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Posts from the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

7
May
Image: Kofi Annan

Wisdom from the Palaver Tree: Kofi Annan’s impossible job cajoling the world

I have just finished Kofi Annan’s fascinating memoir Interventions. Annan is clearly a man of great stature and influence, who strained every sinew to bring about peace and dialogue during his 10 years as UN Secretary-General but tragically often failed. For all kinds of reasons. But as one might expect (and indeed hope), he has great wisdom to share, even if he cannot claim a string of personal triumphs.

But before a few gems, here’s my brief Amazon review (which you may want to find ‘helpful’?!): Read more »

4
Apr

When a trillion really is worthless (or will be, sooner than you think)

1 trillion is a big number. And it’s making big news in G20 circles. Of course, we’re all very pleased and happy as it’s going to save the world, thanks to Messrs Brown and Obama. Hurrah for them. Trillions really are the new billions, it seems.

But spare a thought for ordinary Zimbabweans. Where a trillion really isn’t what it once was. Nor for that matter, is 100 trillion Zim dollars…

The exchange rate currently (but probably meaninglessly) stands at £1 = Z$55 million. So this not is in itself worth £1.8 million. But they’ve presumably printed them because they expect it to be enough to buy a loaf of bread next month.

Check out these ingenious adverts for The Zimbabwean newspaper (strapline: a voice for the voiceless) – they’re printed on actual Zim dollars – to show how worthless they have become. It’s cheaper to do that than buy printing paper. See other examples at their Flickr page. It is a courageous, but necessary stand – the injustices of the situation reinforced by the fact that Mugabe recently celebrated with another lavish birthday party.

8
Mar

Mugabe – Who does he think he is kidding?

I can’t remember a news event of more calculated and cruel cynicism than this appalling moment where President Mugabe visits his new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in hospital.

Not only did he have to endure the agonised grief for his late wife, he then had to lie helpless through the crocodile tears of the first lady and other presidential hangers on. It makes your stomach turn…

See the BBC report here – and the Telegraph picks up on the obvious speculation about Mugabe’s culpability.

Oh God of Justice, come.

9
Jan

Q’s AFRICA week: 5. What’s going on? (Bono & Chris Martin)

Chris Martin & Bono did this cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘What’s going on?’ back in 2001. The original was a reflection on the madness of the world at the time – with Vietnam looming large, as well as black-on-black violence in America’s inner cities. 

MosAzian has made this video compilation of photos from Africa to accompany the cover. I pondered quite a bit about whether to include it. Because, as the piece read by Djimon Hounsou earlier this week made clear, it is all too easy to tarnish the wonders and joys of this great continent with the stereotypical images of famine-starved families and child soldiers.

Well this video manages to avoid a monochrome approach – with some wonderful, life-embracing and inspiring images interspersed throughout. But, we can’t escape realities. Despite the difficulties of navigating the waters of political correctness, the fact remains that there are STILL millions starving, disease-riven and war-torn across Africa. And if I was one of them, I wouldn’t care less whether or not my suffering was stereotypical - I’d want my story heard far and wide in the (vain?) hope that someone could do something about it.

The first step has to be getting informed – for without that, the ghastly modern neurosis of ‘compassion fatigue’ would cause all but the most devoted to skulk quietly past. And above all, it is the gospel in action that can make the difference (as Matthew Parris so brilliantly articulated last week).

7
Jan

Q’s AFRICA week: 3. The Tragedy of District 6

We wanted to give the children a sense of what has happened in South Africa. And so after failing to get to Robben Island (because it was booked up until after the New Year), we plumped for the District 6 Museum. And I’m really glad we went there. It had a profound affect on all of us.

