Millions of people are voting in Zimbabwe’s first election since the removal of its former president Robert Mugabe, a watershed poll that will determine the former British colony’s future for decades. Long lines of voters formed outside polling stations across the country when they opened at 7am. “I am very optimistic this morning. This election is free. Things will get better now,” said Tinashe Musuwo, 20, as he cast his vote at Kuwadzana primary school on the outskirts of Harare, an opposition stronghold. The two main candidates could not be more different. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old president, was a longtime Mugabe aide and is head of the ruling Zanu-PF. Nelson Chamisa, who leads the country’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is a 40-year-old lawyer and pastor whose only experience of power was a stint as a minister in a coalition government several years ago.
The two represent dramatically different ideologies and political styles, as well as generations.
Almost four decades of rule by the 94-year-old Mugabe has left Zimbabwewith a shattered economy, soaring unemployment and a crumbling infrastructure.
Nyari Musabeyana, a 30-year-old hairdresser in Kuwadzana, said she had got up early to vote for change. “We wish things to be OK in our village. We have no jobs, no cash, no economy. It is the fault of the past government.”