COMMENT - Joyce Banda is going all out and implementing all the IMF and World Bank pleasing policies that Bingu wa Mutharika resisted. This is not democracy at work, it is another coup by the IMF and World Bank.
Implementing the national austerity drive in Malawi
By Rhodrick Junaid Kalumpha
In her maiden State of the Nation Address on 18th May 2012 President Joyce Banda, stated that as a first priority, her government is going to “launch a national austerity drive”
by cutting government expenditure through a number of on-going measures. This is a very interesting policy that needs to be analyzed thoroughly as it can unlock a great potential that has been lacking in the Malawi's economy since the dawn of multiparty democracy.
Under the austerity economic policy, the Government will aim at reducing the projected budget deficit of MK59.7billion which according to the president, was mainly financed through borrowing from the Reserve Bank of Malawi. However, austerity can also be achieved through increases in government revenues primarily via tax rises. Unfortunately, Malawians are already overtaxed, thus cutting back on government spending is the only option through which the austerity policy can be implemented.
By their nature of cutting government spending on public services and or increasing taxes, austerity measures are usually not popular with the general public. People loathe them the world over and they have been known to bring down elected governments.
[HINT! This is not democracy at work. And it has no record of economic success. The people don't want it and it doesn't work - why implement it? It is something much more sinister. - MrK]
Recent example is that of former President of France, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy who was voted out of office after only one term with austerity measures as one of the causes. Fortunately, with the abysmal state of our economy coupled with underperforming statutory corporations’ management living largesse, everyone would agree that we need to bring in the spanners to tighten our economic belts.
Another disparagement of austerity is that it asphyxiates the much needed economic growth. When the rating agency Standard & Poor’s (one of the three big credit rating agencies in the world) downgraded France and other Eurozone countries’ credit rating, it stated that "austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, since domestic demand falls in line with consumers" rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes and eroding national tax revenues. Thus austerity can become counterproductive to the very objectives it is supposed to achieve. Under austerity, domestic demand usually declines as the public feel the pinch of the government spending cuts. The private sector is also usually not spared as business falters and confidence falls since Government is the single largest spender in an economy.
Unfortunately, with the sorry state of our economy, austerity measures are not inevitable.
[Ever consider that it was austerity that caused the present state of the economy, and of course retaliation against the government by the IMF/World Bank/Donors for not implementing austerity and, for instance, supporting farmers with a fertilizer subsidy, as well as extending a business loan to the Government of Zimbabwe, a country that supposedly is 'not under economic sanctions'? - MrK]
We must cut back on unnecessary government spending and trim the perks of executive management of our statutory corporations. The President stated that among other issues to be looked at will include the size of her convoy, overseas travel and the contentious issue of the presidential jet. She clearly stated that the Minister of Finance will announce more of these measures in detail when the budget is presented. Malawians will be waiting with bated breaths to see what else will receive the chop. Hopefully, the measures will include forbidding of construction of car parking lots at MK54million or swimming pools at MK40million by statutory corporations through dodgy contracts.
[That's not 'government spending', that is corruption. - MrK]
The measures should also forbid the practice of statutory corporations CEOs attendance at the Airport every time the president is travelling or coming back. Not only are we spending money on such useless protocols, we are also losing productivity as valuable management time is lost.
One former CEO of MIPA, once lamented that he never used to attend these airport pageantries so much so that it angered the ruling elites in the UDF regime. He was eventually sacked of course this being one of the many reasons. We wish Malawi had many CEOs of such caliber. In addition, hefty entertainment and personal allowances of statutory corporations’ management must be reduced.
There is no need to pay Executives allowances just for attending a meeting in a city where their office is not located. This is absurd to say the least since it is part of their jobs. Some corporations even buy food items for their top managers, pay their cooks, have allowances for dogs, their spouses are allocated company cars and kids are chauffer-driven to schools and parties. This is ridiculous and callous to millions of Malawians who struggle everyday just to get by.
Furthermore, our embassies need to be revamped to achieve efficiency. The practice of sending people willy-nilly to embassies just to stamp receipts as “PAID” as their job description while paying them hefty salaries must be scrapped. There is also massive duplication of roles in our embassies. For instance, the Tourism Attaché can equally handle the public relations portfolio, equally, the Trade attaché can handle investments, hence no need to send four individuals for these roles which need only two. It is also important to curb the excessive lodging allowances that the staffs are paid in such embassies. For instance, it is a sheer waste of public resources to pay circa USD5000 per month for accommodation and bills for a junior “diplomat” whose only job is to stamp receipts as “PAID”.
This must be curbed immediately. An alternative is for our embassies to employ local staffs who are far much more cost-effective than bringing someone from home just because they are politically connected or the Government want to get rid of them from the system due to some well known scandal. This calls for immediate audits of our embassies to flush out both individuals who don’t deserve to be there and also cut back on excessive expenditure.
