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In Devastated Zimbabwe, New Prime Minister Revives Hope of a Better Day

A few blocks away, up a narrow staircase and inside the small textiles factory he runs, C.K. Zunze concurred. He said he has had to pare his staff by half in recent years as sales dropped, but he expects an uptick as soon as March.

"This is better than new elections," the small, bespectacled man said. Elections might generate fear among the people, he said, and deliver a landslide for Mugabe.

He was referring to last year's polls, which initially sparked jubilation among opposition supporters. It looked as though Tsvangirai might defeat Mugabe. Then a runoff was called, followed by a bloody state crackdown, and Tsvangirai pulled out. Optimism rose again in September when Tsvangirai and Mugabe signed a power-sharing deal. Then their parties negotiated over the details for five months, and Zimbabwe's economic and humanitarian crisis worsened.

In those months, said Amon Siveregi, 27, a young doctor interning at Harare's main government hospital, physicians and nurses have stopped collecting their monthly salaries; in December, his was worth 5 U.S. cents. Those who go to work practice what he called bush medicine, with broken heart monitors and expired anesthetics. They are counting on Tsvangirai's promise of pay in foreign currency -- though they worry that hospital administrators aligned with Mugabe's party might pocket it, he said.

"A lot of people believe Tsvangirai," said Siveregi, who chairs a health workers' union and said he aspires to become Zimbabwe's third neurosurgeon. "It seems he is the only hope."

Siveregi said he wants to see the hospital revive plans to offer liver transplants. He would also not mind being able to treat his girlfriend to a vacation at Victoria Falls or to dinner on Valentine's Day.

"She's a lawyer," said Siveregi, 27, sitting in the faded common room at the hospital's shuttered medical school. "Sometimes she's the one who's taking me out. In our culture, that's a bit embarrassing."

Much of Zimbabwe's revival will depend on keeping well-educated Zimbabweans and luring back the millions who have emigrated, people here agree. Tsvangirai said in the interview that those who left have a "duty" to help rebuild the nation. "Personally, I think this should inspire Zimbabweans to come back home," he said.

Sydney Shenje, 57, said he hopes his three children, who live in South Africa and Australia, will come back to take over the township butcher shop he owns. These days, it stocks just beer and pork -- beef is poor quality, and chickens are too expensive.

But he is not sure how soon change will come, pointing inside his shop to a man sitting on a Coca-Cola crate. Most of his customers think the new government represents a new dawn, Shenje said, but that man was a soldier during Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, a die-hard supporter of Mugabe's party who thinks it "should go on ruling this country and not change anything."

Those people and the generals who advise Mugabe despise Tsvangirai, he said. "How are they going to interpret their relationship with the prime minister?" Shenje asked. "The gap between them is so wide."

Shenje said that a power-sharing government was the best option but that it seems to him to be too large and too undefined.

"My hope is because Robert Mugabe is 85 now. I think he's going to retire in two years' time," Shenje said. "That's when we expect things will get better."

A short drive away, a pastor sat under the trees outside his church. Jim Musaaka, 57, said members of his congregation had prayed for Zimbabwe's political parties to reconcile. They are sure it has happened, he said.

He pointed to a large stack of gray bricks. Soon, he thinks, they will become the new sanctuary they were intended for, before money disappeared and stores ran out of construction supplies.

"We are expecting now that we should rebuild our country," Musaaka said. "So that we can be like other countries. So people can get employment. . . . Then, we start to build."


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