Yesterday, April 18, 2022, Bulawayo woke up to cloudy weather and the sky was overcast with light drizzle.
The entire city was covered by clouds, which somewhat threatened to dampen the mood of exuberant Bulawayo residents who, for years, had patiently and eagerly waited for the day to come.
Indeed, the day had finally arrived much to their delight.
As early as 7AM, multitudes of people from all walks of life could be seen queuing outside the main entrance to gain entry into the Barbourfields Stadium to witness the historic day, enjoy the spirit of freedom and independence as the country celebrated Independence Day.
It was not only a celebration of Independence, but also of the unity in diversity.
Independence Day is significant as it serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that many freedom fighters made to liberate the country from British rule 42 years ago.
Named after Henry Robert Barbour, who was the mayor of Bulawayo from 1924 to 1926 during the colonial era, Barbourfields Stadium was the place to be yesterday.
The suburb, one of the oldest settlements in the city, was built on land formerly owned by the colonial settler Barbour.
By 9AM, the 25 000-seater stadium had filled to capacity as scores of people converged at the multi-purpose sporting facility to witness the main 42nd Independence anniversary celebrations, which for the first time since 1980, were being held outside Harare.
For years to come, the event will remain one of the most memorable in the history of Bulawayo.
The day started with a joint military parade by members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), police and Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) showcasing their marching and drilling prowess much to the excitement of the crowd.
President Mnangagwa and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa arrived shortly after 11AM amid ululation from the cheerful crowd and immediately stepped onto the podium before the police band led the nation in singing the National Anthem.
Thereafter, President Mnangagwa, accompanied by ZDF Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, inspected the guard of honour. Around 11.55 AM, President Mnangagwa lit the Eternal Flame.
The spirit of Independence and all that makes Zimbabwe a sovereign nation, are symbolically captured in the Eternal Flame kindled on Independence Day on April 18, 1980 at Rufaro Stadium in Harare.
Yesterday marked exactly 42 years since the Flame was lit, and taken to Harare Hill where the Pioneer Column hoisted the Union Jack on September 12, 1890, thus marking the end of colonialism.
The Eternal Flame is an embodiment of the spirit of Independence which emboldens the nation to set aside differences and join hands as a people to celebrate the essence of sacrifice, hard work and resilience.
Members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) canine and cycling units left the enthusiastic crowd in awe with their impressive displays while Air Force of Zimbabwe personnel mesmerised people with the ceremonial fly past that synchronised with the paradrops.
To cap it all, pupils from selected schools, such as Mzilikazi High School and Sobukazi High School performed captivating mass displays. Some recited poems that captured the mood of the occasion.
President Mnangagwa said hosting the 42nd Independence Day Anniversary and other commemorative festivities outside the capital city is in line with the Second Republic’s thrust of devolution and decentralisation.
This year’s Independence celebrations together with the Children’s Party were held under the theme: “Zim@ 42- Leaving no one and no place behind.”
In his address to the nation, President Mnangagwa said this year’s celebrations are historic and extraordinary in that they are the first in which the main commemorations are being held outside Harare. In the past the Independence celebrations were held in the capital city.
“As per the promise of the Second Republic, the days of Harare being “bambazonke” are now behind us. We are strengthening our unity, enhancing national cohesion and entrenching peace within our country, brick by brick, stone upon stone,” he said.
The President also paid homage to many trade unionists and nationalists who launched their confrontation with the brutal white settler regime, from bases within townships such as Pelandaba, Mzilikazi, Luveve, Mbare, Highfields, Sakubva, Mtapa and Mucheke.
“The nation is emboldened by their bravery and selfless sacrifices, and we promise never to forget the rich liberation heritage they left us. As a diverse but one nation that is united under one National Flag, we reaffirm and reinforce our unity, love and harmony for one another and for our great country,” he said.
“We refuse to be divided. The cords that bind us are much stronger than any differences which we may ever encounter.”
Also in attendance were Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Zanu-PF second secretary and party Vice President Cde Kembo Mohadi, Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and Cabinet Ministers.
Zanu-PF Politburo and Central Committee members, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda, the president of the Senate Cde Mabel Chinomona, chairperson of the Public Service Commission Dr Vincent Hungwe, chiefs, members of the Diplomatic Corps, service chiefs, Bulawayo mayor Clr Solomon Mguni and representatives of different political parties.