Credo Mutwa remains an enigma. Read “Indaba, my Children” read it twice, read it thrice. The folk tales he tells envelop the mind like the determined vapors of a Musina night, the heat of his thoughts whip us into a feverish state. There are grand stories where the Zimbabweans or Monomatapas (sometimes Mnunumetara or even Mutapa) crossed the Limpopo to lift a few thousand head of cattle and a couple of maidens from the silly South Africans who’re always floundering in the wake of these ancient warriors. There’s clashes, wars, heroes, exculpation, extirpation, exultation.
Then there’s Air Zimbabwe vs South African Airways, Grace Mugabe and the Sons of Chaos.
A bit like the David and Goliath saga except Air Zim in this instance is a furtive David without the grand garlands. Air Zim was ordered to remain on deck at OR Tambo last week pending an investigation into why it’s international flight documents were missing.
So Zim authorities promptly ordered an SAA plane grounded in Harare on Saturday 19th August as a tit-for-tat diplomatic sport kicked into gear, everyone swathed in self-righteous bandanas and quoting from the excerpted copies of Marx, Engels, Mao and uncle Robert’s cabin treatise on mucking with your neighbours.
Pity the old man never read Mr Mutwa.
Not as romantic as the great battle on the Limpopo one thousand years ago that featured deadly combat and dragons, but iconic and just as effective and from the playbook.
There’s not a one way thing going on here, and its been like that since modern humans arrived in Southern Africa. This constant barrage of turmoil now has an aviation edge, this competition between a Zimbabwean empire clinging onto its final vestiges of post-colonial radicalism and concocted self-importance versus the new post-colonial nexus where corrupt propositioning has redeployed honesty.
And all taking place on two airport aprons. OR Tambo, where four hundred meters of apron tarmac sees more valuable aviation airframe in one day than Harare’s dilapidated dusty apron sees in more than a year. Make that five years. So who wins in this show- down at the ORT Coral?
Harare of course, at least initially. It’s a bit like Honduras fighting the USA. But funnier to watch unless you’re stranded in Zimbabwe.
Because facing Harare is a Pretoria which has lost its compass, GPS and sense of courage, its political map is frayed. The aviation sector in South Africa has recently been awarded a stamp of excellence by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, whereas Zimbabwe isn’t even on the safety map. Yet Harare would order Pretoria around like a shepherd whistling at his sheepdog and its partly about an ex-typist who’s called Grace.
At the same time politically, Zimbabwe shambles amiably towards the looming demise of its post-colonial demigod, while in South Africa the country staggers having taken a number of blows to the ideological solar plexus courtesy of a leader who’s moral compass swings like a drunken bull’s privates.
In the meantime, South Africans trying to get home were stranded, and a large proportion of those were businessmen and women. Ironically, government officials too. Zim government officials who jetted off to the big smoke for a little RnR at the weekend SADC Summit were delayed along with their piggly wiggly bags .
Simultaneously, Grace Mugabe who was accused of using an extension chord as a dangerous weapon at an upmarket Johannesburg hotel, then allowed herself to be whisked home by air (and by her cranky old man) after she was immunised diplomatically.
In Credo Mutwa’s world Grace would be a shape shifting owl, swift at night and feared by the righteous, witch-like and Robert would be her dark cloaked malignant factotum, wrinkled and weasled like the fading stem of a poisonous tropical plant. They’ve been force to leave their two lovely sons behind in Johannesburg for Metro police to deal with the next time they’re having a couple of Chivas Regals in public.
Reminds me of that paragraph in “Indaba my Children” :
Then there were Ziko and Majozi, who were brothers and who jointly commanded the regiment, The Night Owls. They were a youthful pair of hard-drinking, hard-loving and hard-fighting hotheads, also famed as great singers and story-tellers who had composed long verses in praise of Malandela.
The singer bit remains moot, so too the story-teller bit. Whereas the stories today in Johannesburg and Harare remain exclusively focused on their mom who’s married to a man who’s an eviscerated shadow of the great Malandela and used a very modern form of flight to flee.