For the Love of the Country

You telephoned your friend Siphiwe to tell her about the rally, how all the ministers’ wives were expected to attend and – to make matters worse – how Kuda had brought you one of those hideous party outfits, courtesy of the Minister of Rural Development’s wife.

You both cackled when Siphiwe said the gesture was entirely befitting; she was hardcore SRB – Strong Rural Background – plucked from deep inside the prickly bush of Murindagomo or some other remote rural.

“A walking fashion disaster,” you said. “Did you see the outfit she was wearing at the Chinese Ambassador’s welcome party? A true Christmas tree. Typical rural colours!”

“You can’t talk like that, dahling, you are married to a man who was once a rural boy, remember?”

You cackled some more.

 

Siphiwe had urged you to attend the rally – after all, what were a few hours of giving back to the party for the Borrowdale mansion and the BMW convertible and the shopping trips to London?

Laughing, you’d reminded her: “It’s now Dubai, sweetie, they sanctioned us from setting foot on holy European soil, remember?”

“Those colonialist albino monkeys! What, do they think sidla ngakibo, do they think I eat at their house?”

“That’s where the food aid comes from, sweetie. Besides, you know how it’s all so delicate, these sanctions and shit.”

You’d sighed at the party outfit spread out on your king-size Oakwood bed. Your nails clawed at the antique table where the phone sat. Because you’d be damned if you’d be seen at any rally with the President’s face grinning hideously on your bum.

Of course you went to the rally. And to many more after that. Of course. Because over Kuda’s dead pot-bellied flab would you not attend: Vice President and First Lady, they going  – why you thinking you something big, hey?

You stared at him as he said this – stress lines deeply etched on his forehead, bulldog jowls swinging from side to side – breaking English like it was going out of fashion, and you finally agreed that your mother had been right: a man older than your own father did not do for marriage.

Your father despised you for marrying a Shona.

Let’s stop with the tribalism, Father. He has a house in Borrowdale Brooke. And he inherited three of the farms they snatched from those greedy whites. He even inherited their cattle. You want a new house? No problem. A car? Cows? No problem. No problem.

Your father had shooed you out of his ramshackle township house as if you were a diseased chicken, and you’d run straight to Kuda’s Borrowdale palace. You’ve never spoken to any of them since. On days when you are honest with yourself you admit that you miss them, swallowing repeatedly to quell the tears in your throat.

You arrived at the rally early and sat at the back, where you hoped the cameras would not capture you. You cringed at the thought of your family crowded around their black-and-white television set, picking you out amid the discordant indigenous party attire and crocodile leather shoes and Louis Vuitton handbags – the spoils of state-funded diplomatic trips.

You sank into your chair and watched as, one by one, the party delegates arrived, their sleek imported cars farting over dusty pot-holed rural roads they were never made for, tonnes of shiny chrome winking at the gawking masses.

The bicycles donated by the Ministry of Rural Development were leaning against a cluster of mopane trees. Their brittle limbs reached out to the rally – if it weren’t for the rain that seemed also to have joined the sanctions, the trees themselves would have come out in support of sovereignty.

They were there, the Vice President and the First Lady, in party attire – just like everyone else. They shouted party slogans, like everyone else. And when it was time to cajole the starving masses into some half-baked enthusiasm, they stood up, again like everyone else. Bent slightly forward, formality abandoned, they too danced with the President’s grinning face emblazoned on their broad behinds. By now, the only distinguishing feature was their Prada shoes.

When a fellow began bellowing “The Blair that I know is a toile-t-ee” you were tempted to correct him: no more Mr Blair-toilet, the Blair that you now know is a Mister David Cameron.

She sashayed towards you, the wife of the Minister of Rural Development, then dragged you from the safety of your seat right to the front, in full view of the cameras. With all the indignity of a prostitute getting down and dirty at a growth point dhindindi, she began to wiggle her sooty behind. Your lips twitched as you showed her your teeth.

The First Lady was kicking up the dust more furiously than everybody else.

Yes, this was definitely a tough year.

As you did a limp dance you bared your teeth at the cameras and tried not to think of your family back home.

All for the love of the country, you kept mumbling to yourself. It wasn’t on account of the Borrowdale mansion and the BMW and the shopping trips that you were gyrating.

No, not at all. You were doing this for the love of the country.

A limp banner above the crowd caught your eye: Operation Clean Out The Rubbish.

Say (no)w, Africa. And you danced on.

 

 

* First published in 2012 by in the collection Shadows by Kwela