From Tunisia PM’s sexy name to dancing Kizomba in Luanda

Sunday March 1 2020


By Bernard Tabaire

People, before coronavirus sets its deadly foot on the continent, let’s content ourselves with our home-grown issues.

In Uganda, it is more of the same. Political contestation gone crazy with fatal shootings; projects delayed because of delayed funding or because of the fight amongst the mafia as to who picks up which deal. Of course, Kampala’s potholes get more glorious in their depth and width even as self-important VIPs drive us off the streets daily. How can we fail to run a city? How?

We can’t even decide whether to legalise the growing of commercial cannabis — call it weed, marijuana, enjaga, pot, dope, or ganja (planta — in Marlon Asher’s voice). We should just pick one name and legalise that one if the sound of marijuana or enjaga sounds scary to our heaven-bound decision-makers.

This is an old story, so let me flee and seek solace, via a puff, elsewhere. Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, here I come from the pearl.

“Malawi has become the latest southern African country to legalise the growing, selling and exporting of cannabis,” BBC Online announced last week.

Apparently, there is something serious called Malawi Gold. Not bad branding and marketing.
“Recreational smokers consider, ‘Malawi Gold’, as they call it, to be one of the finest forms of the drug,” the BBC Online, probably on some high, informed the world giddily.


“But the authorities have stopped short of legalising it for personal use.” What a shame! Only South Africa gets it, as it does on same-sex relationships. I will say that for Madibaland, although its pretentious high commission in Kampala found it wise to give me a visa last week at 4pm when my flight out of Entebbe was at 10:50am the same day. For a so-so visitor, I expected better.
Consequently, I shall not go to South Africa for the next five years. This individual boycott changes nothing except to make me feel defiant and good. I have found a cause.

Back to the issue: In 2018 South Africa decriminalised cannabis for personal use. This is the sole reason why my boycott won’t last a lifetime.

Closer to South Africa, people in Angola are in one big parte after parte mood. Everyone is grooving to Kizomba on Luanda’s waterfront.

“Kizomba, which means ‘party’ in Kimbundu, one of Angola’s local languages, is a dance and music genre which developed in the 1980s in the capital Luanda, swiftly becoming a part of Angolan cultural identity,” Reuters reported a few days ago.

“The dance, which has some similarity to the Latin Salsa, is known for having a slow, smooth and sensual rhythm. With lyrics typically sung in Portuguese it’s [sic] popularity has spread to other Lusophone countries and beyond, as dancers enjoy its catchy beats and romantic flow.”

From the accompanying video, it looks like life is swell down there. And I thought I had seen serious Kizomba dancing in an outdoors bar in Accra several years ago.

Oh, and not since the pulsating halls of salsa in Addis Ababa had I seen anything as publicly sensual in the parts of the continent I knew then. So inspired was I that I returned to Kampala and signed up for salsa dance class with Samuel Ibanda at the National Theatre. I flunked out of the course after two weeks because I discovered I had two left feet. Out went my dream to return to Addis to dance salsa with a gorgeous native.

Away from the light stuff, we have a real issue up north in Tunis. What is in a name? It depends which name.
“The surname of Tunisia’s new prime minister Elyes Fakhfakh is causing some people to trip up when trying to pronounce it,” BBC Online couldn’t resist the temptation to trip itself up.

It also instructed us: “Do not on any account say “fak-fak”, which sounds rude in some languages, like English.”
What to do then? Apparently, try “FaH-faK”.

No difference to me. But at least the man got parliament to endorse his cabinet the other day. Revival of the economy appropriately trumped all other namely concerns.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.