Last but not least, the ferrying of school teachers, students and civil servants to Government functions must be forbidden. Why do we need to have teachers and civil servants at Government functions that are not related to their roles? One would understand if the function is related to the role of the civil servant or the teacher or the student. Even in that case, we don’t need the entire department or the whole schoolto be there, just the key officers would be enough. We lose both productivity and money with such unnecessary pageantries. Therefore, it is imperative that spending be targeted at boosting economic growth.
However, in our case, it is also question of how savings are made and the above are some of the ways that we could attain savings. The list is too long to exhaust here. As Olli Rehn, the European Union’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs once asserted, fiscal consolidation, while necessary, must be done in a growth-friendly and differentiated way, in order to strike a balance between necessary fiscal consolidation and concerns for growth.
Fortunately in Malawi’s case, most of our excesses will not affect growth in any way, thus we can cut back as much as we can and perhaps reduce the budget deficit by almost half in the next 18 months. The time to do this is now and we must not procrastinate as our economy is bleeding heavily. Austerity must be the part of the concoction with only core services such as health, education, defense and agriculture ring-fenced from such measures.
Labels: JOYCE BANDA, MALAWI, NEOLIBERALISM
COMMENT - Of course this is micro to the macro - most of AID$ is a swindle and a boondoggle.
Three arrested for swindling Aids Commission
By Nyasa Times Reporter
May 25, 2012
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said it has arrested three people who are suspected for swindling National Aids Commission (NAC) funds amounting to K3, 487, 350 meant for training of care givers.
Spokesman of ACB, Egrita Ndala, said officers of the anti-graft bureau arrested on Wednesday Collins Msyamboza, Harry Gondwe and Lawrence Nkombedzi .
She explained that whistle-blowers in September, 2008, complained that that Nkombedzi, and Mrs. Mchombo who work as Accounts Clerk and District Aids Coordinator, respectively, for Zomba City Council misappropriated NAC funds which were meant for other duties.
Ndala said after investigations into the matter, Mrs. Mchombo was cleared as she was not directly involved.
But Msyamboza, District Social Welfare Office, Gondwe who is Assistant District Social Welfare Officer and Nkombedzi misappropriated the funds.
ACB spokesperson said Msyamboza has been charged with one count of possession of unexplained property contrary to Section (32) of the Corrupt Practices Act and one count of theft by a person employed in the public service.
“Other charges include one for forgery and one charge of procuring others to commit forgery contrary to sections (283) (1), 354, and 351of the Penal Code respectively.”
Gondwe has been charged with one count of giving false information to the ACB Officers contrary to 14 1(a) of the Corrupt Practices Act and one count of theft by a person employed in the public service contrary to section 283 (1) of the Penal Code.
Nkombedzi has been charged with one count of possession of unexplained property contrary to section 32 (2) of the Corrupt Practices Act and one count of theft by a person employed in the public service.
“ Nkombedzi has also been charged with one count each of forgery, procuring others to commit forgery and uttering a false document contrary to sections 283 (1), 354, 351 and 360 of the Penal Code respectively,” Ndala sad.
Labels: CORRUPTION, HIV/AIDS
Chikwanka backs CSO's calls for windfall tax
By Gift Chanda
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:43 CAT ANY democratically-elected government that sets conditions to only favour investors betrays its people
, says Council of Churches social and economic justice programme officer Nsama Chikwanka.
Commenting on calls by civil society organisations to reintroduce windfall tax in the mining sector, Chikwanka, a development expert, said there is need for the government to stop protecting the interests of investors at the expense of the people that ushered them into power.
Civil society organisations have stepped up calls for the reintroduction of the windfall tax on mines as the PF government prepares its first wholly developed national budget.
He said it is important for the government to establish that a country can only develop from the prudent utilisation of its various resources, both human and natural.
In this case, Chikwanka said the principal beneficiaries of Zambia's natural resource endowments should be Zambians and anything short of that is short-changing the owners of the land.
"It is betrayal of its people for a democratically-elected government to set conditions that support or favour the investors," Chikwanka said in an emailed response to a query.
"The story about ensuring that the goose is not killed should be viewed also from the point that we should not let the geese become so powerful as to start dictating how many eggs it should contribute. Any investment should not disadvantage locals."
He pointed out that at the moment, apart from the huge holes, traffic jams, finished roads, increased pollution and interim media statements, there is nothing to show for the boom in the mining sector.
"A walk to the Copperbelt tells the whole story; all roads leading to all major mining towns are in deplorable state and are death traps," Chikwanka said.
"The government needs to start governing instead of protecting the interests of investors."
He called on the government to involve everyone in the country's development agenda.
"Our greatest challenge is the unclear tax system for the country. Firstly, there are so many taxes in the sector, some of which are conflicting, and are responsible for the misunderstanding that is created when companies start giving their total contribution to the treasury. We need tax policies and systems that can be understood by all; at the moment, there is a system that works for and is only understood by government and sector investors. The current discourse is confusing to the common Zambian who is left to wonder how tax experts have failed to agree on this concept," Chikwanka said.
