Putin heading this way …

Putin might be in Africa this week. Maybe or maybe not. He should have his hands full with Ukraine’s promised counter offensive due any day now, that’s if he’s a hands-on sort of fellow.

He has been invited to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, SA) summit this weekend in Cape Town and has been given diplomatic immunity from the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for ‘alleged’ crimes against humanity.

South Africa has given notice it wants to pull out of the ICC but that decision is being mulled over by a interministerial committee. As usual confusion reigns supreme. President Ramaphosa, hand on the heart, said he wants out of the ICC’s Rome treaty but then did a U-turn. ‘Down South,’ as we call it, may want to remain a signatory after all. Hence a committee to work it out.


Will Putin make a quick side trip up to Zimbabwe for a bit of the fishing he likes so much when he’s not waging war?  We like dictators and autocrats. We’ve had  A. Lukashenko and P. Kagame here lately. American VP Kamala Harris pointedly didn’t drop in when she was just up the road in another neighbour, Zambia.

The ruling ZANU PF has made no secret of its admiration for Putin’s stand-alone fight against Western neo-imperialism and the military-industrial complex that’s pouring weapons into Ukraine.

We give asylum to overthrown dictators if they want it. Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam has been here since 1991 and is apparently in good health at 86. The diminutive Mengistu looks chipper in the last photo to be seen of him with a countryman at State House, Harare.

Russia and Cuba supported Mengistu in his inconclusive Ogaden territorial war with Somalia, driving Somali dictator Siad Barre (notice his Hitler moustache) into the arms of the West after expelling his longtime Russian and Chinese friends. But nothing has yet helped Somalia out of its eternal quaqmire.

These was an assassination attempt against Mengistu in 1995 in Harare by an Eritrean who had brought in a sniper rifle as a member of Ethiopia’s shooting team for the All Africa Games. He took the shot too early, too excited at having a bead on Mengistu taking his evening walk in the marshy vlei near his luxury government villa, he missed and was caught by Mengistu’s local police escort who knew the terrain better.

Finally appearing in the Harare magistrat’s court, the shooter pulled up his tattered prison shirt to show weals of Mengistu’s torturers and the fresher wounds of Zimbabwe’s. He said Mengistu’s Derg had murdered his family and he had sworn revenge. He was sent home to serve a long prison term for attempted murder but probably became a hero there for trying the hit.

I asked to interview Mengistu but was refused by Mugabe’s people.  We did manage to get through to him on an unlisted landline number leaked by some helpful malcontent.

He said people will inevitably die in “pure revolution.” Can’t make an omelete without breaking eggs.

“We were fighting a pure Marxist revolution to end fuedal tyranny. We seized the means of production from the privileged classes for the benefit of the masses.”

Text book Karl Marx. He was convicted of genocide in absentia and said he didn’t go home for the trial because he had been prejudged and the so-called “Red Terror” of tens of thousands of killings were the “lies of my enemies.”  Stories he suffocated Emperor Haile Selassie with a pillow and buried him under the flagstones of his palace lavatory were also lies of his enemies.

He did admit, however, he had some “overzealous” people in his military junta.

Interestingly, Mengistu arrived in Harare on the day Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a young female Tamil Tiger suicide bomber at a political rally near Madras. She detonated a belt of explosives hidden under her dress as she genuflected and reached to touch his feet.

So Mengistu’s arrival didn’t give us big news that day.

Sorry about the stains on my letter from now deceased Bornwell Chakaodza. I must have been disappointed at not being able to see Mengistu face-to-face and upset my fruit juice. Neighbours at Mengistu’s northern Harare luxury villa said they saw plenty of booze bottles in his garbage left outside for collection. He is now living  incommunicado on a remote but prosperous farm owned, it is said, by one of his sons, a leader in a fairly large and well-to-do community of Ethiopian exiles.

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