With so much happening in the world this year, it takes something really special to break through the Trump/Brexit/EU/Germany/Syria/North Korea bubble. But something did and it dominated the news here in the UK for days this week: Zimbabwe.
We in the UK are probably seeing more of it than elsewhere because Zim is a Commonwealth country and one we have always had an interest in. But also I think it was so high up the news agenda simply because, for once, it was good news. Good news that was reflected in the cheering and dancing and smiles and partying of what looked like the entire nation. It was hard not to cheer and dance along with them, and who didn’t wish they could have been on the streets of Harare last night (21st November) for what looked like the party of the century?
But as the dancing slows and the clean-up begins, as people start to go back to work, get on with the normal day-to-day life of living in a country that has been bankrupted by corruption, the big question on everyones minds is: what happens now?
I of course have a special interest in Zimbabwe because as well as meeting lots of Zimbabweans living in South Africa, I have relatives living there – who I was lucky enough to visit earlier this year. It was a very special visit, different from all our other adventures in Southern Africa, and one I will always remember. Because I was staying with my relatives I was able to really experience life as a local (locals who are better off than most in that country but nevertheless living with the same shortages as everyone, the same questionable future, the same problems getting money from the bank or finding work). It was only a short stay but I really felt like I was able to get under the skin of the country and the one thing I understood, loud and clear, was how desperately the people of Zimbabwe, whatever their background, wanted change.
And now it seems change is coming. I am sure that the euphoria of the last few days will soon give way to something more reflective, as people start to wonder who will replace Mugabe in both the short and the longer term. Will something better come in his place? Will the elections next year be free and fair? Will the much-needed investment in the country come?
All they – and I – can hope is that at last the time has come for the people of Zimbabwe to be able to hope again. Hope for a better future. Hope that democracy can be replaced. That the land can flourish again. Tourism can return. It’s a big hope in this day and age where everywhere we look things fall apart. But right now we all need some hope.
Zimbabwe, for the sake of us all: rise again.