Visit the official District 6 Museum website here. But it’s an extraordinary place so, of course, a virtual visit doesn’t convey the power of this building: a converted church in the heart of what was an incredibly rich, vibrant, and above all multi-racial community right in the heart of Cape Town. Consequently, District 6 was anathema to the apartheid ethos of separation, and therefore had to go. Under the infamous 1950 Group Areas Act, the place was razed, cleared and recreated as a whites only area, the job being only completed as recently as 1984. I can remember 1984 well – it’s not that long ago.

This museum is a testimony and a memorial to those who suffered under such irrational and cruel injustice. It is heartbreaking to look up close at the huge floor map of the district, now on the main museum floor. And all over it, former residents have written in by hand where they used to live, where they had their hair cut, where they went to church etc etc (see below).

Amenities for Whites Only...

Particularly powerful is this poem, presented as one of the first things you see on entry. I’ve transcribed it here:

Remember Dimbaza.
Remember Botshabelo/Onverwacht,
South End, East Bank
Sophiatown, Makuleke, Cato Manor.
Remember District Six.
Remember the racism
which took away our homes
and our livelihood
and which sought
to steal away our humanity.
Remember also our will to live,
to hold fast to that
which marks us as human beings:
our generosity, our love of justice
and our care for each other.
Remember Tramway Road,
Modderdam, Simonstown

In remembering we do not want
to recreate District Six
but to work with its memory:
of hurts inflicted and received
of loss, achievements and of shames.
We wish to remember
so that we can all ,
together and by ourselves,
rebuild a city
which belongs to all of us,
in which all of us can live,
not as races but as people.

The lurking question after seeing this is how would we have felt if it had happened to us. I asked one of the children, and he saw the point – “I would have wanted to kill the people who did this”. But this is one of the enduring miracles of South Africa despite all its profound problems and challenges. It did not become a bloodbath of retribution – instead there was magnanimity, as evoked up by the second verse of this poem. As powerful reflection of gospel forgiveness as any from recent history…

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But of course, this sort of thing is not ancient history. It is not even recent history. It is in fact CURRENT AFFAIRS. Look at this image from Zimbabwe and a town called Murambatsvina, near Harare:

5
Jan

Q’s AFRICA week: 1. Johnny Clegg & the tale of 2 African presidents

Having just returned from South Africa, my heart was stirred afresh by that great continent of life. So I thought that this week I’d celebrate with our very own QUAERENTIA AFRICA week. The Southeaster will lure us back in time I suspect…

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Johnny Clegg has been called the White Zulu. And his is certainly an extraordinary life. Born outside Manchester in the UK, an early childhood in Israel briefly before moving to southern Africa where he has been ever since. And his music reflects all these different influences – singing fluently in English and Zulu, as well as occasionally in French and other South African languages. Having seen a poster for his outdoor gig at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the very day we arrived, we jumped at the chance of getting tickets (having heard him back in the UK summer at Mandela’s 90th concert). We had a right laugh going  - a few pix on our Flickr page here.

Here are 2 of Johnny’s protest songs which seem particularly poignant when placed side by side. The first, written in 1987 years before a multi-racial government seemed possible, is perhaps one of his most well-known in the UK: ASIMBONANGA. It is Zulu, meaning ‘we have not seen him’ and is all about Mandela’s imprisonment across Cape Town’s bay on Robben Island. But watch this clip – and see who appears! From Frankfurt in 1998, at Mandela’s 80th.

This one is more recent. Recorded in Jo’burg in 2006, this song is about another African president who was heralded at the start in terms not unlike those used of Mandela 10 years later. But how differently the tyrant of Zimbabwe is now regarded. This is: THE REVOLUTION WILL EAT ITS CHILDREN (ANTHEM FOR UNCLE BOB).

28
May

ELF08 – the marks of Christian community: some Colossians gems from Lindsay Brown

My heart slightly sank when I noticed that Lindsay Brown’s morning expositions were going to be on Colossians. This was certainly not because Lindsay was doing it (!) but because I have been teaching through Colossians on the Bible Teachers’ Network and I was anxious about people getting Colossians overload. Instead, it has been very helpful for us all and complemented well. Over the course of the week, he has come out with some great lines and gems, as he has picked truths out from the text.

