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Zimbabweans in Exile Hope for Change in 2008

It has been another difficult year for Zimbabwe, with a seemingly ever-increasing political and economic crisis that has forced an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans into exile. From London, Tendai Maphosa spoke to some of those in Britain about their hopes for their country in the coming year.

Looking back over the year 2007, finds Zimbabwe having broken some dubious records. The country has the highest inflation rate in the world; it has more than 80 percent unemployment, low life expectancy, and shortages of basics, fuel and power.

For most Zimbabweans the struggle to make ends meet consumes their daily lives. For many others, conditions at home have forced them into exile.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are in the United Kingdom, some as political refugees and others looking for better economic opportunities. James, not his real name, has been in Britain since 2002.

In Zimbabwe he was an active member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He says his activities during the 2002 presidential election campaign attracted the attention of Zimbabwe's secret police.

"They came to my house and they took me to a torture place, they started beating up, they wanted to know what we are doing for the party where we wanted to go next, so I decided to leave Zimbabwe," he said. "I do not have a proper job, I am only doing some jobs where I can get at least some money to feed myself and my family here in England, but for people back home I am always trying to do something for those people as well."

Some Zimbabweans have been fortunate to find job as nurses, doctors, technology specialists or teachers; others have not and their best option is to find menial work as laborers, cleaners or caretakers of the elderly.

Other exiles are politically active, pushing for change and democracy back home - demonstrating every Saturday outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in central London. Drumming and singing always accompany the demonstration.

These protesters say they hope that elections scheduled for next year in Zimbabwe will vote out the long-time government of President Robert Mugabe and bring in the opposition, and with it change for the country.

PERSON1: "We hope Mugabe will not win the elections, there is going to be a new president."
PERSON2: "I am just praying that if the MDC itself will come back together, they will win."
PERSON1: "My hope is there should be the rule of law in the country; peace."

Some Zimbabwean exiles remain focused on political activism, others such as Rob, who prefers to give only his first name, have built up businesses. He is a technology specialist with a successful business in London. He goes back home to Zimbabwe often and while he agrees that the situation there is bad, he feels certain that if political change happens Zimbabwe can turn itself around.

"I am hopeful, I think we have got to be positive about it and having traveled around the region looking at the infrastructure that we have got we are not dead yet," he said. "I think there is a lot to be positive about and I think it is definitely salvageable."

Whatever their views, there was a general consensus among the people VOA spoke to that rebuilding Zimbabwe is not going to be easy and will only be possible after political change occurs. But there was also a feeling among these exiles that they want to go back home and be a part of the rebuilding process.