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Zimbabwean's old Mugabe-era fears return with new leadership

With the direction of the country's future now hanging in the balance, we took a look at what's at stake.

by Ben Ferguson
Aug 1 2018, 10:17pm

Violent protests erupted in the streets of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, in anticipation of election results from Monday's presidential vote. Despite guarded optimism in the lead up to the vote — the first ballot since Mugabe's fallout — the crackdown was reminiscent of the old Zimbabwe under Mugabe's rule.

It was the conclusion of a tight contest between opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, 40, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, leader of the Mugabe-founded Zanu PF party, who became president after the military coup.

Mnangagwa toured the country promoting his vision of a newly economically powerful nation, but critics say the former Mugabe confidante, nicknamed "The Crocodile" for his political maneuvering, has too many ties to the country’s troubled past.

For voters like Savana Madamombe, a Mugabe critic who lived in exile for 20 years until he was forced out, her newfound freedom of expression is as important as the politics.

“Under Mugabe, it became so bad. You couldn’t be who you wanted to be. You couldn’t speak,” she told VICE News. “I don’t care who comes into government. It can be a cat or a dog as far as I’m concerned. We the people can take care of ourselves.”

Elections under Mugabe were tarnished by corruption, intimidation and violence. But Mnangagwa pledged a free, fair vote — inviting observers from the European Union to oversee the polls for the first time in 16 years. EU observers noted irregularities in the vote.

Mugabe led a liberation struggle against white minority rule which paved the way to Zimbabwe independence. But his close to four decades in power drove the country’s economy to ruin and crushed free speech. With the direction of the country's future now hanging in the balance, we took a look at what's at stake.

This segment originally aired July 25, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.