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Dear Family and Friends,
Disbelief and shock turned to stunned betrayal as Zimbabwe emerged from the elections and still, a week later, no one can believe what has happened. Despite the ‘landslide’ victory of Zanu PF and Mr Mugabe, we haven’t just experienced a week of wild cheering and celebrating, instead an ominous silence has descended on the country. No one knows what’s going to happen; if there are going to be protests or violence or if we’re just going to hurtle back in time to the dark days of no food or fuel, no electricity or water and where everyday life is an intolerable struggle. Almost overnight we have reverted to whispering, looking over our shoulders, making sure no one’s listening and being very careful what we say and even more careful what we commit to paper. Self censorship has returned to Zimbabwe with a vengeance.
Rumours are running wild: the return of the Zim dollar is the biggest fear and despite assurances to the contrary by the head of the Reserve Bank, there’s a distinct lack of trust by ordinary people. This is, after all, the same Governor of the same Reserve Bank who oversaw hyperinflation and the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar just four years ago who is now telling us to: “stop panicking.”
Alongside our disbelief and the rumours about fuel, food and money, there is also confusion. At first the MDC said this was a fraudulent, illegitimate election and declared it ‘null and void.” Then they said that none of their candidates who had won in their constituencies or wards would take their seats in government. Zimbabwe nodded silently; that made sense because you can hardly declare an election illegitimate and null and void and then sit in parliament and engage in business as usual. Then, three days later came the dreaded back-track. According to the press, news came from “impeccable sources” within the MDC that winning candidates would take their seats in parliament after all , apparently in order to :”Guard the party’s zones of autonomy.”
Zanu PF say they are going to actively pursue their policies of indigenisation and empowerment while the MDC say they are guarding their party’s zones of autonomy. Whatever these grand words really mean, they do nothing to comfort the father of a twenty year old girl who sent me a text message about his daughter while the election results were being announced. The message simply said “She has passed away.” The girl, barely a woman, had just been diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS but treatment came too late. She was born thirteen years after Mr Mugabe came to power and died as a young mother two decades later while Mr Mugabe was still in power. She had just come of age but had been too sick to vote for her first time. She leaves behind a baby just one year old. The political statements also do little to comfort the whispers of another young mother who asked why we had even bothered to vote when there was so much cheating and said: “we are so pained” by the outcome.
Which way now for Zimbabwe is what we all want to know; the legal challenges have begun and so again, we watch and wait, hope and pray. I am taking a break for a while so until next time, thanks for your support of Zimbabwe and for reading my letters for so many years, love cathy
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