Thank you to all of you buying Lost City!
Many have been asking about the extract where the protagonist smashes into Mugabe’s cavalcade… It’s based (as all the events in this book are) on real events, and this was something I saw happen a few years ago. Explains why all the outrider motorbikes are all dinged!
Bob Mugabe and the Wailers
Driving in Zimbabwe affords the motorist numerous pleasures: the potholes one has to swerve around, the crabbing trucks and belching fumes of buses, lawless taxi drivers, and, if you are lucky, you may be graced with the appearance of one of the great highlights of post-colonial Zimbabwean culture, Bob Mugabe and the Wailers.
Reggae superstar Bob Marley played his last live concert in 1980 at Rufaro Stadium,Harare,Zimbabwe, on the occasion ofZimbabwe’sIndependencefrom British Colonial rule. It was attended by heads of government and dignitaries from around the world, including Prince Charles and Indira Gandhi. And though Stevie Wonder didn’t attend, (he had a blind date, the joke went), he wrote a song especially for the occasion, ‘Master Blaster.’
Peace has come to Zimbabwe
Third World’s right on the one
Now’s the time for celebration
‘Cause we’ve only just begun
Bob Marley also sang the song he had written for the occasion, called simply: ‘Zimbabwe’
Natty Dread it in-a (Zimbabwe);
Set it up in (Zimbabwe);
Mash it up-a in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);
Africans a-liberate (Zimbabwe), yeah.
It was a triumph for Reggae music, the five fingered weed, and Rasta. The red, green and gold colours of Haile Selassie’s country even found its way (coincidentally, we are told) onto the new Zimbabwe beach umbrella flag (black for the people, red for the blood spilled, gold for the mineral wealth, and green for the agricultural bounty of the land).
But the President was apparently displeased with the Bob Marley invitation, especially when teargas had to be used to control his unruly dread locked fans at the Independence celebrations. Why couldn’t they have had Cliff Richard? But Bob Marley’s music had been the heart of the liberation struggle, banned in Rhodesia, and played on every shortwave black radio in the country throughout the seventies. The President didn’t want Zimbabwe to be a pot–smoking, dreadlock sporting, Rasta- Zion. He had never smoked ganga in his life and disapproved—like many of his fellow revolutionaries, he was musically, sexually and medically conservative.
It was ironic, therefore, that his cavalcade was unofficially called by one and all, ‘Bob Mugabe and the Wailers.’
On a ‘hot tip’ from the car rental lady, Andrew headed for Eastgate, the up-market mall where apparently provisions were plentiful. But at the main traffic lights out of town, an outrider on a blue motorcycle with blue flashing lights and wailing siren shot past him and skidded to a halt five feet in front of his car. Two other motorcycles sped past either side of the car and blocked the other two streets. The idea of course was to stop all traffic instantaneously to allow the president unimpeded and secure passage through the city. But Andrew could not stop in time. He swerved around the bike in front but hit the one to his left which was broadsiding to a stylish halt. The car toppled the bike and pushed it and its blue helmeted driver across the intersection into the other motorcycle. Andrew’s car stopped just to the left of the non-operating traffic light.
‘You OK?’ Concerned for the rider who he had just scraped along the tar for ten metres on his bike, he pulled up the handbrake and climbed out of his vehicle.
The rider stood, his jacket ripped by the tar, his camouflage trousers torn and blood seeping from his hand. He seemed OK, because all he could do was yell and gesticulate at Andrew. ‘Get out of here! Clear the intersection.’
The other motorbike outrider lifted his heavy bike and pushed it to the curb, parked it and ran back to help lift the crashed bike. Together the two men wheeled it off the road, all the while yelling at Andrew to move his car. In the back ground, Andrew could hear the sirens of other outriders and the heavy Fire engine-like siren of the cavalcade itself.
‘Damn.’ The front grill of his rental car was stoved in, and the bonnet crumpled.
‘Get off the road, quickly,’ yelled a pedestrian, gesticulating as violently as the bike riders. ‘They’ll shoot. Hurry.’ An impromptu crowd gathered around him.
Andrew turned to the outriders who were now running towards him, their hands reaching to their sheathed pistols.
‘Quick! Quick!’ The other pedestrians were joining in now, as if this was football match, urging him off the road. He got the message. He leaped into the car, ramped it up over the pavement and into a crowd of pedestrians who scattered, yelling, and then laughing when his car hit the trunk of a huge Msasa tree ringed in concrete.
Now that the intersection was clear, the outriders returned to their bikes and stood by them, giving the appearance of control. The injured rider limped badly to his bike and wheeled it, a sorry bike itself, to the corner.
They were just in time. The screaming sirens grew hysterical, and around the corner wheelied four more outriders in front, blue lights flashing , sirens in discordant counterpoint with each other, and then four sleek black Mercedes, with flag pennants fluttering on the left corner of each bonnet. The crowd stood to attention. Andrew once again pulled himself out of his vehicle and stood next to the man who had been shouting at him.
‘Don’t make any sudden movements,’ the man said. ‘They shoot on sight.’
Andrew watched the cavalcade drive through, tried to peer into the middle Mercedes where he was sure he saw a dark figure huddled against the back seat behind the tinted, bullet proof glass.
As a finale, behind the cavalcade drove an open truck, stuffed full of soldiers with weapons pointing out at the crowd. A machine gunner stood at the front, his long rope of bullets gleaming in the sun, the MAG swivelling at the crowds. There was enough firepower there to shoot the crowd full of holes.
Then it was gone. The crowd began to disperse.
‘Thanks.’ Andrew reached out to shake the man’s hand but he was gone, melted into the crowd, only the fearful whites of his eyes showing. The crowd was clearing out of Andrew’s way because of the outrider advancing on him.
‘You OK?’ said Andrew. ‘You didn’t give me time to stop.’
‘We kill you.’ He reached for his pistol but for some reason he could not get it out of its grip.
Andrew reached for his pocket too, but for a more superior weapon– his ZANU (PF) card. ‘You nearly did kill me.’
The outrider stared with suspicion at the card. Then turned on his heels and went to get his bike going. Soon both riders puttered off into the trail of sirens now distant.
Life started again. The traffic was again thick and wild. A bus belched out grey smoke as it crabbed across the intersection. Spectators gathered around Andrew’s car, telling their friends what they had seen, re-enacting the event with full sound effects.
‘Damn, it’s not even my car.’ Andrew peered at the bonnet now completely caved in.
‘You’re a tourist?’ called one man.
Andrew answered back in Shona. ‘mwana wa udongo. Son of the soil.’
‘You have to stop when the president goes by, didn’t you know that?’
‘They shoot people,’ said another. ‘We were hoping for another shooting today!’
‘What do you mean? I stopped, didn’t I?’ Andrew indicated the car ploughed into the tree.