After grabbing a whole three hours of sleep, it was time to SLAM DUNK DA FUNK and hit the road once more.
NORTH MISS TESCHMACHER!!
Janine, being the great sport that she is, agreed to drop me off at the local train station through some rather horrific traffic jammage. The bus for Lusaka, Zambia, departed at 0900. By 0830 we were still miles away, stuck in traffic and my chances of making the coach was looking slimmer than Victoria Beckham after I drive over her with a steam roller.
We arrived at the train station at 0840. It takes 10 minutes to get to Park station from where the buses left. After hugs and see-you-agains, I ran inside. The next train was at 0848. I rushed down to the platform, pacing like that’s going to help. On the train it was all I could do to stare at my mobile phone watching the minute tick up to the hour. We arrived at 0858. You’ve never seen a ginger move so fast. I was Greased Lightening, a streak of red blazing up the up escalators. I got to the coach station at 0900 on the knocker. I saw the Intercape buses (mercifully close to the entrance – this is a BIG station) and made a beeline. The bus to Lusaka was pulling out. I knocked on the door… and they opened.
Now it was just time to kick back, relax and enjoy the journey. We’d be arriving in Lusaka at 1200 tomorrow. Or so I thought.
You know my bus broke down yesterday? That wouldn’t, couldn’t happen again… could it?
Oh, come on Graham, T.I.A.!! Of course it could… and it did. We hadn’t been on the road for an hour before we were pulled up on the outlane of the motorway services and some wrench-welding grease monkey Afrikaners were tinkering away, fixing our coaches innards. I should point out that this is no chicken bus: this is a brand-new, clean, modern, ‘luxury’ coach (although I always believe the words ‘luxury’ and ‘coach’ make queer bedfellows). Still, I’m pretty sure that the two hours we were getting fixed would come back to haunt me further down the line.
DID YOU KNOW? The reason why South Africa’s international code is ZA is because in Afrikaans the ‘Republic of South Africa’ is ‘Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek’. True!
It was around sunset that we crossed the border into Zimbabwe, sitting as it does between South Africa and Zambia.
Until Zimbabwe won independence it was known as Southern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia became Zambia.
Here are the old and new names for the countries of Southern Africa:
Northern Rhodesia = Zambia Southern Rhodesia = Zimbabwe South West Africa = Namibia Bechuanaland = Botswana Basutoland = Lesotho Nyasaland = Malawi Tanganyika (& Zanzibar) = Tanzania
Now commit that to memory. There shall be a test in the morning.
It was a shame, really, getting there so late: I was looking forward to seeing Zimbabwe in the light. Oh poor old Zim: run by a psychopathic tyrant gazillionaire for the past 32 years, it serves as a microcosm of the entire continent of post-colonial Africa: it started with high hopes and then rapidly turned into a horror show to which the world can only shrug and say ‘oh dear’.
Mugabe’s crimes against humanity are myriad, but I’ll just give a few examples, you know, in case you were ever wondering why ONE THIRD of the population has left Zimbabwe since he took power in 1980.
Mugabe’s party was called ZANU and was made up mostly of the Shona people (can you see where this is going…?). In 1983, he accused ZAPU, the opposition party (consisting of mostly Ndebele people), of ‘plotting against the government’. He promptly deployed the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to ‘quell the disturbances’. The brigade launched an orgy of killing; innocent villagers were gunned down. Tens of thousands of civilians, sometimes entire villages, were slaughtered.
Meanwhile, the world was too busy waving its finger at apartheid-era South Africa to care.
In 1990, another opposition party, ZUM, was formed. Mugabe, being the insane murderous bastard that he is, ordered (allegedly) ZUM candidate Patrick Kombayi’s assassination. Kombayi managed to survive the attempt on his life, but the ZUM leadership immediately went underground, fearing for their lives.
In 1997, Mugabe hiked up income and fuel taxes (he owed his ‘friends’ in the army a lot of money, and he wasn’t going to be the one left footing the bill). The Zimbabwe dollar lost over 50% of its value. To sort this problem out, Mugabe did what all idiots do in situations like this: he printed more money.
In 2000, incensed that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – led by Morgan Tsvangirai – were becoming so popular, he did what any barbaric megalomaniac would do and unleashed waves of violence, voter intimidation and a ‘land reform’ programme that rivals the Rwandan genocide in its speed and ferocity. Over 100,000 black farm workers were butchered to death by Mugabe’s so-called ‘war veterans’. Scores of white famers were also murdered (Mugabe blamed them for publically supporting the MDC) and over a million asylum seekers – black and white – fled the country.
I’ve met a fair share of Zimbabweans on my travels around South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania. They all tell me the same thing: they love their country, they miss their country. They want to go home. But they can’t. Not until Mugabe is dead.
Meanwhile, remember that whole ‘print more money’ concept I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back? It resulted in THIS:
In the twilight days of the Zimbabwean dollar, inflation was running at 20,000%. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE A PSYCHOPATHIC DIMWIT IN CHARGE OF A COUNTRY FOR THIRTY YEARS. Zimbabweans have now abandoned their own currency and everybody uses US dollars instead. Good job Mugabe, you ruthless tyrant billionaire. As much as I would not wish death on anybody, I will read Robert Mugabe’s (hopefully not-too-distant) obituary with glee.
The coach thundered on into the night. Northwards, ever northwards…