Robert Mugabe is doubtlessly one of the most talked about leaders currently. Born on 21st February in Sinioa district norh-west of Salisbury (now Harare), Mugabe went to Fort Hare University College in South Africa where he obtained his first degree and came in contact with the African National Congress (ANC) youth wing. Criticisms on Mugabe allegedly stem from his decision to reverse a situation where 4 500 white farmers owned 12 million hectares of arable land while over 8 million Africans jostled for space in 16 million hectares of unproductive land.
|Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe|
Mugabe was declared winner in the 2008 general elections that were widely criticised as unfair and full of intimidation. His government is currently holding talks with the opposition, led by Morgan Tsvangirai for possible political coalition. Below is his independence speech on 17th April 1980.
“The Final Countdown before the launching of the new state of Zimbabwe has now begun. Only a few weeks from now, Zimbabwe will have become 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. This, indeed, is the meaning of the mandate my party secured through free and fair elections conducted in the glare of the world’s spotlight.
“Whilst my government welcomes the mandate it has been freely given and is determined to honor it to the letter, it also accepts that the fulfillment of the tasks imposed by that mandate are only possible with the confidence, goodwill and cooperation of all of you, reinforced by the forthcoming support and encouragement of all our friends, allies and well – wishers in the international community.
“The march to our national independence has been a long, arduous and hazardous one. On this march, countless lives have been lost and many sacrifices made. Death and suffering has been the prize we have been called upon to pay for the final priceless reward of freedom and national independence. May I thank all of you who have had to suffer and sacrifice for the reward we are now getting.
“Tomorrow we shall be celebrating the historic national event, which our people have striven for nearly a century to achieve. Our people, young and old, men and women, black and white, living and dead, are, on this occasion, being brought together in a new form of national unity that makes them all Zimbabweans. Independence will bestow on us a new personality, a new sovereignty, a new future and perspective and, indeed, a new history and a new past.
“Tomorrow we are being born again; born again not as individuals, but collectively as a people, new as a viable nation of Zimbabweans. Tomorrow is thus our birthday, the birthday of great Zimbabwe, and birthday of its nation. Tomorrow we shall cease to be men and women of the past and become men and women of the future. It’s tomorrow then, not yesterday which bears our destiny.
“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 nation requires of every one of us to be new man, new mind, a new heart and a new spirit. 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 time 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 to one another by a bond of national comradeship. If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend and an ally with the same national interests, 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. Is it not folly, therefore, that in these circumstances anybody should seek to revive the wound and grievances of the past? The wrong of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten.
“If ever we look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequities that must never again find scope in our political and social system. It could never be a correct justification that because whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power. An evil remains an evil whether practiced by white against black or by black against white. 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 of individuals 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’s act in promotion of nationalism rather than in negation of that unity.
“Our independence day, our integrated security forces will, in spite of their having only recently fought each other, be marching in step together to herald the new year of national unity and togetherness. Let this be an example for us all to follow. Indeed, let this enjoin the whole of our nation to march in perfect unison from year and decade to decade towards its new destiny.
“We have abundant mineral, agriculture and human resources to exploit and develop, for which we need perfect peace. Given peace, our endeavors 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 been fully harnessed. Now that we have peace, we must go fully out to exploit them. We already have a sophisticated infrastructure. Our expertise is bound to increase as more and more educational and technical instructions are established to transform our unskilled manpower.
“The whole world is looking on us this day. Indeed many countries in the international community are amazed at how we have so quickly and unexpectedly moved from war to peace. 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 majority of the people in the country. But I must ask you to be patient and allow my government to organize the program that will effectively yield that change. There are people without land who need land, people without jobs, children without schools who need schools and patients without hospitals who need them. We are also fully aware of the need for increased wages in all sectors of employment. My government will certainly do its best to meet the existing needs in these areas. But you have to assist us by being patient and peaceful.
“I now finally wish to appeal to you, whenever you are to participate fully tomorrow and Saturday, in the independence celebrations that have been organized throughout the country. There are, of course those of you who have the duty to maintain essential services. These services must indeed be maintained so that the celebrations are facilitated. Maintaining such essential services during the celebrations is a significant contribution to their success.
“I wish to thank Her Majesty the Queen for having sent us His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, to represent her and officiate at our independence ceremony, where he will perform the symbolic act of severing our colonial ties with Britain. As you are aware, this historic ceremony will be witnessed by Heads of state and Government, and representatives of nearly 100 countries plus representatives of several international, political and voluntary organizations. The ceremony will also be reported and relayed to millions of people in the world by the mass media.
“May I enjoin you all to regard this solemn occasion with honor and dignity, and participate in the celebrations that follow it with jubilation. Let us rejoice over our independence and recognize in it the need to dedicate ourselves to national unity, peace and progress.
“I now wish to pay tribute to Lord Soames, our Governor, for the most important role he has played in successfully guiding this Country to elections and independence. It was from the very onset a difficult and most unenviable task, and yet he performed it with remarkable ability and overwhelming dignity.
“I must admit that I was one of those who originally never trusted him and yet I have now ended up not only implicitly trusting, but fondly loving him as well. He is indeed a great man through whom it has been possible; within a short period I have been prime minister, to organize substantial financial aid and technical aid from Britain and other countries. I am also personally indebted to him for the advice he has constantly given me on the art of managing the affairs of government. I shall certainly be missing a good friend and counselor, and so will our independent Zimbabwe and all its people.
“I also wish to thank all our distinguished guests for the honour they have given us by coming to attend our independence celebrations on behalf of their countries or organizations. Their presence in our country signifies a bond of solidarity and friendship between their countries or organizations and our country. Without the support they have given us towards our liberation, this national day would never have come about. Thanks therefore, for all the material, political diplomatic and moral support they have given us.
“Sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, I urge you to participate fully and jubilantly in our Independence celebrations and to ensure that all our visitors are well entertained and treated with utmost hospitality.
“I shall be one in spirit and love, in loyalty and commitment with you all.”
"Forward with the year of the people’s power!
“Long live our Freedom!
"Long live Sovereignty!
"Long live our independence!