Memories of underdevelopment

Here is  news from The Times about Robert Mugabe’s physiology.  Apparently, he nods off to sleep every few minutes, even when meeting foreign visitors.  (HT:  Normblog)

The Times article mentions the two main contenders for the leadership of ZANU (PF) following Bob’s always-imminently-predicted-but-never-quite-arriving retirement:  Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru.  One would think that the Zimbabwean Vice-President, Joice Mujuru, who is likewise a ZANU (PF) nomenklatura, would perhaps also be a contender, but she is married to Solomon, so he takes precedence.   She is more famous in Zimbabwe under her chimurenga name, Teurai Ropa (or Spill-Blood) Nhongo, and for leading a team of guerrilla fighters into battle while pregnant.   Because she joined the struggle (for Independence) in her teens, she did not finish high-school; to her great personal credit, she completed her O-levels after Independence and while a Cabinet Minister.   In the year she did O-level English, a novel by George Orwell was on the syllabus, leading to her infamous stage whisper at the official opening by then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe Institute for Development Studies;  when the VIPs were led to a different (and much better) buffet than that provided for the other people present, she was heard by all to exclaim,  “But this is just like Animal Farm!”

Her husband also had a loud voice.  When I first met him, he was calling himself Rex Nhongo, and I did not then know what he looked like.  A mutual friend introduced us using only first names as we happened upon each other buying groceries one evening after work in Twelve Gods, a foodstore and delicatessen in the low-density (ie, formerly whites-only) suburbs of Salisbury (as it then was).  Making conversation while we stood in the queue, I asked,  “And what do you do for a living, Rex?” In a booming voice which scared the living daylights out of the white customers in the shop, he replied, “Oh, I’m Commander-in-Chief of the Army, son!” Whether intended or not, this statement got the three of us to the front of the queue immediately.  The mutual friend who introduced us is now himself a Cabinet Minister, one of the MDC contingent in Zimbabwe’s Cohabitation Government.

UPDATE [2011-09-12]:  In August 2011, Rex Nhongo’s body was found after a fire destroyed his farmhouse.   He was 62, and may have been killed or prevented from moving prior to the fire.   The Guardian obituary is here.

FOOTNOTE:

Note that in maShona custom, a person may be given or may adopt different names over their life, and may prefer different names at different times or for different purposes.  In addition, for reasons of security during the liberation struggle many people adopted noms de guerre, so-called chimurenga names.




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