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Archive for December, 2010

A day in the life of …

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Thandi Mpofu

In an effort to raise awareness for International Human Rights Day (10 December), Elvis Blue, South African Idols 2010 winner joined other celebrities worldwide to support the Barefoot Against Poverty Campaign. Despite his heavy schedule, he leapt at the idea of trading places with someone less fortunate than himself and agreed to experience life as a beggar. In a Press Release issued by Civicus (7 December), Blue understandably described his experience as “the hardest thing” he’d ever done. However, he also found walking in a less fortunate person’s shoes humbling and he believed that he had been made a better person for it.

Today (9/12) is International Anti-Corruption Day and I thought I could mark the day by adopting a concept similar to the Barefoot Campaign. Unlike Blue, I do not delight in the thought of subjecting myself to hardship and so I decided that I’d spend an imaginary day in the fantastic life of a GNU. HON. MP. CDE. & EOS. (Ever Obedient Son).

Not that their jobs are easy. Keeping this country moving forward and away from the detractors’ clutches demands an early start. To ensure that my strength is kept up throughout the day, at 10am I have a large breakfast (which includes a years’ supply of bacon, kindly donated by a friend). My physician (who is so kind as not to charge me for consultations) says is the most important meal of the day. In fact, a look at my form reveals that I consider all my meals important and so they are all justifiably of generous proportions.

I arrive at the office to find a pile of messages and mile-long list of things to do. With over 20 years in office I’ve acquired superior prioritisation skills and immediately get on the phone to touch base with my “father”. As his humble and obedient servant, I owe everything I am to him and I often like to share my good fortunes with him as a token of my gratitude.

The next few hours are spent meeting with or calling my accountant, my bankers, several of my farm managers, numerous business associates to convince them to make some mutually beneficial investments, some friends to thank them for their kind gifts and my realtors who manage all my houses, both big and small.

It’s almost 3pm and I prepare to leave the office to catch a chartered flight (a complimentary gift from a friend) to some remote place where I was scheduled to address some villagers at midday. On my way out, I promptly sign a scathing letter to stingy Kimberly, admonishing her for her cumbersomely correct process. Unlike my friends, she is definitely neither kind nor generous.

It is too late to return to the capital and so I check into a luxury hotel room that has efficient room service and a well-stocked mini-bar (for which I’m not being charged thanks to a good friend). I reflect on the day and am quite satisfied. I’ve accomplished a lot, managing to visit all my enterprises in the area. They are all flourishing due to the overwhelming support from my numerous friends. I was also able to make new friends who are eager to make a contribution to the cause. My address to the villagers went on well and they know what they must do to receive reward. As I fall asleep, I am quite convinced that indeed, I am a heavyweight in this game.

Politically Motivated Rape against Women in Zimbabwe

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Bev Clark

The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) have released a report entitled “No Hiding Place: Politically Motivated Rape against Women in Zimbabwe.”  This report is accompanied by a DVD “What about us?” Both the report and the DVD focus on the experiences of women members of a voluntary network set up to provide support for female victims of politically motivated rape.

Read the report here

Go out against graft

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Bev Clark

WikiLeaks and freedom of expression

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Bev Clark

An appeal fromAVAAZ to sign a petition in support of WikiLeaks:

The chilling intimidation campaign against WikiLeaks (when they have broken no laws) is an attack on freedom of the press and democracy. We urgently need a massive public outcry to stop the crackdown — let’s get to 1 million voices and take out full page ads in US newspapers this week!


WikiLeaks isn’t acting alone — it’s partnered with the top newspapers in the world (New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc) to carefully review 250,000 US diplomatic cables and remove any information that it is irresponsible to publish. Only 800 cables have been published so far. Past WikiLeaks publications have exposed government-backed torture, the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and corporate corruption.

The US government is currently pursuing all legal avenues to stop WikiLeaks from publishing more cables, but the laws of democracies protect freedom of the press. The US and other governments may not like the laws that protect our freedom of expression, but that’s exactly why it’s so important that we have them, and why only a democratic process can change them.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether WikiLeaks and the leading newspapers it’s partnered with are releasing more information than the public should see. Whether the releases undermine diplomatic confidentiality and whether that’s a good thing. Whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has the personal character of a hero or a villain. But none of this justifies a vicious campaign of intimidation to silence a legal media outlet by governments and corporations. Click below to join the call to stop the crackdown:


Ever wonder why the media so rarely gives the full story of what happens behind the scenes? This is why – because when they do, governments can be vicious in their response. And when that happens, it’s up to the public to stand up for our democratic rights to a free press and freedom of expression. Never has there been a more vital time for us to do so.

