FEATURE: The return of RGM’s first love

Friends of Joshua Trust member Beverly Pullen in colonial police regalia (far right) escorts President Mugabe’s first vehicle in Victoria Falls last week
Friends of Joshua Trust member Beverly Pullen in colonial police regalia (far right) escorts President Mugabe’s first vehicle in Victoria Falls last week

Levi Mukarati – Deputy News Editor

“The first cut is the deepest, Baby I know, the first cut is the deepest, But when it comes to being lucky, she’s cursed, When it comes to loving me, she’s the worst, I still want you by my side.”

Many people know these lyrics from the song by legendary rocker Rod Stewart.

Rod Stewart was crooning about love. And for many people, these words also apply to their first car.

The first vehicle is usually second-hand and bought after serious financial sacrifice, often entailing indebtedness.

Harshly, this first “baby on wheels” tends to be unfair to its owner despite the loving attention it gets.

There is much carburettor clogging, battery undercharging, faulty electircals, cold starts, bad suspension and – with modern makes – troublesome sensors and dodgy gearboxes.

But owners are not deterred. They remain determined to care for their first love. This passion for the beat-up first love is seen in the regular cleaning of the car and hanging of signs on rear-view mirrors reading “Blessings from the Lord” and things like that.

Other decorations line the dashboard and bumper stickers are not uncommon.

Friends and relatives often implore the owner to dump this first love for a more reliable car, mixing genuine concern with blatant ridiculing.

And the owner’s answer is usually of this variety: “It just needs a few touch-ups, it is quite reliable and fuel efficient.”

Even when certified a right-off, owners cannibalise some parts for sale but often keep the shell in their yards, watching it rot on deflated tyres over the years.

Men are like that with their cars, regardless of their station in life. It is something that cannot be explained.

Last Sunday, President Mugabe was presented with his first vehicle, a black Ford Zephyr, which he parted with in 1963.

It was a surprise birthday gift in Victoria Falls where he celebrated his 91st birthday.

Upon seeing the vehicle being pushed into the venue by people dressed in colonial regalia, the President’s response was a huge smile.

He burst into laughter as he turned to say something to First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe and his pure pleasure in seeing his first love was unmistakable.

His first car had returned, this time with a personalised licence plate reading “RGM 1963”.

RGM for Robert Gabriel Mugabe and 1963 being the year he last drove that car.

After 50 years, the Ford Zephyr – manufactured by the Ford Motor Company in the United Kingdom between 1951 and 1972 – had returned intact.

“I want it to come home,” the President reportedly said on getting closer to it.

It was not easy bringing this car back home. After President Mugabe, it had some three or four other owners and Mr Kumbirayi Mangwanda – through his family – and with the help of the Friends of Joshua Trust, hunted down the Ford Zephyr and tracked it down in South Africa.

“As the Mangwanda family we wanted to find a befitting gift for the President. We knew the Friends of Joshua had been doing some digging for archival material pertaining to our history.

“Therefore we sat down with them and the idea of locating the vintage gift was adopted,” said Mr Mangwanda in Harare last week. It was with this vehicle that President Mugabe ran his political and personal errands.

Remarkably, said Mr Mangwanda, the car’s engine is still running like a beauty.

“The car gives memories, makes us reflect that we have come from far and signifies how we cannot be separated from our history,” Mr Mangwanda explained.

After numerous shuttling between Zimbabwe and South Africa, where the vehicle was held by an ex-Rhodesian as part of a tourism piece under the Vintage Society of South Africa, the team managed to negotiate for the return of the vehicle.

Mr Mangwanda and the Friends of Joshua Trust did not get the vintage for free, they paid a price – which they naturally will not state.

“It is a gift, let us not worry about the monetary issues but uphold the sentimental value of a gift,” concluded Mr Mangwanda.

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  • denny tshibanda

    Ohh, that is sweet. What a befitting present!!!!