"So the challenge is for Zambia to harmonise its tax system that will be clear for all because at the moment, only the government and investors claim to understand what taxes are collected and how much.
"Any tax information that is coming from civil society and other interest groups is disputed."
He further noted that the other compounding factor to the whole tax debate in the mining sector is the secrecy surrounding the mining agreements.
International Monetary Fund country representative Perry Perone recently revealed that the Zambian government had agreed to conduct a comprehensive review of the mining tax regime.
"Until the government comes in the open to state the nature of the mining agreements, Zambians are justified in their speculations and cannot be blamed for concluding there is corruption and abuse of authority in the whole process," said Chikwanka.
Labels: CSO, DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENTS, IMF, MINING, TAXATION, WINDFALL TAX
Judges judging themselves
By The Post
Sat 26 May 2012, 13:00 CAT
IF you are honest, truly honest, you won't be corrupted. If you are unassuming and have a clear understanding of the worth of people and of yourself, you won't be corrupted. And it is very important to maintain eternal vigilance about this throughout one's life and be very self-critical. It is also very important to always examine everything one has done, checking to see whether it was correct or not, whether or not one let oneself be carried away, whether or not pride had anything to do with it.
It is said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And for this reason, the exercise of power must be the constant practice of self-limitation and modesty.
Looking at what has happened over the last few weeks with our Judiciary and some of our judges, soon people will know everything about what happened: what we did and what our adversaries did, what goals we sought and what goals our adversaries sought, and who was right - we or the judges who were conniving, abusing the judicial system to find us wanting and humiliate us, who had acted dishonestly in discharging a public trust, who had abandoned their oath and who were serving the interests of corruption and abuse.
We challenged them, absolutely convinced that the justice, ideas we were seeking, defending would triumph in our homeland someday - a conviction we will always hold, that humanity's legitimate causes will always advance and triumph eventually.
Our adversaries mobilised all sorts of disgruntled elements to speak for them. They were not short of propaganda against us. All sorts of lies have been told against us. They have tried very hard to spread all sorts of disinformation.
Today, they can even take the prize in lies and calumny. They went even to tell lies that Fred M'membe and judge Albert Wood went to the same school - St John's Secondary School in Mongu. Yes, Fred attended school at St John's and did his Form I to Form III there and then moved on to St Francis Secondary School, Malole, Kasama.
Even at University of Zambia, the two never met in the same school. They were there at different times and in different places. But this is the lie that some of these judges are peddling against judge Wood and us.
This was the reason they themselves stated for removing judge Wood from that case, claiming he was a friend of Fred. But the same judges have commenced judicial review proceedings and have even obtained a stay from their own friends, their own workmates.
And they want the complaints against them to be decided upon by their own friends and workmates. When Sebastian Zulu, our Minister of Justice, calls this anarchy, they want to accuse him of being unprofessional and unrespectful of the court! This is truly anarchy.
This is truly selfishness, greed and vanity. This is truly lack of respect for others and for themselves. If they had a sense of shame, they wouldn't be doing the things they are doing and they wouldn't have done the things they have done.
It is clear the Judiciary has been turned into a kangaroo court where judges can connive and handle matters in a manner that suits them. There is justice for themselves and none for others. We did not choose to appear before judge Wood. It is they themselves who allocated the matter to judge Wood. We didn't take the matter to court.
It is us who were taken to court. We have no problems whatsoever with the merits or demerits of the case. What we have a problem with is their conduct, their collusion to defeat the course of justice and fix us. And if one reads their judgments, it is not difficult to discern their malice and ill-will. And it is this that motivated their criminal acts against us.
We know that these judges will get the judgments they want from their own Judiciary, their own friends, their own workmates. It is a league. And at the helm of this league are their friends.
It's a cartel. And they are there to protect their own interests and those of their friends. We know what is going on; everybody knows what they are doing. They have joined hands with the opposition and the media run by ex-convicts who have issues with us, politically and otherwise.
They have been feeding into these elements. And today they have the audacity to accuse others of talking about matters that are in court! What type of double standards are these? You cannot call others to virtues which you yourselves do not make an effort to practice.
Batila mwikala patalala mwine apatalalika. They started this problem they themselves. We peacefully and respectfully asked them to try and address their own problems. Their responses were full of lies, contradictions and arrogance. They saw themselves as being the alpha and the omega as far as this case was concerned.
They acted arrogantly and without care because they saw no other way for us to deal with their injustices against us. They thought wherever we turn, we will find them or their friends to sort us out. If we appeal to the Supreme Court, their friends will be there to take care of things. If we go to the Judicial Commission, their friends are there.