Paradise Flycatchers

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010 by Bev Reeler

They started building their nest a month ago
soon after they arrived from Zaire

For the last few weeks
we have watched these beautiful, minute creatures
set up home outside the kitchen door
and marveled at the extraordinary investment of energy involved!

we watched as a tiny cup was built of fine grasses
spider web-stitched,
and eggs laid

Last Sunday they hatched
and the parents began to work
diving, floating flashes of orange gold
snapping invisible insects out of the air around us
feeding three, inch-long scraps of skin, bone and beak

They defended their territory with huge conviction
fearlessly attacking any passing strangers
Wednesday saw them fight off a Hammercop
(just passing through on an innocent search for pond life)
attacking him with such vigour that
despite his huge bulk,
he fell off his perch
and lost his dignity.

We saw them chasing barbets and bulbuls
bombing the bush babies as they emerged at sunset

Last week we began to notice strange white sacks
with small brown tails
floating in our pond
what new life form is this?
they seemed not to fit into any category we knew

a few days later, as we sat at the table drinking coffee
the female floated over the pond and deposited a small white sack!
she was cleaning droppings from the nest
(we learnt later that they often build nests above water)
no predator would find her chicks by looking at the ground!

Today, 10 days from hatching
3 fat feathery beings are stretching their wings
struggling and jostling to stay on board
and finally out they popped
each one seemingly as large as the nest they had left
and sat on the branch stretching into this new found freedom

they are about to fly.

what extraordinary dedication
a journey of hundreds of miles
weeks of careful camouflaged nest construction
the laying of 3 precious minute eggs
the determined effort to feed
and protect them from passing predators

3 tiny new lives
no bigger than a thumb

Living in Compromise

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Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

In her editorial for the first edition of BUWA, editor Alice Kanengoni describes a typical domestic scene: women in the kitchen preparing a meal, men in front of the television or at a table playing games. I was reminded of the funerals; weddings etc that I’ve attended where the men are either around the fire or in the house waiting for a meal, drinks, and the women are doing the work. Women themselves view their rightful places in society as being by the fire or the stove, cooking and serving.

As an adult woman, I wonder at my mother’s strength and energy in my childhood; she worked full time, just like my father did, her job was just as demanding as my fathers, and yet at the end of her work day she came home to cook, clean and help with homework. My father came home to his favourite chair, television, snacks dinner and a drink.

I remember whenever I was untidy or refused to cook, or did some other unwomanly thing she would start her reprimand with “musikana akanaka ano…” (a good girl does..). When I asked her why I had to be a good girl she would reply that it’s part of our traditions, how would I be married if I couldn’t keep house? My mother is a highly educated woman, smarter than anyone I know, and a strong willed, independent thinker.  But for her, who she is at work, and who she is at home are two different and very separate people.

In her article for BUWA, titled Contemporary African Feminism, Professor Patricia McFadden writes:

In very general terms, feminism as a radical thinking/ conceptual tradition has deliberately ruptured the boundaries of conventional, often reactionary knowledge production everywhere it has been practised, and has challenged conventional as an ideological practice, by arguing for a politics of transformation and of daily life.

She goes on to say:

Feminism is the rejection of and struggle against Patriarchy (as a system and set of structures and ideologies that privilege men and allot them various forms of power in all societies) and is also the celebration of freedom for women everywhere. As Stevi Jackson and Jackie Jones (1998) put it: ” Feminist theory seeks to analyse the conditions which shape women’s lives and to explore cultural understandings of what it means to be a woman.”

For many women in Africa, feminism is something that we practise outside our homes and our families. Our cultural understanding of womanhood is sometimes in direct conflict what we say in meetings about gender equity and social justice for women. Patriarchy is something we fight at work or in the streets.  At home not only do women accept it, they also seek to perpetuate it but granting privilege to their sons and insisting that their daughters become domesticated in the traditions of their mothers, grand mothers and great grand mothers. I think many African women, like my mother and even myself have struggled, or are struggling with the notions of being an African woman, a feminist and an African Feminist. We struggle to translate an academic concept into reality in our own lives, and often end up living two lives in compromise.