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How Do Young Zimbabweans Feel About Their Future?


Zimbabweans remember well that 2008 presidential election, when many in the opposition were rounded up, tortured, and scores were killed. Ultimately Robert Mugabe stayed in power - 33 years now and counting. Fungai Machirori, who's 29 years old, is part of a generation that grew up under Mugabe. She's a poet and the founder of Her Zimbabwe, a not-very-political platform for women to share their stories.

But this election was so important that Machirori spent two days and 12 hours in lines just to register to vote. We reached her on her cellphone in Harare to get her reaction to the latest turn of events. Thank you for joining us.

FUNGAI MACHIRORI: Thank you very much for having me.

MONTAGNE: You've been tweeting about this election and you tweeted that you voted by candlelight on Election Day at a point when you seemed to have quite high hopes for this election. How do you feel now that challenger Morgan Tzangerai has declared it a huge farce? Those are very strong words.

MACHIRORI: Those are very strong words and the morale among people is very low at the moment, but I think that the effort of what happened goes beyond what the outcome of this will be - that is, the hope that after the results are announced, people still believe enough in this country.

MONTAGNE: Your country is just stabilizing after a catastrophic economic crash and hyperinflation. I mean a point at which there wasn't even food on the shelves of grocery stores. And that's getting better now. Is that part of your sense that, regardless of the outcome of this election, things are moving along at least in a better direction?

MACHIRORI: I think that we're moving along in a better direction, but I think the fear among the basic average person on the street is I don't want to go back to the time when I had to visit the black market to get money to buy food. I don't want to go back to a time of carrying sacks of notes of money in my bag. I don't want to go back to the time when our economy is in freefall and shortages of all kind of basics are the norm.

MONTAGNE: Yes. I gathered there's a word or an expression for the Zimbabwean brand of perseverance. What is it - what is it called?

MACHIRORI: (Speaking foreign language). It's basically, like, if there wasn't our staple food, which is maize meal, then you would have to find someone who lives in a rural area who grows their own maize. And then if you're with someone who has a grainery, and then from there you have to find some uncle or friend who's got a truck who just happens to be coming your way, and it's basically if the main route is not going the right way, you know, make a new route. And then if that route doesn't go, make another one, or 20 more.

MONTAGNE: Well, how do you see your future there in Zimbabwe? So much of what is news about Zimbabwe in the rest of the world is about how difficult it is to live there. But there's a more complex picture, isn't there?

MACHIRORI: Of course. I did my Master's in the U.K., but I wanted to come back to Zimbabwe and I wanted to be a part of the process of development. It's always a tug of war because you want to help the country but you also have to think about yourself and your circumstance. Are you happy as an individual being in this country?

MONTAGNE: What, at this moment in time, is the mood among your friends? This election is a bit of a roller coaster, I imagine, these just couple of days.

MACHIRORI: Oh, just general disbelief and shock. But I find the same kind of resilience within Zimbabwe. In fact, it is our trademark. For instance, I sat down with two of my friends and we just started having a laugh. And we said, well, we might as well not get too stressed by the situation. There's nothing we can do about it until we hear an official statement.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

MACHIRORI: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Fungai Machirori is the founder of the website Her Zimbabwe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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