In particular, I’ve been struck by the points he has been making about how we form Christian community, and especially the differences these communities can (and should) make for members and non-members alike. This is so vital for a European individualistic culture which barely values society beyond its utilitarian personal advantages. And Colossians has MUCH to say to challenge this. Here are a number of illustrations and remarks from Lindsay’s 4 talks:

In Zimbabwe, during the bloody civil war on racial grounds during the 70s, that troubled country seemed as divided and traumatized as it is now. And race was the heart of the problem. And the University of Harare (or Salisbury as it then was) was as riven as the rest of the country – particularly vividly illustrated by standard operating procedure in the uni canteen. Whites on one side, blacks on the other. Except, that is, for the Christians. They were an integrated group – and deliberately sat together on tables right in the middle of the dining hall. During the first course, the white Christians got up and fetched the food and then served it to their black brothers and sisters; then for pudding, the blacks the same, serving their white brothers and sisters. And the effect on the rest of the university, without a single word of explanation or proclamation, was scandalously but marvelously electrifying. For it was clear to all that they were ONE body, united and mutually serving.

John Stott: We are to be morally distinct but not socially segregated… We should avoid “rabbit-hole Christianity”. We pop out of our holes into the world, but as soon we encounter something evil or corrupting, we rush back into our holes.

When things got really bad in Burundi around the time of the genocide in the early 90s, Tutsis were of course fleeing for their lives. The Chancellor of Bujumbura University made this extraordinary remark, despite the fact that he did not profess to be Christian. He announced: ‘Our culture is disintegrating. There are 3 groups of people on this campus: Hutus, Tutsis and Christians. They are the only ones who look beyond our differences and make a difference.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, all the leaders and graduates of the national Christian student movement were killed – with only one exception. Only one staffworker was left. Lindsay was there a year later and as well as the appalling shock and agony of what had happened, the obvious question was why had they been picked on specifically. It transpired that the week before the genocide broke out (but when the storm clouds were gathering) Hutus & Tutsis met publicly on campus together, holding hands and singing songs together – “we are one in Christ, one in the Spirit”. And for that they died.

Another key theme has been the need to cultivate an attitude of constant thankfulness. Not least because this challenges our independent-mindedness. Hence this challenging line from the great Schaeffer:

Francis Schaeffer: The first sign of backsliding is lack of thankfulness (cf Col 3:15)

But the most important thing is how all-embracing our discipleship should be (I guess that is one of the ELF’s constants). There were various illustrations of this:

Lindsay remarked to the 25-yr old son of a key European Christian leader that it was interesting how few sons of great leaders became leaders themselves. The response was very helpful indeed: ‘Why should they? Leadership is a gift of God – and not everyone has that gift. As long as they are trusting in Christ, they are complete in Christ, and as long as they are exercising whatever their gifts have for him, that is ok.” Spot on.

Sir Fred Catherwood (former VP of the European Parliament): To try to improve society is not worldliness but love. To wash your hands of society is not love but worldliness.

But with so many people at the forum from the former Eastern Bloc / Communist countries, the challenges of living in a corrupt society are daily reality. But even if we don’t all find ourselves facing that directly, we all increasingly find ourselves surrounded by hostility. So how do we handle this? Well, here are some helpful principles for those seeking to make their stand in all walks of public life (whether commercial, political or artistic). These are loosely based on the life and witness of the prophet Daniel in Babylon:

  • Set clear ethical standards from the start
  • Develop a support group (of people who understand the challenges of your workplace or context) – John Wesley: The bible knows nothing of solitary discipleship
  • Consider the cost of compromise (so you know what you lose if you do)
  • Be prepared for sacrifice – the Lord doesn’t often deliver immediately – and sometimes the sacrifices last until the day we breathe our last. Our call is to fidelity.
11
Mar

Black Armbands for Jesus

We’re having a week of special events this week under the banner of 3D – LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE. It’s already proved to be an extraordinary time – with a couple of great preaches from Hugh & Rico on Sunday (on Real Freedom and Real Happiness respectively), and last night, we had Jonathan Aitken interviewed (hoping to have that put online, so will post about it if and when).

