When Bob Marley and Robert Mugabe celebrated independence

Bob Marley

Zimbabwe attained its independence after more than 10 years of armed struggle. On the day that the former Southern Rhodesia gained national sovereignty, Bob Marley performed in front of an audience that included Robert Mugabe, who would go on to serve as the country’s first prime minister.

On 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe gained its independence. Celebrations followed on the nights of 17 to 18 April 1980 during a concert at the Rufaro Stadium, located in the heart of Highfield, the township of the capital Salisbury (now Harare). Bob Marley & the Wailers was just one of the musical acts and among the songs they performed was Zimbabwe, with a strong call for pan-Africanism.

Distinguished guests

The moment was of great historical significance, as the last European colony on the continent had finally gained independence. Representatives from 100 countries, including 11 heads of state, travelled to Zimbabwe for the celebrations.

At midnight, in absolute silence, the Union Jack was lowered from the big flagpole in the middle of the stadium and replaced by the four-coloured flag of the young state. Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. For real, this time.

The list of distinguished guests included Prince Charles of the UK; Lord Soames, the country’s last governor; Kurt Waldheim, UN secretary-general; Edem Kodjo, secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda and India’s prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The stadium was packed with more than 35,000 enthusiastic people attending the ceremony. Thousands more were prevented from entering, and even dispersed using tear gas, as the stadium could not accommodate all those who were desperate to witness the demise of the British Empire on the continent.

Source: African Report