The election part 1 – all calm

31 07 2013
All is calm above World's View in Nyanga

All is calm above World’s View in Nyanga

I resolved as I climbed the steps into the Nyanga Police Station not to ask if we could paraglide but simply to state that that’s what we’d come to do.

The female constable was clearly uncertain about this paragliding thing even after I’d shown her a photo on my cellphone. “I have to call my boss” she replied. Her boss, the duty sergeant, was completely uninterested. Clearly, with an impending general election, he had more important things on his mind. Anyway, he knew about paragliding and that we’d been coming to this premier site at World’s View for as long as he’d been at Nyanga.

The flight was uneventful, and not the best conditions that this area can deliver, but after a long break from thermic flying I wasn’t complaining and I got in a nice hour in punchy, small thermals that still managed to lift me 400m above takeoff before high cloud stopped play.

I got chatting to a couple of well-spoken youngsters on the landing field.

“Where is your Robert cap” I asked one, referring to the profusion of the yellow caps in the area with a picture of Robert Mugabe on them.

“In my house” he waved vaguely in a northerly direction. “Anyway, you don’t have to wear them”.

“Are you going to vote?” his friend asked me.

“Of course, but it’s my secret who for”.

“That is obvious” he countered.

“No it’s not, I might decide Robert is my friend”.

They found this hugely funny.

We’d been in the area a few days and I’d been concerned about a paragliding trip this close to the election on the 31st July. The last election in 2008 had been marked by a lot of violence but this time around all seemed quiet. I’d seen a number of ZANU-PF (Mugabe’s party) vehicles giving out caps and T-shirts and putting up posters and even a few vehicles from the opposition MDC (Move for Democratic Change). The visit to the police station was merely a courtesy to cover ourselves just in case someone accused us of spying (seriously!). In the past they did ask us not to fly over the police station and of course I ended up in a thermal for some 10 minutes directly over it but high enough to escape notice.

Today was voting day. I was in no rush as I rather thought I’d avoid those who thought that it would be necessary to get to the polling stations early. Leaving the house just after 11 I visited the first polling station in my area only to find that I was registered for another ward. There wasn’t even a queue. At the correct polling station there were 2 queues of some 30 people each. Policemen and observers lounged in the sun and one waved me to the front of the queue. 5 minutes later I was out my duty done and I was back home by 12.

Duty done!

Duty done!

So whom did I vote for? Well, that’s my secret but as I was at school for one of the councillors, it wasn’t just a vote for president, he got my X. Now it’s time to get on with this day off and hang out the washing and start pruning the roses.





Local linguistics

16 04 2012

Apparently tourism is booming in Zimbabwe. You could have fooled me – there certainly aren’t legions of backpackers about because I would have noticed them. Well this gem of optimism is according to The Herald newspaper which is renowned for being upbeat without too much reason. Maybe it’s something to do with the impending Independence Day on Wednesday when we all HAVE to be upbeat and thankful for 32 years of misrule. No doubt our esteemed President, Robert Mugabe, will do his usual rant at the National Sports Stadium, everyone else will be blamed for our woes and the solitary remaining air force jet will fly over. Now I have seen that! It was practising on Saturday while I was a the orchid show. Well I guess that I’ll do my bit for the imminent horde of tourists and give them a bit of free advice on everyday etiquette so pay attention all you potential visitors.

It is essential when greeting a Zimbabwean to ask how he/she is even if you are not vaguely interested. In fact this is so ingrained that it is common to be asked “How are you” to which you reply “Fine” (I mean what else are you going to say? Do you honestly think they want to hear about your troubles?) and then the other person will also say “Fine” without you actually asking anything. I have on occasion replied “Terrible” but that only creates confusion and, God forbid, they might want to know what is wrong.

Of course if you are on familiar terms with the other person you can just say “Howzit” which doesn’t actually require any meaningful answer except for another “Howzit”. It’s at this point that my mother would have said “What do they mean, howzit?” and I would reply “It’s actually a contraction of  how is it going”. “How is WHAT going?” she would reply. “What exactly is IT?”. “Well, I guess it’s really just a salutation” I’d respond. I didn’t know any French at that stage to reply that “Comment ça va?” is exactly the equivalent of “Howzit going?” not that it would have helped explain much but it would have at least been witty.

The uninitiated should be warned that all this applies to phone conversations too. You will be made to feel more than a little awkward if you just say “Hello, I wonder if you could help me with…” without going through the “How are you” formality.

For everyday conversations the above introduction will suffice but if you REALLY want to make a good impression you should ask how the family is or how are things at work or home. This is considered VERY polite! Asking how work is going is of course safer because there are the occasional difficult people who don’t have a family, myself included. I’m not sure what the response would be to “My dog is very well thank you”. Maybe I should try it.

It’s pretty much straightforward after this so I will introduce a bit of vocabulary that is peculiar to Zimbabwe. There is a lot of local slang based on English, Afrikaans, Shona and Ndebele but the following are considered essential.

Dhoro – beer. Essential this. The “h” signifies that the D is a hard one. O is pronounced as in or.
Braai – barbecue. Another essential. Braai has Afrikaans origins and is an abbreviation of braaivleis – literally to roast meat.
Eish (pronounced “eeesh”) – an expression of amazement thought it will do for just about any situation. Also of South African origin.

One last piece of advice; everyone is your friend. This predates Facebook by many years but if you ever need anything precede your request by “My friend…” and likely as not you will get what you need. Zimbabweans are a friendly lot and we have quite possibly the best weather in the world so come and visit. Don’t worry, there won’t be too many other tourists!





Air Zimbabwe – euthanasia required

19 01 2012

The photo on Shelton’s cell phone was unmistakable – an Airbus A320. It was, I was told, parked in an Air Zimbabwe hanger for painting in the national carrier’s colours. Now anyone familiar with the Air Zim saga will appreciate just how daft this is.

At the end of last year Air Zim had a plane impounded at London Gatwick for non-payment of outstanding servicing and spares and was therefore not available for Robert Mugabe to use to go to Kim Jong Il’s funeral (word has it that he was not pleased). The same had happened in Jo’burg a bit earlier with another aircraft. The planes were eventually released and now Air Zim doesn’t fly to either of those destinations –  presumably they still owe money. It is a bit restrictive just flying in the sub-region and cannot be remotely profitable. Shelton is junior aircrew and has not been paid for 8 months. One can only imagine what the other staff are owed and here we are with two purchased Airbuses. Oh, and they are not remotely new either so are not going to be cheap to run. Really, how IS this going to make any difference to Air Zim’s misery? It is time to do the right thing and put the whole sorry mess to sleep.





The house that Morgan bought

9 01 2012

I have seen the house that Morgan Tsvangirai bought and I am not pleased. It is a multi-million dollar mansion on Kew drive in Highlands, Harare. As prime minister in the GNU (government of national unity – a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) he simply does not earn that type of money. Even if he did get a mortgage. This does not make me think that if he ever does get into power that the corruption and pillaging of the nation’s resources will stop or even diminish. Yes, at the last election I did vote FOR him and his party, the MDC. At the next one I will vote AGAINST the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, and his party, ZANU-PF.