In fact, in one of their letters to us, they said there is nothing that we can do. But what they forgot is that when one door is closed, many more are open. That's why they could not take it when a complaint was launched with the Ministry of Justice and eventually the President appointed a tribunal to investigate our complaint against them.
They have been talking, they have been bragging and we were just listening and watching them because ubuchenjeshi bwa nkoko pungwa tasakamana. Today they are even bragging that they are back to work and the matter is going nowhere, it was just a small confusion that they have cleared.
Cleared! How? They are joking. If they think they are the ultimate powers in this country, then they have got it wrong because real power does not lie with them. It lies, and will always lie, with the people.
If they think because they control the Judiciary, then they will use it to defend themselves even when they are wrong, what will they say if others also use what they have to defend themselves? If this becomes the order of the day and the way to resolve disputes, what will remain of this country?
This will be a destruction of the authority of the state. If you destroy the authority of the state, the consequences are terrible. They may not intend to do so but this will be the final result of the scheme they have embarked on. And they are making enormous mistakes by failing to foresee the consequences of what they are doing and by not doing the right thing to reach the goals and purposes they are proclaiming.
What they are doing is unleashing a lot of negative tendencies, and opportunistic elements are in the process being introduced to destroy a lot of things. They have made enormous mistakes and have unleashed a process that will be self-destructive for themselves and for their league.
Judge Chisanga personal - Zulu
By Kombe Chimpinde and Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:45 CAT
JUSTICE minister Sebastian Zulu has accused High Court judge Fulgence Chisanga of being personal in her judgment delivered against the state in which she decided to sustain a stay of proceedings of a tribunal appointed by President Michael Sata to probe the alleged misconduct of three suspended judges.
Meanwhile, the judges that held a closed-door meeting with President Sata at State House on Thursday afternoon failed to raise the issue of their suspended colleagues during the interaction, according to sources.
On May 17, the state, through Solicitor General Musa Mwenye, filed summons to discharge the leave to commence judicial review proceedings earlier ordered by judge Chisanga following an application by two of the suspended High Court judges - Nigel Mutuna and Charles Kajimanga.
Judge Chisanga said in her judgment, that: "At the hearing, Mr Shonga Junior sought guidance from the court in view of statements being made and made particular reference to the Honourable Minister of Justice who had given a press conference on the matter. When asked, the learned Solicitor General Musa Mwenye informed the court that he was not privy to statements allegedly made by the Minister of Justice and left it to the court to deal there with. I accordingly directed that no press statements be issued on the matter, it being subjudice and advised the Solicitor General to impress upon his clients from making comments on the process before the court."
She described Zulu's statements that decisions made by the state are not amenable to be stayed in judicial review proceedings as misguided.
"It is therefore misguided to characterise the consideration by the court of a matter duly issued out of the High Court as anarchy," she said in her judgment.
"This conduct is unbecoming of a person on whom the lofty status of State Counsel has been coffered and in fact demeans the eminent status."
Judge Chisanga further said Zulu's statements were "unreservedly contemptuous of the court" and that "professional ethics were seemingly sacrificed on the altar of expediency".
But Zulu said the remarks attributed to him in the judgment were personal.
"She is being personal but as I said I don't want to comment on that. I am state counsel myself and remember that the last bite is the deepest or the last cut is the deepest. Let her have her day; I don't want to be arguing with the judge at this point in time. She is a judge, she is entitled to say anything in her judgment. And me as politician I have got my own word also so we have different roles," Zulu said.
He said the state did not have any preconceived ideas by embarking on state reforms but to merely clean up the Judiciary.
"We are not pleased. We are dissatisfied with the judgment and I instructed the Solicitor General to appeal. We are going to the Supreme Court in chambers. That's the way forward. All we want are reforms in the Judiciary, that is all I am saying. I hope that the Solicitor General will make an application very, very soon. The state has since filed a notice of appeal on the matter," said Zulu.
The state is on Monday expected to file appeal documents in the Supreme Court following judge Chisanga's decision to sustain the stay of a tribunal appointed to probe the alleged misconduct of three suspended judges.
And sources told The Post yesterday that the selected judges who consisted High Court judges-in-charge and three Supreme Court judges, among others, did not have a clear-cut agenda for their meeting with President Sata.
"They judges didn't give any agenda. They just came and said they wanted to meet," the source said.
"At the end of the day they just started talking of the difficulties they had in terms of furniture. So there was nothing serious that they raised. I suspect they came to raise things but they didn't have the courage."
President Sata's special assistant for press and public relations George Chellah stated in a press release on Thursday that the meeting which lasted about one hour, was cordial, as both parties conferred on matters of common interest concerning the challenges facing the Judiciary.
Others that attended the meeting are justice minister Sebastian Zulu, Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito, Attorney General Mumba Malila and Solicitor General Musa Mwenye.
President Sata, according to Chellah, stressed the need for constant dialogue and interaction between the Executive and the Judiciary.
