Caroline Gluck: 'We used to be dead. Now we are alive'

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The Independent Online

For the first time since I'd been in Zimbabwe, I passed two women busy sweeping litter from a street corner as I made my way to work. It seemed a minor miracle, given that most basic civic services had broken down. There had been no refuse collection for months; and the water and sewerage system in many areas of the country had stopped functioning altogether.

On this day, it seemed highly symbolic: a clean sweep. It was a day which many Zimbabweans were praying would bring them change, after months of political deadlock, an ever-worsening economy and a humanitarian crisis as the country battled a cholera epidemic and food shortages. It was the day Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as the Prime Minister in a new unity government.

While there are sceptics who say the new arrangement is a sell-out and unlikely to achieve much, many Zimbabweans beg to differ. Many told me things couldn't get any worse; and that yesterday's events gave them cause to hope.

Some attending Mr Tsvangirai's swearing-in told me they'd sold household goods to get enough petrol to come to Harare to listen to him address the crowd as the country's Prime Minister.

He promised to end political violence; to work for a society where people were no longer living in fear of reprisals for their views. His government would stem the cholera epidemic, and ensure that those who needed food got help.

All music to the ears of the crowd. Those in the stadium cheered, danced and waved flags. Even a reporter from a newspaper loyal to Robert Mugabe seemed happy. "We used to be dead," he said. "Now we are alive. This is the start of change."

Caroline Gluck is a humanitarian press officer with Oxfam