Like many ordinary Zimbabweans right now, Joy Mviro is adamant that things have changed for the better.
“We can now talk openly,” she tells me confidently, as we stand outside the Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic in the heart of Mbare, the biggest and oldest township in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
“Before Mugabe was ousted, I would have thought twice about talking to a journalist or answering their questions, but not now,” Joy insists.
Just 21 years old, Joy still has most of her life ahead of her, as does her six month-old daughter Keisha, who she has brought to the clinic as part of a regular check up since the baby was born around the time that President Robert Mugabe was overthrown in November last year.
For going on 37 years Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip, the only leader this southern African nation has known since independence almost four decades ago.
Like the many other mothers queuing up yesterday outside Mbare’s maternity clinic, Joy Mviro says she is looking forward to Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections scheduled for sometime this coming July or August.
An official announcement of the precise date is expected any time now, which will see the country’s party political machinery go into overdrive in a ballot the significance of which would be hard overstate.
For most Zimbabweans it is hoped the result will mark the beginning of a new political dawn, putting behind them once and for all the authoritarianism, corruption, human rights abuses and widespread poverty that have plagued their lives for years.
Unseating Robert Mugabe and replacing him as president with fellow ZANU-PF party member Emmerson Mnangagwa last November, was only the start of such a process. For some, Mugabe’s ousting was little more than a military coup, while for others including the African Union, is was described as the “legitimate expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people”.
Whichever definition one accepts it was certainly seen as a new start for a country that now earnestly shows a desire to get democracy back on track.
Few doubt that the coming ballot will be the true test of civil liberties under the leadership of Mnangagwa, a politician who earned his nickname among Zimbabweans as ‘the crocodile’ by surviving a turbulent political career with a mixture of cunning and ruthlessness.
For the moment at least Mnangagwa, is the political flavour of the month, even here in Mbare, long known as a bastion of support for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arch rivals of the president’s ZANU-PF’s party.
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