For Zimbabweans, vote is about jobs, peace

2013-07-31 07:51

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Harare - While observers wade through the power-politics and connivances of Zimbabwe's election, Obert Murinda, a Harare resident, like countless other Zimbabweans, is clear about what he wants from Wednesday's poll.

"Jobs and peace. Those are the two things I wish for," said the 38-year-old who sells mobile phone spares and DVDs on a market stall.

"My prayer is that there is peace after the elections and the economy starts functioning normally again.

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"We want to work for our families and we don't want to fight."

During Mugabe's 33-year rule Zimbabwe's economy has repeatedly stalled.

The last decade has been particularly painful.

Inflation hit 231 million percent - some of the highest levels ever recorded - and unemployment peaked at 94 percent.

Behind the statistics is a brutal human toil.

Zimbabweans who were lucky enough to still have jobs found their wages were worthless, which almost didn't matter because shops had no stock anyway.

At the height of Zimbabwe's economic crisis in 2007, Murinda was one of millions who lost his job.

"I don’t care who wins"

He was a salesman with a leading wholesaler but when business plummeted, his employer laid off more than half of the staff.

He has been unable to find another job since, even with a marketing diploma and six years' experience.

Many college graduates have been in the same bind, countless professionals have become informal traders struggling to eke out a living.

Many of them pin their hopes on whatever comes after the elections.

"Whoever comes must have young blood and fix the economy," said Chenjerai Chiripanyanga, a sculptor based in Harare.

A noted artist, Chiripanyanya used to do a roaring business selling soapstone carvings and he also travelled overseas on training stints.

He now spends the better part of his work hours polishing art pieces gathering dust in a garden along the road to the main airport, where he plies his trade.

"When things were normal, we would get up to 18 customers on a good day and these were mainly tourists coming from Europe. Now I consider it a good month when I get more than three buyers."

"So I don't care who wins but they must fix the economy and make sure we are on good terms again with our old friends we used to trade with."

But there have been hopes of a revival before.

Millions living in poverty

In 2009 President Robert Mugabe and his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai were forced into a power-sharing government, following a bloody presidential run-off.

It was billed as a way of mending the economy - and it had some successes.

After dumping the local currency, shops filled up again and inflation was brought under control.

But most firms still operate below capacity.

An equity law that compels foreign companies to sell majority shares to locals scared off foreign investors.

Now both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have pledged to create jobs and improve the lives of millions living in poverty.

Tsvangirai says if he wins the elections his government will create a million jobs in five years, open the economy to new investors and improve social services.

Mugabe has vowed to press on with his indigenisation drive, putting assets in the hands of black Zimbabweans.

Following the violence which swept across the country, leaving scores dead and thousands displaced at the last elections in 2008, many hope it does not happen again.

"I hope there will not be a run-off again this time around," said Casper Tachiona, a cellphone airtime vendor in the city centre.

"We don't want to go in that direction again. We want peace after this election and go back to our normal lives."

For all Zimbabwe election stories please visit our Zimbabwe Special Report Page.

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