The economist reports…
“On one occasion, 15 armed invaders, banging on metal objects and chanting war songs, forced their way into Mr Freeth’s house, threatening to burn it to the ground, kill the two men present, rape the women and eat the three children asleep in their beds. Thanks to an earlier beating, Mr Freeth, an emaciated, soft-spoken man of 40, has never recovered his sense of smell. Mr Campbell, 76, was so badly thrashed that his memory is impaired.”
I had absolutely no idea that Zims were into eating little children. But then again it could just be a case of some air-head Economist reporter (and his/her editors) clinging to the notion of cannibalistic Africans irrationally inclined to commit rape and murder. May they soon realize that the world has moved on.
And dwelling on the issue of white farmers in Zimbabwe, I think it might be time for everyone to look at the facts and accept the truth for what it is. It is true that Robert Mugabe and his marauding thugs have committed economic and other crimes by dispossessing thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers of their land. But it is also true that a tiny section of Zimbabweans who happen to be white own(ed) a disproportionate percentage of the arable land in the country. Add into this imbalance the fact that the land may have been acquired through questionable means a few decades back by the ancestors of these farmers and you have yourself an explosive situation.
It is no wonder that even Morgan Tsvangirai (the reformist Premier of Zim) is, according to the Economist, “blowing hot and cold” on the issue. He knows that he cannot, with a clear conscience, defend the system of land ownership that exists in Zimbabwe.
I am in no way supporting violent seizure of land in Zimbabwe. All I am saying is that there is a case for radical land reform in the country. And this is not a question of race and/or ethnicity. I have seen the same tensions in Kenya – where squatters have clashed with fellow Kenyan ( indigenous) owners of large tracts of land. I am totally against illegal redistribution of land. But at the same time I cannot defend an obviously unjust system of land ownership.
It is sad that Mugabe’s illegal (and at times murderous) repossession of land in the country has overshadowed the real land problem in Zimbabwe – to the extent that even a somewhat respected newspaper like the Economist feels no shame in allowing a subliminally racist line like the one quoted above in its pages.
The BBC reports that the World Bank has decided to resume aid to Zimbabwe – the Bank has not lent the cash-strapped African country any money since 2000. Sad though is the fact that most of the money will probably go to clearance of Zim’s arrears to the WB and the African Development Bank (Zimbabwe owes $1 b). But the WB director, Toga Gayewea McIntosh, who is in charge of the group of African countries that include Zimbabwe promised that more grants will follow soon.
According to the Finance Ministry, Zimbabwe needs $8.3 billion for full recovery to be achieved any time soon after years of ruinous economic policies under the strongman Robert Mugabe.
The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof has a piece on the plight of women in rural Africa. The story is as heartwrenching as it is evocative. Nearly one in ten women die during childbirth in rural Africa. Getting pregnant is almost a death sentence for these women. Poor nutrition, poverty (which forces pregnant women to engage in hard labor that further endanger their lives) and regressive cultural practices – like genital mutilation – make childbearing a most dangerous activity.
A while back I wrote a piece on this same issue with figures from IRIN. I am glad and encouraged that Kristof is shining an infinitely bigger spotlight on this issue. The world needs to know more about the voiceless poor in rural Africa and the rest of the Global South who are condemned to live short and brutish lives dictated by their dire economic situations and formidable structural factors (poor governance, gender bias, dependency etc etc) that forever condemn them to live like it is still 20,000 BC.
As Kristof notes in his piece, it does not take much to make a difference. Four dollars can save a woman’s life. But such measures should be seen as band aid. The real cure for the healthcare mess that persists in rural Africa is education of women (and men). Statistics have proven again and again that educated women have fewer, healthier children. Education also serves to delay the onset of childbearing, therefore avoding the dangers associated with teenage motherhood.
The right to life is the most sacred human right. The poor women of the Global South deserve better than they are getting from both their governments and the international community at large.
Jacob Zuma, the man poised to be South Africa’s next president, has been getting a lot of bad press. This much married man has had to deal with pages after pages of news concerning his corrupt past and his adventures with the South African justice system. The truth be said, he is not a clean man. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and in Zuma’s case there is just way too much smoke for there not to be a flame.
That said, the fact is that he is going to be president of South Africa and by virtue of that become the most powerful man in Africa. I would like to join the few editorial pages out there who in the past week have indicated possible positives of a Zuma presidency. I am not convinced the man is as blindly populist as he wants the South African masses to believe. He is a calculating politician. He knows that he needs a viable South African economy just as much as he needs the masses to sing and dance in his name. It is no coincidence that he matches every populist statement of his with a reminder that he does not intend to radically change South Africa.
