Looking at me now, you wouldn’t believe I was once a fresh-faced Grade Seven pupil at Hartley Primary school, in mighty Chegutu town.
I was never among the tallest of children. I was a skinny kid of below-average height, blessed with a quick mind and the sharpest of tongues (or as sharp a tongue as any pupil could afford to have).
Although I was a bit of a smart-ass, guaranteed to be found in the middle of any dastardly schemes or the roughest of sports, I was actually what was called a Good Boy.
All this goodboyness meant that I was selected to be one of Mashonaland West province’s two 21st February Movement kids. We were the chosen few, people. The best of the very best. Vana vakanaka.
We were the kids who would travel to Harare, hang out, learn songs and marches and dances, perform for (and meet) President Robert Mugabe and eat until our stomachs burst.
Bless our tiny, clueless, brainwashed little hearts.
My provincial comrade was a young lass from Sinoia Primary School, whose name shall not be revealed to protect her innocent kids.
So, with provincial selection done (I don’t remember how; certainly wasn’t birthday since I’m a September baby), I was carted over to Chinhoyi, where we picked up miss [name supplied] and proceeded to the Capital City in the canopied bed of a Ministry of Education pick-up truck.
They housed us at Ruwa Rehabilitation Center, taught us the songs and drills. They fed us, drilled us again and kitted us out.
One pair of white Bata tommies. One bright red bandana. Bring your own white t-shirt and shorts. Sorted.
I don’t remember the specifics of the actual event; what sticks in my mind was the huge lunch we had in a large hall at the Sheraton hotel, and a group photo with old Whatsisname.
Next day, we were carted back to our respective provinces, where my comrade and I became pen-pals (and actually remained friends through high school).
That was all of twenty-four years ago, and today’s newspapers made me feel my fucking age (as if I could forget).
This morning, I read a story on Southern Eye about this year’s crop of 21st February Movement kids. Ten little buggers from each province are going to the Falls!
More than 100 children selected from the country’s 10 provinces, who share a birthday with President Robert Mugabe, will be flown to Victoria Falls to attend his 91st birthday celebrations scheduled for next week, where elephant and other game meat is on the menu.
The “massive occasion” is being held from the 26th to the 28th. That is four days in a resort town, feasting on elephants and buffaloes and impalas and god-only-knows what else.
Must be nice, and I hope the kids enjoy it. All I got was tommies and a red bandana.
Maybe it’s time the Movement introduced an alumni system, where the veterans are also invited to tear shit up in Victoria Falls for four whole days. I would be pretty fucking keen.
I’d even promise to be nice.