What now for Zimbabweans?
89-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, is set to lead the country for yet another five years.
On July 31, many Zimbabweans braved the cold weather, hoping that their vote would bring change. But the results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau came as a bitter disappointment, even though the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did win the majority of votes in the country’s second city, Bulawayo, and in parts of Harare, the capital.
“It is devastating. I am still trying to recover from these results. This year I truly believed [Morgan] Tsvangirai would out power Zanu-PF. All we can do now is to wait and see what the future holds for our country,” said a resident of Nkulumane suburb in Bulawayo, who only identified himself as Thabo.
Many Zimbabweans believe that a Zanu-PF victory could have been stopped had the two MDC party factions of Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube set aside their differences and united.
The MDC party split into two parties in 2005, with the larger party being MDC-T, led by Tsvangirai, and the smaller faction, MDC-N, formed by Arthur Mutambara.
“The MDC really has failed us. We had so much faith in them and had hoped to even get jobs. We are honestly tired of Mugabe and we need a change, but seeing that they [MDC] lost, I think this is the end of the road for them,” said another resident in Nkulumane who declined to be identified.
Speculation over what will happen next to Zimbabwe is on the nation’s mind. Many among the youth have vowed to join the vast number of Zimbabweans who have over the past years sought refuge in neighbouring countries, such as South Africa, and further afield in the United Kingdom. The massive brain drain was further fuelled by EU sanctions that left many Zimbabweans retrenched and jobless.
“We don’t know what will happen now, maybe the Zimbabwe dollar will be introduced again and that currency was useless. And who knows, maybe even the visa to enter South Africa might be re-introduced again. We are not wanted anywhere anymore because of these election results,” said Ian Mlambo from Luveve in Bulawayo.
There has been growing speculation in social networks over the possible re-introduction of visas, a claim dismissed by the Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi. No statement however has been made by the South African Department of Home Affairs.
Returning to Zimbabwe from South Africa is difficult financially for many and tricky legally for recognised refugees.
Tendai Bhiza told GroundUp she’d been looking forward to a change and had planned to go back to Zimbabwe for good if ZANU–PF lost. “I am hoping Zimbabwe will not face the same challenges it faced in 2008.”
“My mother is diabetic, I buy her medication here [South Africa], but I will not be able to take care of her and the rest of the family … I am already struggling to send school fees to Zimbabwe for my 15-year-old son.”
Even churches, she says, cannot assist the less fortunate freely as they are accused of supporting the opposition party MDC or gay people. Orphans and the elderly suffer a lot because they do not receive any grants from the government.
Tarisai Ruva (not her real name) has been a refugee since 2008. She was also thinking of going back to Zimbabwe for good in December, but now she has changed her mind, despite the xenophobia, name calling (mukwiri kwiri), and difficulties with asylum extensions at the Home Affairs she says she endures in South Africa.
Ruva and Bhiza said there was no point to voting, since ZANU-PF has a history of stealing elections.
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