The president and his wife drive slowly across the dusty sports ground, preceded by a pickup full of local reporters, flanked by a crowd of excited teenagers, and followed by a large cloud of dust. Banners are held aloft, flags waved. Zimbabwe’s election campaign has reached Chegutu, a small agricultural town on the high, flat uplands 70 miles west of Harare. The rally is one of the first since the official declaration of the campaign last month. The coming election – on 30 July – is the latest turning point in the most tumultuous few months in almost four decades of Zimbabwe’s political history.
In November, Robert Mugabe was forced out of power after 37 years, following a peaceful military takeoversupported by the vast majority of the 17 million population. The coming election could decide the former British colony’s course for decades to come.
“For so long we were suffering. Now we have a new chance in Zimbabwe,” says Chiedza Marutsa, a 57-year-old farmer attending the rally in Chegutu.
The election pits Zanu-PF, the ruling party, against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the longstanding opposition. Zanu-PF is led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 75-year-old former vice president known as “the Crocodile” who took power when Mugabe was ousted. Polls indicate a potentially close race, but one Zanu-PF should win.