Monkey business in Milton Park
My old friend Brown Moyondizvo has already spoken of the stunning surrealism in Kiki Divaris, once a staunch follower of Ian Smith, being declared a liberation hero before her burial the other day at the Pioneer Cemetery, the resting place of many old-school settlers. Let her rest in peace for now. But the family name does stir memories of her late brother-in-law Dennis Divaris and the sorry saga of Charlie the monkey back in the late 1980s.
Charlie, the young vervet monkey, was dead, heartlessly gunned down in the Harare suburb of Milton Park.
For about three months, little Charlie had been living in the woody glades of Lawson Avenue. He had won the hearts of many residents. They gave him his name, put out fruit and looked on him as something of a pet. The shy, black-faced vervet often sheltered in a neighbourhood rabbit hutch.
But this suburban idyll came to an abrupt and cruel end. Acting in response to complaints by local householder Dennis Divaris MP rangers from National Parks came to remove poor Charlie.
One idea was to lay out a drugged banana. But Charlie, displaying some second sense, didn’t go for it. To the horror of the neighbours, two low calibre shots rang out.
Charlie, hit and wounded, was cowering in a tree. Blaming old or damp ammunition, the rangers returned an hour later with a powerful hunting rifle and ended Charlie’s misery by blasting him out of the tree.
Menfolk were outraged. Wives and children choked back their tears. It was as if Charlie had been betrayed.
”It was a regrettable and most upsetting episode,” said one neighbour. ”There was no question of Charlie being rabid, diseased, or vicious. If a child had been attacked, I would have been the first to agree to putting him down, but he harmed no one and wasn’t tame enough to go near people.”
Charlie wasn’t tame enough either to be hand fed and bananas left out for him at the same spot every day discreetly disappeared.
”It was as if he trusted us.”
Locals who knew Charlie’s habits were not consulted for their assistance in trapping him for translocation to the wild at Lake Chivero and said his humane capture could have been achieved if the wildlife department had learnt of Charlie’s liking for the rabbit hutch.
Mr Divaris now came into the firing line himself, just ahead of upcoming elections in which he was standing again as an independent candidate for Harare Central.
”I question the political judgement of anyone who could believe Charlie constituted a danger or a nuisance,” said another irate voter-householder.
Letters poured into the local paper, driving Mr Divaris wild; he quickly declared war on those, including me, who exposed Charlie’s demise in the press — but, like the first bullets used against Charlie, he used dud ammunition.
He accused me of “hiding in a rat hole” and belonging to Ian Smith’s renamed Conservative Alliance party.
”It is quite apparent that you are a loyal but misguided supporter of the Conservative Alliance. It is clear you are a hardened racist and abhor Mediterranean nations and you despise the Mediterranean small shopkeeper who sells veggies,’’ he raged.
He decided against a lawsuit when his political origins as a longtime stalwart of Smith’s Rhodesian Front before independence were pointed out. It wasn’t too difficult to go to the library of parliament and look up his rabid speeches in volumes of Hansard as a Rhodesian Front MP and chief RF parliamentary whip. He was the most notable of the right wingers who changed their allegiances after 1980, quickly becoming a fiercely pro-ZANU PF independent MP (under the Lancaster House agreement for white roll elections in 1985.)
Charlie’s revenge. Mr Divaris lost his seat in the next election, sold his house and moved out of Milton Park.
See also the previous post at