Mr Ugly 2.0 (Harare)

Life in Zimbabwe is ticking on by as per normal… I drove past a house today where the bricks on the driveway have been painted purple. Yes, purple. As in a purple driveway. And I’ve had to swerve to avoid hitting a goat, 2 chickens and a vervet monkey whilst driving in suburbia in the last week alone. The goat was being chased by a large group of suited men who looked like they were supposed to be at a funeral. I couldn’t help thinking that having to chase the event’s meat down the road was probably rather awkward at a funeral… I mean, it’s hilarious, but are you allowed to laugh though?

News-wise, things are much of the same nonsense too. All motor vehicles in Zimbabwe need to be re-licensed (despite the fact that valid licenses were already in place…??!). Anyhoo, everyone had to do it in the space of a couple of weeks, which was a nightmare, so the government announced that it would extend the re-licensing deadline to 30 June to give everyone time to get it done. 6 days later, they were like “oh, just kidding” and cancelled the extension, sending the cops out everywhere to bust people who hadn’t managed to re-licenseAvoiding cops in the last few weeks must be a little what driving through a battle field must be like, with people blatantly doing U-turns when they see cops ahead. Even though the cops can see them U-turning, they have no police cars to chase them down, so they’re forced to watch people avoiding them. It’s ridiculous. And then the government backtracked and reinstated the extension. And then they backtracked on that again. And now no one really knows what’s happening… so we run from the cops just to be safe. Only in Zimbabwe.

Slightly further afield, on the outskirts of Harare, Margaret Masango of Kuwadzana has been charged with defamation after spreading rumours that her neighbour, Lizzie Kamombe, was breastfeeding 26 cats and conducting witchcraft lessons. Margaret also said that Lizzie’s daughter, Theresa, was a goblin and that Lizzie used her when going to South Africa. Seriously. Needless to say, Lizzie was a little upset when she heard that the neighbourhood was talking about her breastfeeding 26 cats… so she pressed defamation charges.

Scanning through the Herald website today, I came across many useful articles on things like the “Effects of overheating laptops” and the benefits of full-cream milk in “In defence of fresh milk” (which, although it’s written in typical Herald-journalist style, was actually written by Dr Timothy Stamps… which I found simultaneously confusing and scary.)

Leading news is that the Mr Ugly competition is back, this time upping its game and moving to the capital. The Herald tells us all about it, encouraging ugly men to take this opportunity to shine. (I’ve left the piece intact to do it proper justice.)

“In the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, no sun sets without its own histories. Even ugliness becomes a brand with its own stories for night talk. Here, the grey haired say, a person who stammers would eventually say “father”. It might be delayed, but the word will eventually come out. So it is never too late! The village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of knowledge and wisdom says the world is a shallow place and there is no denying it. We are all so busy fawning over handsome guys and beautiful women that sometimes we forget about the ugly.”

(Apart from the fact that autochthon (yes, weirdly, it’s actually a real word) means ‘an aboriginal inhabitant’ (which I only know because I googled it), I can’t really shed much light on what the introduction is really about. And why he speaks about himself in third person is really anyone’s guess…)

“Harare, the city of a forever madding crowd, last week came up with yet another anecdote, about its ugliest man and indeed, our newspapers – for long bereft of good exciting human interest copy – ran full throttle.

“The organisers were looking for a man, very, very ugly and with some face that conjures fear in children and make them scamper for cover or hide behind pillows.

“This villager is told the organisers of Mr Ugly were looking for a truculent wonder – very unattractive or unpleasant to look at, offensive to the sense of beauty and displeasing in appearance and indeed they found him.” (‘Truculent’ means aggressive, brutal or hostile… again, I had to google it. Thoroughly awkward thing to call someone.)

“The man – William Masvinu –a beastly figure, gifted with a furrowed forehead, a pugnacious face and a big nose that straddles both cheeks and squats on the face like a bullfrog, dotted dead pimples, chickenpox potholes and rough, wire-brush hair emerged the proud winner”. (Like wtf tho? How can you actually describe someone like that??!! It’s just so wrong on so many levels!)

