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.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam