a tribute to Africa’s greatest son

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the former president of South Africa and arguably the greatest African ever in recorded history celebrated his 90th birthday the other night in London in an even attended by big shot politicians and celebrities. Listening to the comments made by those in attendance reminded me of just how important this man has become – not only to Africa but to the entire world. “He embodies the stand against injustice and poverty the world over,” one commentator said.

To me, the most striking thing about Madiba is that although he spent most of his life fighting against the evil apartheid regime in South Africa, the post-apartheid Madiba did not harbour the hatred or anger that you would have expected from someone who suffered so much under the system, including 27 years spent in jail. Instead, Madiba managed to channel the goodwill he earned towards reconciliation and a focus on issues affecting the poor and forgotten people of this world.

Perhaps a closer scrutiny of his personal life may reveal some faults – as I found out when I read his biography last summer. But these faults only serve to confirm to us that he is indeed human, and thus make him even more precious because his achievements are simply beyond most of us. He is easily the greatest African to have ever walked on this planet in all of recorded history.

He has undoubtedly entered the pantheon of hallowed Africans in history. Thank God for Mandela and may Africa bring forth more sons and daughters like him, especially in these very difficult times.


How much longer will the world sit back and watch?

As usual, the news coming out of Zimbabwe are not good. Images of armed youth chasing and beating opposition supporters and reports of whole villages being overrun by government operatives for the simple crime of voting for the opposition are in the least very sickening. Robert Mugabe, the ancient independence hero of the republic of Zimbabwe has vowed to stay in power and told his opponents that only God can remove him from power. Perhaps it is time Zims remembered the Biblical note that God works through the hands of men and do the necessary. The old man should be removed from office and exiled to some island in the indian ocean, or better still he should be exiled to Britain – the land that he has grown to hate and blame for all the ills affecting his people.

The problem in Zimbabwean has again exposed the dysfunction that is the continent of Africa. The de facto leader of the continent, one Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is on record as to having said that there is nothing wrong with Zim and that the international media should tone down on the negative reporting. Mr. Mbeki must be mad. The other presidents on the continent couldn’t care less. A few of them have voiced concern but without offering any concrete solutions. For now they seem to be bent on protecting one of their own. A real dirty shame.

The wider international community has also bought into the tactic of all barks and no bite. It has been left to the BBC, CNN and the spokespeople of the state department in the US and foreign ministry in the UK to condemn the actions of ZANU-PF and their supporters in ZIm.

I think it is time civil society groups across Africa held demonstrations to force their leaders to step in and talk old Rob out of power. The man is 84 and has been in power since 1980. In this period Zim has descended from being a food exporter to a country where millions depend on international food aid. It is time for him to go. And it is a real dirty shame that Africa and the rest of the world continues to sit back and watch as old Rob continues to sink his country deeper into the ground.

letter from Gaborone

If you thought that stories of Chinese involvement in Africa were exaggerated, think again. A survey of the businesses in Gaborone – from car dealerships to apparel stores to restaurants even – reveals just how much the men and women from the East have established themselves on this continent.

The locals complain that the goods are of poor quality and all but they buy them nonetheless because they are far much cheaper than other locally made stuff or those imported from South Africa and elsewhere. Another complaint I have been hearing is that the Chinese are not really helping the economy – the local economy that is. “They keep to themselves and bring all they need. They even bring their own food,” one man told me. The general complaint is that the Chinese are simply siphoning profits back home and not reinvesting in the Botswana economy.

I haven’t had a chance to see the level of economic disparity among the Batswana – but from the little exposure I have had to the middle class here, I think I can safely say that they have it nice. Nicer than their counterparts in Kenya even. The government seems to be doing its job alright. Next week I shall be traveling to the desert regions of the North and West to see how life is in the rural areas.

Oops, I have to go now. I have become a football junkie and cannot afford to miss Germany-Portugal. Catch you guys later.

power cuts!! oh no!!

Just as I thought that my stay in Botswana was going to be such a nice ride, I was rudely reminded of where I was by an unexpected power cut. Yes, I was trying to cook dinner while watching some show on the travel channel when the lights went out. With no torch (flashlight, as some call it) or candles I was forced to cook with my ipod, phone and camera as the only sources of light available. Luckily the lights came just as I started having my dinner. It was not a pleasant experience though.

After talking to people in the know I was told that this is a regular thing that happens to select neighborhoods between seven and nine. I was also told that Botswana, lacking any powerplants, buys its power from the neighboring states.

But I just can’t stop wondering why the government hasn’t managed to build enough power generation capacity to satisfy its less than 2 million people – and with all the diamond dollars. Just how hard can it be?