Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Hope amid Zimbabwe's harsh reality


Crowds gathered at Harare Stadium to see Morgan Tsvangirai

By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Harare

In a stadium in the centre of Harare, thousands of Zimbabweans gathered to see Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as their new prime minister - ending a protracted period of negotiation between the two main parties.

People climbed up power pylons to get a good view of the ceremony, conducted by his former rival President Robert Mugabe, while others waved flags amid the celebratory mood.

The BBC is banned from reporting in Zimbabwe, but for now it seems as if our news team is able to operate out in the open, which is a certainly a change.

Everyone I'm speaking to seems to believe or at least hope that other changes are coming here, and that the arrival of Mr Tsvangirai and his MDC party in government perhaps marks the beginning of real change for the country.

They are hoping the new unity government can end the chronic economic crisis, with its hyper inflation and unemployment rate of 96%.

I believe a new Zimbabwe is coming. This is the beginning, I must say
Zimbabwean man

One man told me: "I'm here to see the new prime minister.

"I'm here to witness history in the making, I'm here to witness the greatness of Zimbabwe's struggle, beginning to be realised, the end of tyranny and the beginning of a new era. "

But with Mr Mugabe still the Zimbabwean president, did he think anything had really changed?

"Personally not much, but at least it could be the beginning of progress, it could be the beginning of change, not necessarily the completion of change but the beginning."

The appointment of Mr Tsvangirai comes 11 months after the election in which his party polled the most number of votes, but Mr Mugabe retained power.

Five million people - almost half population - need food aid
Unemployment of 90%
About 3,400 people killed in cholera outbreak

Mr Tsvangirai won the first round of last year's presidential election - but he withdrew from the run-off, citing violence against his supporters.

However, he later agreed to share power with Mr Mugabe.

Today was called an important step by another man at the ceremony.

"We failed to remove the president democratically. We tried negotiations but now I think it not what we wanted.

"We wanted Tsvangirai as the president, but at least we can have him as prime minister and I hope that the MDC in government now can influence, I believe in the near future, with the new constitution, free and fair elections.

"I believe a new Zimbabwe is coming. This is the beginning, I must say"

Despite the carnival mood at the stadium, the reality is that the government faces huge challenges.

There is no telling whether the partnership will really work.

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