Glimmers of hope from the people of a ruined country

The abandoned brick kilns outside Bulawayo are a fitting backdrop to begin a journey through a ruined country. The derelict ovens and chimneys have been picked apart for anything that could be salvaged or sold. The blackened rubble that remains stretches for half a mile along the road to the capital, Harare, offering some shelter or a place to sleep for those who begin waiting for a lift from first light.

The lay-bys are like campsites, with crowds of arms beseeching the few passing vehicles to pull over and load up. Women carry babies strapped to their backs and crushing sacks of maize, children play in the dirt and the men sit and wait.

Nelson is the first to join me on the road outside Gweru. He's on his way to work as a security guard at a bank and as one of the few people in the country to still have a job he might have been expected to vote for the ruling party. But he hasn't. Like everyone else you can find he voted for Morgan Tsvangirai and he's getting worried at the long wait. "I heard on the radio that they announced five seats. After two days they announce five seats. Last time they told us after three hours." What does Nelson want to hear? I ask. "I want a new president. We need a new president. It has to be Morgan."

All along the road I hear echoes of that same sentiment from voters. And as the pink permanent ink fades from their fingers, the impatience for a result is growing. Even a toothless grandmother who speaks only Shona manages to make her feelings clear. She gestures at a defaced poster of the 28-year President and lets out a hateful hiss. We have understood each other.

There are police everywhere along the highway. Aside from the roadblocks that welcome you in and out of the larger towns, there are officers in green fatigues and soft hats waiting by the roadside. The decision to man every one of the 9,000 polling stations in the country with uniformed police – against electoral law – has stretched the force and they too must make their way home now.

Heavy rains in December have restored some of the lustre to Zimbabwe's landscape but their legacy, like everything else here, is complicated. The heavy rains flooded the winter cereal crop and washed away topsoil, so while the bush is green and the dams are filled, stomachs and pockets will stay empty.

On the outskirts of Harare there are two sets of roadblocks within half a kilometre of each other. The questions are perfunctory: Where are you going? Where is your licence? And the vehicle search is routine rather than tense.

A stone's throw from the second roadblock, posters of the Liberator stare down from the lampposts. Even with his fist raised he struggles to impress. Someone has spent hours going to each of the posters and painting over Mugabe's famous, ageless features with lurid yellow paint.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This design and print company a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence