Zimbabweans Speak: 'We Want Change'

American journalists are not welcome in Zimbabwe, so we entered the country as tourists, crossing the border from neighboring Zambia.

The difference between the two countries is immediately clear.

Zambia is buzzing with a vibrant tourist trade. Zimbabwe is a country that has come to a complete stop.

The first sign comes on the roads. Heading inland toward the town of Hwange, in western Zimbabwe, we drove along the main road for nearly an hour without seeing a single car.

That's one measure of the economic collapse here. Very few people have the money to buy gas and, beyond that, there's very little reason to travel: no business, exports, or tourism.

When we arrived in Hwange, the hardship was even clearer.

Inside the main grocery store, the shelves were empty. Store employees told us suppliers hadn't come for months. The one thing they did have was cheap cane liquor. We found a bakery with no bread and a butcher with no meat. I wondered why they bothered staying open.

The people here blame Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe. He has ruled this country for 28 years — first, seen as a hero for winning independence from Great Britain, but later as a ruthless dictator known to have slaughtered opponents and presided over the dissolution of the Zimbabwean economy.

Zimbabweans have waited more than a week for the results of the presidential election between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition. The opposition has claimed victory but Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party are using every tactic they can to delay the results and — opposition supporters increasingly worry — steal the election.

Now, there's talk of a possible run-off election.

There's no doubt about who won the initial round in Hwange. Local election results showed more than 8,000 for Tsvangirai, just 16 for Mugabe.

"I tell you, people are struggling in this country," local opposition supporter Bernard Staddon told us. "They're struggling, and they can't take it anymore."

"He [Mugabe] is hoping to rig the runoff again. That's what he's hoping," he said.

"He's already rigged the election so why can't he rig the runoff."

Around town, many people say that Tsvangirai is their president.

"Do you think Mugabe tied with Tsvangirai?" I asked a shopkeeper in a local market. "No, I don't believe it," she said.

"You think he fixed it?" I asked.

"Tsvangirai is the winner," she said.

It was amazing to see what qualifies as a market in Zimbabwe. There were just a few stalls selling basic things. And yet inflation is so high that the prices of simple things are denominated in the tens of millions of Zimbabwean dollars.

I changed two U.S. dollars and received one hundred million Zimbabwean dollars in return, which still wasn't enough to buy a bag of flour.

In the market, we met Kumbalani. He used to work as a locksmith. Now he sells tomatoes grown in his back yard.

"Can you make a living doing this?" I asked him.

"This is just to survive," he said. "The money I make here can't buy anything, just bread."

Even that is difficult here, when the bakeries don't have any bread.

"We just want a change," he said. "We don't know what will happen, but what we want is a change."

Most of all, Kumbalani and many other Zimbabweans want a change in leadership. But, for now, change in Zimbabwe has been delayed once again.

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