Coming Back to a Different Place

(apologies for the late update – internet access was just too hectic the past few days – a sign of how things have deteriorated)

I touched down at Harare International Airport Tuesday night ( 19 March) on a half full South African Airways flight. I had the pleasant surprise of running into Davie Malungisa at Johannesburg airport ā€“ a colleague I have had the pleasure to work with on social justice and democracy issues for a number of years. Davie is a founder of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Developments (ZIMCODD) and the Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF) ā€“ and is now the Executive Director of Institute of Democratic Alternatives of Zimbabwe (IDAZIM) based in South Africa. Our flight’s one-hour delay gave us an opportunity to quickly catch up on the situation in Zimbabwe and discuss possible post-election scenarios.

Harare International Airport was like a ghost town. The SAA flight was the only one and and everything seemed to be engulfed in grey, not just at the airport but the whole way to my host’s place in downtown Harare. Driving into Harare the most noticeable thing was how the infrastructure is collapsing. Most street lights are out, same as traffic lights, roads are potholed – it does not look like maintenance is still a part of Harare City Council’s work. The first shock was paying 10 million Zimbabwe dollars for 30 minutes parking. The Zimbabwe dollar was trading at 1 is to 35 million to the U.S dollar. A gallon of petrol is selling at 300 million dollars! This becomes more ridiculous if one considers that the Zimbabwe government slashed 3 zeros from its currency recently. Thus in reality the above figures are all billions. Everything is charged in millions and the highest note is 10 million. A colleague tells me that his kids were confused at school when they read about cents and coins – the younger kids have no idea what that is.

Driving around Harare there is a charged quietness. something close to the calm before the storm.’ Cases of violence are very isolated and minimal even in the usually restive working class suburbs. On the streets one could see candidates from different parties busy canvasing. Opposition campaign adverts are appearing in the state controlled media creating an impression that things are normal on the surface. This is exactly the question that i want to ask civic society people i am meeting. Has the electoral situation changed fundamentally since the last elections? Is March 29 going to be a free and fair election? In my next post, coming in the next few hours i will summaries the mood in the country, responses we have been getting from civic society and weigh in with a bit of my own analysis!

 

 

Regards,

 

Briggs

 

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