WITH only 29 days before the historic harmonised polls, there is a mixture of excitement and optimism, and uncertainty among the electorate on the possible effects of the outcome of the elections on the prevailing crisis in the country.
The polls are ironically being held on the anniversary of the Southern African Development Communityâ€™s March 29 2007 resolution in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, aimed at resolving Zimbabweâ€™s crisis.Peopleâ€™s hopes for a new democratic dispensation were shattered after the Sadc initiative failed to achieve its intended purpose after the mediation talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the opposition MDC under South African President Thabo Mbeki collapsed at the eleventh hour.
Zanu PF insisted on holding the polls on March 29 without adopting a new constitution and other issues agreed during the talks, forcing the opposition to contest the polls â€œunder protestâ€.
Over two weeks ago, four presidential, 926 legislative and thousands of council election candidates filed their nomination papers.
President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC) and independents Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana will be contesting for the presidency.
In a snap survey this week, voters expressed mixed views on the bearing of elections on their lives.
The voters said they were concerned about the need for the next government to find a lasting solution to the worsening economic crisis in the country whose annual inflation rate for January shot up to 100 580,2%, according to figures released by the Central Statistical Office last week.
Some were hopeful that a new government would emerge and start addressing the crisis, while others felt the Zanu PF government would remain in power and the situation would continue to deteriorate.
Some felt that even if a new government were to be elected, it would take more than two years to stabilise the economy.
Fibion Gumisai, an office assistant at a local company, said the current government had â€œdismally failedâ€ to serve the people over the past 27 years and there was need for the electorate â€œto go out and vote for changeâ€.
He said Zimbabweans should not be apathetic but should exercise their right to vote to bring democratic change in the country.
â€œWe are going through untold suffering. There is a shortage of everything we need to survive â€” food, water, electricity, transport, housing and the situation is worsening daily. Prices of goods and services are going up everyday,â€ Gumisai bemoaned.
â€œWe should draw lessons from Zambia, which went through the same crisis we are facing under President Kenneth Kaunda. The situation has improved in that country and this was achieved through elections.â€
He said although previous elections were characterised by voter apathy, he was optimistic that many people would vote in the coming elections, as the current economic situation would be a push factor.
â€œZimbabweans in both urban and rural areas are experiencing the same economic hardships, particularly unemployment, scarcity of basic commodities, ever rising inflation and deteriorating infrastructure in the energy, water and health sectors. Roads are in a poor state,â€ Gumisai said.
â€œOf late we have been unable to access cash from banks amid allegations of corruption among government officials. People are relying on the parallel market for everything. These are some of the issues which the next government must address.â€
Joseph Dube, a gardener in Ashdown Park, Harare, said he was concerned by the policeâ€™s continued harassment of vendors trying to eke out an honest living under harsh economic conditions.
Dube supplements his income through selling cigarettes, sweets, fruit and vegetables at a street corner near his work place.
He said since his market stall was destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, he has been playing hide-and-seek with the police who regularly raid vendors and confiscate their goods.
â€œI just do not understand how the government wants us to survive. Last Saturday, police pounced on all street vendors and tuckshops here and took our goods away,â€ bemoaned Dube. â€œThey took away everything and told us to go and pay fines at the local police station. It is unfair. I think whoever is going to win the elections should seriously consider such issues.â€
Â An indigenous entrepreneur said there was need for the electorate to vote for a government that would come up with sound economic policies to improve productivity across all sectors of the economy.
He said production, particularly in agriculture, had seriously declined since government embarked on the land reform programme as beneficiaries were not fully utilising the land.
â€œThis has impacted on the manufacturing sector and we are spending a lot of foreign currency on food imports,â€ said the businessman who asked for anonymity. â€œThere is also need to embark on electricity generation projects and other alternative energy sources because industrial production has been seriously affected by power cuts.â€
He said it was important to elect a government that will address the exchange rate regime and look into price controls to kill the parallel market, which was causing price distortions.
Tom Jackson and Daniel Aron, both general hands at a city company, expressed concern at the current state of the economy and said they hoped the elections would bring changeÂ for Zimbabweans.
Jackson, who is from Mufakose, said he would vote on March 29 for change.
â€œI am going to vote. My vote may make the difference. I just hope that all people who registered will go and vote. We need change of leadership in this country. Life has become unbearable,â€ he said.
Aron, who did not register to vote due to pressure of work, said he was looking forward to a new government.
â€œI hope these elections will bring us a new leadership with new ideas to solve our problems. I am single, but I am hardly managing although I do not pay rent as I stay at my workplace. There are no basics in the shops and our money continues to lose value despite regular wage reviews,â€ said Aron.
However, some people said the outcome of the elections would not change anything as politicians were always out to enrich themselves at the expense of the people who elected them.
Monica Mbewe said she did not bother to register to vote because she felt elections would not change anything.
â€œWhether Mugabe, Makoni or Tsvangirai wins, there will be no benefit for me. I have learnt to find my own ways of survival,â€ she said.
She operates a backyard hair saloon.
Several people interviewed shared the same sentiments, saying they had lost hope of a resolution to the current political and economic crisis and instead adopted various survival strategies.