As hundreds of Zimbabweans living in Francistown staged a massive show singing and dancing to express their freedom at last, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE was in the midst of blacks, whites and coloureds that have spent 37 years of dictatorial rule under freedom fighter Robert Mugabe
FRANCISTOWN: Hundreds of euphoric Zimbabwe citizens living in Francistown took to the streets of the city mark their freedom over the final collapse of former president Robert Mugabe’s dictatorial rule.
This was a rare moment for the people who have witnessed the fortunes of the once mighty Zimbabwe dwindling from the breadbasket of southern Africa to a ‘charity case’ under the Mugabe regime.
Mmegi photojournalist Keoagile Bonang was shocked to realise that some people that he had always assumed were Batswana as they have lived in town for 30 years or more after running away from the Mugabe rule were infact Zimbabweans.
There was never an opportunity as golden as Tuesday evening where an ecstatic crowd that had thronged the vast parking space north of the Galo Mall for the masses to jointly and openly express themselves.
Zimbabwe independence has rarely been celebrated in Botswana nor has Zimbabweans living in Botswana found it worthy of openly celebrating the day, the way they did on Tuesday evening in Francistown.
Freedom of expression for the people who had remained closed and loyal to a dictator, Mugabe has not come at a better time. They danced and sang songs of liberation with the country’s flags lifted high as a symbol of victory and total freedom-a rare spectacle for the people who have not known peace and freedom since Mugabe ascended to power 37 years ago. “Down with Mugabe down! Pasi ne Mugabe pasi!” sang the jubilant crowd, which was seemingly united by song and dance and the purpose for the celebration. The Shona, Ndebele, whites and coloureds were so united and their differences put aside. Their focus will be reconstructing their economy, which has been brought down by many years of Mugabe misrule.
The stepping down of Mugabe from the country’s presidency was chiefly celebrated as victory for the Zimbabweans who have battled so much to set themselves free.
It was therefore, befitting for hundreds of men, women and their children wielding Zimbabwe flags to break into song and dance in the car park to express themselves as Zimbabwe entered a new era without Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe flags were simply a symbol of victory, unity and freedom for the people whose freedom of speech was curtailed by the stringent laws perpetrated by the Mugabe regime.
No mistake, the group that included blacks, whites and coloureds recognised Mugabe as a hero of the liberation struggle against the British imperialism who unfortunately failed to manage the ‘big economy’ of the resource rich Zimbabwe. November 21 will remain engraved in the minds of many. President Ian Khama was the hero of the day as Zimbabweans read the letter he wrote to Mugabe calling for him to step down.
Marvin Greenland has been in Francistown for the past 25 years and he is a teacher at John McKenzie English Medium School. To him, Tuesday evening was just magical.
“I didn’t have love for the ruling ZANUPF in Zimbabwe before, but today, I do,” he declares amid song and dance.
He expressed great respect for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Constantine Chiwenga and the ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he had brought a new mindset into the scenario of Zimbabwe.
“Now, we look forward to a climate of change because that is what has happened. And I now see ZANUPF in a new light. I am
Gift Thobiwa was also over the moon as he celebrated his country’s freedom with hundreds of fellow countrymen living in the Diaspora.
“We are so excited as we never thought this day will finally come. When we compare November 21,2017 to 1980, today’s experience is bigger than the initial independence from the British imperialist. We were oppressed by the regime of Ian Smith but we were not economically suffering,” declares an equally elated Thobiwa.
His wish is for his country people to embrace November 21 and incessantly celebrate the day as the day they gained total independence from a dictator Mugabe.
“As you can see and feel it, we are all happy and we are going to start rebuilding our economy which will also benefit the whole of southern Africa region,” he says promising that they are set to return home and rebuild their country’s economy.
Joe De Souza of Mototech Botswana thanked President Khama for what he has done in telling Mugabe openly to resign. ”Khama’s government has given us opportunities to settle and set businesses in Botswana,” he notes.
He could not face the economy of his country collapsing daily whilst a few ruling elite continued to amass wealth at the expense of the majority. He was only driven into Botswana by the need to provide for his family as a professional.
Frank Renias is a disc jockey based in Bulawayo and has come to Francistown visiting his family members.
“I came here to check on my family members. From Bulawayo there are no longer roadblocks manned by the police who used to thoroughly search us as if they were looking for some evidence for crime. But, the army is very friendly and efficient,” he says.
“I am a white person living in Zimbabwe and I wouldn’t change anything in the world. But, one country that I will live in is Zimbabwe, the best country in the world. Here in Francistown a lot of Zimbabweans live here and there is hope for peace post-Mugabe rule.”
A 60-year-old coloured man who identified himself only as De Klerk thanked all the countries that provided a home away from home for all the Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora.
Among his lines of business he is engaged in doing steel structural works and has no reason to go back to Zimbabwe as he is already established.
“I will be staying here and at my age I am too old to go and start afresh back home as starting afresh might take time for one to get established again,” he says amid celebrations.
Shaun Bryant appreciated that Zimbabweans have really librated themselves before they were liberated by the army which took over the reigns of power about two weeks ago.
“The people showed what they wanted. As you can see here right now in Francistown we are celebrating in unison. In Zimbabwe, we suffered together and together we need to take the nation forward.”
He was elated that power now is back in the people’s hands, “we liberated ourselves before the army and now we have a second chance. The first chance was Mugabe’s and he took the country down the drain and we are joyous that we have a second chance.”