But I am not concerned with South African domestic issues. My concern is what a Zuma presidency will mean for the Southern African region and the Continent. And on this front I am hopeful. Eager to please the international community, I think that Zuma might just be the man to bring real change to Zimbabwe and some sort of sanity to the African Union. His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was too professorial to deal with the half-wits that run most of the Continent. Most of them did not take his (Mbeki’s) calls for an African Renaissance seriously. But Zuma, being a man of the people, might just be the one that charms them into seeing the light and actually changing the way they run their countries.Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
On the 22nd of April South Africans will go to the polls to elect their new president. There are no prizes for guessing who the winner will be. Everyone expects Jacob Zuma, a man facing corruption charges, to win easily. Despite the much hyped challenge from Cope, a party of ANC dissidents, the ANC with its immense ‘struggle movement capital’ will still win a healthy majority in the South African parliament.
As I have indicated before, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Zuma’s forthcoming presidency. The much-married man has a predilection for buffoonery. He is a known populist who may mishandle South Africa’s sluggish transition from the insanity of apartheid. Perhaps most worrying is his corruption record. The last thing South Africa needs in these hard economic times is a president who sends the message that it’s OK to be corrupt, as long as you have the right political connections.
That said, it is almost ineluctable that the Continent will have its leader in Jacob Zuma after the April elections. And because of that we are left with no alternative but to search for any positives that might come out of it. For starters, Zuma’s lack of formal education and the accompanying intellectual arrogance may make him more predisposed to alternative views – especially when it comes to the AIDS situation in South Africa (Mbeki strangely refused to admit the link between HIV and AIDS).
Secondly, given that he is coming in with little international legitimacy, he may feel compelled to do the right thing about Africa’s dictators and their many human rights abuses. Lastly, even his populism might be a plus. No sane person would disagree that South Africa NEEDS land reforms. Zuma may just be the one to do it, unlike the Mbeki-ist moderates who instead have chosen to focus on empowering middle class Black South Africans while forgetting the landless masses.
Let’s wait and see……..
Morgan Tsvangirai (a man who many believe ought to be Zimbabwe’s president) was sworn in Thursday as Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister. This marks the beginning of a compromise power sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe which forces the aging Robert Mugabe, 85 to share power with Tsvangirai’s MDC. Tendayi Biti, another MDC stalwart, will be Finance Minister.
This raises the question of whether Zimbabwe can bounce back some time soon. Millions have fled the country. Millions depend on food aid. 3000 have died of cholera and many more remain at risk and the economy has virtually collapsed, with 9 in 10 people out of employment. I am a proud owner of a 100 billion Zimbabwe note. In short, a lot needs to be done and MDC will have it mostly uphill for a long time to come. But will they succeed? If the recent developments in Kenya are any indicators, Zimababweans should be warned that things will get worse before they get better. The same people who while in opposition were screaming about corruption have been coopted into the same shady deals they once fought against (the maize, oil and tourism scandals are testament to this). And the lack of a credible opposition has given the government some immunity against censure in parliament. Zimbabwe may find itself in the same position, unless they actively avoid it.
May be Tsvangirai and his MDC will do things differently. I wish them well.
Robert Mugabe and his men have been preparing for his 85th birthday. And it is going to be a big celebration. Reading this left me speechless. If the story is true (I still find it hard to believe) then a whole lot of people in the Zimbabwean government need to have their heads examined, after which they should be sent to the gallows. It is utterly unconscionable that anyone should be dreaming of such a grand party for an autocratic leader who has run his country’s economy aground. The only thing this monster deserves for his 85th birthday is a one way ticket to Pluto. He is a shame to humanity.
Also, shame on all those people who have donated money to these efforts. With millions of Zimbabweans living on food aid they should know better than to waste their money on Mugabe’s birthday party. I hope someone finds out who they are and makes public their names and the amounts they donated.
The BBC reports that Jacob Zuma, the man who will almost certainly be South Africa’s next president intends to take on a third wife. Zuma married his second wife in a traditional Zulu ceremony last year. This will be his third wife.
Now, I have nothing against Zulu customs and traditions. But there is something to be said when the man poised to be the most powerful African leader decides to behave in this manner. South Africa, because of its big economy and history, is seen by many as the leading country in Africa. Nelson Mandela ranks high in the pantheon of the great sons and daughters of the continent. Mbeki, although mostly delusional (I had so much hope in him though), didn’t go on a marrying spree. As the de facto leader of the continent we demand better than this from Zuma. We have seen (with deep embarrassment) the sorry affair that is the life of the King of Swaziland. Let not the same become of the leader of a democratic, and supposedly modern, republic like South Africa.
