He watched his wife giving him an applause like her own daughter after a doing a stage play. It worsened the terribly corny taste of sweetened homemade cake in his mouth, which he struggled to chew. SADC was in her worst intellectual state for suggesting the taxation of sugar, he thought. He forced it down the throat with a constant stare at his wife across the table.
“Didn’t she come home last night?” he asked in concern. His daughter was always there to spend his birthday with him. Absence would be the only plausible excuse. She slid her tablet on the table towards herself, clicked once on its screen and showed it to him. For his wife, he took another bite, a bigger one. While he chewed, he stood up. She put the tablet back on the table and folded her arms.
“If I were you I’d sit back down and enjoy my birthday. You know what happens when you step out there by yourself.” She said in disapproval. Nsizwa ignored her. She wanted a verbal quarrel and he was not interested. He would not let his only daughter endanger herself and her family in the name of autonomy, not in his reign as the minister of safety and security. He took off the cone hat and threw it on the floor. Realising that he was not going to give in, she pointed at the couch in the lounge.
“She had something for you there. At least wear it, she’ll love to see you in it.”
He was still chewing and was in no position to argue, he went over the couch in the lounge and snatched the black shirt which was not in the fancy wrapping he expected. It was torn to red pieces. He gave her a stinging look. She unfolded her arms and took a sip of her gross carrot juice from the table. He took off to the door, and banged it behind him. While he commanded the lift to descend faster he put on the shirt.
He came out of the door with the remote controller already in his right hand. His thumb on the shutdown button. He clicked it to the two securities at the door, commanded his chauffeur to occupy the passenger seat, got inside and shut him down too. The screen on his dashboard turned bright red.
“Shut up, Karen, and take me to Harare. Full speed. And turn that red thing off, it’s annoying.”
“But Master, it’s unsafe for you when I control myself without your chauffeur’s assistance. I refuse.”
“Who asked you? I turned him off because I don’t wanna argue with my servant robot. I turned the securities off because I don’t want them in the house assuming a banging door is a security issue. I don’t mind turning you off too and driving myself there.” He said, oblivious of his shouting.
“Apologies Master. Sit in position and the seatbelt will lock.”
The androids were getting out of hand. He regretted signing for their operation seven years ago. They were efficient but they could never match human agency. Karen opened the gate and exited the property.
“We have begun our journey. Durban to Harare is exactly 18 minutes 34 seconds.”
“Yeah whatever. Put me on a call with Lindi.”
He watched the screen as the android processed the call. It had to, there were many intruders to watch out for. From minor childish eavesdropping youth, to dangerous terrorists who seldom squandered technological advantages. The call was locked and safe. Lindiwe answered.
“Stay there and don’t move sweetheart. Stay with the crowd. Daddy is coming just now.”
“Hello? What? Happy birthday Dad. I hope you loved my gift.” She responded and then giggled.
“Thanks. Did you hear what I just said? Stay there in Harare, I’m coming.”
“Oh OK Dad. I won’t leave. Harare was terrible anyway, they chased us out.”
“Master. Intruders. I am cutting the call off.” Karen disturbed.
“No you’re not. What baby? You’ve left Harare?”
“Yes we took sub-trains to Maputo. We gonna rally there and then we go to…”
Karen cut the call off. It drove Nsizwa irate. Not only the insubordination of Karen but also the reality of his vulnerability. The enemies finally found an opening to his weakness. He found himself craving for a drink. He missed the days when alcohol was not sold in quotas. He instructed Karen to take a MacDonald’s drive-through.
“That will be 3 minutes more to the trip, Master.”
“OK. Shut up.”
“And you wonder why some of us don’t have those.” A man in yellow and red spoke to Nsizwa.
“Me too. It’s not money because we solved that. This company you work for finally pays to the state and we pay you well. So, reserve your sarcasm.”
“Oh you’re among the communists.”
“I said two strawberry milkshakes,” the man stared. “OK, I meant two sweetened tomato shakes.”
The man disappeared for half a minute and returned with a brown paper bag. Nsizwa put his finger in the speed point and it beeped. He grabbed the shakes. Karen slowly closed the window.
“Hey! Are you not the minister from TV? The man who singlehandedly shut the supply of Whoonga?”
“No. I’m not. Karen let’s go.”
“What you did for the SADC youth was bold. We can’t thank you enough. I’m one of those you saved. Three years ago, you wouldn’t park a car next to me and move along smiling.”
“Original destination or Maputo, Master?”
He did not yell at her. It was a good question. Harare or where his daughter was? He was looking for her anyway. Or was he?
“Original destination. Let’s go.” He looked at the man on his left. He was still talking with a big grin on his face. He heard nothing he said. He could see the window was shut. He should have shut his mouth too, the name tag read ‘John’.
“John you’re stupid.” Responded Nsizwa. Karen resumed the trip. He fished out one shake and drank it all down at one go.
“Destination reached.” Said Karen as she found herself a vacant parking space. He was met by a lean man. The man approached him.
“Thought you’d change your mind and switch paths. Now that you’re here please follow me. And be quick.”
“And why would I abruptly change my mind?”
“Never mind,” he was caught by Nsizwa’s shirt. “#SADC BEFORE EVERYONE!” he sighed, turned away and scuttled ahead.
“Damn Lindi.” Muttered Nsizwa and followed the man who swung his hips when he walked. He eventually caught up with him. The man was supposedly the one the president had said to have the keys to their unity with Zimbabwe.
“You’ve quite interesting timing. You waited for Mr Mugabe to die so you can request to unite with us.”
“Not as interesting as waiting for him to die so that homosexuals can roam the cabinet as freely as some do.”
The man stopped. He took a long stare at Nsizwa.
“This is not what this is about. You remember Mr Zuma? Would you say we waited for him to die so we can be communists and combat corruption? This is about SADC as one state as we are. And we are incomplete without you.”
“You have a point,” he resumed walking. “What about the rest of Africa? Nigeria to be specific?” he turned to a door on the left, opened it and they went inside. Nsizwa had the answer but he wanted to say it in his face, not whilst he pulled drawers and took out documents. He placed one on the table, took a tablet from the desk and gave it countable presses.
“This right here is our contract,” he pointed at the document. “Right here on this device you will sign. Then done deal. Zimbabwe is no more. But a mere province in the SADC.” He said with a sour face.
“You make it sound so bad.” Complained Nsizwa who sensed the reluctance of the ambassador. There was an abrupt opening of the door. He picked the tablet up. Two men in orange dress-like garments entered, with one holding a huge tab. The men holding nothing spoke.
“That is because it is bad. You’ve managed economical emancipation and gained a seat above us in the United Nations. Which makes me wonder what else do you want South Africa? This is clearly your empire.” The Nigerian swallowed. “I am going to give you a choice. Earlier you could have chosen to save your daughter but you came here.”
The second man switched the tab on.
“Nadine! Lindi!” His wife and daughter were gagged and duct-taped in his bedroom.
“You walk away right now and never return. Or you sign there and they die. So what it’s gonna be? Your family or your country?”
“No!” Nsizwa screamed in agony.