The day Zimbabweans killed Zimbabwe!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

I am not sure how many people remember what happened in this country on 4th March.

This was exactly 44 years ago.

On this day, the results of the 1980 pre-independence general election were announced.

ZANU, led by Robert Gabriel Mugabe, won with 57 seats in the 100-seat parliament.

Second was Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo’s ZAPU with 20 seats, followed by the UANC led by Abel Tendekai Murorewa garnering 3.

Ian Douglas Smith and his Rhodesia Front took all the 20 seats on the white roll – which were specially reserved for the white population under the Lancaster House Agreement.

In so doing, the newly independent country of Zimbabwe fell into the hands of ZANU.

The 4th day of March 1980 was a day of explosive joy, with millions of Zimbabweans filled with immense hope and pride for their country.

I remember this period as if it were only yesterday – although I was just a seven-year-old boy – since the exceeding excitement gripping my parents could not be lost on me.

As a matter of fact, my late father had been an active supporter of the liberation movement and deeply involved in ZANU – subsequently rising up the ranks to the Midlands provincial level.

Therefore, the independence fervor was an integral facet of our household – as the loathing of injustice and oppression has been in our blood.

This is the same spirit that still thrives in my family today, as we hate any form of subjugation with a passion.

It was, thus, inevitable that my father would attend the independence celebrations in the then Salisbury (now Harare) on the 17th April 1980.

But what had the people of Zimbabwe just done by voting for ZANU and Mugabe?

Today, the people of Zimbabwe are witnessing and experiencing the painfully tragic consequences of the choices made during the 1980 general elections.

We effectively handed over our beloved Zimbabwe to a power-hungry barbaric corrupt cabal that was soon to run the once prosperous country into the ground.

Little did our parents know that putting that ‘X’ besides the cockerel was akin to signing the country’s death warrant!

We were all soon to be prisoners in what has become the world’s largest prison camp!

Zimbabweans had just unwittingly offered themselves and generations to come to a life of unimaginable poverty and suffering.

Of course, I am not blaming those who voted in 1980 since there were many factors at play during that time.

For starters, how were our parents to know that the party they were voting for had absolutely no intentions of placing ordinary citizens first?

Had they not portrayed themselves as brave liberators who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for the good of the majority?

Did some of the leaders not actually spend years in jail apparently for the independence cause?

How were our parents to know that those who led ZANU at that time had hijacked the liberation struggle – by systematically eliminating all genuine cadres as General Josiah Magama Tongogara, Chairman Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo and many others?

Our parents did not even have the privilege of social media or the multiplicity of mainstream news outlets that we are privileged of having today, where they could learn the truth about these assassinations.

All they knew was that Mugabe and ZANU had finally broken the shackles of eight decades of colonial rule – and that was enough!

Nothing mattered except getting rid of Smith and his regime!

Little did they know that Mugabe and his hangers-on as his then protégé Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa were nothing more than thugs whose sole agenda was fulfilling their own personal power and wealth ambitions.

They were not going to allow anyone or anything to stand in the way to the fulfilment of these dreams – even if that meant massacring the same people they had ostensibly just ‘liberated’.

That is the brutal truth that can never be watered down or glossed over.

Is that not why, barely two years into this independence, the regime was ruthlessly butchering, in cold blood, tens of thousands of innocent unarmed civilians in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces?

In all this, while they were also busy amassing incredible wealth through the remorseless plundering and pillaging of our national resources.

These were the resources they had pledged during the liberation struggle to share equitably amongst the population without any form of discrimination.

Soon, most state-owned companies, such as ZiscoSteel, NRZ (National Railways of Zimbabwe), power utility ZESA, Air Zimbabwe, you name it, were either limping or dead.

The cause?

Gross corruption, nepotism, and incompetence.

Even today, Zimbabwe is losing over US$3 billion each year to the smuggling of our natural resources, illicit financial transactions, and other corrupt activities.

Due to the further mismanagement of the economy by the ZANUPF regime, thousands of big-name companies have been closed over the past two decades.

Today, as much as Mugabe’s successor Mnangagwa loves bragging over a handful of companies, particularly in the mining sector, which have opened in Zimbabwe, it is a mere fraction compared to those that shutdown.

As a result, the vast majority  of Zimbabweans have been forced into unemployment and poverty – leading millions to leave the country.

As we speak, nearly half the population lives in extreme poverty, and over two-thirds of the workforce earn below the poverty datum line.

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), at least 3.5 million Zimbabweans are projected to be acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance in 2024.

All this, while those in the ruling elite continue to loot our national resources with impunity.

At the same time, Mnangagwa is determined to rule the country forever as he intently establishes a family and clan dynasty in nearly all key positions in Zimbabwe.

Anyone who complains, opposes, or exposes these nefarious activities is branded ‘unpatriotic’ and exposed to the most savage persecution.

In spite of all the noise of ‘one man one vote’ during the liberation struggle, the ZANU PF regime has made every effort to ensure that the voice of the people is stifled and suppressed.

This has been the case, especially after the formation of a strong opposition in 1999 – where elections were flagrantly rigged and opponents brutally crushed.

The 23rd August 2023 elections made history for all the wrong reason when they were roundly condemned as a sham by all respectable observer missions, including the usually pliant SADC.

It is not a good place where Zimbabwe finds itself.

Is this what our parents imagined how things would turn out when they voted for ZANU in 1980?

I think not!

Now, it is virtually impossible to reign in or even get rid of the monster that we gave power.

As much as my father sadly passed away in August 2000 – and never lived long enough to see the full extent of the mess ZANU PF created – I am quite sure he is turning in his grave.

I can confidently assert that on 4th March 1980, Zimbabweans effectively killed Zimbabwe!

My fervent prayer is that should we be presented with another opportunity to choose a new government, we do not make the same mistake.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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