After 3/4 of a bottle of Red Label, and interpreting Ed’s silence like me, Brian must have come to the conclusion words were becoming about as useless a means of communication between us as they had been between Mugabe, Carrington, Nkomo and Soames during the Lancaster House shenanigans.
He switched to an analogy that was so simple and unforgettable, and, in the light of history, so timeless, that all the rest of Comrade Rifkind’s efforts to justify why he and his national communist appeasing peers thought it was such a great idea to hand over a fully functioning army, judiciary and police force to a scheming monster, pale into insignificance:
‘Have you ever been to a crocodile farm?’ he asked, and we both had. There was one outside Jo’burg, a tourist spectacle where you could watch, from ramps and walkways, workers toss fresh fully feathered chicken corpses into a watery pit full of crocs. Afterwards, on the way out, there were African curios for sale, and the crocodile skin staples like belts, shoes, boots and watch straps, and baby crocs of different sizes for those to handle that dared.
Uncle Bob, he said, and that was the first time I ever heard anyone give Mugabe the Stalin tar brush, was a psychopath who started a crocodile farm. For as long as anyone could remember, and the Rhodesian Bush War started in 1964, Uncle Bob had been developing his crocodile farm, and feeding his crocodiles two flavours of foreign chicken. Top of the menu was chicken schooled in communist revolutionary dogma, an absolute favourite, and not far behind was chicken schooled in appeasement. He also held very public feedings of native Zimbabweans, mostly black, who crossed his path, even if just to get to the other side of the road.
So by the time the civil war ended, almost everyone, black and white, had been forced to watch someone they knew being fed, screaming, to Uncle Bob’s crocs, often by Uncle Bob himself. Word of Uncle Bob’s feeding regimen did leak out to some appeasement flavoured foreign chickens, but all they did was cluck, season themselves on silver platters, and serve themselves up at a Lancaster Gate feast fit for crocodiles. When it came to majority voting in 1980, after that feast, all Uncle Bob had to do was let everyone know that if they didn’t vote for him, they’d be fed to Uncle Bob’s crocodiles, and if they did, the whites would be fed to Uncle Bob’s crocodiles, and their possessions, like land, fed to Uncle Bob’s voters.
That was enough to secure Uncle Bob 63% of the vote. Some appeasement flavoured chicken sent to monitor Uncle Bob’s feeding patterns at voting time just decided to do the brave thing, and pop themselves on the menu. Those that didn’t, were ignored. As soon as he was in power, and had control of army, judiciary and police, he let all of his crocodiles loose, with instructions to eat only in moderation. This isn’t an easy instruction for a croc to follow. It’s in their nature to kill when the opportunity arises, and store for the future.
In the space of a couple of years, the Zimbabwe Rhodesia led by Bishop Muzorewa with Smith in his cabinet had gone from a country where 250,000 capable white Rhodesians were effectively senior management to six million capable shop floor black Rhodesians, to Zimbabwe controlled by Uncle Bob and thousands of Comrade Crocodiles.
When some of the black Rhodesians on the shop floor who hadn’t voted for Uncle Bob began to complain, he sent a brigade of 2,500 Comrade Crocs over to North Korea for special training, where communist pathology was indoctrinated into communist ideology, to produce a mutant crocodile equipped to slaughter fellow citizens without remorse.
When they returned two years later, Uncle Bob gave them all a red beret and released them into the areas where most of the complaints came from. He encouraged these mutant crocs in red berets to eat the public in public places like schools and town squares. This was to be more random than rhyme or reason, so women, children, teachers, doctors, it didn’t matter who they ate, or why. Uncle Bob cried while his people died, but for a greater cause. That cause was a one party Marxist Leninist state.
The elite Mutant Crocs and all the other Comrade Crocs knew they would be tolerated and protected and allowed to roam free like wild crocodiles for as long as Uncle Bob remained in charge of Zimbabwe. He told them that if they didn’t look after him like their lives depended on it, they’d be hunted down and turned into boots, belts and skins by his successors.
And that was the end of Brian’s telling of Crocodile Farm. It answered my naive questions, and explained at once so many other things. According to this unsparing analogy Soames, Carrington, Thatcher and all the rest of the appeasement flavoured chicken, had turned Lancaster House into a mini crocodile farm to help make their reptilian guests feel at home. Carrington had managed to persuade Thatcher that support for the marxist Mugabe would be seen by the wider world as more legitimate than the moderate Muzorewa.
So in a show of British manners and hospitality fit for a tyrant, they even went so far as to present themselves as the finest corn fed appeasement flavoured chicken to Uncle Bob and his crocs, all served up on a special commonwealth platter, for the greater good of Zimbabwe and the Mugabe loving world.
One just hopes for their sake, after such extraordinary self-service, they don’t wake up in any afterlife decomposing in Uncle Bob’s digestive fluids, since between 1985 and 2019, when he died, according to his nephew ‘a very bitter man’, Uncle Bob developed a taste for his own crocodiles, even the mutants, and ate quite a few of them!