 

But today was our Senior Members’ Day – a regular bunfight for our (er, well) senior members – and we had another special guest star. Now, I think we do need to be careful when we get the big names in as if the Christian life was all about being big names. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, it is almost as if we can assume people will be sufficiently impressed by someone’s celebrity to become a Christian. Everyone’s testimony is miraculous and wondrous, regardless of their fame. That said, every now and then, it certainly adds spice to hear from people who have done courageous things for their faith because it spurs us to action.

 

And so we had Henry Olonga – ‘who’s he?’ some might ask. Well, he was the first black Zimbabwean to play cricket for his country – and with white teammate Andy Flower (left), courageously protested against Mugabe’s villainous regime during the 2003 Cricket World Cup by wearing black armbands during their first match. It had profound consequences for both men, including the end of their international cricket careers and death threats for Olonga. There’s a brief account here on Cricinfo. But while Henry is certainly not shy of talking about it, his motivations are not always widely known. For he is a Christian believer, having come to faith at boarding school at 16. And this was his supreme motivation. He talked this afternoon how he’d increasingly felt uneasy when fielding journalists’ questions whenever they went on international tours. They’d trot out the usual lines about ‘hey, we’re just cricketers here to play a game’ etc, but it never sat well with them. And as someone who was involved in a couple of orphanages in Zim, this verse from Isaiah kept coming to mind:
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow. [Isaiah 1:17]
And so they did what they could in a silent, dignified but provocative way. Here is their official statement, which makes inspiring but heart-breaking reading.

 

So today, Henry had our senior members and the guests they’d invited lapping it all up. The biggest surprise is that now Henry is a singer, doing everything from Nessun Dorma and the Londonderry Air (there was a noticeable chorus of ‘ahhs’ and ‘oohs’ when he introduced that one today!) to his own pop songs. In particular, he sang one he’d written called RISE AGAIN, giving hope for a better future for Zim. It’s beautiful and anthemic. Apart from buying it on iTunes or getting the album, you can get excerpts of it on this promo video he did for Tearfund (on which he also talks about the armband thing).

 

21
Dec

How do you subvert Zimbabwean tyranny? Play Cards (amongst other things)

When there is no freedom of press, when there is no freedom of assembly, when there is no right to a fair trial and when the perpetrators get away with murder, what do you do? Well, here are a few suggestions from what is going on in Zimbabwe. This is not the only place suffering like this – just mention Burma/Myanmar, Cuba, and increasingly Putin’s Russia. But the fact that these things are going on around and about Zim is encouraging. But what they all have in common is that they all involve either lateral or out of the box thinking. Without a context, they will seem puny. But their power lies in their ability to make ripples and even waves.

 

CUT UP YOUR DOG COLLAR

Not recommended for non-clergy – but while most would not bat an eyelid if I ever cut up my own dog-collar (not that I wear mine very much), it sort of helps if you are an archbishop. John Sentamu knows first-hand what it means to suffer under dictatorship – he spent time in a Ugandan prison as a very young newly married Judge for standing up to Idi Amin. So on the Andrew Marr show a couple of weeks ago, he made this symbolic gesture. This is how the Archbish explained his actions:

As an Anglican this is what I wear to identify myself, that I’m a clergyman. Do you know what Mugabe has done? He’s taken people’s identity and literally, if you don’t mind, cut it to pieces. This is what he’s actually done to a lot of – and in the end there’s nothing. So, as far as I’m concerned, from now on I’m not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone.

