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Fearful but hopeful: eyewitness account from Zimbabwe

17 November 2017

Harare is strangely calm at the moment. The mood is a bit surreal.

Sarah McCann in Zimbabwe

Sarah McCan working in Zimbabwe

Tuesday and Wednesday were very tense – there were tanks on the streets and military checkpoints. People were quite fearful and most people stayed home because they didn’t know what was going to happen.

I have worked in quite a few countries, including Afghanistan, but I have never experienced anything like what happened earlier this week. 

I was in a rural area five hours south of Harare when the army took to the streets so it was quite frightening being separated from my family, who were all in the capital city. Thankfully the phone lines never went down so I could speak with them, as well as people in the Trócaire offices in Harare and Ireland. 

People want change

That tension has passed and life has gone back to normal, on the surface level anyway. Schools are open, shops are open, people are going about their daily lives. 

Obviously behind the scenes there is a lot going on. Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen over the next few days but people are hopeful that it will be positive for the country. 

I am the only Irish person in the Trócaire team in Zimbabwe. All the rest of the team are from Zimbabwe. For them, life is on hold a little bit as they wait to see what is going to happen. 

People want change, there is no doubt about that. Mugabe will be remembered as being one of the heroes of the independence movement but the last two decades have seen the country go through crisis after crisis. Zimbabwe has a very young population so most people have only ever known one President.

There is massive unemployment and shocking poverty. People have lived through very tough times and they are hoping that there will be a better future. 

They are also hoping that the transition will be peaceful. There has been too much political violence in this country and people do not want to see any more. They want peace and they want something to be hopeful for. 

Human rights reforms

People aren’t celebrating because they don’t know what will happen. The change that comes might not be huge but people want to see reforms. They want economic reforms and they want human rights reforms. 

I have been here for two years and I absolutely love living in Zimbabwe. The people are remarkable and the work Trócaire does is so impactful. We work a lot on human rights issues because unfortunately there is a long history of human rights abuses here. 

We also work a lot with farmers because huge areas of the country experience devastating droughts so there is a real need for water and for irrigation. 

Trócaire has been here for over 30 years. Regardless of what happens, we are going nowhere.

Sarah McCan is Trócaire's Country Director in Zimbabwe. She is from Cashel in Tipperary.