Monday, 20 November 2017

Mugabe: why he was never going to go willingly

The taxi driver gave us his opinions once we told him where we were from. 'I can't believe Mrs Thatcher would go voluntarily. No post-independence African leader would do that.' It was early December 1990 and our prime minister had just been ousted by her party. Our arrival into Harare seemed to send out cabbie into a tailspin. 

Harare market, harmony in a park, young musicians and hotel staff on Xmas day 1990

I'm not sure about about other post-independence leaders and maybe our driver was too nervous to talk specifically about the situation in his own country - in case he'd get pounced upon for uttering 'Mugabe' in a disparaging way. But what happened last night makes our driver's words seem prophetic. Yesterday, twenty-seven years after we were there, and with his party and country finally turning against him, Robert Mugabe still tried to hang on. Just as predicted on that ride from Harare airport. 

People say that it's been 37 years of turmoil. For us in 1990 it didn't seem too bad. After 2000 the whole world suddenly saw Zimbabwe explode in violence. But before then, tyrannical rule must have been simmering below the surface.

Just a hitch 

We gave a lift to a woman who was hitch-hiking, only for us to be pulled over by the police. They told us our tyres were bald. They had a point - the car hire place was a rent-a-wreck establishment - and that they'd let us off the fine if we gave two policemen a lift. They got in either side of this poor woman. In the driver's mirror I saw nothing but pure, 100% terror on her face. 

But at least when we were there in 1990 the country was functional, you could visit as a tourist and the people were unbelievably friendly (when not squashed in against two fierce-looking policemen). 

Let's hope, despite the fact that the 'coup' is a Zanu-PF internal fight, Zimbabwe can at least be more outward-facing and the people of that country, including the hitch-hiker and our astute taxi driver, have a better time of it. 

Listen to Taxi Driver by Zimbabwe's Jonah Moyo 

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