Two depressing sights/sites in Harare

About twenty years ago, I went to Zimbabwe to run a presentation skills course for an American company with branches in almost every country in Africa. One of their managers met me at Harare airport. When he asked "Is this your first time in Africa?", I said "Yes."

"Well just be thankful you've come to Zimbabwe, because they haven't had time to really mess things  up yet. Most of the things you take for granted - like phones that work, banks with cash, buses and cabs more or  less work - unlike in some of the other African countries where we work. That's why we all opt to hold our meetings here whenever we can."

In this 'popular; country, Mugabe and ZANU-PF had already been in power for quite a while, but they'd yet to set about the country's agriculture and currency was reasonably stable. It also had a flourishing tourist industry, with easy access to world famous sights like the Zambezi and Victoria Falls.

But there were two sites which, even then, before there had been any hint of rampant hyperinflation or the hardline dictatorship of Mugabe, there were two buildings in Harare that I found rather depressing and, in retrospect, realise were totally prophetic of what lay in store for Zimbabweans.

Image result for picture of bank of zimbabwe building

The tower block above had just been finished and is still the highest building in town. It was and is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, standing at 120 metres tall and located (appropriately?) on Rotten Row. Even then, before hyperinflation, the country hardly seemed wealthy enough to spend so much on such a lavish building to house its central bank.

Image result for picture of zanu pf headquarters building in HarareAt the same time, there was another large  building still under construction: the new headquarters of Mugabe's ruling political party, ZANU PF, now completed (left).

What worried me then and worries me now is the way that post-colonial Zimbabwe has been so inextricably linked with Mugabe, the Shona-speaking majority and ZANU-PF.

Who now remembers the Lancaster House negotiations, Joshua Nkomo, ZANU, and the Ndebele-speaking minority?

In the last few days we've been reminded of the massacres around Bulawayo and other horrors committed by Mugabe and his cronies in ZANU-PF (not to mention rigged elections, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats).

A political party may at last have seen the error of its ways and ousted Mr and Mrs Mugabe.

ZANU-PF has fired its leader and his wife, but let's not forget that ZANU-PF is a wealthy political party (see the building above) that's both controlled and benefited from running Mugabe's one party state.

Until the party reforms itself, there's little likelihood of free and fair elections in the country.

If Mugabe goes, will Dr Sentamu get a new dog-collar?

Back in September 2008, Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, took off his dog collar during an interview with Andrew Marr, and then proceeded to cut it into small pieces to illustrate what Mugabe was doing to the identity of the Zimbabwean people, ending by promising not to wear it again until Mugabe was gone.

Eleven years later, news that time may at last be up for President Mugabe presumably means that the Archbishop of York may be about to start wearing his dog-collar - providing what no happens in Zimbabwe is something rather better than dictatorship by the Mugabes and their cronies in ZANU-PF.

If you've read any of my books or been on any of my courses, you'll know that one type of visual aid that tends to go down very well with audiences is the use of objects or props to make a point.

These two examples show that things as apparently unpromising as cutting a clerical collar up or brushing items of clothing can be very effective.

The first clip shows Dr Sentamu in action in a live TV interview and the second one, Barack Obama (then yet to win the Democrat nomination as their presidential candidate), dismisses criticism from Hillary Clinton's camp by brushing invisible dust from his jacket - and the more he brushed, the more the audience applauded.

You can see both these examples by clicking below - and more on objects as visual aids in my books Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations, London: Vermilion, 2004 & New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, and Speech-making and Presentation Made Easy: Seven Essential Steps to Success, London: Vemilion, 2008.

1 comment:

sal said...
Those of us, of a slightly older vintage, may remember Nikita Kruschev banking the desk at the UN with his shoe.

It turns out that the shoe was a prop for the occasion which he carried into the UN building in his pocket.