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September 21, 2007

1

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

by quaesitor

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.

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