|Harare market, harmony in a park, young musicians and hotel staff on Xmas day 1990|
I'm not sure about about other post-independence leaders and maybe our driver was too nervous to talk specifically about the situation in his own country - and simply say the word 'Mugabe'. But what happened last night makes our driver's words seem prophetic. Yesterday, twenty-seven years after we were there, and with his party and country finally turning against him, Robert Mugabe still tried to hang on.
People say that it's been 37 years of turmoil. For us in 1990 it didn't seem too bad. After 2000 the whole world suddenly saw Zimbabwe explode in violence. But before then, tyrannical rule must have been simmering below the surface. We could walk down the street in Harare of Bulawayo at One am without a hint of danger.
Looking back I wonder if tourists had this incredible ring of steel around them. If you attacked a tourist, the authorities would be onto you. And we gave a lift to a woman who was hitch-hiking, only for us to be pulled over by the police. They told us our tyres were bald - no lie; the car hire place was a rent-a-wreck - and that they'd let us off the fine if we gave two policemen a lift. They got in either side of this poor woman. In the driver's mirror I saw nothing but pure, 100% terror on her face.
But at least when we were there in 1990 the country was functional, you could visit as a tourist and the people were unbelievably friendly (when not squashed in against two fierce-looking policemen).
Let's hope, despite the fact that the 'coup' is a Zanu-PF internal fight, Zimbabwe can at least be more outward-facing and the people of that country, including the hitch-hiker and our astute taxi driver, have a better time.
Listen to Taxi Driver by Zimbabwe's Jonah Moyo