Labels: JUDICIARY, MUSA MWENYE
Jails are now for MMD - Namugala
By Post Staff
Sat 26 May 2012, 13:00 CAT
CATHERINE Namugala says jails in the country are now full of MMD members. Meanwhile, Enoch Kavindele says the MMD has lost out on his ability to re-organise the party by voting for Pastor Nevers Mumba as its president.
The provincial conventions held yesterday elected Pastor Mumba as the party's new leader after he polled 870 votes, representing 67.3 per cent, in a re-run, beating Felix Mutati who followed with 422.
In the first round, Pastor Mumba came out first with 557 votes against his closest rival, Mutati, who polled 366, but failed to garner the required 51 per cent vote.
This necessitated the amendment of the 51 per cent clause which was replaced with a requirement that the winning candidate gets 50 per cent plus one vote.
Mutati, who conceded defeat, said the poll outcome was a victory for the party as democracy, one of the tenets on which it was founded, had prevailed.
"I am willing to serve the party in any position members deem fit," said Mutati when he addressed cadres outside Charles Fisher Hall in Kitwe yesterday.
And Kavindele, the former Republican vice-president, said he was ably knowledgeable of the party, being a long-serving MMD member.
"Well, they will lose my ability to reorganise the party and my knowledge of the party. I would like to believe that our members who have voted…do know what they were promised. So we look to the reorganisation of the party," said Kavindele.
"Well, the people have decided. We campaigned. We told them what we will do for the party. They have chosen…That is what democracy is all about."
Addressing MMD members before the start of the presidential convention at Luangwa House in Chipata yesterday, Namugala, the MMD national chairperson for women, said it was unfortunate that the PF government "want to silence the opposition".
"We have seen what has started happening. In Lusaka we see them, even in Mafinga, we see them. If they (PF government) see you speaking, they arrest you and lock you up. The jails are now for MMD and not any other people. When you say 'this is wrong' they lock you up. This is not the country we fought for in 1991, no," Namugala said.
She said Zambians wanted democracy so that they do not live like slaves.
"We didn't vote to become slaves in 1991, we voted for democracy so that people can vote for the person they want. If one wants to be MMD, that person will be MMD, not what the PF is doing now. They are removing MMD members in cooperatives and clubs, they only want PF members," Namugala said.
She urged MMD members to be strong for the sake of the country.
"Let's be strong, if they are to throw us in (police) cells then they should put all of us in police cells. Don't fear and be strong. We want MMD to be strong because the country can be destroyed without a strong opposition," Namugala said.
She urged the delegates to vote for someone who was capable of making MMD bounce back to power in 2016.
"You lost president Rupiah Banda; you registered in masses but instead of going to vote, you went to look for bush mouse. You refused to go and vote for your relative by remaining at home. Very few people voted for Rupiah Banda and he lost. So today, we want you to vote well so that MMD can bounce back," Namugala said.
She urged provincial MMD chairperson Ezekiel Mtonga to keep the party members well.
Namugala said the grassroot MMD membership was intact and that only those who want to buy vehicles and houses were leaving the party.
Only three MMD members of parliament - Whiteson Banda for Milanzi, Levy Ngoma for Sinda and Reuben Mtolo Phiri for Chipata Central whose election was nullified by the High Court recently but has since appealed against the judgment - out of 15 in the province were in attendance at the convention.
And the MMD has created two positions for the vice-presidency.
The position of party vice-president in the MMD, last held by Kavindele, was frozen in 2005 by the national executive committee during Levy Mwanawasa's reign.
Labels: CATHERINE NAMUGALA, ENOCH KAVINDELE, FELIX MUTATI, MMD, NEVERS MUMBA
DEC arrests BY's wife
By Masuzyo Chakwe
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:45 CAT
THE Drug Enforcement Commission has arrested Benjamin Mwila's wife, Margaret, and a finance manager of Wade Adams Piling and Foundations Zambia Limited for issuing cheques on an insufficiently- funded account and money laundering.
DEC public relations officer Samuel Silomba stated yesterday that Margaret Kakungu Lombe Mwila, 50, of plot number 9721, Chudleigh, Lusaka, was arrested and jointly charged on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 with Hartwell Chazya Sikaundi, 67, a finance manager of flat number 4, Impala Court Northmead Lusaka, for issuing two cheques on an insufficiently funded account.
Silomba stated that this was contrary to Section 33 (I) of the National Payment Systems Act No. 1 of 2007.
He stated that the two, in their capacities as director and finance manager, respectively, of Wade Adams Piling and Foundations Zambia Limited, willfully, dishonestly and with intent to defraud, issued two cheques amounting to K70 million on an insufficiently funded account as payment for two motor vehicles, a Toyota Nadia and a Nissan Datsun from Tokyo Vehicles Limited.
Silomba stated that the suspects would appear in court soon.
