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Archive for April, 2009

Zuma is unconvincing

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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

Will the new South African president, Zuma, break into spontaneous dance whenever he delivers a speech to the international community?

So far ( as far as I know), he has managed to keep his rousing rendition of the now out-of-context Umkhonto we Sizwe war cry ‘Mshini Wami’ confined to national fora such as political rallies and other platforms he has been provided to defend his innocence against the many charges levelled against him in the recent past.

The reason I ask is simple. Beyond his amazing agility and moves to rival Michael Jackson in the prime of his musical career, Zuma doesn’t seem to offer much else.

Now, to be sure, I have serious problems in looking beyond the misgivings of a man who claims that taking a shower after unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person can prevent transmission of the virus. That statement will forever stick in my mind whenever Zuma’s name is mentioned to me.

But after all his run-ins, and let-offs by the rule of law, I thought it only decent of me to give him an ear at the last ANC rally held last weekend in Johannesburg.

I will admit that I haven’t listened to many of his speeches, but called the Siyanqoba (We shall conquer) rally, and the last that the ANC held prior to elections that Wednesday,  I expected Zuma to give the  most rousing speech of his political career.

But oh, so drawl and monotonous was he that I dozed off a few times, as I watched. Was that un-emotive expressionless list of promises to make South Africa a better nation really what the people wanted to hear?

And when he promised to fight corruption, I couldn’t help the smirk that instantly appeared on my face. More transparent tendering processes and less misappropriation of public resources?!

That sounded like a page out of a Grimm’s fairytale.

While functional, apart from clever little statements like stating that South Africans ought to “put sport back into our national psyche” in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, I found his speech drab and quite banal. Nothing in it would give anyone a shiver down their spine, which is what good speeches tend to do.

While he will never be an Obama in terms of his oratory, Zuma needs to start sounding a bit more convincing that he is a changed man and not some reluctant school kid forced to stand up and read his short story to the rest of the class.

His political persona already doesn’t look so good – what with a trail of corruption cases behind him – and other near-miss charges he has managed to worm his way out of.

Speech has power to convince. You only need look at the immortal place that Martin Luther King Jnr holds in history because of his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

And though more sinister, no one can deny the power of Adolf Hitler’s oration in convincing the German masses of the ‘goodness’ of Nazism.

For me, there’s nothing to savour about Msholozi’s political character yet – until, of course, he breaks into that ubiquitous theme song and jumps across the podium belting out “Mshini Wami, Mshini Wami.”

Have you ever noticed how the South African media focuses so intently on this aspect of Zuma in its coverage of him? With dance moves that crisp, he could put many a young man less than half his age to shame. Yes, that forms part of his ‘everyman’ appeal. But that should not become the hallmark of his persona.

Zuma has to appeal to a larger audience than just South Africans who have recently become disgruntled with the ANC and thus see him as the agent of necessary reform.

He has to appeal to regional and global audiences, to represent South Africa, and Africa as a respectable statesman in the mould of his predecessors who include Nelson Mandela.

And sadly for him, he will have to do all of that without the dancing.

For me, my greatest hope for Zuma’s reign is that he can combat the HIV epidemic that is currently wreaking havoc in South Africa and sending shock waves throughout southern Africa. For one who himself peddled gross misinformation about ways to prevent HIV transmission, this would represent the greatest victory in overcoming the very ignorance that continues to kill so many.

I sincerely hope that come May 9, at the presidential inauguration of Zuma, I will become more convinced by this man who holds the hopes and destiny of not only his nation, but the whole region.

The liberating bliss of colour

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Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Fungai Machirori

Life’s too short to not investigate all of your potential. This is why I have boldly taken to wearing colour of late. Orange, pink, yellow, purple, tie-dye; you name it, I wear it!

And it’s the most liberating thing that I have done for myself recently.


Because, I suppose I grew up at a time when wearing bright colours was either considered crude, or a sign of low class and taste – at least if you were any age above 16. Yes, even today, anyone who dares wear vivid colours will elicit one or two taunts for their braveness.

But I just don’t care what people say anymore, which is why it is so liberating to dress as I please. In my opinion, far too many women spend their lives being overly modest with themselves. They won’t try different things to help redefine their image and thereby get stuck in a hole they aren’t so happy to be in.

