Baboon Hand and Banana Stewby Montle Moorosi, illustration by Alastair Laird / 25.04.2011
I knew that she wouldn’t answer her phone or reply to any of my messages. I was going to take her to Camps Bay… Instead I had a wad of money burning a hole into my cock and thigh. I took a train to Observatory instead and walked up to Lower Main Road, my plimsoles torn at the heels, my balls had a heavy stench of sweat and disappointment and my Christian Dior cologne had worn off from the short but long sunny walk. I pulled out my phone and called up my Congolese drug dealer “Chad”.
“Ya my man, give me twenty minutes.” The usual drug dealing time frame which in Congo and Nigeria actually means 40 minutes.
“Make it quick, I’ve got bad sinuses and it’s fucking hot out here.”
I met Chad by the KFC, he took exactley 30 minutes, I had one bar of energy left on my cell phone.
“So its 250 right?”
“Nah my man, dat was long time ago my man, it’s 350 and sometimes I even sell a bag for 400 or 500.”
“OK… well here’s 300.”
“Sure Thomas.” My drug alias.
“Aweh Chad!” I went inside the KFC and ordered a Cream Soda, then went into the bathrooms and cut two fat lines which immediately made me forgot about women, disappointment, globalisation, love, poverty, world peace, aids, stray cats and dogs and instead I concentrated on getting a serious round of drinks inside of me.
I walked down Lower Main looking for the most empty bar I could find, The Armchair Theatre was out of the question because I’m banned for excessive vomiting, or jerking off, or being too honest or something like that. They even have my picture up on the wall. I’m famous.
I hear the distinct sound of highlife music coming from across the road at Reload, an old biker pub I once DJ’d at over 5 years ago, coincidentally it was the same bar where I met the girl who didn’t show. I decide on the highlife, it’s fairly empty inside apart from a table of 3 dark West African men and a lanky white boy in khaki cargo shorts, sandals and a Vertigo t-shirt. I go to the bar and order a Castle and down half of it before I take a seat at a table directly facing the table of jovial wetbacks and the token cracker throwing back some Castle quarts. I pull out Conrad’s Under Western Eyes which I’m reading for the second time and finish my beer with two sips. I order another and see two well dressed and finely groomed Congolese men, wearing Paul Smith suits, at the bar. They order a bottle of champagne and toast with tequila shots. I was jealous. On closer inspection their suits actually looked like shit, the one guy was actually wearing a three button jacket. Paul Schmidt, more like.
“So whats the occasion my man? Those suits are sick!” The cocaine was my advocate, my narrative, the griot, the fuck faced soap box.
“Thanks, it’s his birthday today.”
“Aweh! Cheers to that! Happy birthday my man.” The cocaine, it could only be the cocaine in my veins making me say such things. I was also hoping that I’d get a free drink. I go to the bathroom and powder my nose and then head straight outside for a cigarette when I see a group of men across the road arguing about god knows what. I pay no attention to them and slowly enjoy the fumes of tar and VW beetle carbon monoxide that seem to always engulf Observatory. As I’m about to finish my cigarette one of the guys from inside the bar comes out to smoke.
“What up man, can I use your light?”
“Sure” I place the neon blue R5 lighter into his big dark palm, which looks like a burnt sweet potato.
“Nice chain guy where’d you get that shit?” I say to him and point simultaneuolsy at his chain, it was thick solid silver, Figaro style.
“Sure my man, got it from back home in Congo… I like yours too.”
“Thanks, mine’s fake.” Which caused him to let out a strange drawl of genuine laughter, that deep West African jungle cougar roar of joy.
“Do you live in Obs my man? I’ve never seen you around here.”
“Nah, I’m from Muizenberg… I’m just waiting on a friend to pick me up, I was getting laid last night and I ended sleeping in Obs.” It felt good to lie, because later that night I’d be lying on my dick as usual.
“Come sit with us, it’s just me and my brothers you know, we’re celebrating for my brother.”
“It’s his birthday too?”
“No, he just got out of hospital after a car accident.”
“Shit, sorry to hear that. Is he ok?”
“Ya, he’s cool, he’s inside there at the table, come have a drink with us, you look cool enough.”
His name is Patrick, he’s a bit short but not as short as me, he has a chipped tooth smile, a black leather belt with a large dollar bill buckle, and a white t-shirt bedazzled with fake diamonds and rhinestone. Patrick introduces me to everyone at the table and I forget most of their names immediately. They’re all either studying economics and wearing sandals, with the exception of the white guy named Steve, who is doing a Phd in sociology. They all drink Castle. We make jokes about German women and laugh at a homeless guy with a hunch back who comes inside begging for change. I make numerous trips to the bathroom for my own selfish reasons.
“Hey! How do you say jizz in French?” I ask.
“Whats jizz?” Patrick’s brother asks with a heavy accent and a sweaty, perplexed face. Steve begins to laugh really loud and they all look at him for an explanation. He says nothing and they begin to laugh too.
HA, HA, HA, HEH, HEH, HEH.
“Hey my man, can you get this round of beers then I’ll get the next one? You know it’s all love here man, we’re niggas.” Said Patrick.
“OK,” I sung that old Cape Town song. The rape town ballad of a rapist who ended up being raped. It was just business as usual and I was having fun.
