Keynote Address Delivered at the “Zimbabwe @41 Series: Unpacking A Progressive Approach Towards a Nation-State”

Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to speak at this important event: Zimbabwe@41 Series: Unpacking a Progressive Approach Towards a New Nation-State.

Let me on this occasion speak as a concerned citizen of Zimbabwe rather than as an academic. This will enable me to touch on the practical and existential issues and challenges facing as a people.

We are meeting at an important time when our beloved Zimbabwe is turning 41 years old on the 18th of April 2021 as an independent country. This is an independence which cannot be taken for granted because of the sacrifices made towards its attainment.

This event is also taking place at an important moment in the history of our beloved Zimbabwe characterised by animated debates about on the Patriotic Bill. A Bill which directly speaks to the core aspect of patriotism linked to belonging and citizenship in a nation-state.

The troubling issue is that every time we arrive at this important day of 18 April of every year, we not only reflect on the issue of sacrifices made for the attainment of political independence, we also reflect of the journey we have travelled since 1980 as a people.

It is a moment of remembrance and as well as auditing the journey travelled since 1980. Some of the most important matters arising include:

  • The very meaning of being independent and being free: to what use have we deployed and put our independence?
  • How we have created Zimbabwe and into what type of a polity?
  • Have we managed to cultivate inclusive belonging, citizenship, unity, patriotism, dignity, pride & heroism?
  • How we have we been distributing our national resources, who has benefited and who has not?
  • How we have governed ourselves since 1980 and have we widened the scope of justice and rights which were denied under colonial rule?
  • Have we dealt effectively with problems of hetero-patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism?
  • On the infrastructure and development of the country, have we progressed or regressed?
  • What has been our successes and failures on the pertinent social questions of health, education, and employment?
  • More importantly have we ensured internal security and social peace of the citizens and indeed made life of citizen matter?
  • How have we been using and abusing our national institutions for progressive and regressive purposes?
  • Has our choice of leadership been according to our constitution and rule of law?

These to me, are pertinent patriotic questions which every Zimbabwean has to be concerned about and we must pose them without fear and favour if indeed we are patriotic because they are about us and our country. They constitute what amount to “national question”, a question which is always at the centre of the “nation-state building project”, the very making, creation and construction of Zimbabwe. They always take us back to the drawing board to assess our achievements and failures.

Conclusion: The question of patriotism

Where the nation-state building project has been abandoned there is no nationalism and patriotism. This is because, it is those in leadership that must embody and exhibit patriotism through love for the people. The first essential prerequisite for cultivation of patriotism as a child of nationalism is to respect and protect life of the people through the state. A state which terrorizes the nation cannot expect let alone cultivate patriotism. It is this type of state which end up conjuring the idea of generating patriotism through legal means of prosecution and punishment. When such an idea crosses the minds of the ruling elite and when such a moment visits a people, the nation-state building project would have long failed. This notion of trying to enforce patriotism through law only arises within a context of dismal failure to deliver service to the people. Service delivery and protection offered by the state to its citizens automatically generates love for the state from the people. Belonging to a particular state which generates embarrassment through its failures, undercuts patriotism. Ordinary Zimbabweans are the most patriotic citizens for enduring decades of suffering and not rising against the state. The unpatriotic Zimbabwean our those in leadership who loot the resources and have personalized the state.

Read the full speech here(284KB PDF)

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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