I cycled by the President’s house for the first time the other day, my bike indiscreetly grinding metal against metal like a blacksmith. Passing the bayonets of one of the soldiers out front, I wondered what they would make of a clown on a unicycle effortlessly cruising along the well-guarded path. I imagined the patchwork joker would end up where most clowns end up after a hard day’s work: alone with their makeup running in a cold dark room.
Extremes aside, whether we suffer as a nation from a colonial hangover, with policemen projectile vomiting rigid laws onto the potholed streets, or we speak in tongues because our freedoms have been sacrificed in exchange for the power of a few, there are some downright classic ways to get arrested in the beautiful city of Harare.
Disclaimer: If you do manage to get arrested in Harare City Centre or elsewhere in Zimbabwe, Matador holds you solely responsible for lacking the sarcasm levels required to consume such articles.
1. Get a large piece of cardboard and a Magic Marker.
Write a combination of the following words in some kind of order:
Once you’ve done this, see if you can last more than six minutes in the centre of town before you get joined by baton-bearing police. Explain to them this is a “peaceful demonstration” (two words they may find difficult to stomach and react to with a swift fist to the gut). The Zimbabwean armed forces lost their humour when it comes to peaceful demonstrations some time ago. Protest is so 1998.
2. Get a few selfies!
Why not head downtown and take a few shots of yourself and some of the city sights? If you want to get action shots, go to Mupedzanhamo in Mbare, the beating heart of secondhand bargains and crowds, with a proven track record of hostility towards cameras.
Take along your hefty photographic apparel and you’ll probably get descended upon by inquisitive and paranoid members of the public before the police arrive. When they do, calm the situation by telling them you’re just an amateur journalist from the UK. With the soured relations between the ex-colonial power and Zimbabwe’s current government still palpable, that statement should go down horribly well. Expect a prolonged stay in Central Police Station.
3. Kiss your partner with all the passion you can harvest.
If you’re overwhelmed by the pull you feel towards the love of your life — and danger in equal measure — go for a walk around the city. Land on the pedestrianized First Street and lock eyes, form a tight embrace. and start kissing each other with as much tongue as Jabba the Hutt indulging in foreplay with an ice cream.
Yoh! We have become such a conservative society that public displays of affection aren’t just looked down upon but, rather, acted upon by cops. Your transgression will no doubt lead to a swift public indecency charge. You’re more likely to get arrested for showing love than for pissing your name onto the walls of Town House.
4. Share a smoke.
A recent quirk in the Zimbabwean legal system is the strict approach to the roadside vending of ‘loose’ or single cigarettes.
A stock image of life in Zimbabwean cities is vendors perched behind makeshift cardboard tables littered with an assortment of cigarettes, vegetables, and biscuits. However, the vending of loose cigarettes has been deemed illegal and punishable by arrest. One friend heard of two smokers in his neighbourhood who were arrested for sharing the clandestinely purchased stick of tobacco and rushed off for a scolding at the station.
5. Drive without a license.
Just kidding, that you can get away with. Cops accept US$20 notes as a temporary permit.
This post was originally published in a different form at Kalabash.