Most importantly, I am uneasy about Zuma’s habits because of what it means for women’s rights in South Africa and to a great extent on the entire continent. It should no longer be deemed appropriate for a man (and especially a public figure like the president) to run around with as many women as he wants. If prominent leaders like Zuma do it, the local man in the streets will follow suit. What this means for Africa’s HIV/AIDS situation, not to mention other venereal diseases and the loads of children that will result from these bad habits, is unfathomable. I am not making a cultural argument here. I am simply stating that when a man marries more than one wife it takes away any leverage his wife may have on him. It is also an expensive affair. Zuma may be able to afford it, but most African men can’t. But they do it anyway, resulting in loads of uneducated, poorly raised children, most of whom die before they are five. THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM. Plus it doesn’t make any sense. How is he (Zuma) going to be a caring father if he has three homes to attend to? The presidency must be a demanding job. It says a lot about Zuma’s work ethic when he prepares for it by taking on a hugely demanding task like marrying a third wife (as if being in a monogamous marriage is not exacting enough). Either his presidency will suffer or his marriages will be neglected – or both. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this doesn’t turn into an annual spectacle like the (in)famous one by King Mswati.
Mr. Zuma, the daughters of Africa deserve better. Your bad habits, and those of your neighbor, King Mswati, continue to denigrate our mothers and sisters. I don’t care what motivates your actions – tradition or otherwise. This is simply unacceptable for a public figure. Period. The saddest thing about this is that Mr. Zuma will still be elected president of South Africa. He was accused of corruption. He has not been faithful to his TWO wives. But he will still be elected president of South Africa. South Africa, the land that gave us Mandela, Winnie, Sisulu, Tambo and many others of their ilk, can do better.
Robert Mugabe is a delusional mad man bent on destroying himself and his entire country. Ok, may be I am overplaying it, but what do you make of a man who is denying that there is cholera in his country while hundreds continue to die and flee into other countries? A man who continues to cling to power when the economy of his country is a total mess with super-hyper-inflation and no prospect of recovery? A man whose strongman rule and outright thuggery has sent an estimated more than three million people fleeing to neighboring countries and beyond? What do you make of this man than to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with his head?
12 million human beings should never have to suffer because of the selfishness and greed of one man. Humanity has failed and continues to fail in allowing Robert Mugabe to continue being the president of Zimbabwe. It is time someone in SADC or the AU or the UN or the EU or NATO grew a pair and sent this old man a serious message with details about his departure from the helm. Previously, I was of the opinion that he should be accorded amnesty in some country somewhere, far away from Zim but not anymore. This man should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. The international community should stop pretending and see the Zimbabwean political, health and economic crises for what they really are – tools of war being used by this mad man Rob against his own people.
Why is Mbeki not being as serious as he ought to be about this? Where is Kofi Annan? Where is the UN on this? Enough with the toothless resolutions. Do something. Innocent people are dying.
And I am not being delusional myself. I am not in any way insinuating that the departure of Mugabe will be the panacea to all of Zim’s problems. Far from that. The damage has been done and it will take a generation or two to fix it. But the departure of Mugabe will definitely be the beginning of the end of the many ills that have plagued Zimbabwe since the mid 1990s.
As I whined about the resignation of Mbeki and the ineluctable ascendance of one Jacob Zuma to the most powerful position on the continent, the story of Somali pirates seizing a ship with militray cargo destined for Kenya made me even more worried. 33 tanks, among other military hardware, were on the Ukranian ship that was hijacked by pirates from Somalia while on international waters off the coast of the failed state in the horn of Africa.
These developments raise a very serious question. For how long will the world sit back and watch as a few greedy men with guns terrorize an entire country, killing innocent women and children and depriving them of a decent livelihood? So far the consensus has been that as long as the mess is confined within Somalia then everyone (save for Ethiopia and the CIA) would pretend that nothing is going on. But now there is an overflow. Tired of the boredom of pillaging within their borders the rag-tag bandits of Somalia have decided to extend their activities to the sea, routinely hijacking ships for ransome and booty. They need to be stopped.
