Zimbabwe’s long-time president, Robert Mugabe, dominated VOA’s look at the country on the 36th anniversary of its independence on April 18.
“It’s difficult for anyone who’s stayed in power for 36 years to stay on track,” said Gregory Simpkins, staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.
Simpkins participated in “Zimbabwe @36: The Way Forward,” a panel hosted VOA’s Zimbabwe Service that explored the problems and prospects the country faces. “I don’t see how anybody could honestly say that he’s still a hero, that he’s still an asset to Zimbabwe,” Simpkins said of the 92-year-old president.
Democracy activist Reverend Isaac Mwase and entrepreneur Sibongile Sidile Sibanda also took part in the Washington event. “Accept the fact that these are the leaders that are there” said Mwase. “Given that these are the leaders, how does the Zimbabwe populace inside and outside Zimbabwe engage them in ways that are going to change the trajectory for the future of the country? Now, it’s not going to be easy. Nation building is never easy,” he noted.
“We need to be able to vote, so we need to send a word that South Africans vote outside the country. Zambians vote, so we would like to be able to exercise our vote” said Sibanda. “It’s our birthright.”
VOA Africa Division Director Negussie Mengesha called the situation in Zimbabwe a “paradox” given that the country was a major grain producer at the time of its independence, but that today it must rely on food assistance.
Robert Mugabe has been the country's president since 1980 and has declared that he will not relinquish power to the Movement for Democratic Change, the country’s main opposition political party.
VOA Zimbabwe went on the air in 2003. The service broadcasts to the country daily in Shona, English and Ndebele on its signature Studio 7 and LiveTalk programs.
The Voice of America reaches a global weekly audience of more than 187 million people in more than 40 languages. VOA programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, FM, medium wave, streaming audio and video, and more than 2,350 media outlets worldwide. VOA is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.