WATCH: The undying hope of Zimbabweans

2017-11-23 17:10
Emmerson Mnangagwa during his first speech as the new leader of Zanu-PF. (Felix Dlangamandla)

Emmerson Mnangagwa during his first speech as the new leader of Zanu-PF. (Felix Dlangamandla)

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Harare – Through years of hardship and no sign of improvement under Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule, Zimbabweans have held on to their faith and the hope that things would change for the better.

Following the long-time ruler's resignation on Tuesday, Zimbabweans spilled into the streets to celebrate the end of Mugabe's reign, ushering in "a new Zimbabwe".

READ: ‘This is a new beginning’ - Zimbabweans on Mugabe's ousting

But many knew that seeing the back of Mugabe and his wife, Grace, wouldn't immediately improve their fortunes. They knew they would wake up the next day and still face the same problems of unemployment, a cash crisis and failing infrastructure.

One other thing Zimbabweans would still have is hope. And in Cold Comfort, a rural area on the outskirts of Harare, Christopher Chekutsa, 52, had plenty of it.

Chekutsa, who owns a roadside business selling second-hand tyres and fuel, said he hoped the country could attract investors so more jobs could be created for people like himself and his two unemployed sons.

Since losing his job as a petrol attendant at a Total garage in Harare more than two years ago, Chekutsa says life has been hard.

'I believe in God and that things can change'

He pulls the air compressor he uses to inflate tires about one kilometre every morning to the spot where he works from 06:00 to 18:00 every day. On a good day, he makes between $3 and $4.

"It was difficult when I lost my job. I came here and started my business. But it was difficult. My first days, I could spend a week without making any money," Chekutsa says.

He says that for the first few weeks after he started his business, he wasn't able to afford the R5 (roughly) he had to spend on lunch.

"People used to laugh and say 'you are wasting your time'. It was very painful. But I believe in God and that things can change.

"It's been very tough, very painful just to survive. Last month I couldn't afford to pay rent for my family, so I had to take out a loan."

ALSO READ: 'He should have been long retired' - veteran on Mugabe

Chekutsa pays about $60 a month to rent the two rooms in which he lives with his wife and two sons.

Nearby, Fredeck Chinhamo, 42, also runs a roadside business selling fuel to the occasional taxi or car that passes by.

Chinhamo says he also struggles to take care of his wife and four children, with an average income of about 50 US cents every day.

"I hope life can change [with incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa]. I want my children to be able to go to school and not be hungry," he says, adding that "the bread basket is very low" at home.

'We love Zimbabwe'

Lily Mapata, 40, a qualified chef who has been unemployed for the last five years, says the departure of Mugabe couldn't have come sooner.

"You know I was saying to myself, I wish this happened 37 years back. [But] we need to forgive and we need to move on. We are saying 'may the president live, may he enjoy his retirement, and may he enjoy the new Zimbabwe'. We love Zimbabwe," she said outside the Zanu-PF headquarters on Wednesday while she waited for the arrival of Mnangagwa.

"After today, after this week, [I hope] things are put into order and jobs are made available."

During Mnangagwa's first public appearance since he was fired as deputy president earlier this month, and in what was his first speech as the new leader of Zanu-PF and incoming president of Zimbabwe, he said citizens should come together and help grow the country's economy.

"I appeal to all genuine, patriotic Zimbabweans to come together, we work together – no one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans. We want to grow our economy, we want peace in our country, we want jobs," he said to loud cheers from the crowd.

And it is this hope – improving the economy, job creation, and peace – that people such as Christopher Chekutsa, Fredeck Chinhamo, Lily Mapata and thousands of other Zimbabweans have held on to for years during Mugabe's reign over the country.

But they know it won't happen overnight.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  emmerson mnangagwa  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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