Lusaka flies so high over Harare its heaven

My dearest Chris.

My dearest Chris.

On Tuesday I arrived back on our old turf, Lusaka. You know it is exactly 27 years since I left for Zimbabwe from the same airport. Then, of course, you were very much alive, working for the Zambian airforce, a big shot, a brigadier.

Then I received that letter from you, only a few years after I had settled in Harare.

Chris, you wanted me to help you find a job in Zimbabwe - from being a hotshot in the airforce, you wanted a job, just any old job in Harare. I was flabbergasted.

But we were old friends, very true, good old friends. I should probably have told you this when you were still alive: you were the best friend I had for the 17 years I spent in Zambia.

It's hard to conceive of you being anywhere else but in the best place in the afterlife, playing a harp, while another angel sings that Dean Martin song we sang after a good drink, the one that has the line - "It is time to say good night to Napoli" - except I think I always substituted that Italian city with Lusaka.

I learnt of your political tribulations only later: they said you had been involved in some kind of attempt to overthrow the government.

I said to myself: "Good heavens!" I knew we were both not enamoured of the line the government was taking, but a coup?

If you remember, the last time we met was in my big company house in Northrise, Ndola. I was then a big shot too at the newspaper. You had your new wife and I had my new wife: Like all old good friends, we seemed to have had a telepathic system of communication.

In this big house, with the dining room downstairs and the living room upstairs, you spoke earnestly about the path the government was taking. I too had a very strong view on this delicate subject - things were going awry.

Well, Chris, I am glad to tell you that since your death, there have been two new presidents after Kenneth Kaunda - Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa.

You probably know from up there how these two men performed. You will probably be aware that Lusaka has changed dramatically from what it was during our time.

You will know that there is an easy-going atmosphere among the people, more relaxed, an indolence probably born of the assurance that things are in good hands, that there will be no surprises or shocks, like the currency being abruptly devalued to almost nothing, or fuel just being cut off.

Chris, you would have loved this Lusaka - man, it's so cool.

I am here during the SADC summit, and Zimbabwe is on the agenda - it has to be. Boy, am I glad I didn't get that job for you. You don't want to know what hell we are going through.

Chris, I never did ask you about the allegations against you. What I want you to know is that, in my heart of hearts, I believe you would never do anything you didn't believe in.

But it seems to me since they didn't pin anything on you, there was not much evidence you were one of the baddies.

I am just sorry that you are not here now. Perhaps you are flying even bigger machines where you are now.