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36 years ago, Southern Rhodesia was wiped from existence and Zimbabwe was born. Great pomp and ceremony ensued as the populace celebrated the end of a long guerrilla and the establishment of majority rule. Bob Marley even wrote a song for us, and he came down and performed, free of charge, at the official Independence Day celebrations:
In 2016, things are different. Zimbabweans are scattered across the globe. Many people have left for their studies or employment. There is a generation of people with Zimbabwean heritage who have not set foot in the country. And for a born-free generation, navigating their Zimbabwean identity is a chore in itself. Four such Zimbabweans, all studying at Rhodes University in South Africa, speak of what it means to be Zimbabwean, 36 years after Independence.
“Being Zimbabwean in 2016 comes with many arduous challenges and a lot of hard work in the quest to get opportunity and recognition necessary for the meaningful success in the global village we live in today.
As a young Zimbabwean, I find it hard to break barriers no matter how good I am – barriers that, if broken, will propel my career to dizzy heights. This is largely due to negative political connotations that come with being from Zimbabwe.”
“Being a Zimbabwean youth is tough. Particularly a patriotic youth. You yourself fail to explain where you draw your strong allegiance to the country from.
It’s quite an amazing phenomenon really. I can rave and curse about the situation in Zimbabwe but dare someone else do it. So what does it mean to be a Zimbabwean in 2016, 36 years after independence? It’s a myriad of emotions. Love. Hate. Love. Hate even more.”
“My Zimbabwean identity means being resilient in the face of all adversities and having faith and hope as strong a mustard seed.”
“I like that Zimbabweans, we’re peaceful people. Yeah our country’s messed up, but we’re survivors. It hasn’t broken us. If you’re outside of the country, you know you’re not alone. You’ve got a community of Zimbabweans there with you.”
ZIMBABWEAN IDENTITY, 36 YEARS ON
So what does it mean to be a young Zimbabwean in 2016? There isn’t a straightforward answer to that. There’s a constant tug of war in establishing your identity. Inheriting the past, surviving the present, building for the future – often times, it can be suffocating to live such an existence. Nevertheless, for many of the young Zimbabweans out there, their national heritage and identity is a badge they wear with pride.
Simudzai mureza wedu weZimbabwe
Yakazvarwa nomoto wechimurenga;
Neropa zhinji ramagamba
Tiidzivirire kumhandu dzose;
Ngaikomborerwe nyika yeZimbabwe.
Phakamisan iflegi yethu yeZimbabwe
Eyazalwa yimpi yenkululeko;
Legaz’ elinengi lamaqhawe ethu
Silivikele ezithan izonke;
Kalibusisiwe ilizwe leZimbabwe.
By Mako Muzenda