We teased her about her ancestry and its attached connotations, as we basked in our new identities as Les Jeunes Francophones.
A motley crew of about 100, we were students at the tail-end of our various French language studies, brought together at a Francophone university in Africa that had become the home-substitute for Anglophone African students, who, hitherto would travel to France for the same studies.
A very brilliant, argumentative and self-confident Zimbabwean belle, she had no qualms about stating her royal lineage to Lobengula (Khumalo) – the 19th century king of the Matebele, garnished with the sacred role of her family, linked to the Umulimo, the custodian of the divine mysteries and secrets of the land.
One occasion that raised her excitement to fever pitch was when we visited the mausoleum of the country’s independence prime minister prince, who was assassinated a few days after he was sworn-in.
Two decades down the lane, we meet again at a UN agency, where she has been working for the last 12 years. And save for her husband’s name, she remains the very same naughty belle she was during our student days.
Occasion to catch up on the good old school days found us at a café in one of the top hotels in town.
The television channel in the café was replaying the African Union (AU) Golden Jubilee celebrations that were held in May 2013, with African Heads of State and Government basking in the glory of celebrating the 50 years of the AU (formerly Organisation of African Unity).
And she literally silenced everyone and all eyes were glued to her radiant face as she bemoaned a continent that has since lost all its glory and valour.
“I wonder what my great-grandfather would say, had he to wake up today....you know he died an innocent, proud gallant hero after he tore all the ‘treaties’ that he had been duped into ‘signing’ by Cecil Rhodes, and throwing all the trinkets he had been offered into the river.
This was after he discovered the true intentions of this man, who had come as a friend, only interested in hunting elephants,” she gnashed her teeth as she faced us, as if we had turned into the fellows on the screen, who were the object of her fury.
“...But the time is coming, and indeed it is already here, when Lobengula will be re-born and this will be the true African Renaissance,’’ she said emphatically.
From her vantage position at her job, she is privy to virtually all that goes on behind the scenes, as ordinary mortals are fed on sweetly choreographed treaties, agreements and ‘partnership’ statements.
This, she says, explains the trillions of dollars that have been sunk into Africa with no tangible, visible change or impact.
Each generation of leaders comes with promises that end only into slogans on paper, as was the case with Thabo Mbeki’s and Abdoulaye Wade’s New Partnership for African Development (Nepad), which had been touted as a vehicle of African Renaissance.
Its main component, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) only served to occasion more ‘aid’, and globe-trotting for leaders and their cronies.
True renaissance, according to her prophesy, will come when the true Lobengula will lead Africans into getting the world to accept and classify slavery, colonialism, plunder, apartheid and other wrongs against Africans, the same way the Jewish Holocaust has been classified by the world community.
Only then will Africa take her true position in the world, reclaim what is truly hers, and determine her destiny.
This is when true proud African leadership will rise, a pride that will abhor corruption, which lays the continent bare and poor amidst plenty; a leadership that will shun the current spate of conflict on the continent, where all conflicts, of whatever nature or magnitude, have a foreign factor embedded therein.
When all this is shunned, the ICC and related power instruments will be rendered redundant.
“And only then, will celebrations have meaning. This one we are watching is a mockery of the true African Manhood...imagine 80 per cent of the AU’s budget is foreign-funded, the glittering headquarters was foreign sponsored..., food during AU summits is donated by the EU, while mineral water is donated by China....individual countries and economic blocs depend on foreign ‘aid’, so what is there to celebrate?” she concluded, throwing her glowing bright-white eyes across the room.
No one answered.
The writer is a social commentator.