Zimbabwe is holding elections today. It's been touted as the most important election for the county since 1980. I cannot vote, along with thousands of others in the diaspora. However, those who were born there and left the country and were classified as non-citizens made it their business to stay in touch with family and politics over the years. For those of us who returned multiple times, sometimes under temporary work permits, the difficult choices faced today seem almost impossible.

Zimbabwe said no to Mugabe in November

Robert Mugabe is gone, and as the Guardian noted, things will "never be the same again," no matter who wins the elections.

Fixing Zimbabwe will be a monumental task. Polls and reports indicated the business community would not object to President Ed Mnangagwa winning, as he's made some changes and is saying a lot of the right things they want to hear. Is it possible to go back to the glory days of Zimbabwe with Mnangagwa?

I mostly stayed in Zimbabwe until 2000, finally leaving when the farm invasions became violent. I was not a farmer but we worked for a fishing company that fell under the Agriculture Act. The pickaxe wielding mob at the gates in the night was terrifying. Before that, business was booming. Blacks and whites were making money hand-over-fist. Tourists poured into the country.

The country initially did well after the 1980 election win for Mugabe

Nobody minded Robert Mugabe too much as he generally left people alone. The equally terrifying days of the Fifth Brigade were a distant memory. The house to house searches in Matabeleland, the aggressively armed soldiers at Military checkpoints in the early 1980s were long past.

The Gukurahundi Massacre was quietly buried by everyone, including the mainstream media. I recall hosting a group of visitors for the Millenial New Year. They asked when I was leaving Zimbabwe, and my reply was, "why would I?" Four months later I was starting life over in a foreign country. Personally, I would vote for the devil if he took the country back to 1999 and rebuilt from there.

Can Mnangagwa bring back the glory days?

The new Ed Mnangagwa brings hope to people that things can get better. They hope for the days before bond notes and hyperinflation. They hope for tourists to return, for money in the ATMs, for job opportunity, and infrastructure that works. They hope to see defunct mines working again, a police service rather than a police force, and hospitals staffed with doctors and functional health facilities. But most of all they want to see the end of harassment of dissenting voices in Zimbabwe.

This is where a hard choice comes in. Mnangagwa was a part of the Mugabe Regime since the beginning. Activists were abducted and disappeared off the face of the earth. People were imprisoned and charged with everything that could be thrown at them.

The Fifth Brigade and the Gukurahundi Massacre may not have been by his directive, but he was helming the armed forces at the time. People sometimes distrust his newly-turned leaf. Did Mnangagwa look at the police beating people in the streets and say one day, "enough is enough?" The bloodless coup only came after he was endangered, allegedly by Grace Mugabe's ambitions to rid the country of then Vice President Mnangagwa and take over herself.

Rumours swirl around MDC's Chamisa

After the November bloodless coup, as the takeover was termed, citizens movements rejoiced and the streets were crammed with the first happy faces the country had seen in years. It was clear that Mugabe was no longer wanted.

Then came Mr. Chamisa, the main opponent of ZANU PF and Ed Mnangagwa. Thirty years younger than the current president, he represents a younger generation, many of whom never experienced either the liberation war or the boom years after Independence. A great deal of them experienced only grinding poverty and hardship under the Mugabe Regime.

But it did not take long for whispers of Mugabe connections to arise around Chamisa. There were whispers that Grace Mugabe gave him cash. Now, of course, with Robert Mugabe hinting in a press conference on the eve of the elections that he will vote Chamisa, this brings what are perceived to be either confirmation the Mugabe's have backed him, or that they are trying to discredit him with the opposition voters.

Certainly, Mnangagwa picked up on it. The Citizen reported that his reaction was, "Now that it’s clear to all, that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation." He also said, “The choice is clear, you either vote for Mugabe under the guise of Chamisa, or you vote for a new Zimbabwe under my leadership and Zanu-PF. Real change is coming. We should all be part of it.”

Chamisa's rapid takeover of the Movement For Democratic Change leadership after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai was criticized.

Unflustered, he held up on BBC's "Hard Talk," which was credible. Nevertheless, whispers and rumours in Zimbabwe are often fuelled by unknown sources. Robert Mugabe is a master in the art of sly propaganda.

The difficult choice in Zimbabwe today

The people of Zimbabwe face a very difficult choice today. Do they vote for Mnangagwa who promises, and has already, exhibited some reform efforts? Can he take them back to their glory days? Or, should they vote for Chamisa, a clever man, saying he can deliver the hopes and dreams of a new generation?

If I were home in Zimbabwe today, it would surely be a difficult choice for me.

When Mnangagwa said the diaspora would not be able to vote, in hindsight that may be a good thing. Perhaps Zimbabweans will vote against empty stomachs and poverty, rather than vote on ideology. The worst-case scenario would be such a narrow gap between frontrunners Mnangagwa and Chamisa, that another unified government will be created. The last one with Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe was an utter disaster. Whoever they vote for, across the nation, which is quite religious, prayers will be that the winner of the election finds a way to bring prosperity and peace to their beautiful country.