AND then Emperor Gushungo's birthday drew near. These were the critical days when Emperor Gushungo's press secretary was busy, his acerbic tongue lashing at his underlings left and right for perceived incompetence. One would hear him say, in a strident voice: "You lazy buffoon, have you called ZESA and told them to place an ad in the Expositor congratulating his excellence like I told you?"
As had now become the norm, the press secretary's underlings were required to make phone calls to all heads of parastatals telling them that: "It is incumbent upon you to place messages of good will for the Emperor on his b/day, or otherwise you would lose your job." Of course the heads of parastatals tripped over themselves to accomplish this task, fighting to outdo each other.
From his spacious office in a tall building in central Harare, the press secretary, formerly a facetious and amiable man until he joined hands with that vilified political science professor to script and direct the message of the 'Third Chimurenga,' saw to it that these heads of government departments played their part as they were required. In the press secretary's mind, these messages served a dual purpose. They were not only an avenue to gauge the loyalty of the people in involved in government companies but they also demonstrated to the general populace that indeed Emperor Gushungo was doing a good job as the leader of the landlocked country. If he wasn't, why would the government companies lavish praises on him?
The press secretary, sitting behind his large desk, was flighty with joy on the day of the big occasion. The special supplement in the Expositor, the government newspaper, was out-spread on his desk. A wily grin graced his round fat face. No the fat on his body was not of gluttony, but that of good living. He was not above admiring his own handiwork. As expected the heads of the government departments had delivered. "Wise Leader," NRZ described Emperor Gushungo. The press secretary quickly went through the messages from TelOne, Zimpost, ZESA, Dairiboard etc. "Born with invaluable leadership qualities", "A principled, great orator", "A paragon of magnanimity, consistency" , "22 years of youth empowerment" the messages read.
Just then, his secretary came on the phone. He was about to glower at her when she told him it was a call from the editor of the Expositor. He cleared his throat and answered the phone, speaking at length with the editor.
"What should we about the opposition's manifesto launch?" the editor enquired of the press secretary at the other end of the line at last. The press secretary chuckled.
"Write that their manifesto is inspired by the imperialists! Tell the people that the MDC, as a puppet organization, has launched its manifesto in tandem with ZDERA and…." The press secretary went on to tell the Expositor editor what to report. In his capacity, the press secretary had taken over the running to the government newspaper, serving in the position of editor-in-chief. Nothing that the paper published escaped his scrutiny, powers that fell in his hands when the political science professor left government in a huff. Once the teleconference with the newspaper editor was over, the press secretary settled down to write Emperor Gushungo's speech, one that he was to deliver in Beitbridge. An hour later, he smiled with pleasure as he pasted the words, "two-headed-monster" into the speech.
The plumb lady clad in designer clothes and shades was the last to board the British Airway jumbo jet to J'burg from London. She took her seat in the business class part of the plane and settled back for the ten hour trip.
"Can I have a cherry please," she asked an in-flight crew-woman. Sipping the drink, she couldn't help it but laugh furtively, admiring her own accomplishment. She had a tendency to be strong headed, determined to get her way no matter what. She was in the news one time when she spoke to an old white farmer thus: "I'm taking over this farm. Please pack your bags and leave." The old woman protested but to no avail, losing her farm to her.
What made the first lady happy that mid-February was that she was coming back from her one week shopping trip to London! She loved nothing more in this world that shopping. She had gone to Harold's despite the travel ban imposed on her because of Emperor Gushungo's, her husband, transgression.
When the ban had been imposed, her 'detractors' celebrated it. But thanks to the collaboration between the CIO and the Zambians, the ban had become nugatory. Like the First Lady, most of the members of Emperor Gushungo's entourage had been provided with Zambian passports, as part of the 'sanctions bursting' regime that the Emperor Gushungo himself talked about to those who could listen to him. "Tony Blair will never beat me," the old man had vowed when the sanctions had been imposed by the Europeans.
"I really have to go to Harold's this new year," the First Lady had told Emperor Gushungo before her trip. There had followed a heated discourse, but in the end, she had prevailed against him. What she didn't tell her husband was that she was insisting on going to London not because she wanted to shop for his birthday, but because she wasn't sure if he would win the election in March. "Better enjoy it while it lasts, who knows what happens after March 29?" she had confided to a close friend. Dr. Gono had been instructed to procure the foreign currency from the black market for the First Lady's use in London. When the jet settled at its cruising altitude of 10km up, the First Lady fell asleep wondering: "Italian butter-cream or vanilla flavored cake?" She was running out of options for the cake for her husband's birthday.
A Tuku song blared from the speakers and the invited guests at State House mingled. They represented the ruling class of this Zimbabwe, ranging from diplomats to academics serving in various posts in government. This was the private party on Thursday night, two days before the public party out in Beitbridge. Wine and beer and champagne, all imported, flowed freely for the president's b/day party was a state occasion funded by public funds. Watching the festivities, it was difficult for one to realize that more than half the country was starving, inflation was astronomical, etc.
And then the man of the hour arrived, Emperor Gushungo himself in person and quickly the invited guests presented their gifts. Even the Chinese ambassador came to pay homage to the emperor, in part to gain the emperor's favor. Hours later, when the guests had left, Emperor Gushungo walked about the State House's gardens under a new blue moon. At his side, the press secretary listened to everything he was saying.
"You know what George, I wish my first born son had survived," the emperor spoke in a voice full of regret. The press secretary remained quiet, encouraging him to continue. He was aware that the emperor sometimes became emotional on his birthday, especially when he starts talking about his old family. "If wishes could come true," the emperor added and sighed.
"Uh sir, why do you say that" the press secretary asked. Instead of answering the question the emperor looked up at the moon above the Jacaranda trees that form a boundary one side of the State House gardens.
"Sometimes I wish I was Gaddafi. He had a son long back and when he retires, that son will take over power from him. The reason I'm having trouble in ZANU-PF is that I don't have a son that could take over from me."
"It's true. I could have retired early and let my son take charge. But now…" the emperor continued talking into the night, with the press secretary by his side.