Now, I am not saying that constant change is for us all. But if you, like me, are the restless type who gets bored with having just one look, then all I can say to you is, “Do something about it!”

As one of my university lecturers used to warn us, “Time is moving and frankly, none of us is getting any younger!”

Too true – none of us is getting any younger. So, the way I see it, go for it! If you’ve always wondered what green and purple look like together, buy clothes in those colours and find out! If you’ve always wanted to get extravagantly coloured hair extensions, get them!

There’s nothing like a woman developing a safety zone and choosing to always wear ‘safe’ colours – like white and black, and brown – to avoid ever standing out in a crowd.

The world is not an entirely safe place, so why should your wardrobe be any different?! That is unless ‘safe’ colours are the only ones that you have a particular leaning towards. If not, I would suggest that you learn to live a little more on the fun side.

And what’s the worst thing that could happen?

A few people might voice their disapproval, but the one thing I have learnt in my relatively short trek on planet earth, thus far, is that OTHER PEOPLE DON’T MATTER!

It is often ‘other people’ who try to bring you down, or make you not go for the things that you really want in life. They naysay about everything and anything, just to make you feel uncomfortable about having an opinion and an individual identity.

And these kinds of people will always be around us. The only real solution to overcoming their negativity is to nurture a true sense of yourself and go for what you want, regardless of what anyone might say about you. Liberate yourself from the group mentality.

Oh, I could go on and on about the fun side of colour. There’s no greater joy than discovering that your six year-old blue scarf, the purple earrings you bought yourself recently, your pink jersey and black skirt all come together to make a uniquely beautiful combination and celebration of colour.

It’s so much fun, too, to watch the passing crowds around you stop and stare and wonder where you are from because of your unique colour coordination.

For myself, my enjoyment has nothing at all to do with vanity, but rather a deep sense of appreciation that the wonderful kaleidoscope of colours I present to the external world represents the same world of living rainbows swirling inside of me.

Govt marginalising media reform

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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

I was pleased to see the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe and the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe speak out about an upcoming All Stakeholder Media Conference being organised by the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity.

The conference is themed “towards an open, tolerant, and responsible media environment.” Its objective is “to review Zimbabwe’s current media environment and policies in order to guide the Government’s media policy.” It replaces an event planned for March which Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Jameson Timba called “the first consultative step by the ministry as it reviews Zimbabwe’s media environment and policies with a view to advising the inclusive government on its new policy.”

But the substance of the two events seems quite different. As MAZ and VMCZ point out, many of the speakers in the revised programme are the same people who have blocked media freedom and opposed liberalisation of publishing and broadcasting over the past ten years.

The 15-minute presentation on “Being seen to be free and fair: Media and electioneering” is hosted by Sekeramayi, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Web 2.0 publishing gets 15 dedicated minutes – under the topic “New media and accountability: The role of ghost sites and blogs.” Way to be progressive, interim government.

How are the same people who closed off Zimbabwe’s media environment, and made it characterised by intolerance, irresponsibility and propaganda going to be the ones to open it up and make it more tolerant and responsible?

The Big Five

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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by John Eppel

It was at Punda Maria where, despite the intrusive Mopani trees and the irritating call of the Cape turtle dove, we got our first sighting.   We couldn’t believe our good luck.  If it wasn’t for a herd of impalas leaping idiotically over the road, we might have been able, with our Canon EOS 350D, to play with its shadow, its reflection, its profile.  You guessed it: a silver Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX Turbo Diesel .  My hand was shaking when I ticked it on the checklist.

Our two-night stay at the Punda Maria rest camp was all but ruined by the crowds of long-tail cassias, Natal mahoganies, sycamore figs, tamboties, and the ubiquitous mopani.  The birds were intolerable, especially that raucous francolin!  Even worse, a pack of hyenas insisted on patrolling the boundary fence.  But all was not lost, for, parked two tents down from our campsite, was a Range Rover, 3.6 litre, V8 turbo-charged and intercooled diesel engine, glovebox illumination… smell those leather seats… and emblazoned on its rump, the proud words: “Don’t try to follow me – you won’t make it”.  We must have photographed it a hundred times.