On Wednesday, DEC also warned and cautioned Mwila, commonly known as BY, for issuing an undisclosed number of cheques on an insufficiently funded account.
Labels: BEN MWILA, DEC
Foreigners should not divide Africa - Matoka
By Abigail Sitenge
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:45 CAT
FREEDOM fighter Dr Peter Matoka says Africans should not allow external forces to divide the continent. In an interview in Lusaka after the commemoration of Africa Freedom Day celebrations at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Dr Matoka said foreigners should not divide Africa again.
"…We are now building the African unity for the rest of a happier future for our young people," he said.
Dr Matoka who is also Copperstone University chancellor said Africa would not be divided by anyone once the continent remained united and ran its affairs in a proper way.
"Unity is strength…We should be proud of our continent Africa," he said.
Dr Matoka said Africa Freedom Day celebrations should be encouraged because they bring about unity.
"…And young people should learn that they don't just belong to Zambia but to Africa as a whole," said Dr Matoka.
And during the same occasion, dean of African Diplomats and Botswana High Commissioner to Zambia, Ditlhabi Oliphant, said Africa Freedom Day was born as a result of the desire and commitment by African leaders who had a vision for the liberation, independence, redemption and unity of the African continent.
Oliphant paid special tribute to the gallant freedom fighters of the Zambian Liberation Struggle, both past and present.
The celebrations attracted freedom fighters among them Grey Zulu, General Malimba Masheke, Bernadette Sikanyika and Christina Mulunolika.
Meanwhile, foreign affairs deputy minister Effron Lungu said there was need to fully harness the economic potential and promote intra-Africa trade as well as investment within the continent.
Dr Lungu said Africa must strive towards attaining economic cooperation both at bilateral and multi-lateral levels, having been freed from the bondage of colonialism.
Labels: AFRICA FREEDOM DAY, PANAFRICANISM, PETER MATOKA
Kibaki appoints judge Chomba to Kenya's judges vetting board
By Speedwell Mupuchi
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:43 CAT
JUSTICE Frederick Chomba, a former Supreme Court judge, is among nine judges Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki appointed to the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board.
Other members of the board include Sharad Rao, the chairperson, local Kenyan justices Roseline Odede, Abdirashi Abdulahi, Meuledi Iseme, Ngotho Wa Kariuki, Justus Munyinthya, and Albi Sachs of South Africa and Georgina Wood of Ghana.
Judge Chomba's appointment to the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board is in accordance with the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act of 2011.
According to the Act, the nine-member board should have three judges from other countries and three from Kenya.
The board established as an independent body through an Act of Parliament is charged with the responsibility to determine the suitability of a judge or magistrate by considering whether or not they met criteria for appointment as judge of the superior court or as magistrate; their past record, including past judicial pronouncements, competence and diligence; any pending or concluded criminal cases before a court of law against them; any recommendations for their prosecution by the Attorney-General or the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission; pending complaints from any person or body, including the Law Society of Kenya, Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, Disciplinary Committee, Advocates Complaints Commission, Attorney-General, Public Complaints Standing Committee, Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission, National Security Intelligence Service, Police or, Judicial Service Commission.
According to the Act, the board in considering matters shall take into account professional competence - intellectual capacity, legal judgment, diligence, substantive and procedural knowledge of the law, organisational and administrative skills and the ability to work well with a variety of other people - written and oral communication skills; integrity - a demonstrable consistent history of honesty and high moral character in professional and personal life, respect for professional duties, arising under the codes of professional and judicial conduct; and ability to understand the need to maintain propriety and the appearance of propriety; fairness - being impartial to all persons and commitment to equal justice under the law - temperament, the elements of which shall be a demonstrable possession of compassion and humility; history of courtesy and civility in dealing with others; ability to maintain composure under stress and ability to control anger and maintain calmness and order; good judgement and common sense.
Other issues the board considers include legal and life experience, the elements of which include the amount of legal experience and suitability of the experience for the position, including trial and other courtroom experience and administrative skills; broader qualities reflected in life experience such as the diversity of personal and educational history, exposure to persons of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Kenya Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutanga on April 30 when he met the Vetting Board stated that judicial officers now and in future must be competent, diligent, knowledgeable, organised and able to work with a variety of people.
"Expeditious vetting satisfies the aspirations of the constitution, for we see the clean-up of the Judiciary as only the beginning of Kenya's social transformation. It is important that when the Judiciary is called upon to adjudicate on matters of leadership and integrity, as is likely to happen at a time when the country chooses candidates for executive and legislative positions, the Judiciary shall not be found with a single blot on its character," he stated.
"It is an exercise that is unprecedented in the Commonwealth - one that requires a delicate balance of high-level professionalism and deep sensitivity to both the judicial officials whose record your Board continues to examine, as well as the public that has exceedingly high expectations of those who would sit in judgment over its affairs.
