EXCLUSIVE: Zimbabwe independence celebrations without Mugabe

Robert Mugabe  (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)
Robert Mugabe (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

A South African think tank, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has said that Zimbabwe's independence celebrations on April 18 are likely to differ from those held over the past years, following the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe.

In an interview with News24, Senior researcher at ISS, Derek Matyszak, said he believed the country's new president Emmerson Mnangagwa had inspired hope and renewed energy amongst Zimbabweans - to get the southern African country out of its misfortunes.

Mnangagwa took over as the country's leader after Mugabe stepped down from power in November, following a military intervention "targeting criminals around him".

Matyszak said that Mnangagwa's speech at the independence celebrations was likely to focus on the development of the country.

"Mnangagwa's speech is likely to be forward looking, emphasising that Zimbabwe is under a new dispensation and that the economy, freed from 'Mugabenomics', will now be able to recover. If the rhetoric translates to action and some investment does come into the county, living standards will improve, but only in the medium term," said Matyszak.

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During his 37-year rule of Zimbabwe, Mugabe built up an impressive amount of controversy, mostly by using colourful and often hateful language.

The nonagenarian's speeches, including those he gave at independence celebrations, often sought to shift the blame for the country's continued socio-economic decline to "others".

"Mugabe's addresses were always characterised by hate speech, where he looked back at the past and out the blame for Zimbabwe's problems at the door of others," said Matyszak.

Matyszak said that focus in Zimbabwe right now was on elections and if the ruling Zanu-PF party won the vote, the country would most likely turn out to be like Rwanda.

"The focus now is on elections. If Zanu-PF wins, it is expected that Zimbabwe's governance may start to look much like that of Rwanda, with a focus on development and restricted democratic spaces," said Matyszak.

Matyszak said that the rhetoric from Zanu-PF and its leader must be followed by action in order to better the southern African country, which has been hit by a number of challenges.

"The opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) alliance is more likely to lead to a democratic dispensation, but even they have also shown undemocratic tendencies in the past. However, at the very least, we would expect the airwaves to open up. This is the 21st century and only Zanu-PFs voice can be heard on the electronic media in all political programming. There is one TV station. Radio is controlled by Zanu-PF or Zanu-PF proxies," said Matyszak.

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