What a white man told me in Zimbabwe in 1980


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He offered me a drink, a scotch whisky I had not asked for, but enjoyed very much I must say. We spent some time on the small talk about the weather and the current news.

‘So,’ Ron began, ‘they did not hang you are after all, old chap! Congratulations, and may you live many more!’ We toasted and I sat across him in a comfortable sofa. ‘A man does not die before his time, Ron’ I replied rather gloomily, ‘never mind the power the judge has or what the executioner intends to do to one.’

‘I am happy you got a reprieve Thula,’, Ron said, ‘but what was it based on? I am just curious about what might have prompted His Excellency Clifford Du Pont, to grant you a pardon. You were a bunch of unrepentant terrorists.’

‘I do not know Superintendent,’ I replied truthfully. ‘Like I have said, a man does not die before his time.’ He poured me another drink and I became less tense.

‘So, Mr. Bopela, what brings such a lucky fellow all the way from happy Harare to a dull place like our Bulawayo down here?’

‘Superintendent, you said to me after you had finished your investigations that you were going to hang all of us. You were wrong; we did not all hang. You said also that though we were good fighters we would not win. You were wrong again Superintendent; we have won! We are in power now. I told you that good fighters do win.’

The Superintendent put his drink on the side table and stood up. He walked slowly to the window that overlooked his well-manicured garden and stood there facing me.

‘So you think you have won Thula? What have you won, tell me. I need to know.’

‘We have won everything Superintendent, in case you have not noticed. Every thing! We will have a black president, prime minister, black cabinet, black members of Parliament, judges, Chiefs of Police and the Army. Every thing Superintendent. I came all the way to come and ask you to apologize to me for telling me that good fighters do not win. You were wrong Superintendent, were you not?’

He went back to his seat and picked up his glass, and emptied it. He poured himself another shot and put it on the side table and was quiet for a while. –

So, you think you have won everything Mr. Bopela, huh? I am sorry to spoil your happiness sir, but you have not won anything. You have political power, yes, but that is all. We control the economy of this country, on whose stability depends everybody’s livelihood, including the lives of those who boast that they have political power, you and your victorious friends. Maybe I should tell you something about us white people Mr. Bopela. I think you deserve it too, seeing how you kept this nonsense warm in your head for thirteen hard years in prison. ‘When I get out I am going to find Ron Peters and tell him to apologize for saying we wouldn’t win,’ you promised yourself. Now listen to me carefully my friend, I am going to help you understand us white people a bit better, and the kind of problem you and your friends have to deal with.’

Continued next page

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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