“Don’t they have a pension fund in Zimbabwe? That poor guy is nearly 91 and still working for a salary. One would think that, after three decades in the office, they would allow him to enjoy what’s left of his old age.”
“Gee, Vetfaan! You can’t say things like that. Pffft! Old Age? If you were over there, you’d be inside a jail right now. He doesn’t believe in dying, anyway. He once declared he’s stronger than Jesus…”
The picture of the man stumbling down some stairs caused a bit of debate in Boggel’s Place and Servaas was most upset to learn that Zimbabwe still has the same leadership.
“Well, things can be worse. Look at Syria.”
“What? How easily we forget, Vetfaan. The situation with ISIS boils down to a corrupted religious doctrine and a fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites. This fight has roots stretching back to the time after The Prophet’s death, when a dispute developed about who the successor should be. After the Americans and their allies ‘defeated’ Al Qaeda in 2006 in Iraq, Al Qaeda eventually emerged again with religious fervour to reclaim their position as true believers with divine goals.” Gertruida is in her lecture mode again. Nothing will stop her now.
“Anyway, ISIS used to be a part of Al Qaeda, but the relationship got more and more strained as they argued about leadership and control. Eventually, in 2014, they split up. Al Qaeda may have given birth to ISIS, but the infant-organisation soon defied its authority and now exists as a separate entity. Now it’s a bloody game of arm-wrestling: who has the most followers? Who controls the Middle East? And…sadly…who is the most effective terrorist organisation.”
“Like boys having a peeing competition?”
“Yes, Servaas, only at stake are the poor individuals caught in the crossfire. You see, ISIS dreams of an Islamic State that encompasses the Middle East, stretching as far as North Africa – not just Syria and Iraq like the West was led to believe initially when Saddam Hussein – himself a Sunni like the followers of ISIS – caused so much trouble back then. To accomplish this, ISIS needs soldiers, guns and money. So…you either support them, or you die.”
Vetfaan sighs heavily while he signals for another beer. “Unfortunately, my friends, that recipe is a most successful one. I’m sure there are many precedents for this in history, but remember the way Mugabe killed off the minority Ndebeles in the 80’s? 20,000 died. Then he moved on to the White minority. And you know what? The African Union now has him as president! Talk about the spoils of war! I hear he’s building a mansion in Natal – guess where somebody got the idea for Nkandla?”
“But isn’t this the story of all wars? Minorities and majorities; religious differences and power; greed and brutality…racism and ethnicity?” Kleinpiet doesn’t understand the complex situation in Syria, but he does understand the effects of propaganda. After all, was he not once a fuzzy-faced youth in the army? Were today’s heroes not called terrorists back then? “And once a new leader sits down on a bloodstained throne, he commands the historians to describe him as a saviour. It’s the little people – you and I in the crossfire – who get sacrificed on the steps of the palace.”
Now, everybody who knows Kleinpiet, will be surprised at his eloquent use of metaphors. Usually down to earth and direct, his little speech generates a subdued round of applause.
“There are,” Precilla says thoughtfully, “striking similarities between the situation in Syria and our northern neighbours. It’s a pity that CNN and BBC insist on publicising the Middle Eastern situation more than the African conflicts. It’s as if the atrocities in Nigeria, Somalia, Zimbabwe and even here aren’t important enough to broadcast to the world.”
“Pride before the fall, my dear. The inseparable Siamese twins. Nobody stays in power forever. No empire has withstood the test of time. Mark my words: ISIS, Mugabe, our own prez…they all will eventually tumble down the palace’s stairs – if not carried out, feet first. You can justify just about anything these days using convoluted logic – but you can’t escape the consequences of your actions. The Middle East may be heading for one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time, and in the end the area will be a wasteland of destruction. The high ideals of the leaders will result in untold misery for the population.”
‘As if they care, Gertruida.”
“Yes, Servaas, that’s true. It’s the story of our country as much as it is elsewhere. In those countries the leaders murder opponents to show the world how great they are. Here, they’ve decapitated our rainbow dream.”
Outside the little bar in Rolbos, the sun beats down mercilessly on the barren ground. It’s a desert out there, where only the most hardy of stunted plants survive. Gertruida once said that’s how truth grows: painfully slowly – but it endures. Lies, on the other hand, grow lush and green – but it only lasts a season.