Supporters of the opposition MDC Alliance attend a protest in Harare, Zimbabwe, Aug. 1, 2018. Three people died and scores of others were injured Wednesday when protesting opposition supporters clashed with army and police in the capital Harare. Scores of opposition supporters took to the streets of Harare to protest against the delay in announcement of presidential election results as well as alleged rigging of the vote. Picture : Xinhua/Shaun Jusa

Tthe standard press release preceding the Zimbabwean election was that this was the first time Robert Mugabe’s name was not on the polling sheet.
The implied significance of this brief statement was that the nonagenarian tyrant and enemy of democracy had finally been silenced, or at least incapacitated.

After the “non-coup” and the untouchable ex-president’s elaborately staged but incoherent utterances, anything could happen, it was feared.

First reports indicate that the election went off properly and avoided the standard criticisms of the local process, namely “farce”, “travesty” and “grand larceny”.

Also absent, apparently, was that bizarre category of “ghost voters”, both literal that is voting by the dead, and metaphorical, that is phantom, imaginary and duplicate voters.

It seems likely that the Zanu-PF rule will continue, which some would regard as a questionable advance in democracy. The Zimbabwean people, we are told, have a great hunger for “change”.

Understandably so. They have suffered greatly, with an economy in ruins, a debased currency and perverted human rights regime. Many are in exile and refugees. After all this, what has really changed? Zimbabwe has evidently turned the page. But will it turn the corner?

* Geoff Hughes is an emeritus professor formerly with Wits University.