In post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, young people drive political change

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Outwardly, Gift Ngwarati, who lives in rural Zimbabwe, is a supporter of Zanu-PF, the party that has ruled his country almost since he was born. But inside, he supports the opposition.

He doesn’t dare say it in public, because the Zanu-PF militants can turn violent. But Mr Ngwarati says he is just one of a growing group of opposition supporters in his region who are fed up with economic mismanagement and poverty.

why are we writing this

Driven by a young generation that wants change, the waning support for Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party could be an indicator of the first democratic transition since independence in 1980.

Ninety percent of working-age Zimbabweans do not have a formal job and annual inflation is close to 100%. Government corruption is commonplace. The ground would appear fertile for the opposition Citizens for Change Coalition, which says it will target rural voters in next year’s election campaign.

The last time a party other than Zanu-PF appeared to win an election, 14 years ago, the government unleashed an orgy of violence that left hundreds dead and nearly destroyed the opposition. Mr. Ngwarati is keeping a low profile for now, but “I will speak up when I vote, in next year’s elections,” he says.

GOTORA, ZIMBABWE

For years, Gift Ngwarati has led a double life. To his neighbors here in Gotora, a village in the Uzumba district of eastern Zimbabwe, the 40-year-old is an ardent supporter of the ruling Zanu-PF party, so devoted that he is even a member of the local committee.

But Mr. Ngwarati’s secret is this: he supports the opposition party. And here, in the rural stronghold of the party that has ruled since independence, often through violence, it is a loyalty that he fears will cost him his life.

“In the bottom of my heart,” says Mr. Ngwarati, “I support the opposition. I want a change”.

why are we writing this

Driven by a young generation that wants change, the waning support for Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party could be an indicator of the first democratic transition since independence in 1980.

The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, or Zanu-PF – has long dominated districts like Uzumba, rural areas where much of a brutal seven-year war was fought against British colonial rule.

Like many people in Uzumba, Zanu-PF’s founding father, the late President Robert Mugabe, belonged to the Zezuru clan, which played a key role in liberating Zimbabwe from white minority rule in 1980. From then on, he rose to power and during the first years of his rule, Zimbabwe flourished to become one of the most prosperous and educated countries in Africa.

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