free, independent and sovereign state, free to choose its own flight path and chart its own course to its chosen destiny. Its people have made a democratic choice of those who as their legitimate Government, they wish to govern them and take policy decisions as to their future.
As we become a new people we are called to be constructive, progressive and forever forward looking, for we cannot afford to be men of yesterday, backward-looking, retrogressive and destructive.
Our new mind must have a new vision and our new hearts a new love that spurns hate, and a new spirit that must unite and not divide.
This to me is the human essence that must form the core of our political change and national independence. Henceforth, you and I must strive to adapt ourselves, intellectually and spiritually to the reality of our political change and relate to each other as brothers bound one to another by a bond of national comradeship. If yesterday I fought as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest, loyalty, rights and duties as myself. If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds you to me and me to you.
Our majority rule could easily turn into inhuman rule if we oppressed, persecuted or harassed those who do not look or think like the majority of us. Democracy is never mob-rule. It is and should remain disciplined rule requiring compliance with the law and social rules. 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 the right to negate the freedom of others to think and act, as they desire.
I, therefore, wish to appeal to all of you to respect each other and act in promotion of national unity rather than negation of that unity.
We have abundant mineral, agricultural and human resources to exploit and develop for which we need perfect peace. Given such peace, our endeavours to transform our society and raise our standard of living are bound to succeed. The mineral resources lying beneath the surface of our country have hardly been scratched, nor have our agricultural and industrial resources yet fully harnessed.
We have certainly won the goodwill of many countries and can confidently expect to benefit from the economic and technical aid they are able and willing to provide for us. May I assure you that my Government is determined to bring about meaningful change to the lives of the majority of the people in the country.”
Well – Do you know who said the above?
It was Robert Mugabe. The above extracts are taken from his independence day speech, 1980.
It was that speech, and similar statements, that helped me decide to go and work in Africa in the mid 1980s, and again in the mid 1990s. I didn’t live in Zimbabwe, but rather Malawi, which at one time was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and later on we lived in Botswana.
We visited Zimbabwe several times, and I must say that all Zimbabweans – Shona, Ndebele, white, black, living in Zimbabwe or when we met them elsewhere, were always extremely kind, friendly and helpful to us. Apart from once, when we were driving south of Bulawayo, and a government car deliberately and repeatedly tried to force our car off the road. Maybe they didn’t see our BD (Botswana) number plate. It was scary.
I remember, in the early 80s, defending Mugabe from those who said they didn’t trust him. And when we visited Zimbabwe in 1984 it seemed that things were going OK. There were products in the shops in Zimbabwe that we couldn’t get in Malawi, and everything seemed to work quite well.
It was strange hearing people on the TV there calling each other ‘comrade’.
I was even offered a job one time when we went into a bar. I think that the man who offered me work thought I was down on my luck (he may have noticed our rucksacks). “You shouldn’t come into this bar with your wife. This is a black bar.” he said. “Oh. In Malawi we can go into any bar.” I replied. “Are you looking for work? I can give you a job as a fitter” he continued. “I don’t know what a fitter is” I replied. “That doesn’t matter. We can teach you”.
Ten years later, I considered applying for work in a Zimbabwe university, even though things were beginning to change for the worse in that country. Having seen what happened in Zimbabwe since then, I’m very glad that I didn’t.