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2018: Hope turned into despair

It feels like 2018 has been multiple years rolled into one. A lifetime ago — or so it seems — thousands of citizens marched along with soldiers to push for Robert Mugabe’s ouster.

BY CHIPO DENHERE

The euphoria from the march carried us all through Christmas and into the new year.

Thus, many of us began this year with a sense of hope. The government has tried to sell the message of a new dispensation, but for the ordinary men and women walking the streets of Harare or in the diaspora waiting up until after hours to speak to their family back home, the New Year has been rather painful.

In February, we said good night to Morgan Tsvangirai. Some always expected that a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe would be led by Tsvangirai — but perhaps in his death, he also gave us the gift to see possibilities: That our democracy and the goodness of Zimbabwe is not embodied in single individuals.

Individuals will come and go, but the strength of our democracy can be found in each and every one of us.

Millions of us lined up on a cold July morning to cast our vote.

This was the first election for many of our youth — it was also the first election in which social media played a big role.

And, colour-coded campaigns — blue, yellow, purple posters — lined the pavements and city walls.

Young and old people ran — each one making grand promises for a better Zimbabwe.

For a moment we all became enamoured by the idea of bullet trains.

Even our favourite musician turned presidential candidate Sekuru Bryn Mteki featured.

For the most part, the election period was exciting and peaceful …then August 1 happened.

For the first time in my life, I witnessed soldiers with guns on our streets.

We are told now that the soldiers only shot at a 45-degree angle, perhaps, but the blood on the streets, the picture of a grandmother with a gun pointed at her head was all too real.

In the days following the election, we learned new lawyer terms and became intimate with V11s and other election-related lingo.

Everything must come to an end and even this exciting and complicated year is closing.

On social media, young parents are posting pictures of their little ones participating in Christmas plays and exam results of those who have done well.
Friends and family in the diaspora are making their way home or at least struggling with last-minute shopping.

At airports they will have to master their Zimbabwean charm to convince the airline hostesses that the extra 10kg is really only 3kg or not worth anything.

At the village, kumusha, the grandparents are counting down the days until the family arrives.

These paradoxes of our lives are what make Zimbabwe a wonderful place to grow up and a uniquely blessed nation. As we each look towards the new year, we will continue to find a way to make it work and to survive. In our quest for survival, may we never tire to continue fighting for a better Zimbabwe!

Chipo Dendere is a Consortium for Diversity Fellow and visiting assistant professor of political science at Amherst College.

Dendere has written extensively on Zimbabwean politics for both academic and non-academic audiences.
She studies democratisation, elections and voting behaviour in Africa as well as the impact of social media on politics. This article was first published by Kubatana

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