My first vote: Voting for change in Zimbabwe

In a few hours I will vote for the first time. I will vote for change.

The polling station at which I will cast my first vote is normally a clinic. I would like to think that it is significant that I will vote at a clinic – clinics are where the sick are treated and it is my hope that by voting I will be aiding in the treatment of our sickly country. I would also like to imagine that my single vote, cast at an obscure and otherwise unknown clinic built on top of a hill in Masvingo, will be the one to win the election.

Though there have been concerns about the way the election is being run-genuine ones- it has been relatively peaceful.

The political environment in the country has been in favour of some parties and the election won’t be be fair, but perhaps just good enough to be accepted as ‘credible’.

Because the polls have been flawed from the onset, our biggest hope is that the counting process itself is transparent and free from state interference. This is the most important thing- those who do the counting and announcements should do so fairly and within the time stipulated by our constitution.

There are other fears too: the losing candidate might still dispute the results, the guys in the army may decide that they don’t like a particular candidate and there might be a bloodbath – like last time.

But fears of rigging and a bloody aftermath aside, this election must bring change. It must usher in new, responsible leaders who truly care about the wellbeing of the people they lead. I have personally seen how much our people need change.

In the past month and half I have travelled across the length and breadth of our country, particularly in Masvingo. I have attended countless rallies- at schools, in football pitches, at dip tanks, townships, stadiums, homesteads and other places where the masses of our people gathered to hear the politicians speak. Where they gathered for more promises.

At Makoni Secondary School, I met an 83 year old woman. She told us that she was denied food handouts because she is an MDC supporter. She also said she carried her national ID at all times because she suspected it would be stolen before she cast her vote- she showed it to everyone who was there for proof.

In a Village near Chivi, called “Village 7”, the people there almost cried when they related their story. They were put there by the government after independence but now they are being moved again because a dam is being built. They were not consulted, they do not know were they will be relocated to.

At Gwamanjoma School the people have no water, and their children walk 10 km to the nearest school. There I met a boy, younger than me who has been to South Africa and back illegally more times than he can remember. He told me that he had come home to vote.

At Mashate Township, we were joined by MDC Secretary General, Tendai Biti. As the sun set he brought hope to the hundreds of villagers who had waited for him the whole day. He explained the need for leadership renewal. I watched despair turn into hope as Mr Biti spoke of a new Zimbabwe where healthcare and education will be available to all.

I met many people with different problems yet these problems have one thing in common: the dismal failure of our government.

My first vote will be a vote for change.

This government- and its attendant culture of greed, corruption, nepotism, laziness and brutality- needs to be changed. We need new leadership, new ideas and solutions.

When I vote tomorrow morning I will not vote because of history, my choice will not be influenced by the egregious things our leaders have caused, sanctioned or ignored – Operation Murambatsvina, Gukurahundi, the political violence of 2008, rampant corruption, the expulsion and suppression of university students, the looting of national resources, the flagrant violation of human rights- things which are, correctly so, repugnant yet not as weighty as what I have seen first hand.

I will vote for the kid who walks ten kilometres to school, for the villagers who are resettled like cattle without consultation or reasonable notice. I will vote for the thousands of young people of my age who dangerously and illegally cross the border into South Africa in search of better lives.

For these comrades I hope my single vote at a rural clinic counts. I dedicate my first vote to them.

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