Just days before a national election to pick a president and lawmakers, one word is on the lips of most young Zimbabweans: “change”. Yet, questions about who can deliver change and whether it might happen draw elusive or conflicting answers on the bustling and trafficked streets of Harare, the capital. “There needs to be a change in almost everything, we need change,” said Tsitsi Chifura, a 22-year-old human resources student, echoing the concerns of many others at the lack of work opportunities. “We have nothing to do, we are just sitting (around),” she said as she walked on the streets of the central business district. About two-thirds of Zimbabweans are under 25, according to the United Nations. Many will be voting for the first time on August 23, in an election where unemployment, estimated by economists at about 70 percent in the formal sector, is one of the top concerns. Talk of change often implies support for the opposition, led by Nelson Chamisa, a 45-year-old lawyer and pastor. But almost no one says that out loud. “I am scared,” said Valentine Kamupini a 25-year-old chef, adding he was still hoping for “a good result”, speaking a few blocks from a giant portrait of President Emmerson Mnangagwa which towers over the city. The ruling ZANU-PF party, in power since independence in 1980 has a low tolerance for dissent and has been accused by rights groups of resorting to violence, repression and intimidation to secure a favourable vote. Yet, analysts say the party’s long dominance might play against it at the ballot box. “Most young people are sick and tired…of being ruled by a geriatric lot,” said Zimbabwean political analyst Brian Kagoro. Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term, is 80 and came to power after a 2017 military-led coup that deposed the late Robert Mugabe, then 93. “We need young blood that is energetic, fresh minds. The current one is old-fashioned,” said Tawanda Gwanzura, 28, also a chef, adding there would be “no change” if the government were to win. Others believe Mnangagwa, who also promised change for Zimbabwe when he was first elected in 2018, is still the best candidate to deliver on that promise after the polls. “We are looking for jobs. So I think with president Mnangagwa we will have jobs,” said Faustina Nyamhandu, 22, unemployed. The president, who has been on a ribbon-cutting spree in recent weeks, “is making in-roads” she added. Both ZANU-PF and Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) have refreshed their ranks, filing youthful candidates for legislative and municipal elections, to woo young voters. But some feel that doesn’t really matter, as amid widespread fears of rigging, their vote won’t count either. “We all know the outcome,” said Mafadzwa Taruvinga, 24, explaining why she will not vote. “I think there will be no change at all”. For the first time since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, former President Robert Mugabe will not be on the ballot. The 94-year-old was pushed out of office last year by the country’s military after more than three decades in power. He was succeeded by his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been fired from his position only weeks prior after a falling out with former First Lady Grace Mugabe.The absence of the long-time leader from the ballot has energised the country’s youth like never before. At least 60 percent of the 5.6 million registered voters are under 40. “I never thought the day will come when we will have a new leader. Every time we voted, we knew Mugabe will win no matter what,” Chikabure, who works as a driving instructor, said.More than 20 candidates – all first-time contenders – are running for the top post, each promising jobs and better living standards. Many of the youth say the promise of better employment prospects will drive them to the voting booths on election day. Bianka Magaya was selling newspapers during the morning rush hour standing a stone’s throw from the headquarters of ZANU-PF, Zimbabwe’s ruling party since independence based in the capital Harare. Magaya says she is lucky to have a job while most of her friends are out of work. The 18-year-old replaced her older sister, who stopped working after getting pregnant.”I finished high school last year. My family does not have enough money for me to continue my studies,” Magaya said, shielding her eyes from the sun with a cap. “I have five siblings. I have to work to support my family. I work six days a week but will go and vote on Monday,” she added.Astor Chingwa is a first-time voter hoping that this election will bring a change in his fortunes. Ever since he finished high school last year, he, along with many unemployed Zimbabwean youths, has been looking for work but to no avail. “I don’t feel anything when it comes to casting my vote for the first time, but I’m excited about the elections,” Chingwa said, his eyes glowing. “Things could be better. I don’t know what the future holds. We have suffered for a long time and I hope this election brings change,” he said.To encourage more voters to turn up in this election, youth groups and non-governmental organisations have held music concerts and mass registration drives, pushing the message that young voters can change the country’s destiny. “The youth vote is critical in this election because they are the majority of voters,” said Andrew Makoni, director of Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a local NGO that organised roadshows to encourage the youth to register.”It is up to them to decide the future and nobody in their twilight years can make a decision on the next five years on behalf of young people,” he added. For now, many of the youth say they will vote but that they are sceptical whether that will bring about concrete changes. “I will vote because it is my right. But I don’t believe them (politicians). For all these years, they have been talking of bringing change but we haven’t seen anything. I don’t believe anything they tell us,” Astor Chingwa said.