One set of friends said "Alex, you don't need to explain yourself to anyone. It's your life and you live it the way you please. You're never going to please everyone." I agreed with this view and still do.
Another set of friends said, "But Alex, if you don't explain the circumstances around this, there are many people who are never going to understand and they will go away with misleading impressions created through speculation and conspiracy theories." I understood this but I was not sure it was necessary.
To be sure, I found the whole episode very amusing. But it was also revealing in terms of how easy it is, by one simple act, to manipulate and affect the way people think and react to a person or event in the absence of full information and knowledge. It also reminded me of Sister Margaret, the blessed nun who taught me literature at Assisi. She always emphasised the importance of context in analysing phenomena. She also introduced me to the theme of appearance versus reality, which is found as much in literature as in real life - appearances sometimes differ from and obscure the realities.
I enjoyed the banter - it was witty and hilarious! I have not laughed so much for a long time. Some were hard punches - I took them on the chin. Some were below the stomach (pun intended). One of the funniest pieces of banter was when someone on Twitter said it was "a pot belly coup"! Another was that it was a "Command Breakfast".! There was much more that made me laugh a great deal. We need to laugh sometimes, especially at ourselves. I also found it amusing to be the subject of analysis, given that I often do the analysis. I got to experience life on the other side and I will use this experience when i next do analysis of others.
But I also observed some disappointment and anger - which was really pitiful because none of those who were affected had adequate and accurate information to inform those emotions. For these people, I had dined with the enemy. To them, we had shared a sumptuous breakfast and I had therefore "sold out". This was sad because it was coming from people who probably adore some of the things I do and felt a sense of betrayal. But I knew their feelings and emotions were based on completely false speculation which had no factual basis whatsoever. They were squandered emotions.
Most of my genuine friends dismissed the whole thing with much laughter. They know me well enough and found the whole thing and the reaction to it quite amusing, too. Some however, were concerned, not so much at the picture and what it supposedly meant but at the reaction to it. They were hurt on my behalf even if I wasn't hurt at all. They felt they had to defend me, their friend. I'm thankful for the good and loyal friends that life has favoured me with. I thanked them but also asked them not to worry as I was actually finding it amusing. It wasn't a source of annoyance because it was all based on baseless speculation.
In the end, out of concern for these friends and others similarly placed, I decided to say a few words in order to shed light on the circumstances around that much-travelled picture. I do so now but with a great deal reluctance because I did not think it was necessary to explain myself but this is it:
On Sunday 2nd July, two friends threatened to invade my place of abode in Harare if I did not heed their invitation to breakfast. I had disappointed them the last time I was in Harare and they were not going to allow me to get away again on this occasion. To Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God's to borrow from the Good Book.
My good friends asked where I wanted to go for breakfast and I said we could find somewhere different from what we have done before. My friends work hard and they have their "bag" as the youthful ones call it in their language. We drove through Borrowdale until we stopped at a place located next door to a big structure that has been incomplete for longer than I can remember. There is a plaque at the entrance that announces the name of the place. It is called The Plot. The Plot Cafe. Life has a healthy sense of humour and irony!
We walked into The Plot cafe and we were directed to an empty table. I thought it was a lovely place with a multi-racial crowd, although it was predominantly white. As we walked in we noticed a group of men sat around a table in the garden. They were conspicuous because they were some of the few black faces there. They were also familiar faces - being ministers of government.
We sat at our table and began to consider the menu. One of the gentlemen walked past our table and as he did, he noticed my presence. He came round to greet me. I stood up and we shook hands as people who are familiar with each other do. From there, I was taken to the other table and introduced to the other gentlemen and we shook hands too, exchanging pleasantries in the manner I was taught from childhood.
It was suggested that the moment needed to be captured. I knew the implications and what people might think if they saw me in a photograph with the gentlemen. But I have never been one to censor the way I live my life or do things. I was not going to be rude and refuse a suggestion just because it might upset some people. After all, I meet many BSR fans and many times they ask for a picture and I always oblige. Why should it be different now? Because it might be read variously by the uninformed? No, refused to think so. If someone is offended, it's their problem. And so it was done and I went back to my table while the gentlemen went back to their business. The whole episode took less than 2 mins. Yes, less than 2 mins.
My friends and I had our breakfast. I enjoyed it but it was their company that was more fulfilling. The gentlemen at their table wrapped up their business before we had finished and said goodbye as they passed by our table. We stayed there until we were done. One of my friends threatened to cause a scene if I or the other friend tried to pay the bill ahead of them. I'm grateful for these kind friends in my life. Afterwards, they drove me back to my place of abode and I thanked them for their kind hospitality.
Later, Twitter was on fire after the picture was posted. The Herald newspaper picked it up and found space for it in their paper, next to an unrelated story. The picture became a phenomenon. It has caused quite a stir. But these, as described in this passage, are the very humble circumstances of its birth. It bears no relation whatsoever to the speculation and conspiracy theories that people have been weaving. They are all fascinating theories but regrettably, none of them is based on fact.
I bought a copy of The Herald today. I intend to frame the page so that if I am favoured, I will have a perfect illustration for my grandkids, of how a simple image can be the source of so many emotions, even if their basis is not fact but speculation fed by a rich (and often wild) sense of imagination. It will be a perfect example of how not to analyse events or phenomena- especially the paucity of facts.
I'm under no illusion that this simple and honest account of events will satisfy every person out there but then again, I am mindful of the impossibility of pleasing or satisfying every person. Meanwhile, The Plot Cafe may never have to advertise for the next few months! I shall pay them a visit once more to ask for a free cup of tea!
Some will say I didn't have to write this at all. I agree.
Would I do this again should circumstances conspire to present a similar situation? Absolutely.
I have always heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. This episode has taught me a new lesson: that without accurate words, a picture can be worthless and completely misleading.