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Ben Trovato

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Robert “Mephistopheles” Mugabe: a Faustian fable

One dark and stormy night, an equally dark and stormy man with the curious name of Robert “Mephistopheles” Mugabe was warming his hands over a pile of burning orphans when it occurred to him that he had become bored with his life.

He was sated with the suffering of others. He had grown weary of the weeping and the moaning of the sick and the starving.

He put on his invisible cloak and wandered among the destitute masses. This time, the misery failed to cheer him up. While pondering the possibility that his malaise was caused by a mid-life crisis — he was, after all, 2000 years old (a mere 85 in human terms) — he was interrupted by the appearance of a much younger man going by the name of Morgan “Faust” Tsvangirai.

Mephisto, of course, already knew who he was. Mephisto made a point of knowing everything about anything. “Knowledge,” he would remind himself , “is power.”

Faust also knew this, sort of, but no matter how much he learned, true power remained beyond his grasp. He had turned to eating and drinking and soon he was double the size as when he began his quest for power.

Mephistopheles shed his invisible cloak and tapped Faust on the shoulder. The younger man fell to his knees and shielded his face with his arms, for that was what one did when confronted by pure evil.

But this time Mephisto was offering something more than the usual torture and imprisonment. With a magnanimous wave of his bony old hand, he invited Faust to join him in ruling what little remained of the country. Faust was understandably suspicious. After all, Mephisto was a wily old coyote who would sell his own children if the currency weren’t so utterly worthless.

Then again, there was something about the words “prime minister” that Faust found irresistible. They reminded him of something. What was it?

Ah, yes. Power. That was it.

“Fine,” said Faust. “I’ll do it. We will need to discuss benefits, of course.”

Mephisto laughed, scaring the horses and making the elderly cry. “Not so fast, my chubby young friend. There is more to this deal than meets the eye.”

Faust paused in the middle of mentally colour-coding his new office and raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“If you ever reach absolute contentment and never wish for another thing,” said Mephisto, “I get to take your soul.”

There was one thing only that Faust wanted above all else — Mephisto’s job — and he knew he would never have it. So they shook hands, called a press conference and went off arm in arm to turn the country into the paradise it never was.


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