At a time of unprecedented economic and social crisis, Zimbabwe went to the polls in 2008. The parliamentary and presidential elections on 29 March were marred by various forms of intimidation and very unequal access to the state-run media. Nonetheless, for the first time, results were posted outside the ballot stations after the votes were counted. As these were made known, excitement grew and the opposition prematurely declared victory.
By contrast, the Election Commission slowly, over weeks, released the official results: one seat to the ruling party, one seat to the opposition. After a recount – begun on 19 April – the official results were finally made known on 2 May. One House of Assembly seat went to an Independent candidate, ten to MDC (M), 97 to ZANU (PF) and 99 to MDC (T). In the presidential poll, no candidate won the required majority of 50 percent plus one vote; Morgan Tsvangirai polled 47 per cent, Robert Mugabe 43 percent and Simba Makoni 6 percent.
During the following seven weeks prior to the presidential run-off, intimidation escalated and many people fled their homes fearing for their lives. In the week before the vote, Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew, arguing that the levels of violence made a free and fair election impossible. Polling took place on 27 June. In contrast to the inordinate delays after the March election, results were announced on the 28 June, and Robert Mugabe was inaugurated president on 29 June.
This is a brief background to the issue now posted on this site; a more extensive overview of the Zimbabwe elections of 2008 can be read in the article Zimbabwe 2008: key political developments by Eldred Masunungure. Here, in just eleven poems, we have responses to a period of tension, waiting, violence, hope, and its absence. Poets wrote to us, unsolicited, as their emotions found creative outlet. What is represented is this issue is but a pixel of the larger image, but one that we feel gives poetry a small metaphoric space to reflect on these turbulent times.
Strife Taurai Lovemore Chinyanganya
Time to Move On Chirikure Chirikure
The Coming of the Rains John Eppel
Waiting John Eppel
Burial of an Activist Ethel Kabwato
Waiting Ethel Kabwato
Silence of Loneliness Chris Magadza
Killing an Infant Chris Magadza
They Are Coming Chris Mlalazi
Carry His Spirit to a New Zimbabwe Beaven Tapureta
A Space of Waiting Rosalie Wilson
Taurai Lovemore Chinyanganya (1964) gained a BA (Hons) in English and a Grad. CE from the University of Zimbabwe, followed by a B.Ed from the University of Cape Town, and most recently an MA LSP from the University of Zimbabwe. He has taught English Language and Literature at various secondary schools, and English and Communication in the Linguistics Department of the University of Zimbabwe. He is currently programme coordinator for the BA English and Communication Studies and BA Media Studies degrees for Zimbabwe Open University in Mashonaland Central.
Chirikure Chirikure (1962) studied at the University of Zimbabwe. He then worked for many years as an editor at College Press, Harare, before deciding to become freelance to devote more time to his own work. A performance poet, he has been featured at many international festivals around the world, while also participating regularly and actively in local events. He has published three volumes of his poetry and several audio recordings. As an arts coordinator, he has worked with the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, Rooftop Promotions, Pamberi Book Café, the Harare International Festival of the Arts and the House of Hunger slam poets. Always ready to give advice and support to aspiring poets, he currently works part-time for HIVOS as programme officer for culture.
John Eppel (1947) was born in Lydenburg, South Africa, but grew up in Zimbabwe, where he still lives, teaching English at Christian Brothers College in Bulawayo. He is the author of twelve books of poetry and fiction, several of which have won prestigious awards.
Ethel Kabwato (1970) is a high-school literature teacher. She was also a participant in the Crossing Borders Writing project, during which she worked on an anthology of poetry. In 2007, she participated in the Worldwide Reading for Media Freedom in Zimbabwe at Rhodes University and Witwatersrand University in South Africa. In 2008, she was a Cinema Without Borders guest at the annual Amnesty International Film Festival in Amsterdam. Her inspiration comes from her two daughters, Nadia and Wynona. Ethel says that, for her, writing poetry is a soul-searching but enriching exercise.
Christopher H. D. Magadza (1939) B.Sc., M.Phil. (London), Ph.D. (Auckland, New Zealand) is a founding fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences. Magadza is a limnologist and a member of the International Lake Environment Committee and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He has worked on New Zealand, Zambian and Zimbabwean inland waters.
Chris Mlalazi (1970) has published a short-story collection, Dancing with Life and other Short Stories (2008). His play, The Crocodile of Zambezi, co-written with Raisedon Baya was banned. From 2006 to 2008, he was the country co-ordinator for Power in the Voice, a British Council spoken-word initiative. He is also patron of the Bulawayo branch of the Budding Writers’ Association.
Beaven Tapureta (1975) was born in 1975 in Chitungwiza. He holds a diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa. He is the programme officer at the Budding Writers Association and has published articles on poetry in local newspapers. He says, “My appetite for writing began when I was at secondary school in Epworth, inspired by the poor and the fast life we led despite inadequate resources.”
Rosalie Wilson (1939) emigrated from the UK to Zimbabwe in 1960, where she married and raised two sons. A librarian by training, she has enjoyed a life-long love affair with books and poetry. She is a joint publisher at Quote Publishers and has also worked as a freelance editor for many years. Although presently living in Wales, her heart remains in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe 2008: key political developments by Eldred Masunungure