These 21st century pirates need to be stopped not just in the sea but also within the borders of Somalia. It is imperative that countries within the wider East African region come up with a plan of solving Somalia’s problem once and for all instead of merely containing it, as seems to be the policy of the regional military powerhouse Ethiopia and the United States. Somalis are people too – just like the Kenyans or Ivorians who elicited much international sucpport in their times of crises – and need to be allowed to have an existence worthy of human beings. The last eighteen years have shown us that Somalis, on their own, cannot rid themselves of the dystopia that they’ve made of their country. The international community should – in a Rousseauian sense – impose peace and set in motion a more transparent re-education on government and institutions instead of the current puppet government arrangement. Sounds too optimistic to you? To the gainsayers I say it can be done. It can be done because the vast majority of Somalis want it to be done. An international intervention will not be an Iraq, not even a Somalia-’93.
So the big news coming out of the continent today is the big signing of a deal between Robert Mugabe and his long-time foe Morgan Tsvangirai. The deal guarantees Tsvangirai, the legitimate winner of the last presidential elections in Zimbabwe, powers for the day to day running of the country while Mugabe still leads the military and the cabinet.
This deal is kind of the same that Kenyans adopted after the disputed presidential elections last December. While in Kenya’s case it wasn’t as clear as to who won the election, in Zimbabwe it was as clear as the springs of Nyandarua that Morgan Tsvangirai beat the senile Mugabe in the polls. The sharing of power with a political thief in the mold of Mugabe is an affront against democracy. The nature of democratic elections is that winners take it all. Losers should accept the results and wait for the next election cycle. This applies equally to incumbents and the opposition. I was mightily pleased with the poise by which UNITA handled its loss in the just concluded elections in Angola – although if you ask me I think they should pull up their socks and grants Angolans true democracy by being more competitive.
Anyway, as happy as I am for Zimbabweans, I hope this phenomenon – of presidents stealing elections and then appointing the real winners prime ministers – does not catch on on the continent. I hope that Kenya and Zimbabwe are the last to go through this weird electoral circus.
Jacob Zuma, the almost certain next president of the most powerful country in Africa, has just had a corruption case against him thrown out of court on the basis that it was politically motivated. While there might be some truth in this, it is still an affront on justice. There is no denying the fact that Zuma’s strategy all along has been one of intimidation of the South African justice system and me thinks that it is a travesty that this court bought into the politics argument against this case.
For the rule of law to prevail, there has to be a perception by all that no one is above the law. The exoneration of Zuma sends the wrong message. A message that political connections elevates one above the law. This is why, the leader of his youth wing is still running around threatening to kill people with impunity. Sad shame. And to think that in a few months this clown of a man who believes that showering after sex prevents aids infection will be the most powerful man in Africa just makes me sick. He is a populist and has absolutely no respect for the law. And worst of all, he may turn out to be the typical African leader – immensely loved by the masses but worth not even a bucket of spit in terms of policy and general vision for the country. Zuma supporters point to his popularity as a reason for his detractors to leave him alone – but they forget that Mugabe, Moi, al-Bashir, Zenawi and many other sub-grade African leaders were at one time populists in the mould of Zuma.
Levy Mwanawasa, the president of Zambia, has died in a French hospital. Mwanawasa was admitted in the hospital after he suffered a stroke several weeks ago. The country’s vice president, Rupiah Banda, has assumed the position of acting president, at least until new elections are held.
Mwanawasa became president in 2001 and has been a darling of the West particularly due to his distaste for corruption and love of free markets. In the last election, his opposition opponent accused him of selling his country to the two Asian giants; china and India.
It is important to note that Mwanawasa along with Kagame, Khama and Wade are the only African presidents who came out to forcefully criticize the murderous regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He will be missed for his honesty and love of straight talk.
The end has come. Judging from what I hear and the stuff I am reading online, it is apparent that Robert Mugabe has lost in last weekend’s general elections. The people of Zimbabwe have finally managed to send home their many faceted leader. Mugabe was at once a militant, a mild mannered gentleman with some class, the independence hero of the former British colony and a tyrant who killed and jailed many and drove his country’s economy deep into the ground.
The supposed winner of the elections, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is playing it cool. He says that although he is confident that he won he is not going to declare victory until the electoral commission officially announces the results. If indeed the MDC has won then uncle Bob will have done a great job of diminishing my afro-pessimism.
The next few days are going to be critical for Zimbabwe, especially following remarks by it’s security forces that they would not serve under Mr. Tsvangirai. However, it seems that even this threat cannot muffle Zimbabweans’ cries for change. The Times of London is reporting that Mugabe is right now trying to negotiate a settlement that will guarantee him immunity from prosecution under the new government. I guess that is the least they could do for an independence hero.