(Thanks to Faith Central for this helpful template link)

 

If you don’t have a dog collar (and by the way cutting a strip of an old white fairy liquid bottle and inverting it has always been the best bet in a no dog collar situation) here is an option that a bit more populist and certainly much more daring:

 

CITIZEN’S ARREST

mugabe_scandal.jpgIf you have the opportunity to attend summits or conferences to which Mugabe is inexplicably welcome, then you can always dress up in funny hats and protest outside against the people who give him the airtime/elbowroom (as happened at the recent EU/AU summit in Lisbon). But if you are really keen, you can always try to perform a citizen’s arrest. This is of course what Peter Tatchell attempted not so long ago – on 3 different occasions as it happens – good on him, I say. But a risky tactic of course.
But for the vast majority of people around the world these are neither realistic nor wise. Instead, here are some more down-to-earth ideas:

 

PROTEST ABROAD

There are lots of ways of doing this. Here are some pretty clever ones: (from L to R, a banner on a Lisbon beach at the summit, a billboard just inside the South African border with Zim, multi-purpose message to consign not just poverty to history).

 

MOCK & JEER

Dictators love to take themselves seriously. Which is why it makes such a difference when others don’t. There is nothing more diminishing than a well-aimed cartoon or sketch (remember Steve Bell’s cartoons of PM John Major wearing his underpants outside his trousers – not that Major was remotely like a dictator, of course, as even his detractors would accept). So distribute and laugh – for sometimes that is all you can do. This is where the Internet can come in REALLY handy. Check out Sokwanele (which means ‘Enough is Enough’) – this has tons of info, news and above all mockery. Here are a few greetings e-cards that can be distributed liberally. Not exactly Christmasy or festive – but then problems like these don’t simply disappear when we have our holidays.

But the most ingenious and surprising of all I have left till last. Because it is now possible (though still dangerous) to have fun while you protest and subvert:

 

PLAY CARDS!

Diamonds - AceYes, that’s right. Playing cards will help to subvert the regime and spread the message. This pack is now one of my most prized possessions. I was given it last year by a friend who had friends – they were produced by regime opponents abroad and to be caught in possession of this inside Zimbabwe would almost certainly lead to arrest, deportation for foreigners or worse for locals.
On the outside it looks like a completely innocuous set of playing cards (see below left). Ideal for distribution around bars and buses throughout Zimbabwe. But open up the pack, and you have a beautiful aide-mémoire of the realities of modern Zimbabwe. It is a whole new means of secret political dissent: PROTEST & PLAY. I’ve scanned the lot and put them on my Flickr page simply because I do not have easy access to Harare bars or Bulawayo buses from central London. Some of the objects of ridicule will be unknown to non-Zim residents – but you don’t have to know the names to understand the point.

Diamonds 2 Diamonds 7 Diamonds 6 Diamonds 8

21
Sep

Zimbabwe: a despotic shrug, but at least things are happening

Making a stand

It’s always difficult to join a bandwagon – but then, if that bandwagon is heading in the right direction, then not to join it is itself problematic.

  • So good to see Gordon Brown making a strong stand for the EU-AU summit (yesterday)
  • Also inevitable to see Mugabe shrugging it off (today)
  • Also, in case you missed it, is the news that China is withdrawing backing from Zimbabwe (report 31st Aug) after years of propping up the decrepit and discredited Mugabe (see photo).

Perhaps this humble blog is making a difference after all… And perhaps our beloved Prime Minister will get the prize from Quaerentia’s very own Spot The Difference competition.

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Art imitating life?

Incidentally, I am acutely sensitive to the way that Africa gets portrayed in fiction and on screen (i have a forthcoming review of Last King of Scotland coming soon). So much is patronising, ignorant or profoundly unhelpful.

