In Zimbabwe, Voters In Mugabe's Hometown Hold Opposition Rally As Zimbabwe holds its first election since the end of the four-decade rule of Robert Mugabe, people in Mugabe's hometown try to figure out what the election means for them.
NPR logo

In Zimbabwe, Voters In Mugabe's Hometown Hold Opposition Rally

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/632771877/632771891" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Zimbabwe, Voters In Mugabe's Hometown Hold Opposition Rally

In Zimbabwe, Voters In Mugabe's Hometown Hold Opposition Rally

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/632771877/632771891" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

History keeps being made in Zimbabwe as the country prepares for an election on Monday. It will be the first elections since independence without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. There are also smaller historical milestones like an opposition rally in Mugabe's home region. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports.

(CHEERING)

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: In the past, this would have been unthinkable.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: This was sacred ground for Robert Mugabe, and now there's a rally for the party that opposed him for most of his 37-year rule. But it's still tense here. Security surrounds the event. Nelson Sibanda, an opposition supporter at the rally, tells me it's not that Mugabe was popular here. It's that people were afraid to challenge him.

NELSON SIBANDA: Well, he was always oppressing people.

PERALTA: He looks around and sees people looking at us, talking. And he suddenly decides maybe he shouldn't be doing this.

SIBANDA: I have to know yourself before I introduce myself to you.

PERALTA: Sure, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

With my mic cut off, he tells me that in this region of Zimbabwe, if you were ever suspected of supporting the opposition, Mugabe's men would burn your house down. Some villagers were given a choice - short sleeve or long sleeve - amputation at the wrist or at the shoulder. Christopher Gawara, a local opposition politician, seemed downright giddy. He says something like this had not happened in almost four decades here.

CHRISTOPHER GAWARA: This day is an historical day. In 37 years, there is no opposition party that has put its foot here in (unintelligible).

PERALTA: Out of the corner of my eye, I see Nelson Sibanda approaching us again, working up the courage to speak out. Military guys, he says, are still trying to intimidate supporters of the MDC, the opposition alliance.

SIBANDA: A month ago, they threatened me just because I was wearing a red beret for MDC Alliance.

PERALTA: I ask him if he ever thought he'd see a rally like this here.

SIBANDA: No. It's just like we're dreaming.

PERALTA: From the rally, I drive to the center of the Zvimba District to a storefront with posters of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over Mugabe's party and is running for a new term. Conilia Mpofu is doing a friend's hair. I ask her how she's feeling.

CONILIA MPOFU: I'm feeling fear.

PERALTA: She fears that if Nelson Chamisa, the opposition leader, loses, he'll unleash violence.

What if he wins?

MPOFU: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: A caravan of opposition supporters zooms past as she pauses.

MPOFU: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: She says they've only known Mugabe here. She's afraid that the world she has known for so long is about to be shattered. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Zvimba, Zimbabwe.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.