Fidel Castro and Ian Smith
Fidel Castro, ‘the revolutionary,’ and Ian Smith, ‘the reactionary,’ never actually met, but we all found it rather amusing that the Cuban embassy bought a house next door to Ian Smith’s in Harare.
For so many years Cuba was anathema to our pre-independence prime minister. The Cubans were the very symbol of the Communist anti-Christ that sent troops on African adventures to fight alongside the black communist terrorists who were hell bent on wrecking the entire continent with their nonsensical Marxist ideologies.
The Cubans put up tall, dazzling security lights and huge telecommunications aerials in their garden. Smith disapproved but he could do nothing about it.
Even Smith had to live with the new realities. He complained one day that the Cubans made a lot of noise for communists, but even more extraordinary for communists they seemed to enjoy life, singing, Calypso dancing and drinking.
He said the Cubans never invited him over for a rum and never pushed any Havana cigars through the hedge for him.
When Fidel Castro was coming for the Non Aligned Summit Zimbabwe didn’t have nearly enough high-end accommodation for visiting heads of state. Home owners were invited to rent out their houses, complete with furniture and fittings, to NAM dignitaries. Smith volunteered his to the Cubans for its convenience of being next door.
The Cubans didn’t take up the offer, not because they objected to it, but because Robert Mugabe considered Castro such a special guest he was to give him one of the nicer properties available.
The very notion of Fidel Castro sleeping in Smith’s bed, sitting on Smith’s toilet, eating at Smith’s table, puffing on his cigar in Smith’s armchair, surrounded by photos and Rhodesian memorabilia, was just too wonderfully funny for words.
Watch this space for another installment from Angus Shaw’s alias Andrew Saxon.
Next to come: Debacle in the DRC.