And it’s also not true… William really doesn’t warrant that description. And if the photographer hadn’t been such a hater with his angle, his picture would have been at least a little more flattering…

The article continues: “Masvinu has become a celebrity overnight after being crowned Mr Ugly, Harare. He even beat another man who shed tears!” (Men crying over losing the Mr Ugly title… awkward)

But, as the writer reminds us, “If God created man in his image, he must both be handsome and ugly, so it helps.” (Err, helps what exactly?)

“This villager understands that Masvinu is a bitter man, for it is quite some unfortunate oeuvre to be ugly and sad, and to be famous without fortune. The combination is disastrous.” (Oeuvre? I googled that one too… it means ‘the works of a writer, painter or the like, taken a whole… or any one of them.’ And no, it doesn’t make sense to me in this context either.)

“But the full import of this instalment is that Mr Ugly who hails from some village in Gutu, Masvingo and is now ordinarily resident in poverty-stricken Epworth must know that in the village, a tethered goat never grazes beyond the radius of the sisal rope that leashes it. It is this tolerance for states of life close to zero that keeps the goat going and hoping for the better.” (huh?)

“This innocent rhetoric from this domain of socio-moral idiosyncrasy at once appears much less innocent when one grasps which tendency is here draping the mantle of sublime words about life.” (yes… you start wondering where the story is now going…)

“Mr Ugly must be helped to make money from his condition in the same manner our beauty queens have been helped to make money. Our beauty queens are driving top-of-the-range cars and living large.” (his condition?)

“But Mr Ugly doubles up as a street porter and tout at Mbare Msika, carrying luggage on his head in a typical tale of two worlds. Just look at Vanessa Sibanda. It is squarely comparing those smooth cheeks, the cultured smiles, the pencil slim and sleek bodies of the queens to the muscular, rugged and contoured face, the beastly looks, the blood shot eyes, dry thick lips and the stray looks of Mr Ugly.” (Firstly, the “stray looks” of Mr Ugly? So not ok! Secondly, Vanessa Sibanda is the reigning Miss Zimbabwe Tourism apparently… had to google that too.)

“Mr Ugly should build a brand around his condition and this villager thinks that he can be a tourist attraction. In fact he is already one.” (but, like, a tourist attraction tho? This writer is seriously running amok.)

“The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, famed for its rebranding process can rebrand Mr Ugly and turn him into a security officer or doorman. Blazio Kasawala, the ZTA boss control manager could actually find a real worker. They can even find him something to do for, his condition is God given.

“Mr Ugly could also do with lucrative endorsements by fashion designers, blue chip companies as well as advertising agencies. Who said clothes don’t fit the ugly and besides there are too many ugly business executives who are saved by their pockets.”

Mr Ugly himself agrees, saying, “I am expecting to benefit a lot from being Mr Ugly and I hope that this will go a long way in improving my lifestyle. I won US$100 plus a voucher to spend a night with my wife at a hotel in Harare, but this is not enough.”

“In the village, even the ugliest of all men does marry and the wife could be the most outstanding village beauty. The face is nothing to show for life than the heart and the depth of character.

“What makes Mr Ugly, Harare’s story quite a mouthful is that he dropped out of school in Grade Three after the death of his parents. That means he is an epitome of poverty and even though he likes his looks – which are a plus to him – poverty has stalked him day and night.

He laments, “I am happy with my looks and I think it is a gift from God. I’m proud of my looks and I was created in God’s image. But maybe because I an ugly, wherever I go looking for a job they say hapana basa.”

“But this villager has other ideas. How about making him a strong brand ambassador advertising pesticides, killing those insects? How about heavy construction equipment and machinery like front-end loaders? Being uneducated, unemployed, poor, orphaned and ugly is a buffet meal for trouble. It’s a free cocktail.

Finally, “Whoever sees mucus in the nose of the king is the one who cleans it. This villager meant to clean this one.”

I mean… really?  I’m not entirely sure how that conclusion about the king’s mucus even followed from the story. All in all, I’m actually just weak.

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