Obama the every man

The worldwide euphoria—hysteria more like it—that greeted the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States must have left some Hollywood stars worrying about the shift in the “crowd pulling” balance of power. About four million people are expected in Washington DC for his inauguration and the city’s hotels are fully booked. As defining moments go, the Obama moment is up there with the first moon landing, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release from prison of Nelson Mandela.

My hometown—Bulawayo—and country—Zimbabwe—were also swept away in this modern fairy tale.
There were shedding of tears, spontaneous camaraderie and confident pronouncements that the world would now be a better place.

The big question after such history-making events is “Where were you?” “Waar was jy?, Ubukuphi?”. Incredulous friends have posed this question to me countless times.

Not generally one for confessions, I will confess this time if only to reclaim my standing among family and friends. So where was I on that November night/morning? Cringe. I was asleep. Makes sad reading, doesn’t it?

That I opted to sleep on the night the brother was making history has made some close to me question my judgement. Invitations to braais and soirees have dried up and the occasional complimentary bottle of scotch is now history. The missus also laid in on me, suggesting I learn to listen to her on things political and in all spheres.

The story now has a life of its own. Overnight Obama has become our (read Africans) long-lost son, cousin, brother and uncle and the jury is still out on his blackness. In my neck of the woods Obama is black or coloured.

My coloured acquaintances say: “Sekuru [Shona for uncle] we are the most powerful fellas in the world, now that one of our own is commander-in-chief in the US of A.” “The coloured man’s time has come,” they add, throwing in Lewis Hamilton’s F1 victory for good measure. One can’t really argue with them here because, born of a black father and white mother, the man is technically coloured.

My friends Devout “Mze” Muchetu, Tendai “Papas” Nyashanu and David “Diva” Mhiribidi say nonsense, Obama is as black as they come and he is a mhofu (eland), their Shona clan totem! Now, if you say he is an African black from Kenya I can understand, coloured is also passable, but now a mhofu from Zimbabwe?

In this brazen ownership of Obama my friends have been bested by Zimbabwe’s politicians. In the stalemated “inclusive government” formation I understand the issue of Obama has prevented the deal from being shaken on. The players have taken political brinkmanship to a new level, with all claiming him as family. On one hand he is mwana watete (my aunt’s son) and on the other muzukuru wangu chaiye (my real nephew).

One thing’s for sure: Obama will become the next president of the US sooner than you can say “all inclusive government” in Zimbabwe.

Jabulani Mlotshwa is an executive with a Zimbabwean retail chain

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