Champagne on ice as Robert Mugabe remains President
This morning I have no headache, I have no champagne hangover and I didn’t wake up with a strange woman’s arm flopped across my chest.
Back when we all had jobs, in 2004, I received a bonus. Feeling like a millionaire but hardly rich (something that only makes sense if you survived inflation) I was pushing my shopping cart in the supermarket when I came upon JC Le Roux sparkling wine, priced at Z$15,000 per bottle. I loaded three bottles onto my shopping cart. Fifteen grand (Zim dollars) for a bottle of wine that costs US$6 in today’s American dollar pricing system sounds extravagant, right? But inflation had already begun its gentle canter, although it hadn’t yet reached the galloping levels of 2006-2009 January. Because of the rarity of actual champagne among average earners – which I was at the time – JC Le Roux was the celebratory drink of choice among young professionals. For the unenlightened, the makers of this wine, in the prose of oenophiles, describe it thus:
“Le Domaine expresses all the finesse and crispness of Sauvignon Blanc, intertwined with the gentle sweetness of the Muscadel. Refreshing and youthful, this fun sparkling wine offers an abundance of fresh fruit and a lingering, clean finish.”
When I bought the three bottles of bubbly, I vowed that I would only pop a cork for a very special and happy occasion.
Fast forward to 2017, I have only drunk one of the three bottles. I will not bore you with the details of that one moment of merriment. Otherwise, I haven’t had too much to celebrate in the last 13 years, as you can imagine. Following the death of Cecil The Lion – the only big cat who is referred to in capitals – I wrote this article. In it, I said:
“I am not a fan of Mugabe. If I should live long enough to see him depart, I will be on the streets of Harare, celebrating. In the next day’s front page photographs, I will be distinguishable among jubilant citizens by my very large party hat, and a white fountain of champagne, gushing in a foamy jet from a bottle in my hand.”
I missed out on a historic day
I live far away from Harare and Bulawayo, where the Solidarity Marches were held. In these austere times, during which the anthem is Simply Red – Money’s Too Tight To Mention – I could not afford the drive to either Harare or Bulawayo so I took in the celebrations from television and social media. The last time I was so envious was when Stephanie Kapfunde of Enthuse Afrika flaunted her Victoria Falls Carnival video. Even though I have mixed feelings about the motives behind the march – a huge part of me feels that the whole event was to glorify one faction of Zanu PF – I felt so left out, watching the jubilant scenes from home. It didn’t help matters much that I have an incurable fetish for women in uniform.
In the palm of my hand, the jubilation in the scenes of civilians celebrating with soldiers was virtually tangible, and I don’t only mean that as a pun. The roads around State House have, for 37 years, been dreaded by motorists and pedestrians more than Moses’ holy ground. If you have lived in the Avenues, you will know that having a car breakdown in the vicinity of Josiah Tongogara Avenue and 7th Street usually results in an unpleasant conversation with the armed soldiers who guard State House. On 18 November, the soldiers were everybody’s friend. Bulawayo’s march was even more special in that the citizens, many of whom survived Gukurahundi, cheered the arrival of the same vehicles that brought bloodshed to Matebeleland between 1981 and 1987.
I'm not naive. Not at all. But taking a picture with a soldier. Taking a picture by an army tanker is a big deal for me. I grew up in #Bulawayo. Lived through Gukurahundi and Entumbane. I'm letting that sink in
— MaTshabangu (@moyo_buhle) November 18, 2017
Americans speak of marching with Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King Junior. South Africans who were old enough to witness Mandela’s exit from prison speak of that famous hand wave which has now become an iconic photograph of a post-apartheid Mzansi and my Zimbabwean elders recall Bob Marley’s Rufaro Stadium performance on Independence, April 1980. The Solidarity March could very well become one of those historic events in the future.
Three years ago, I thought out loud in the Twittersphere, regarding demonstrations.
— Storyteller Bae ? (@JeraZW) May 2, 2014
Just as I had imagined, in 20014, the day of the Solidarity March was indeed one where Zimbabweans ran, limped and wheeled in their thousands.
Three years ago, I also wrote that the newspapers would have my photograph on the front pages, ejaculating ropes of champagne – read JC Le Roux – in celebration of the end of Mugabe’s long and brutal reign. I missed out on actualising that dream. Last night, when ZBC TV announced that Robert Mugabe would address the nation, I thought I would have another opportunity to crack open one of my long preserved bottles. But it wasn’t to be.
Mugabe waffled in the presence of the gentlemanly generals who have been all “please and thank you” in their sophisticoup. But at the end of his televised speech, I heard a chorus – both in the online space and in real time – of Zimbabweans screaming “what the hell!?”
It is not clear whether Mugabe refused to step down, or he is playing along to the schemes of his generals. Hours after the speech that was widely expected to be his resignation, the inside of my skull was bruised from the Swahili words that ricocheted within; asante sana. He may as well have concluded with an “effe you!” Because the effect is the same.
Why Mugabe did not announce resignation
This morning, however, as reason slowly takes over simmering emotion, I see why he has not yet made his exit.
The world is watching Zimbabwe closely. The Sadc member countries in particular, along with the African Union, would get very twitchy if a proper coup occurred. That is the likely reason for General Chiwenga’s half kick, half kiss approach to Mugabe. This is the sort of military coup that takes place when your army general is a PhD holder. Unlike the chaotic scenes of screaming hoards of armed men that are expected in a military takeover, Zimbabwe’s not-coup has been peaceful – by and large. Robert Mugabe – coerced or not, who knows, who gives a damn – has even smiled for the cameras with the very people accused of a coup, which makes it very difficult for Sadc to poke their dictator-defending noses into Zimbabwe’s affairs. Zimbos, of course, have not forgotten how Sadc folded its arms as Mugabe trampled all over their rights, especially during 2013 election where everyone saw Zanu PF committing daylight robbery.
Furthermore, Zanu PF will have scrutinized the country’s constitution – a document often used as toilet paper by the ruling party, when it suits them – and spotted the clause about presidential resignation. Only the Speaker of parliament will announce the president’s resignation, after due notice. Also, Mugabe is currently without a deputy, after Mphoko was expelled from Zanu PF. Former VP, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who I strongly suspect is the co-grandmaster in this inevitable checkmate, has been reinstated in Zanu PF but is yet to be sworn in as VP. Mugabe’s sudden resignation would leave Zimbabwe leaderless – as if we weren’t already flying with the pilot asleep in the cockpit. Furthermore, this would then require the army to openly pick a successor, which would be ammo for Sadc’s wish to intervene (read interfere).
— ilizwi263 Bloggers (@ilizwi263) November 15, 2017
But my countrymen have endured Mugabe for far too long and none of this matters to them. They just want him gone and, if you believe the Twitter poll above, they want him in jail.
My champagne on ice
This morning, I have no throbbing ache in my temple, I have no champagne hangover. On the other side of my bed – where a nameless woman brought home from the bar should be sleeping – the sheets are vacant and cold. Because the celebration that should have been is on hold. Robert Mugabe’s end is near. Excuse me while I put the bubbly back into the cellar.
The champagne is corked, my pen is capped.