So I had my antennae out on stalks last night when we watched Season 5, episode 4 of SPOOKS (known as MI-5 in the US) - the new boxed set happily arrived last week! After a pretty iffy and unrealistic concept and start, it did improve – not least because of its portrayal of the moral dilemmas inherent in involvement with African politics. Read the synopsis here if you’ve not see it and don’t want to. It revolves around a G8/AU (African Union) summit to deal with fair trade deals for Africa – obviously a perennial and knotty issue. It is obviously tv – and real life is much more complex than could ever be conveyed in a spy thriller. But dare i say it, i couldn’t help wondering whether or not there were any deliberate similarities between the fictional President Sekoa of West Monrassa (played by the excellent George Harris) and President Museveni of Uganda – both lauded in the west as African pioneers and leaders, while getting up to all kinds of dodgy stuff behind the facade.

And while we’re on this tack – one of my favourite West Wing episodes, and one which really breaks the heart, is Season 2 episode 4: In This White House. While all kinds of different plot lines are being followed (in true TWW style), the primary concern is that of a dialogue between the CEOs of major US Pharmaceuticals and an African president looking for ways to get cheaper HIV/AIDS drugs to his continent. Played by the brilliant South African actor Zakes Mokae, President Nimbala of Khundu comes across as a sympathetic leader doing his best against impossible odds – but thwarted at every turn. The ending is simply tragic – but not implausible (which makes it all the more affecting). And yet without being patronising or generalising, the episode realistically and movingly conveys the agonies of the continent. There are no glib solutions here – and that is precisely the point.

19
Sep

Zimbabwe: spot the difference

Following Doc Mtusi’s brilliant apologia pro vita sua (see previous post), i was concerned that this blog was all getting a bit too heavy. We all need to let our hair down from time to time. So let’s play a game. It is a game for all the family. It requires sharp observation skills as the answers are not always apparent – parents are therefore encouraged to allow younger children to join the teams (since they are often much quicker at this sort of thing – well, mine are anyway). The aim of the game is simple enough. See if you can spot where the differences lie – and who you think might be to blame. Top prize goes to the one who not only spots the differences, but who also wipes out the differences (preferably by removing the perpetrators from office… oh, and by preventing their successors from doing pretty much the same thing).

 

1. Zimbabwe ‘on the road’

Zimbabwe’s traffic problems have been instantly solved (thanks to recent congestion charging/fuel rationing for those who don’t really need it) – get around town in comfort, style and speed.

A. Bob’s Wheels

B. Other folks’ wheels

(photo credits – Washington Post and GPSA)

 

In Robert Mugabe’s recent address to Zanu-PF’s central committee, he called, for “clean leadership,” condemning “arrogant flamboyance and wastefulness: a dozen Mercedes-Benz cars to one life, hideously huge residences, strange appetites that can only be appeased by foreign dishes; runaway taste for foreign lifestyles, including sporting fixtures, add to it high immorality and lust.”

OK then, but then get this:

Mugabe’s own S600L was custom-built in Germany and armoured to a “B7 Dragunov standard” so that it can withstand AK-47 bullets, grenades and landmines. It is fitted with CD player, movies, Internet and anti-bugging devices. At five tonnes it does about two kilometres per litre of fuel. It has to be followed by a tanker of gas in a country running on empty. Mugabe has bought a car pool of dozens of lesser Mercedes S320s and E240s for his wife, vice-presidents and ministers. (From Odious Debts – July 2005)

 

2. Zimbabwe ‘from the air’

Get away from it all! Enjoy all those huge open spaces, the beautiful views, fresh air. Guaranteed never to see anyone at all.

A. Porta Farm, outskirts of Harare – June 2002

B. Outskirts of Harare – April 2006

(For more, see Amnesty International’s Porta Farm report and follow links)

 

3. Zimbabwe ‘on the ground’

Celebrate those happy events in style in the NEW ZIMBABWE, aka Africa’s Breadbasket

A. Retail Therapy

(From ABC News: report July 27 2007 and BBC Africa report July 4 2007)

B. Many Happy Returns?

(From NYTimes: report Feb 22 2007)

 

4. Zimbabwe ‘from the top’

Rise to the top of the political tree to enjoy all that life has to offer.

