Unity Day

22 12 2006

Well, Unity Day is nearly over for another year. It is not nearly as traumatic as Christmas Day with all it’s obligations and it is a public holiday so I suppose it has that in its favour too. Why we need a public holiday this close to Christmas is anyone’s guess – it really is a hassle to organize staff to come in to water seedlings at this time of year anyway. Unity Day’s origins are as obscure as they are dubious. We are apparently celebrating the end of the civil disturbances that marked the latter part of the 1980’s with substantial bloodshed in the south of Zimbabwe. It was largely an ethnic conflict between the ruling Shona and the minority Matabele (see the Wikipedia reference to Gukurahundi) but all sorts were caught up in it. The death toll probably exceeded 20000, mostly civilians massacred by the army’s N. Korean trained 5th Brigade, and at the end of it Joshua Nkomo who headed up the Matabele rebels signed a peace accord and now we are celebrating (the result of the government enquiry into the massacres was never released). Now Josh is toted as the “Father” of Zimbabwe and seen as a hero for coming to the negotiating table. The waters of history are however a lot murkier than that. Back in the days of the Rhodesian conflict when Josh headed up the ZiPRA faction, his troops were responsible for shooting down 2 Vickers Viscount civilian airliners. He was filmed for the BBC laughing about it. His “excuse” was that they were legitimate targets because there were Rhodesian military on the planes, even though they were on civilian business at the time. There were also women and children. I was at university with a girl who lost both parents on the second crash. Not quite the overweight cuddly father figure depicted on the Econet cell phone service provider billboards.

Some years ago I was staying in a backpacker hostel in the red light district of Sydney (Kings Cross). Yes, I was propositioned by a prostitute and NO, I did not take advantage of her, or pay her to be taken advantage of either. In the drawer next to my bed a previous occupant had left a letter from his mother in a farming area somewhere in Matabeleland at the time of the Gukurahundi massacres. I remember little of what she said save that she’d been talking to Father “someone” at one of the local missions and he was so looking forward to going on leave the next day and doing some fishing but that night he was murdered.

I have not noticed anyone celebrating anything vaguely nationalistic today. harare is mostly shut down anyway, most businesses are closed and staff have gone into the rural areas to visit family. They call it going “kumusha” . So I guess it was a good time for the government to allow the bakers to double the price of a “government” standard loaf of bread.

Otherwise it has been a perfect day. Incredible visibility; I could see the Great Dyke clearly 70km away. Not too hot, about 27 C. I was sitting having coffee on the verandah at 6.30 a.m. and enjoying the morning when a long crested eagle landed in a tree at the bottom of the garden about 30m away. He chose badly. It was a small branch that sagged badly so he had to move on to another better perch. They are impressive birds, large and black with a long crest of feathers on the head and big white “windows” under the wings.

The stars are very clear tonight. We are spoilt for stars in the southern hemisphere. We have the Milky Way and at the moment Orion is overhead in all its glory. Taurus is off to the west and Sirius is climbing just behind Orion. I was at a party earlier but had little in common with the people there who were only really interested in talking cycling (it was a cycling club do that my cousin organized). No-one seemed to care about the stunning sky overhead, still clearly visible despite the lights of Harare. I left early. Sometimes it is easier to be a social hermit and anyway, a friend once remarked that I have no social skills. No diplomat is Suzanne, though she is married to one!


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One response

23 12 2006
Gillian

Who needs social skills when you have wit and sarcasm?! The latter are much more fun and generally more sincere.

Happy Holidays, old man.

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