"Even as we take stock of these decisions, it is imperative that we avoid the temptation to see them through the sharp prism of narrow individualism which, in the first place, put so many of our institutions in trouble in the past. ... Ordinary Kenyans demanded a transformed Judiciary that would take seriously the task of winning back public confidence. This is one of the tools they chose to test the mettle and institutional commitment of the Judiciary to undergo transformation. I assure Kenyans that I will not allow our departing colleagues to be stepped on while they are down... For the rest of us who continue to serve, we must be aware that the bar of public service has been raised so high that it will not be possible to merely do the bare minimum to get by."
Labels: JUDICIARY, MWAI KIBAKI
Farmers threaten to quit maize production
By Gift Chanda in Choma and Masuzyo Chakwe in Lusaka
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:43 CAT
FARMERS have threatened to abandon maize production next year should the government decide to reintroduce grain levies
. On Wednesday, local government minister Nkandu Luo reiterated that the government was looking at ways of reintroducing the grain levy which was removed in 2009.
The grain levy is a form of tax charged, normally by the councils, on anyone transporting grain from one district to another.
During a livestock field day held at Moomba farm in Choma on Thursday, farmers through their representative body, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), strongly rejected intentions by the government to reintroduce grain levies.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba who spoke on behalf of the farmers, said it was not necessary to bring back grain levies.
Zimba argued that grain levies were mere additional costs to farmers and when they are collected, benefits do not accrue to the agriculture sector.
"Bringing back the grain levy has serious repercussions on the agriculture sector," Zimba said amid applauds from farmers.
He wondered what impact the levies would have on the agriculture sector if they were to be introduced this time because they failed to benefit the sector before they were removed.
"What benefits did you farmers get when you were paying grain levies to the councils? All we used to hear was that the councilors have increased their allowances and are driving luxurious vehicles yet my grandmother in the village who is farming is sleeping in a grass thatched hut and walking to town on foot," he said.
"We farmers have got to be united in this country more than ever. The challenges ahead of us are too many. His excellence the President Mr Michael Sata said he wanted to put more money in the pockets of people, now these people the government want to remove the money again from farmers' pockets. I don't know why we farmers have got to keep suffering."
Zimba said reintroducing grain levies would just add to the numerous challenges farmers face which range from delayed payments by the Food Reserve Agency to exploitative prices by traders.
Agriculture deputy minister Brigadier General Benson Kapaya, who was officiating at the same event, ignored to comment on the concerns raised by the farmers but instead quickly detailed programmes the government was implementing to help revamp the livestock sector.
Brig Gen Kapaya also pledged government's collaboration with farmers, the ZNFU, in improving the livestock sector.
Meanwhile, the joint government investigations team has formally charged and arrested seven depot and co-operative employees for theft by agent contrary to section 272 and 278 of the Penal code, Cap 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
Joint investigations team public relations officer Namukolo Munyeme Kasumpa stated yesterday that Berlington Sikazwe, 60, and Fred Kalumbi, 50, both of Ntungo Village, chief Tafuna's area, Mbala district in their capacity as chairman and vice-chairman of Ntungo Co-operative, respectively, who are official buyers of maize had failed to account for 612 by 50 kilogramme bags of maize valued at K39, 780,000.
Kasumpa stated that in the same vein, a motor vehicle, Fuso Fighter Registration number ALC 2743 had been seized from Joseph Kalenga, chairman of Kavungo Co-operative in Mbala district in relation to theft of FRA maize at Kavungo depot.
She stated that Kalenga was currently on the run.
Kasumpa also stated that Steven Musinga Simukawanga, a depot buyer of the same Kavungo depot had also been charged with theft.
She stated that in the same maize scam, a transporter owning a company called Visi Transporters, engaged by FRA to transport maize from different depots in Mbala district had failed to account for 503 bags of maize valued at K32.6 million which were loaded from Kavungo and Kamuzwazi Satelite depots in Mbala district.
"Mr. Victor Siame aged 40 from Mwengo Village and owner Of Visi Transporters is said to have engaged his relatives by the names of Joachim Siame aged 42, Felix Siame aged 33 and James Siame aged 30 as drivers who diverted the 503 bags to a house number eight in messenger compound belonging to Mrs Clementina Nayame who is a sister to Siame. Of the 503 bags, a total of 94 bags of maize have been recovered by the investigations team," stated Kasumpa.
Labels: MAIZE, ZNFU
ILO warns of growing disconnection between people, governments
By Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:42 CAT
INTERNATIONAL Labour Organisation director-general Juan Somavia says the growing disconnection between people and politics is fuelling a global reaction of discontent.
Addressing a Youth Employment Forum that closed at the International Labour Organisation (ILO)'s head office in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday, Somavia warned of a growing disconnection between people and policy, as well as between people and governments.
"Many people are saying 'you are not taking my situation into account'," Somavia said.
"This is particularly true in the case of youth and young people whose feeling is often: 'OK, you talk about our issues but we're not there, we're not there in the process."
