Mugabe calls for unity as Zimbabwe marks 37 years of independence

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. (Photo Credit: Gregg Carlstrom via Flickr Creative Commons)

Tuesday marks 37 years of independence for the south African nation of Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe addressed thousands of Zimbabweans amid continued economic and social depression in the country, but touched neither on the challenges facing the nation nor any plans to restore the country’s once blooming economy. FSRN’s Garikai Chaunza’s reports from today’s independence commemoration held at the national stadium in the nation’s capital of Harare.

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President Robert Mugabe is the only president Zimbabwe has ever had since the southern African country attained independence in 1980.

Fourteen and a half million Zimbabweans were expecting to hear what plans the veteran leader has to reverse the years-long economic decline in the country which has resulted in cash shortages and skyrocketing unemployment.

“Let me now ask you, that what we have done in the past to bring about unity is not enough we need to continue as true patriots, true sons and daughters of the soil, to continue that unity to ensure that we all belong to Zimbabwe regardless of our affinities, whether these are religious, tribal, political or any other,” Mugabe says. “We are all Zimbabweans and we should respect each other.”

The president’s message of a hoped-for unity was completely absent of the realities faced by the clear majority in the country. For two years, the cash crunch has forced those few who still have jobs to sleep in bank queues hoping to access their meager earnings.

Mugabe also failed to acknowledge a healthcare crisis in which hospitals are running out of essential drugs, leading to premature deaths.

Dr. Pedzisai Ruhanya, Director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, says the 93-year-old Mugabe deliberately skirted national issues because of his own ill health.

“Precisely not because those issues are not there but at the moment Mugabe is concentrating on his own life, his own personal health,” Ruhanya explains. “That is the immediate question that surrounds Mugabe and that is what Mugabe attends to.”

The next elections in Zimbabwe are set for 2018, and the nonagenarian Mugabe has already been endorsed by his party to run for the top post in the land once again. But his Zanu PF party is grappling with vicious factional infighting involving his wife Grace and the vice president – Emmerson Mnangagwa – battling to succeed him.

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