The fancy suited birthday boys were having a big table set up with champagne flutes, plates, cutlery, plastic flowers in the middle, in preparation for the bush meat and plantains which were surely to follow.
“Have you guys ever eaten baboon hand and banana stew hey?” I ask.
“HAVE YOU GUYS EVER EATEN BABOO…”
A big black man dressed in a white wife beater vest, blue wrangler jeans, orange construction gloves and a large piece of plywood walks into the room. He is what some people would describe as “ripped”. He is follwed by a group of about four men behind him, one of them is a large albino in a brown pin-striped suit and orange sunglasses to match his hair, the rest are nondescript except for maniacal frowns and red eyes which scream bad intentions. The man with the plywood swaggers around the room, I thought it was an irony costume, maybe a reference to The Village People, until he swung that big piece of fucking wood right into the birthday table, smashing all the glasses and sending all the plates to the floor. He started shouting something in his language. No baboon hand stew tonight. His posse joined in and within a split second the whole bar turned into the tower of babel with everyone wrestling and grappling each other. The birthday boys were immediately grabbed by their Paul Schmidt necks and harangued by The Village People and Yellow Man, while more people from outside bum rushed the entrance. Suddenly the tiny bar had about 20 people inside. The bar ladies were going mad trying to stop the melé. The men were very very careful to not get the women involved or injured in anyway, they had a dispute to settle and they weren’t going to let a woman get harmed, so they dragged them into the store room and locked them inside. I had respect for that. They then locked the entrance doors and I shat myself. I looked at Steve, he was already looking at me, our suburban senses were in tune and they cried pure unadulterated fear.
“What the fuck is going on?” I whisper to Patrick.
“Nothing my man, it’s cool, just drink your beer.”
Someone gets punched in the face and another scuffle ensues. The albino man stands on top of the bar and watches us all, while two men in polyester Armani shirts video tape the whole thing. I pull out my phone and begin typing a text message to my friend to come and get me.
“Ey! Put that phone away!” He blurts something to me in French or Congolese or something.
“I don’t understand.” Patrick intervenes and says something to him.
“So you’re not from Congo?” The man asks, he’s in his 50s but he looks healthy and capable. He was the Morgan Freeman of the group.
“I’m from here, South Africa.” I answer.
“I’m from England!” Steve shouts putting on the hardest English accent possible. A few minutes ago he had asked: “Ay montle, do you have an entjie?”
“Okay, just be still and sit, nothing will happen to you.” Morgan Freeman said, I still didn’t feel better. The women somehow broke out the store room and were screaming all over the place trying to break up the arguments and fights going on. I had no idead who was fighting who, some of them were holding cheap A4 posters with a blurry image of a man in military fatigues.
Apparently it’s almost time for elections in the Congo, and two integral aspects will have an impact on these elections. First the parliament has negiotiated a possible change to the voting system that would eliminate a presidential run-off. This means that whoever wins the majority of the vote in the first round would win, meaning that Joseph “Golden Arms” Kabila would not have to go against the Tshisekedi-Bemba-Kamerhe alliance, but would merely have to get more votes than each of them alone.
It never stops and it never changes and today it came to find me in Lower Main Road Observatory. The continent that I love is the bloodiest and richest on the planet. I get hard just thinking about its opulence and culture, and of course baboon hand and banana stew. This is what Congressional Researcher Ted Dagne said before the subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities in good ol’ Washington DC.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has witnessed political turmoil, insecurity, and humanitarian crises for several decades. One of the most affected regions is eastern Congo. The first rebellion to oust the late President Mobutu Sese Seko began in the city of Goma in eastern Congo in the mid-1990s. The second rebellion in the late 1990s also began in eastern Congo. At the root of the crises in eastern Congo is the presence of over a dozen militia and extremist groups, both foreign and Congolese, and the failure of the central government to establish a strong governance structure and provide security to its people. Successive governments in DRC invested very little in infrastructure and left millions of Congolese without basic services. Millions of people are estimated to have died over the decades because of war related causes and due to neglect and preventable diseases.
In 1996, as a member of Congressional delegation, I met the late Laurent Kabila, former president of DRC, in newly liberated town of Goma in eastern Congo. The town did not have a single paved road or electricity, and the residents of Goma were dependent on hand-outs for survival. Yet, Kabila and his advisors were staying in a mansion with gold-plated sofas and a Jacuzzi. I asked Kabila if he was concerned at all that he was in a mansion while his people outside suffered? His response: ‘I am their leader and conditions will change when I become president.’ Kabila became president of Congo in 1997, but the people of Congo saw little change under his leadership; they continued to face war, poverty, and an uncertain future. Congolese civilians have been the main victims of the crisis in Congo, targeted by all sides, including government forces, and foreign and domestic rebel groups.”
Eventually they let us out, well I ran out actually and heard Patrick shouting after me telling me to wait for them.
“So what the fuck was that shit about?”
“Our people are tired you know. Kabila has been killing us and stealing from us for years and we’re tired my man.”
“Fucksakes! I thought I was going to be boiled in a pot.”
“We’re going to Steve’s house for a braai and some more beer, come through my man.”
“No thanks my man… I’m going back to Muizenberg for a chip roll and no bananas.”
*Illustration © Alastair Laird.