There were a few scandals in the 1990s involving ministers stealing money in a car scheme. A minister was said to have committed suicide over it, while others resigned. Our lives continued in a flourishing Zimbabwe. In 1991, the World Bank started the Economic Structural Adjustment Program, which led to the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar. The creeping change was upon us.
Discontent led to protests and eventually farm invasions. White farmers and the young fled the country en masse, resulting in barren land and a missing generation. I left Zimbabwe after high school for university, dismayed by the lack of job prospects in a nation that had the highest literacy rate in Africa.
The Zimbabwe of my youth is no more. Over the years I returned, and my heart sank every time. In 2008, the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the presidential election but was forced into a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Mugabe. We had no food on the shop shelves except for salt packages. The Zimbabwean dollar was further devalued and worthless. I flew into Harare with my bags full of groceries, which included toilet tissue and olive oil. We would send money (a combination of black-market-bought American dollars and South African rands) for groceries with relatives and friends who were driving to South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana.
Amid this drama, I was waiting for my green card to be processed. I had won the green card lottery and was eager to return to my new country. Before that could happen, I had to visit doctors to sign the immigration documents required by the United States embassy. One doctor quoted a price in the billions for a vaccine, which I was told I would have to buy from a pharmacy and bring to him. I returned after a week of trying to locate a pharmacy that supplied it at a reasonable price. The doctor’s fee had doubled and was now in the trillions.
I was home for three months and lost a lot of weight, mostly from worry and a limited diet. I worried about Zimbabwe, my family and our futures. I fell back in love with Zimbabwe. Despite its flaws, it was home. Despite holding billions and trillions of the devalued Zimbabwean dollars in my hands, I was hopeful that things would change.
When the power-sharing agreement was signed between ZANU and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, food started reappearing on the shelves and we reverted to the American dollar and the South African rand as the official currencies. We hoped again. I saw a future where I would return home to live.
In 2017, people are celebrating the downfall of a near dynasty. I sit thousands of miles away still glued to Twitter and WhatsApp celebrating with my compatriots. Some, like me, have known no other leader besides Mr. Mugabe.
I have seen my country at its highest and its lowest points. We have yet to see what this new day brings, but we are ready for change.
To quote Lenin and a twimbo who tweeted on Wednesday morning: “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”