Zimbabwe through a different prism

The four men wore blue military caps and uniforms with epaulettes and red shoulder tassles. They were strutting their stuff in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, before a crowd of onlookers. But this was no exercise in intimidation by President Robert Mugabe’s martial regime.

The men wore broad grins, blew whistles and jigged with delight. Their dancing was accompanied by two men on drums and another beating a tattoo on an upturned metal bin. The action was followed by observers with handheld video cameras.

A microphone was handed to Thokozani Khupe, her hair cut short and wearing sunglasses, gold hooped earrings, a sleeveless brown jacket and yellow patterned blouse. The deputy prime minister of Zimbabwe addressed Movement of Democratic Change supporters in a mix of English and Shona with familiar rhetoric praising Morgan Tsvangirai and promising to “finish Zanu-PF once and for all”.

But as I looked around the shopping precinct car park and heard calypso music playing from the loudspeakers, it felt less like a call-to-arms than a crowd, as Philip Larkin put it: “Grinning as if it were all / An August Bank Holiday lark.”

There were men in Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool shirts holding umbrellas against sunshine and showers, women with babies tied to their backs, young men resting on bicycles and children looking bored.


Smiling elders sat on secondhand sofas behind a white table cloth under the shade of a tree.

News that has nothing to do with politics
I was reminded that Zimbabweans, even those attending an ostensibly political rally, should not be seen only through the prism of conflict and despair. While Mugabe and Tsvangirai arm wrestle over the country’s future, issuing orders and counter-orders as if in a jaundiced version of Yes Minister, people are trying to get on with living. So here is the news from the Sunday papers in Zimbabwe that has nothing to do with politics.

Harare is poised for a digital revolution, the Standard reports, as a company called Liquid Telecom installs two fibre optic rings in a $3,5-million project that it claims will put the city’s telecommunications ahead of London’s.

The new dance craze is Zumba. A fusion of eight Latin American dances including salsa, calypso, samba and American country rock ‘n’ roll, classes are on offer at the Body Active gym at the Borrowdale Racecourse.

Male circumcision is in huge demand, says the Standard. About 5 000 men, almost double the number expected, have volunteered for the operation since the government launched a health programme in mid-2009 in a bid to reduce HIV infections.

Sports bars are booming, with fans of England’s Premier League heading to the Chelsea sports bar in Harare. Meanwhile the outgoing chairman of the Zimbabwe Football Association tells the Sunday Mail that Fifa’s world rankings are not the best way to measure a team’s performance. Zimbabwe have sunk to an all-time low of 117th, below Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya. But in tennis, the Harare Open is ready to roll again.

Bustling city
The paper rounds up crime: a policeman died in a bank robbery shoot-out. There is anecodotal evidence of a rise in “crimes of passion”. A businessman is suing a headmaster and teacher for alleged indecent behaviour after catching them in a compromising position in his nightclub.

Samantha Musekiwa is the Sunday Mail‘s bride of the week.

Sixteen-year-old Takudzwa Munetsi and her best friend, Rumbidzai Mungofa, got a combined 13 As, three Bs and a C in their O-levels at Queen Elizabeth High school. Zimbabwe University’s theatre arts department is returning to action after “a lengthy period in hibernation”. The Harare International Festival of the Arts will run from April 27 to May 2.

The paper carries an advert for Air Zimbabwe: “Zimbabwean hospitality in the skies. Soaring above the rest.” There’s another for a football match where VIP tickets cost Z$10, upper grandstand Z$5, rest of ground Z$3. It’s sponsored by Branson cigarettes — “priced for your taste” — and accompanied by a health warning.

I drove back from the MDC rally and saw people shopping, strolling in the park and praying at an open-air service. Tourists wandered among the sculptures and arts and crafts of a roadside market. I saw a picture of an iPhone on an advertising billboard — but then turned to observe three elderly women huddled on the back of a pick-up truck.

Another item in the Standard, on the readers’ letters page, caught my eye. It said: “I am looking for George Orwell’s book entitled 1984. I can give away anything for it. I can be contacted on 0912 313 405/011 714 638.” – guardian.co.uk

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Remembering Patson Dzamara

Remembering Patson Dzamara, the Zimbabwean activist who never stopped searching for his brother

Rule of law must first be strengthened by people power

Dynamic grassroots movements are especially needed in authoritarian states where institutions are fundamentally broken

Kenya’s government can’t tackle the pandemic alone. It needs civil society

Kenya’s government has excluded nongovernmental organisations and other groups such as churches from its emergency decision-making. This is a mistake

Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy trumps coronavirus concerns

For now, residents of Harare have more immediate worries

The last hours of Solomon Mujuru

Zimbabwean General Solomon Mujuru died in suspicious circumstances in August 2011. This is an edited extract from his recently published biography by Blessing-Miles Tendi

Zimbabweans’ survival strategies

Even the better off have had to find ways to manage in the shattered economy
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday