“on my trip to Harare, three weeks after a coup deposed Mugabe in November 2017, I had seen no pictures of the man. Once mandated in state buildings, they had been taken down swiftly after the coup. A teacher I met described the scene in her school on the day of his resignation. “One teacher came to the staff room and said, ‘Auctioning, auctioning, anybody want a picture of Mugabe?’ and someone put up his hand and said, ‘Fifty cents, I’ll give you 50 cents!’ and then he said, ‘OK, I’ve got 50 cents, anyone else?’ and someone else said, ‘Ten cents’ and he said, ‘Sold to the guy with 10 cents!’ ””
– from After the Strongman by Karan Mahajan in the New Republic.
During the protracted teetering that preceded the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, I came back from Belgrade with this sad souvenir, a five hundred billion Dinar note:
Whoever is driving the train in a state like that is due for a bloody wreck, and Milosevic eventually derailed. But the most catastrophic conductor’s train was just leaving the station.
A few years after Milosevic’s 500,000,000,000 Dinar debacle, Robert Mugabe presided over inflation that, according to a clinical, academic analysis, caused prices to double every 24.7 hours. But there was nothing clinical about actually living in the land of Mugabe. There was chaos.
Robert Mugabe was there when I first turned up in Zimbabwe in 1995. When I think of the considerable chunk of my life gone by since then, I can only mourn for Zimbabweans forced to live all those days under Mugabe, his wife Gucci Grace and their cadre of kleptocrats.
Let us hope that from here all the players, the army, politicians in Zimbabwe and in surrounding countries with interests real or perceived (looking at you, South Africa) can restrain themselves. Let’s all hope ordinary Zimbabweans become the stars of this new show, and get a too-long awaited chance to live and prosper again.
Zimbabwe is gorgeous. In the post-Mugabe future, let’s all visit, congratulate its people and leave behind a wad of foreign currency. Just leave your hunting rifle at home.