HARARE – Young voters in Zimbabwe hope the first election without Robert Mugabe will mark a change in a country where most of them are unemployed, and say the older generation has failed to deliver them a future.
Monday’s contest pits Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe deputy who became president after his boss was ousted, against Nelson Chamisa, a 40-year-old lawyer and part-time preacher who is appealing for votes from the young and disillusioned.
“I’m hoping for the elections to be free, fair and credible, that’s number one. Number two: I’m expecting the elections to usher in a new Zimbabwe. A new Zimbabwe that is good to live in,” said Jonah Arufandika, a young man on the streets of Harare.
“There’s nothing coming for the youth,” said another, Tendai Chipangwa. “We can look in terms of employment, we can look in terms of even the education. What we are earning as youth is nothing,” he said indicating people selling juice in the street.
More than 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s registered voters are under 35 and unemployment is estimated at over 90 percent.
Fadzayi Mahere, a law lecturer running for parliament as an independent, said the absence of Mugabe – who dominated Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 – had shown young people change is possible.
“I think that was very important symbolically for the national psyche, because you definitely see different things happening and more people getting engaged,” she said while campaigning in Harare.
“The young people are definitely ready to take on the mantle and get more engaged and involved in politics.”
The election for president is too close to call, according to the polls, making a runoff on September 8 a real possibility.