After a quick glance at the morning news headlines on 3 April, which proclaimed a win for the Zimbabwean opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an elated Tavonga Mahara almost sang out: “This is sweeter than a miracle! ZANU-PF can be beaten after all!”
A resident of the Mbare suburb in the capital, Harare, Mahara added, “Surely, a new and brighter sun is on the horizon; our votes did not go to waste.”
Mahara’s excited shouts, as he broke into a little jig attracted the attention of other residents of the suburb, who crowded around him cheering wildly. MDC’s edge over the ruling ZANU-PF in the parliamentary elections – the only results that have filtered out so far - has a special significance for Mbare residents. Almost eight years ago, President Robert Mugabe had referred to the suburb’s residents as “totemless people” for their support for the MDC.
Mahara is unemployed. Unable to cope with the country’s deepening economic crisis, the printing company he worked for shut down seven years ago. He now hopes the company might re-open.
Unemployment is estimated at more than 70 percent, around 80 percent of the population lives on less that a dollar a day, industry has shrunk by about two thirds, foreign currency reserves have dwindled, inflation is estimated at around 100,000 percent and basic commodities are in short supply.
“I have been surviving from hand to mouth because of the bad politics of the government and I even failed to send my children to school beyond the seventh grade,” said Mahara, who has survived economically as a vegetable vendor. “My wife died two years ago because I did not have the money to send her to hospital and my old mother in our rural home has no food; all that will change.”
Hopes of delivery
Sara Chitiga is among the several thousand who were left homeless by the ZANU-PF government's Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals. The clean-up operation carried out in the middle of winter, left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood.
Some of the affected went back to their rural homes while many were forced into government-sanctioned resettlement camps on the outskirts of urban centres, with no source of employment. Chitiga, an illicit liquor dealer, lives in one such camp, Hopley Farm, 12 km southwest of Harare, and is now hopeful with a possible regime change that she might move into a proper house.
“My hope is that I will stop playing hide and seek with the police as I sell kachasu (home brewed alcohol) and marijuana,” she said.
A new government would come not without its own sceptics.
In 2000 the government dispossessed more than 4,000 white commercial farmers of their land in a controversial land reform exercise and reallocated it, often after cutting it up into smaller plots, to thousands of land-hungry blacks.
Philmon Zinyere, a 53-year-old veteran of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation who was given a farm as a reward for his efforts in the exercise is convinced that an opposition-led government would evict him and others who benefited and is determined to oppose any such move.
“[MDC leader Morgan] Tsvangirai is a puppet of the west,” he told IRIN. “The country will turn into chaos because he will return land to our colonisers. But we will not idly stand by as he does that; we will fight back because the land is our heritage.”
Tsvangirai has maintained that he would not reverse the land reform programme but would fine tune it to improve agricultural production.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions