Was colonialism better than independent Zimbabwe?

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I have recently seen what I can only describe as a disturbing sentiment on social media and some sections of the media in Zimbabwe, where some argue, with conviction that colonialism was better than modern day Zimbabwe.

I was not born before Zimbabwe’s independence and I cannot offer an objective comparison of colonialism and independent Zimbabwe.

But for the life of me, I can’t even imagine why someone can claim the colonial period was better, not in this age, never.

But this will not stop the comparisons.

I would not normally pay people making such suggestions any attention, but something made me stir up and listen. I must start with a caveat, I believe colonialism and UDI in Zimbabwe were some of the most barbaric things to happen to humankind and I don’t think independent Zimbabwe is any worse.

Someone recently said under the colonial regime “we had no rights, but we had food” and in post-colonial Zimbabwe, “we have no rights and we have no food”.

While this can be easily dismissed, as one said, this was an example of a “grateful slave”, I think it is time we listen to such voices rather than lump them together with the ready-made clichés like “Uncle Toms” etc.

It is a sad indictment that after 35 years of independence, the Zimbabwean government is being compared with an evil regime; this just highlights how far back we have gone as a country.

Despite carrying the de-facto crown of being a Pan-African champion, Mugabe has set his country back, to a point that the colonial government is now being seen as slightly better. Can there be a worse insult?

It does not matter that these comparisons may be wrong, misplaced and lacking context, the fact that they are being made should an egg on the collective face of Mugabe’s government.

For instance right now, Zimbabwe faces major power shortages, as it still relies on power generation units set up by the colonial regime, more than 50 years ago.

Most roads, most buildings and the rail infrastructure were set up by the colonial government, with the post-colonial government having little to show for their 35 in power.

The colonial infrastructure is beginning to crumble because of age and the new (I use that word very liberally) government is now being exposed.

In the midst of all the troubles Zimbabwe faces, I felt my blood curdle when one minister said the problems that Zimbabwe is facing where an epitome of the “dying Rhodesian economy”.

By Jove! It took so long to “kill” the Rhodesian economy and so how long will it take to nurture the Zimbabwean economy, which is characterised by poverty and job losses (or as we patriotically like to describe is as the informalisation of the formal economy)?

I have followed disturbing debates, where people praise the end of colonialism because after independence black people could walk on CBD pavements that they were previously not allowed to set foot on.

Walking on a pavement could have been a significant and symbolic victory in the 1980s, but surely that was not all the struggle for independence was for.

The struggle for independence was for the right for all manner of freedoms, self-determination, speech, association and all others.

These rights were not guaranteed for blacks under colonialism and strangely aren’t guaranteed for blacks (despite being written in the constitution) 35 years later.

I am not saying colonialism was better, but one can argue, and with conviction, that at 1980, Zimbabwe won political independence, but its citizens are yet to taste freedom.

As South African singer, Letta Mbulu sang, “not yet uhuru/akukho mehluko kulel’ izwe” (We are not yet free, nothing much has changed in this country).

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