Basildon Peta: After 28 years of misrule and corruption, the end is near

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On many occasions, as a Zimbabwean, I have been tempted to lose all hope. The more so when so many unthinkable things have happened, and I have thought they could not get any worse before my countrymen decide enough is enough and revolt against the tyrant Robert Mugabe.

But until now, Zimbabweans have simply adapted and carried on. Their patience has been as durable as Mr Mugabe's dictatorship.

I think of the many days Zimbabweans have failed to receive their salaries in the banks after a month's hard work because the country so often runs out of its own currency. I think of the months they go without electricity, fuel and most basics. I think of all the evidence of economic ruin; the empty supermarket shelves, the worthless currency, the widespread poverty and squalor. I say to myself, things can't get any worse. And yet they do.

I have watched with trepidation when the general response from my countrymen has been to remain patient in long queues and adapt. If you can't get your money, you wait in a queue until the central bank provides the next supplies of cash. I have watched queuing develop into a peculiar Zimbabwean habit. When you see a queue forming you rush to join it before you know what it is for. The chances are that whatever commodity other people are queuing to buy, you will need it yourself because of the frequent shortages.

The docility of Zimbabweans in the face of Mr Mugabe's reckless and incompetent rule has perhaps convinced him of his own invincibility.

And yet, I am convinced the end has finally come for the Zimbabwean President after 28 years of misrule, unbridled corruption and shameless cronyism.

It is unlikely to be a smooth transition. The main opposition's claims of victory yesterday were not baseless. Returns from the constituencies showed a substantial opposition win. Electoral authorities were still withholding results late yesterday long after completion of counting. That is an ominous sign. Mr Mugabe will probably declare himself the victor despite the results. But he will now have to contend with a different nation.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being Zimbabwean is that wherever you go, the traumatic consequences of Mr Mugabe's misrule follow you; at least if you still have family back home.

Since being hounded out of the country in 2002, I have lived in Africa's largest economy, boasting a functioning democracy and an easy life for anyone with a reasonable income. Yet each day, I am reminded of Zimbabwe's misery, particularly when I call my 79-year-old mother and she tells me she has gone three weeks without clean water, or two or three days without food because there is no electricity to cook with and, at her age, she cannot go to collect firewood.

Sometimes it has been difficult for me to enjoy a meal with my family in South Africa knowing that my mother is going hungry across the border. But for once, I smell something in the air; change that is now unavoidable. For once I am preparing to enjoy a decent meal.

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