Can a car change the weather?
Renault Mégane Coupé Cabriolet. An all-glass roof for that open-top joie de vivre - even when it’s closed.
France has many Renault Mégane. By day, the French shade themselves from the sun beneath parasols and party often. Britain has fewer Renault Mégane. The British hide from the rain under umbrellas and spend cold evenings indoors watching television. Is this coincidence or correlation? Is a car the reason why France is so full of joie de vivre? We’d like to test this theory by giving you the chance to win a Renault Mégane Coupé Cabriolet for the summer and a trip to Menton, Côte d’Azur. _ For your chance to be our guinea pig go to www.MeganeInFrenchRiviera.com
DRIVE THE CHANGE
The official fuel consumption figures in mpg (l/100km) for the New Mégane Coupé Cabriolet Dynamique range are: Urban 25.9-46.3 (10.6-6.1), Extra Urban 44.8-64.2 (6.3-4.4), Combined 35.3-56.5 (8.0-5.0). The official CO2 emissions range from 184 to 130g/km. Petroc Trelawny
Bright blue skies over Bulawayo, but on the ground an uncomfortable feeling that intimidation may be returning. For two years, Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement has brought a sense of normality. The new mayor even managed to get most of the traffic lights working. But since Christmas, there has been a new wave of property invasions. Zanu-PF thugs have occupied tourist camps and a bird sanctuary. Newspaper vendors selling the Zimbabwe Independent have been beaten up.
I’ve been researching the 1953 Rhodes Centenary Exhibition, which was graced by a visit from the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Aided by a celebratory pamphlet, I decide to retrace the route the royals took when they arrived by train from what was then called Salisbury. The cooling towers of the city’s power station would have been the first thing they saw. It is firing again, for the first time in a decade. As a result, the number of blackouts has dropped. This good news is rather clouded by a 30 per cent rise in electricity bills. I drive on past the once-grand department stores. Meikles now sells motorbikes alongside a basic selection of cosmetics in its perfume hall. Haddon and Sly is owned by the British businessman Nicholas van Hoogstraten. He’s turned it into an Indian bazaar, with glass cubicles selling phone cards and football tops.
The lawns are immaculate at State House, though I am only allowed to peer at them through the gates. The guardian of another nearby mansion says that the building is rarely used these days. Once a year, President Mugabe has lunch in its dining room, when he comes to open the Bulawayo Trade Fair. He then returns straight to Harare. I’m told that, what with Bulawayo’s Ndebele people, and its loyalty to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, he doesn’t feel particularly safe here after dark.
At least he’ll be spared a visit to unveil the long awaited statue of his fellow freedom fighter and later rival Joshua Nkomo. In the middle of Main Street is a vacant shiny black marble plinth, where the nine-foot bronze was to stand. It did briefly appear there last summer, albeit beneath a burka-like black cloth. The Nkomo family immediately protested. They listed 11 objections, but the biggest was that the statue had been made in North Korea. It was North Korea that trained the Zimbabwean Army’s Fifth Brigade, which massacred tens of thousands of Ndebele supporters of
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Nkomo. To add insult to injury, the statue gave Nkomo rather oriental features. He resembled a strange hybrid of Kim Il-Sung crossed with a big, burly African politician. After a month under wraps, the statue was removed late one night. It looks like the plinth will remain empty for some time.
Astatue of Cecil Rhodes used to stand on the spot. After Independence, it was relocated to a shady position under trees by the city’s Natural History Museum — a better fate than the Rhodes statue in Harare, which disappeared. But now Bulawayo’s governor and resident minister, Comrade Cain Mathema, has decided it’s time to rid his province of all Rhodesiana. He’s even launched a campaign for the exhumation of Rhodes’s remains, which are buried in the Matopos Mountains. Mathema reckons that, by letting Rhodes rest in such a sacred place, we may have upset the ancestral spirits. ‘Maybe that’s why they are no longer giving us enough rain,’ he says, referring to the recent water shortages.
It’s strange watching ZBC Television news. The newscaster, with lacquered hair and thick lipstick, launches into a parade of stories, some sinister, some Panglossian in their optimism. The MDC suffers from an intellectual deficiency; the country is expecting a bumper maize harvest; a speech by the leader of the Zanu-PF Women’s League. ‘This is Zimbabwe,’ she says. ‘Here our leaders are elected through a democratic process, not through violence.’
Robert Mugabe celebrated his 87th birthday last week, telling his guests that even if his body ‘may get spent’, his ideas are still those of a young man. The night before he’d flown back into Harare airport, having commandeered an Air Zimbabwe Boeing to take him to Singapore for a cataract operation. Given events further north, and Mugabe’s well-known friendship with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, it is a brave time to leave home. Or perhaps, as one local blogger observed, the removal of his cataracts might enable him to see the truth for what it really is.
the spectator | 5 March 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk