Finally, we get home. I freshen up while my uncle heads to bed. I was tired but felt it was important to go to church with a friend after what was a sad weekend. I never heard the sermon — I was too tired. Instead I took my shoes and socks off, rested in the car and passed out. I was woken by a knock on the window; my friend told me I embarrassed her because people saw me sleeping in the car outside church.
There are few words that can capture the inside of an African bar; that mix of noise, laughter, danger with the whiff of stale beer and the stench of smoke; the clatter of metal tables and chairs; a place where beer flows and tongues loosen faster than the frames of the fading pictures on the wall. From Lusaka to Kigali and beyond, bar floors are scattered with the ashes of cigarettes and thousands of conversations — most forgotten — that launched scores of stories — most untrue — into African folklore.
The abdication of Robert Mugabe in November reminded me of one such tale told in a warm, smoky corner of an African bar.
On the day Mugabe and his team set out their stall in a presentation to narrow-eyed investors, in London, a hand went up at the back of the room. It was not the question Mugabe had traveled thousands of miles to hear, even though it was a portent of the troubles to come in Zimbabwe. The tale I heard, in the African bar, was that Zimbabwe and Mugabe had the last laugh on their former colonial masters.
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The Queen invited Mugabe and his ministers to Buckingham Palace for a state banquet in their honor. It was a glittering evening beneath the chandeliers with the cutlery glinting in the lights of the night. Each plate had half a dozen knives and forks on each side. This caused considerable consternation for the former vice president, the late Simon Muzenda, who frowned down at the line of implements on either side of his plate.
Now Muzenda was a good guerrilla fighter who distinguished himself in the liberation war in Zimbabwe.
Yet, the man himself would have admitted he was not a great sophisticate when it came to state banquets in palaces. Mugabe replied patiently that Muzenda was to start on the outside and work his way in with every course that the waiters delivered. Then Mugabe, ever the pragmatist, turned to Her Majesty and said it was customary for his comrades to say a prayer, in chiShona, before a meal; she gave the royal assent.
Mugabe clasped his hands and said something, roughly translated, like this. We also pray to God that Muzenda uses the right fork at the right moment! Poor Muzenda would also have been the first to admit he maybe lacked a little education. In the mids Mugabe was speaking at a dinner in South Africa when he paid tribute to the education the country had lent himself and his vice-presidents Joshua Nkomo and Muzenda.
Mugabe listed the degrees that Nkomo had earned at South African universities. So, both tales great fodder for a night out in an African bar.
Why should they be when so many spurious tales are born among beer suds and the cackle of the African night. One sunny afternoon I was hanging out with the presidential spokesman George Charamba in Harare. In those more principled days of the Mugabe regime the charming Charamba played it fairly straight. So, not all bar tales in Africa are to be thrown away with the dregs of the night before. This African Honey Bee project is indeed the latter. African Honey Bee project Bees honey.
Published 3 months ago on June 25, June 16 Remembered I photographed Moloto at their then assembly point and his face was a picture of sorrow. Thanks to the class of , we had the freedom.
Published 5 months ago on April 21, The Pain Of The Business Of Death At most black funerals, there is a culture that has evolved over the last couple of years where music is played and alcohol is consumed after the burial. Published 7 months ago on February 26, The latter gave rise to another tale in an African bar. I put the Muzenda stories to him and on this occasion he was more emphatic.
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