A. Old School: the divine right of kings

(From The Zimbabwean)

B. New School: the usurper’s comeuppance


(From Daily Telegraph: report March 15, 2007; The Guardian: report March 15, 2007)

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SO… How did you do? Not as easy as it looked perhaps? Can’t wait until to the prize giving ceremony – date still pending… Watch this space.

 

17
Sep

Zimbabwe lunacy – “fasting is actually good for you”

This is about a month and a half old – but only had it brought to my attention by this week’s THE WEEK (for the uninitiated, The Week is a seminal publication, reducing journalists’ blather and waffle into a manageable read). In SA’s CAPE TIMES newspaper back in July, there was an interview with an official in Zimbabwe’s so-called Finance Ministry, a man by the name of Doc Mtusi. Mtusi’s commentary on the starvation crisis now affecting one of the most fertile and productive countries on earth is revealing to say the least:

The unpatriotic hoarding of food gives the impression that we have a problem, which clearly we haven’t, except in the South African media’s mind. We do not call it starving, we call it fasting. Fasting is actually good for you. Lots of famous people have fasted for the benefit of their people. Gandhi, for instance. In our case, the people themselves will be encouraged to fast, thereby strengthening themselves against the onslaught of colonial imperialism. We have no objection in principle to people eating. Those of us in government all eat, but only because persons in our important positions have to. What we must guard against is the belief that people have the right to break the law if they are hungry. (You can read a fuller account of the interview on Political Vuvuzela as the original Cape Times article is only available to subscribers.)

I simply don’t know where to begin. It makes me incandescent with rage to read this absolute piffle: it is self-serving, hypocritical and imperiously twaddling cant. It has the hallmarks of Marie Antoinette – except for the fact that she was not actually the one who said “Let Them Eat Cake” and was most probably not quite as callous as the revolutionaries made out (see one possible explanation on Phrase Finder). But this Zim quote is real, attributable and on the record. Who do they think they are kidding. It makes you sick.

Oh beloved Africa! When will it end? How long, O Lord?

I couldn’t help but be reminded of a haunting song by a band I was really into in nearly 20 years ago (!yikes!) – FAT AND FRANTIC. It is called simply AFRICA, and was written (apparently) after a visit to Uganda in the mid-80s, when things were REALLY bad (as a result of Milton Obote‘s second and even more deadly regime). I used to listen to it sometimes while driving home from work in Kampala and simply weep. Yes it is uncomfortably true about colonialism as well as the modern corporate world’s attitude to the continent. But Africa’s tragedy NOW is that the post-colonial optimism of the 60s has been disintegrated by the freedom fighters’ oppression – for Mugabe was heralded by some in the 80s as Africa’s last great freedom fighter – indeed his early speeches were Mandela-like in their magnanimity. But no longer. FaF had it right:

Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa
Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa

With your bloated belly, your drum-tight skin,
your swollen tongue, dry eyes crying;
and brothers, sleek and fat and white,
are desperately justifying
stealing from my hungry sister,
my starving brother, Africa.

They’re stealing from my hungry sister,
my starving brother Africa.
Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa
Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa

Africa, they raped you my sister,
they beat you my brother Africa,
Africa, they raped you my sister,
they beat you my brother Africa,
With your beaten back, your broken neck,
your bloody face, your body dying;
you can’t detain and whip a whole nation,
but your brothers still aren’t sick of trying
to kill the raped and beaten soul
of my sister and my brother, Africa.

They want to kill the raped and beaten soul
of my sister and my brother Africa.
Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa
Africa, my beautiful sister and my brother, Africa

WORLD! Do something about Mugabe! PLEASE! Listen to Archbishop John Sentamu’s plea in yesterday’s Guardian: SAVING ZIMBABWE IS NOT COLONIALISM, IT IS BRITAIN’S DUTY.

 

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