HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe celebrates 30 years of independence this weekend but there is little hope for the future in a country only slowly recovering from economic collapse after three decades of President Robert Mugabe's rule.
Mugabe, now 86, spearheaded a guerrilla war against white minority rule in the then Rhodesia, but critics charge that he has ruined one of Africa's most promising economies since taking over power from Britain in 1980.
"It should be a landmark anniversary, but unfortunately for many people it is a time to count lost opportunities, and wasted lives," said Lovemore Madhuku, a political commentator and head of pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
On Sunday Mugabe will lead freedom celebrations in Harare but many people are spooked by the prospect of his running for another term in elections expected in 2013. Mugabe said last month he would stand again if nominated by his ZANU-PF party.
Mugabe was last year forced into a power-sharing government with arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, after a political crisis sparked by a disputed general election in 2008.
While the fragile coalition has stabilised the economy and re-opened schools and hospitals, it is too broke to rebuild collapsed public infrastructure and provide clean water.
At least eight out of 10 potential workers are unemployed, and organised crime and corruption are increasing in the wake of a decade-long economic recession.
Despite criticism that the move will damage the economy and discourage foreign investment, Mugabe is pressing on with plans to turn over control of foreign firms to locals under a black empowerment drive.
Hat Tip: JP