Why you should be talking about Zimbabwe

If you’ve missed it, there’s apparently a coup underway in Zimbabwe, and it’s a great discussion topic for elementary class news meetings (and not just because it’s, whew, a topic unrelated to all these tawdry sexual abuse allegations).

Some of the highlights:  a 93-year-old president who’d been in power since 1980, a strongman nicknamed Crocodile, and a crazy airport getaway involving a general and his defenders disguised as baggage carriers.  Don’t miss out on the funeral scene at National Heroes Acre, where the president accused a pal of being a “weevil.” You may even want to mention the first lady, dubbed “Gucci Grace,” who became romantically-involved with the president while his first wife, the beloved Sally, was dying of cancer.

But most importantly, rely on this image: the frail and elderly president — abandoned by his own party, under house arrest, tanks rolling through his country — refusing to give up or say much more than that his country is “going through a difficult patch.”

It’s all here.

Added bonuses: you have tons of opportunity to use a map (the vice president alone takes us from Zimbabwe to Mozambique to South Africa in a matter of hours; the general was in China before his dramatic airport escape; the president travels to Singapore for medical treatment). There’s opportunity to figure out lots of timelines. And of course, you can share some great quotes:  “This coup was the result of a disagreement between people eating at the same table, whereas most coups in Africa are done by people eating under the table and receiving crumbs.”  You can’t go wrong.

On the flip side: None of these stories are written in a way that my students would be able to understand and appreciate them on their own.  So you’ll have to read ahead,  and summarize. The details tell the story — I’ve mentioned the highlights, and from there you can  fill in the chronology.  Just remember that it’s okay not to know everything. It’s great to admit you’re learning along with the students.

My class was left with a few burning questions we are going to try to answer moving forward: was the president considered a good leader while he was in power? Are the people who want power now “good guys” or “bad guys”?  And did the president’s first wife find out about Gucci Grace before she died?


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