After Punda Maria we headed southtowards Shingwedzi and, with the aid of our Zeiss FL (with fluoride glass) we almost completed our checklist: Mazda, Isuzu, Volkswagen, Ford, BMW, Honda, Opel, Nissan,  Hundayi… you name it.  But we were obsessed with the Big Five, and we’d already been fortunate enough to encounter two of them.  The famed Kanniedood Drive was a big disappointment because the bush was teeming with game: obnoxious giraffe, silly wildebeest, vain zebra, supercilious kudu….  Even the skies were polluted, with kingfishers, bee eaters, storks, herons and, worst of all, eagles and vultures.   At the sight of a ground hornbill waddling along the road with no fewer than three frogs in its repulsive beak, we almost decided to turn around and head for home.

If anything, our camping experience at Shingwedzi was even worse than those disturbed nights in Punda Maria. We had to erect our tent right under an apple leaf tree!   The resident birds, none more obnoxious than the glossy starlings and the woodland kingfishers, completely spoiled our sundowner time; and our sleep was disturbed by the yelping of jackals and the eructations of rutting impala.  We even had to listen to a leopard coughing.  But then peace at last, nay joy, when we heard the arrival of the ‘best 4X4 by far’, the Landrover Defender 2.5 TDi with Aircon, CD-Radio, Power Steering, Centre Diff Lock/Rear Diff Lock, Customised Safari Equipment.  Using our flash, we got in some good shots: from the back, from the front, and from both sides.  We managed to get a wonderful close-up of the left back passenger door handle, a picture we intend to frame.

On our way to Balule we were surprised to find that the low-level causeway over the Olifants was under water.  We, along with a number of other visitors, were afraid to attempt a crossing in case the powerful current swept us into the disgusting brown river.  It seemed as if we had been marooned there for ages, pulling faces at the wire-tailed swallows and the yellow-billed storks, bored stupid by a fight between two male hippos, sickened by the cry of the fish eagle… when a seeming miracle took place.   We heard the powerful diesel engine before we witnessed it:  a snow white Toyota Fortuner 3.0TD 4X4 with all the mod cons including mp3, Elec. Windows, and Airbags.  Almost simultaneously a huge rogue elephant with tusks that ploughed the earth before it, began crossing the causeway from the other side.  There is no stopping one of the Big Five, however – except briefly, to engage  low gear – and the Fortuner  eased on to the causeway.  The current swirled about its massive, beautifully treaded wheels as it approached the elephant, now flapping its ears like carpets being dusted.

We began to giggle with excited apprehension.  Predictably the elephant chickened out and backed away, allowing the Fortuner to cross over to glory.  We cheered and cheered, as did the other stranded visitors, all deeply satisfied with our photos of that ineffable vehicle.

After an hour or two the water subsided sufficiently for us to attempt a crossing, and we were mightily relieved to get to the other side.  Balule was a most rewarding camp site since we counted no fewer than thirteen white and silver Toyota Hilux Double Cabs within the boundary fence.  If there were a sixth Big One, this vehicle would be It.  Our disappointments were restricted to a few squirrels and an ugly pair of plum-coloured starlings.  Oh, and the far too many Terminalia prunioides with their creamy flowers in slender axillary spikes, their purplish red fruits, and their long, drooping branches.

The next day turned out to be our last because we got to see the last of the Big Five; consequently there was no longer any point in enduring unpleasant scenery: bush, bush, and more bush – especially when it teemed with game.  We suspected something dramatic when, on our way to Satara, we saw a herd of buffalo surrounding a male lion, which had been mortally wounded in a battle with a sable antelope.  That was on the left side of the road.  On the right side a rhino and a leopard had teamed up to fight an elephant, and the result was carnage, enthusiastically welcomed by four species of vulture, a family of hyenas, a pack of wild dogs, a marabou stork, and God knows how many dung beetles.  And guess what we saw in the midst of it all? Yes:  the rarest and positively the most beautiful (and dangerous) of the Big Five: a Mitsubishi Pajero with Bull Bars, electronically controlled sequential multi-port fuel injection, and a place to hold a can of coke.

