Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Harare diary: 'Hope has died'

Girls eating mangoes in Harare

Esther (not her real name), 29, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, describes the reaction to the last round of power-sharing talks between the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

To be honest, we don't care about the politics that much any more.

We saw the failure of Monday's power-sharing talks coming - despondency set in a long time back.

I don't accept Zimbabwean dollars, sorry
Sour milk vendor
These guys have failed to agree for about six months or more, so what was going to get them to agree this time?

As the talks were going on, we were talking about the incident over the weekend when the first lady - Grace Mugabe - slapped a photographer in Hong Kong.

It sums up the arrogance of those in power in this country. If you don't like somebody, you beat them up.

We read about it on a news service on the internet. It's not - as some have suggested - the pressure of the beginning of the end, I honestly don't think that thought ever enters their mind.

Robert Mugabe (left)
Robert Mugabe waiting to greet African leader for Monday's talks
In town you now cannot buy anything unless you have foreign currency.

Even the vegetable vendors quote in US dollars and will sometimes let you negotiate to pay with the Zim-dollar equivalent for that day.

But over the weekend I bought sour cream drinks - known as lacto - from a vendor for US$1 for two 500ml packets.

Some other guy came up and the vendor told him the same price. He said: "I don't have US dollars; how much in Zim dollars?"

The vendor told him: "I don't accept Zimbabwean dollars, sorry."

Inauguration rumours

The abduction last month of [human rights activist] Jestina Mukoko, has put paid to the feeling that it was safer to speak your mind - prevalent after the September deal.

I was becoming quite outspoken in my opinions.

If you talk and speak your mind, you're labelled an activist - and that's it, you're gone

But if they could abduct her - such a public person doing such public work, gathering evidence of torture and so forth - detain her, ignore court orders to release her, then the message to the rest of us is clear: "It's business as usual; nothing has changed."

If you talk and speak your mind, you're labelled an activist - and that's it, you're gone. So that outspokenness has gone.

The one thing people have been excited about is the inauguration of US President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, some people left work early so that they could be sitting at their TVs on time for when the satellite news stations broadcast the whole thing.

President Barack Obama giving his inaugural speech, 20th Jan
Zimbabweans are hopeful about Barack Obama's US presidency

There's a feeling that because he's of African descent he's going be more involved with our politics and he's somebody who's going to really put his foot down that there has to be a solution.

There was this rumour going around that he'd invited opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to the inauguration, so I think people have this hope that Obama's going to have the Zimbabwean cause closer to his heart than [George W] Bush did and that he's going to do more to bring about a political solution.

The involvement of the South African and Mozambican leaders at the talks on Monday was just a waste of time and their taxpayers' money.

At the end of last year, the [Southern African Development Community] leaders at a conference on Zimbabwe's impasse asked Tsvangirai and [President Robert] Mugabe and their delegations to leave the room so that they could discuss the matter.

Mugabe refused to leave. So how on earth are you going to get him to give up a ministry, if you cannot get him to leave a room?

No passion

When I started doing this diary I was so on fire - I wanted to talk about what was happening in my country.

I hoped it would somehow bring the story to a lot more ordinary people - and there'd be action and something would change for the better.

But it's been a long 10 months and my passion and my hope in politicians has gone.

Even the hope that the MDC was going to change the political scene has gone.

We've basically started to label them as useless people as well - in as much as we appreciate that it's very difficult for them and they have tried really hard, when it comes down to it, they've failed.

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