Marching through the streets, the people of Zimbabwe showed the power of unity as they demanded now-former president Robert Mugabe be removed from power.
“Everyone was together,” said Nyahsa Ngwenya, third-year University of New Brunswick student from Zimbabwe.
“The black Zimbabweans, the white Zimbabweans, the Asian Zimbabweans, everyone was walking in the streets of Zimbabwe protesting and marching for change.”
According to Ngwenya, Pastor Evans Mawarire was one of the main advocates for this change. The pastor recently began to speak out against the Mugabe government and organized marches to protest against it. Despite being arrested and having his house searched, Evans didn’t back down. Instead, he kept pushing and woke up the people. Until he came along, Ngwenya said people hadn’t realized how oppressed they truly were. With their eyes now open, the people finally began to question the government and started to cry out for change.
Standing together as one, the Zimbabweans overthrew the Mugabe government with the help of the military. On Nov. 21, Mugabe resigned as leader, ending his 37-year reign.
“Literally the day Mugabe resigned, there was a party in the whole country,” Ngwenya said.
“It’s like a surreal feeling, I guess, and people now have hope.”
Three days after Mugabe’s resignation, former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa became the new president of Zimbabwe. In his inauguration speech, Mnangagwa addressed the issues with Zimbabwe’s failing economy, weak international relationships and infrastructure.
According to Ngwenya, Zimbabwe’s economy has been collapsing since 1997. While tourism is booming and the country is free of war, the economy is in shambles and is in need of a fresh start. With Zimbabwe’s next election coming around next year, Ngwenya said Mnangagwa will be motivated to keep his promises to making Zimbabwe Africa’s “breadbasket” once again.
Despite this new hope, some people are concerned about Mnangagwa since he was Mugabe’s right-hand man for a number of years, which puts his honesty into question.
“We’re just hoping for the best,” Ngwenya said. “We kind of really hit rock bottom. So I think we can only go up.”
For her, positive change started with empowerment. Until the march, people were “complaining in [their] houses,” but now they have the power to speak up against the government if something isn’t right.
One of the things government has to do to better Zimbabwe is to enforce new rules aimed toward a more democratic society. According to Ngwenya, Zimbabwe has a long record of corruption. Laws can be made to reduce the risk of corruption within government and guarantee fair elections. Under Mugabe’s reign, people were beaten into voting for him.
“People aren’t suffering like how you see on TV like some countries, like no food and stuff,” Ngwenya said.
“But it’s not how you can have one job and be fine, you have to have three things going on to be fine [financially].”
With Mnangagwa’s promises to revitalize the industries, international relationships and agriculture, Ngwenya hopes new jobs will be created to pull people back to Zimbabwe and encourage them to stay.
Even though Mugabe sent the country into economic ruin, Ngwenya added the former president was not always a bad guy. He had fought for Zimbabwe in the beginning and made it so the land people owned was actually their land, which is something to be proud of since it is not a common occurrence.
“I’m not saying he’s perfect, but [back] then he did do some good to Zimbabwe,” Ngwenya explains.
“He did fail along the way, or he might have lost track or became power hungry or whatever happened, but he was a hero at some point … If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have the freedom we had.”
Overall, Ngwenya said the main lesson she and the people of Zimbabwe have learned is change is good.
“If we all fight together for what we want, that’s good … and change is good. That’s what I’ve learned, and that’s what a lot of people say they’ve learned.”
Come From Away is The Aquinian’s column about world issues and events, told through the perspective of students watching their homes from afar.