The power to eat

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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by Marko Phiri

There is always something uncharitable said about power whenever one has it in abundance and has the ability to influence things – and human beings. Thus it has been said that if you want something done expeditiously you must know people in high places. Power and influence. You have one, you have both. You have it all. The world in your palm. Where better else than well-connected politicians?

But there are also people in low places who have been known to have power and influence – the type that only gets you and them into trouble with the laws of Man and also the laws of nature as the favours they bestow and their line of work more often than not leave someone dead.

Power-drunk men and women have ruled ruthlessly over bamboozled men, women and children and stories abound about the Central African Republic’s Jean Bedel Bokassa being a cannibal having a strong palate for his opponents. Power to eat others, yes he had it! So imagine while enraged baddies scream “I will kill you,” you have them roaring, “I will eat you!” At least Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s Ngwazi and self-anointed President-for-life let his pet crocodiles do the eating for him. Thus man and beast became no different.

It would be interesting to look at the favourite cuisine of African presidents, as a documentary showed on DStv the other day let us in on the food enjoyed by the two Bushes, Clinton and other past American presidents.

The powerful people that we know and who tend to be held in awe by other mere mortals have for some reason always been politicians. This is despite the truism that politicians are just people after all – very fallible and very mortal like everybody else. Do politicians go hungry? Stupid question! They have a right to eat, and whatever they eat will never be used against them in a court of culinary preferences! And what do we have to say for the powerless that appear by their own peculiar circumstances to have no right to eat? They are the wretched of the earth as Fanon put it.

Politicians tend to see themselves as “the Chosen Ones” (catch my drift?) both omnipotent and omniscient in the fashion of the philosopher-kings lionised, idolised and iconised by the sages of ancient Greece, so imagine someone who by a fluke of nature has been burdened by being endowed with the exact opposite. They are neither wise nor powerful but though they are hungry, they are sure not likely to eat one of their own!

These powerless people could be wise in their own eyes, but within their realm and physical realities have no power to control anything, not even the joystick of a play station if they were handed one. How can they when they are hungry? For them everything becomes heavy, not the type seen in political heavyweights who fail to lift themselves off giant beds! Just look at them trying to get off chauffeur-driven Mercs with their sagging bellies refusing to leave the car!

We know the mysterious power and ability of politicians to erect bridges where there is no river, ability to literally build castles in the air for rural folks, etc, but it is the ultimate powerlessness of a single unemployed mother to control the destiny of her offspring that raises the spectre of human limitation in a universe where political power appears to guarantee one economic utopia and therefore eternal bliss.

Have we not seen how aspiring parliamentary candidates fall over each other and fomenting bloodbaths as they seek to earn the right to represent “we the people” only because that unspoken determination to occupy that space is informed by that yearning for power? People “naturally” associate political power with the control of not only people’s lives but more importantly resources be they natural or man-made and thus becoming an MP becomes for many the ultimate triumph in the quest of all human endevours.

Ultimately one is inclined to rather ask a rather asinine question: what is power if it gives you the right to eat and it goes on to take away the right to eat from the powerless? Crazy world huh? “I can’t talk religion (politics[i]) to a man with hunger in his eyes.”  George Bernard Shaw (1905).

If only politicians could read!


[i] italics mine.

Don’t sweep abuses under the carpet

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Bev Clark

Colletah, a Kubatana subscriber has just written to us with a demand that the Government of National Unity treat the issue of investigating human rights abuses with the respect it deserves . . .

Politicians in Zimbabwe say “Our call is to let bygones be bygones and for everyone and every entity to start anew and open a new page.”

I keep reading statements like the above about the situation in Zimbabwe. Where is logic in the people who are demanding that we forget about the past and get on to a new page. It is not possible to forget the torture in all forms that has gone on in the past political upheavals that have happened in the country. How do you think “OK YOU KILLED MY FATHER” but it does not matter that was yesterday, lets start a new page or “YOU RAPED ME” but let bygones be bygones and we start a new page.  Zimbabwe, please  be serious and be real. In post independent Zimbabwe it was “reconciliation” where the thinking was the same – lets forget and work together for Zimbabwe – now see the mess of letting bygones be bygones.

Zimbabwe  please Call a Spade a Spade and bring those that did wrong to face the music – that is logic.  This new page business is nonsense and we all know that life does not work like that.