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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test