A long trek to make a mark in Zim

771 22.07.2013 Zimbabweans citizens prepare to go home to vote for the coming elections. Picture:Sharon Seretlo

771 22.07.2013 Zimbabweans citizens prepare to go home to vote for the coming elections. Picture:Sharon Seretlo

Published Jul 27, 2013


Johannesburg - Anxiety, mudslinging and some scathing comments about the South African government.

This is what Zimbabweans living in South Africa are saying and feeling ahead of the general election next week.

But many of the 3 million Zimbabweans heading back home to vote remain hopeful for change.

The July 31 elections will be the first poll held under the country’s new constitution that was officially signed into law in May.

They come five years after Zimbabwe’s violent polls in 2008 in which President Robert Mugabe, 89, again emerged victorious amid claims of intimidation and deaths, especially of members from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Candidates include Zanu-PF’s Mugabe, 89 - who has been in power since 1980 and hopes to clinch yet another five-year term; MDC president and the country’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai; MDC politician and Minister of Industry and Commerce Welshman Ncube; Dumiso Dabengwa, president of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union; and Kisnot Mukwazhi from the Zimbabwean Development Party.

AU Commission chairwoman Nkosa-zana Dlamini Zuma arrived in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

She said the organisation had placed long-term and short-term observers there to assess preparations for the elections.

While concerned about the situation at home, many Zimbabweans who reside in Joburg this week rushed back to vote.

For Maud Gunda, 32, and Collen Mupfumi, 38, this will also be a chance to visit their families and reunite with their two sons. Sitting on her luggage at the Newtown bus station, Gunda contemplates returning to her hometown of Chisawasha, east of Harare.

She and Mupfumi, her husband of 17 years, say they are ready to face the worst.

“We didn’t register but would like to vote. We are no longer scared. We only want change and for the elections to be free and fair. We will support the new president regardless of which party he comes from.

“You see, we are tired. If you are tired you get fed up quickly. We are fed up,” they say.

Dexter Chada was born and raised in Warren Park, Harare. He arrived in South Africa 15 years ago as an economic migrant.

Chada lost friends who were assaulted during the elections of 2008.

“I was in South Africa at the time. I heard about the violence and the demolishing of houses from my family. I was scared to go back. I only sent money,” he says. “It’s still not safe to go back. Things may or may not change. I’m not settled. We don’t know what will happen.”

A businessman who identified himself only as Fred registered to vote last Thursday.

He says the Marondera registration station in his hometown was not full. While he has lost faith in the electoral system, he still hopes for a better future.

“Voting normally doesn’t make a difference and sometimes is a waste of time,” he says.

“If the outcome is not to the ruling party’s expectations there’s often violence.

“But all we can do is vote and hope for the best.”

Two friends from Buhera village, east of Zimbabwe, who did not want to be named, say they each support an opposition party and that it “doesn’t matter who wins” because all they want is free and fair elections.

They express concern over widespread rumours that Zanu-PF is unlawfully registering people through mobile networking applications such as WhatsApp.

The allegation originates from a blog posted on July 9 by Baba Jukwa, a Zimbabwean blogger with about 280 000 online followers.

Alfred Jaravani is an IT engineer at a local Joburg firm who arrived in South Africa in 2004 from Chinhoyi, a city in Zimbabwe.

He has registered and is also ready to vote.

“I look forward to seeing our country rebuilt again,” he says. “My vote might lead to a change.”

Saturday Star

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