Sunday, May 22, 2011

Signs of Normalcy

There are times, despite my long experience and knowing better, that I am lulled into thinking that Zimbabwe is a normal, fully functioning country.  I find myself pinching myself when that happens, as a reminder that things are not all as they should be, that a relatively small group of vicious, greedy, and unprincipled people have run the country into the ground, and continue to resist creating an environment where all Zimbabweans can fulfill their potential and live in peace and prosperity.

What, you might ask, then causes the momentary lapse in my ability to see the reality of the place?  Saturday, May 21, 2011 - coincidentally, the day Harold Camping predicted the world would end, which, since I'm writing this on May 22, it obviously didn't - I played a lackluster round of golf with some diplomatic colleagues at the recently renovated Country Club Golf Course, bought by a group of enterprising young Zimbabweans, black and white, who used their own money to yank the crumbling entity from obscurity.  After golf, and a few drinks of Malawi Shandy in the Country Club's restaurant, I went home to shower and change.  The young policeman who stands watch at my front gate along with the privately-hired guards we employ, saluted as he usually does. But, I noticed on the chair behind him, he had a bookmarked copy of my book on leadership, "Things I Learned From My Grandmother About Leadership and Life."

After showering and changing into appropriate smart casual attire, I went to Borrowdale Race Course, not too far from the center of Harare, to watch the final race of the Castle Tankard race, an annual high-money, high-voltage horse race that began in the 1960s and ran continuously until the 2007-2008 political violence here.  This is the first year its run since 2008, and the sponsor, Delta Beverages, pulled out all the stops.  In addition to a large purse for the winning horse, they had raffles for the people who came out to enjoy the races, including a brand-new double cab pickup truck.  I enjoyed the race, and the conversations with people in the Stewards' Quarters on the third floor of the facility.  But, most of all, I enjoyed watching the crowds, up where I was and down on the field as well.  A thoroughly mixed crowd; black, colored, and white, mixing and mingling and having a good time.  It almost made me forget the racist rhetoric and often violent actions of some elements of this government.

No, Zimbabwe is not quite yet a normally functioning country.  There are too many unhealed wounds; too many skeletons in too many closets; but, it does at times function normally.  It has people who know what normal is and what it can mean to a country with the potential Zimbabwe has.  It's just too bad that not enough of the people who control the levers of power are paying attention.