Zimbabwe's White Minority Speaks

It is rather easy to find the latest and largest Sony high-definition television in Harare, Zimbabwe. Or perhaps you are looking for a pair of limited re-edition Nike tennis shoes?

Whatever you are interested in buying, a short drive to Sam Levy's Village will do the trick. This is a sprawling outdoor mall located in the affluent Burrowdale district of Harare, where families can spend the whole day getting lost in the various red-brick paved pathways.

Mr. Mercer, a white employee at an audio and video store, stands in front of his largest Sony television screen.

He does not move as he watches the report. After a moment he lowers the volume and steps away from the television. "It's like watching a film. It's pure fiction. All of it."

Says another store employee, also white: "The good news is that the opposition now has control over the parliament. Everyone now knows the numbers. Math does not lie."

Speaking of math, whites make up less than 1 percent of the total population in Zimbabwe. And they make up more than 80 percent of Zimbabwe's upper class.

"Life must go on," says Beth, a thin young white woman who is the manager of a shoe store in the outdoor mall. "I can't let it affect me."

Boxes in hand, Beth walks towards the stockroom, saying, "I will be back tomorrow. No matter what happens."

Until a decade ago, the minority white population controlled the majority of the once-lucrative agricultural industry. That came to an end when Robert Mugabe enforced his infamous Land Reform Act, which, in effect, stripped the white farmers of their property and placed it into the hands of blacks.

Yet unemployment in Zimbabwe is at an all-time high, affecting about 90 percent of the country's population.

Back in the audio and video store, another white employee explains the situation. "Our shelves are not empty because no people are buying, they are empty because it is very difficult for us to import the products.

"Bush says he will come to Zimbabwe if Mugabe is gone," he continues. "And the British prime minister would love to come here, too. But instead of them coming, all they do is send sanctions."

The widespread rumor of a possible runoff election enters the conversation as one of the employees, who is white, reads a text message on his cell phone.

"It says the Web site is reporting that MDC [the opposition Movement for Democratic Change] has 50.3 percent of the presidential vote," he says.

"But what does that mean? Runoff or no runoff?" asks the other employee.

No one says anything for a moment.

Finally, the white manager of the store speaks: "So what if the opposition wins? They may end up doing the same thing, going down the same road."

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