Feathers fly as quail memes take Zimbabwe by storm

2016-05-04 12:04
Quail bird (iStock)

Quail bird (iStock)

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Harare - Forget The Famous Grouse, ye whisky lovers. 

Take a slug of The Famous Quail and revel in thousands of Zimbabweans' latest small act of creative rebellion.

Since President Robert Mugabe's government announced last week that it was suspending lucrative commercial quail farming, quails - chihuta (singular) and zvihuta (plural) in the local Shona language - have flooded Whatsapp groups, Facebook pages and Twitter.

A quail has even been cheekily substituted for the iconic Zimbabwe bird on the national flag.

On Monday, the authorities overturned the ban on quail farming, with the state ZBC broadcaster announcing that the environment ministry was actually "fully behind commercial production and trade of the birds given the huge benefits in improving the livelihoods of various communities".

But that U-turn hasn't stopped Zimbabweans dreaming up #chihuta and #zvihuta jokes and memes by the dozen.

One widely-circulated Facebook post substituted zvihuta for Zimbabwe in a number of acronyms. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe thus became the Reserve Bank of Zvihuta (the Reserve Bank of Quails). 

The lion in the famous Chelsea Football Club logo became - you guessed it - a quail. Wikipedia became Chihutapedia.

Locals even suggested that 2016 be named The Year of the Quail.

One activist recommended (with more than a hint of seriousness) that Zimbabwe name a new local currency the "chihuta". Zimbabwe formally abandoned its battered local dollar in 2009, adopting a multi-currency regime. But there are serious cash shortages at the moment. 

Announcing the ban on quail farming last week, Environment Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said it was motivated by the need "to protect people from conmen", according to website NewZimbabwe.com. That is a reference to claims from some that quail meat and eggs have medicinal qualities and may help those living with HIV, Aids and cancer.

Quail-breeding is the latest in a long list of popular backyard income-generating projects in cash-strapped Zimbabwe. Previous crazes include growing potatoes in sacks.

As #chihuta trended in Zimbabwe on Tuesday and yet more quail jokes were posted, some begged for an end to the craze.

But one Zimbabwean tweeted: "You know how prince became a legend when he died? Zvihuta had to be banned to make it onto the national flag."

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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