Zimbabweans wait to cast their vote in Mbare township, outside Harare, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS
Zimbabweans wait to cast their vote in Mbare township, outside Harare, in July 2013. Picture: REUTERS

DESPITE the pomp and fanfare that characterised President Robert Mugabe’s seventh inauguration at the National Sports Stadium in Harare last week, little has changed for the thousands of people who watched the veteran leader receive a new mandate and solemn pledges of loyalty from security chiefs.

Power outages are set to persist, the economy is still struggling and there is no sign Zimbabwe’s 80% unemployment rate will dissipate anytime soon. Moreover, disposable incomes are fast losing value as the economy continues to struggle.

Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said that the euphoria of the elections will dissipate much swifter than expected, and that "the hard reality of a government that must perform and deliver is what is going to take centre stage". It is going to be a "tall order for the incoming government", he said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Power Company has warned of prolonged outages from next month. "We wish to advise the public that we will be carrying out planned outages for maintenance at the power stations with effect from September 2 2013 to February 2 2014."

Economist John Robertson said there was "no quick answer to electricity shortages", adding it would take at least four years to build a new power plant. To meet demand the country will have to import more electricity and endure power cuts.

In Harare and other major urban centres pavement vendors dominate commerce as poverty has driven most Zimbabweans into the informal trading sector.

Vendors sell anything from airtime top-up cards, and fruit and vegetables to pirated music and film CDs.

Among most Zimbabweans desperate for a better standard of living there is little hope. For most life is a day-to-day struggle for survival, with the future so uncertain it is unrealistic to plan ahead.

"We are just surviving and we live each day as it comes. The money that I get here I cannot even pay for my rent at the end of the month and there are also family members to look after and this makes it a difficult life, especially when I cannot find a proper job," says vendor Tinotenda Chikomba in Harare.

At Mr Mugabe’s inauguration, delegates were fed chicken and fried potato chips and they enjoyed musical performances by the country’s top musicians. Later in the day, there was a presidential banquet at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare.

As those who attended Mr Mugabe’s inauguration feasted, the picture was very different in most other parts of the country where life has become increasingly difficult.

Compounding their suffering, a bad agricultural season has left many rural families in need of food aid.

In hard times those affected have little choice but to look to those leaders who control the levers of power — Mr Mugabe and his ruling Zanu (PF) party.

Mr Mugabe has pledged to continue with his economic recipe of forcing foreign firms to cede 51% shares to locals while revolutionising the agricultural sector he upended a decade ago with forced land redistribution. Mr Mugabe promises his formula will create jobs.

An upbeat Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has kept his faith in Mr Mugabe. "As long as these policies (of the new government) encourage productivity, investment, discipline, employment creation and well thought-out implementation of the indigenisation and empowerment programme, the future looks bright," said Mr Gono.

Mr Mugabe is aware of Zimbabweans’ heightened expectations. During his inauguration speech the president addressed directly "the unemployed youth who cast his vote amidst great expectations".

Most Zimbabweans, and the world, will be watching how the man who helped to liberate the country meets these urgent challenges.

Mr Mugabe will want to banish his legacy of running down the once-prosperous economy for political gain and rise to the economic challenges that he has previously failed to address.