He also warned of growing discontent over the way the global crisis had been handled in Europe but hailed developing countries that followed a different track and increased social protection.
"This discontent is fuelling today a global reaction," Somavia said.
"Many European countries stuck in an 'austerity-led recession,' are looking at the crisis from a purely financial point of view, while the public is asking 'what about us? We're paying the cost for a crisis we had no responsibility whatsoever in producing'," he said.
"By contrast, many developing countries came out of the crisis quicker and with different policies than the developed economies that are still mired in the crisis."
He said those countries that took care of their debt years ago did not need to borrow from the International Monetary Fund IMF to confront the latest global economic crisis.
"They were able to put policies in place in which they increased minimum wages, they expanded social protection, they did a lot of things that would not have been possible had they followed the same policies being applied in Europe," Somavia said.
He hailed the young people at the Forum for trying to change society for the better, pointing out that this was "no easy task".
"Is it worth it? Is it moving forward? Are we really changing anything? Is this activism having effect? Let me tell you, the answer is yes, it is yes, yes, yes," said Somavia.
The Youth Employment Forum was a precursor to the 101st International Labour Conference that kicks off in Geneva from May 30 to June 14, 2012.
Labels: GREAT DEPRESSION II, ILO
Government aims to empower people in rural areas
By Cynthia Phiri in Pemba
Sat 26 May 2012, 12:42 CAT
SOUTHERN Province minister Obvious Mwaliteta says the government is looking at policies that can narrow the gap between the urban and rural areas. Mwaliteta said narrowing the gap between urban and rural people can be done through empowering rural communities by devolving power to the local people.
He said this in Pemba yesterday before touring some land that has been identified for the construction of administration offices for the new district. Mwaliteta said there were huge disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of infrastructure development.
"The gap will be narrowed up as some rural areas begin to open up which will see the construction of high schools, filling stations, banks and shopping malls, among other things that go with the district status," he said.
"I urge all districts in Southern Province that have been created to quickly identify land where district administration offices will be built. Some are taking too long in trying to frustrate government efforts."
Mwaliteta said the government aims to empower people in rural areas to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich and that the answer lay in ensuring that the business environment for the private sector was improved by supporting market integration activities and ensuring micro-economic stability.
"…The other way is for us to open up areas for the private sector to partner with the government. The creation of the districts in Southern Province has got nothing to do with politics but has everything to do with helping the poor people. Moreover, Southern Province has a high population; we cannot deny you the districts because some people somewhere will criticise us by doing that; we have created these districts because we are devolving power and resources to the people. We want to ensure that even the poor are incorporated," he explained.
Mwaliteta said the creation of districts would provide a lot of employment opportunities for the local people.
"This will put more money in people's pockets and in turn, poverty will be eradicated," said Mwaliteta.
Labels: RURAL AREAS, SOUTHERN PROVINCE
Eddie Cross: A cross we do not have to bear
Tuesday, 22 May 2012 21:33
ISRAEL’S greatest king, Solomon, was only 12 years old when God promised him that he would be granted wisdom, and be the wisest man who ever lived. In the very first recorded decision in the history of legal jurisprudence, in the Book of Kings (3:16),
Solomon’s brilliance endeared him to the entire nation of Israel at that tender age.
Two women who laid claim to the same child following the death of one of the women’s children during the night approached King Solomon at his court.
To determine who the real mother of the baby was, the wise King proposed that the living baby be cut into two with each woman getting half the body.
The one who was laying false claim to the child readily agreed to the proposal saying, ‘‘Neither mine nor yours; shall he be. Cut!’’ But the real mother pleaded with the King to spare the child’s life, even if it meant giving the baby to the spiteful woman.
And through her compassion for her baby, King Solomon separated the mother from the impostor.
Israel was awed at the wisdom of one so young.
Well, we can apply this verdict of the ages to many situations among them Eddie Cross’ purported love for Zimbabwe. The bellicose, bankrupt MDC-T policy co-ordinator, who — at the height of the hyper-inflationary period — said, ‘‘. . . we should let the country crash and burn and then pick up the pieces’’, is no different from the impostor mother at King Solomon’s court?
Cross of the ‘‘crash and burn’’ infamy was back again with another ironic “gem” earlier this week saying his party, MDC-T, would unleash a wave of violence against Zanu-PF officials if it wins elections set for this year.
In an article published on his website — www.eddiecross.africanherd.com — and flighted by several Internet sites, Cross threatens violence and retribution against Zanu-PF if Morgan Tsvangirai lands the presidency in the next election.
‘‘People may well take matters into their own hands and take retribution against those who committed Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the general violations that have characterised the behaviour of the regime managed by these same hardliners.
[Quoting Cross: "If they force through the kind of Constitution they are trying to get agreed at COPAC then they will still have to face a new President with very considerable powers and centralized authority. In either case there would be two immediate consequences. The first is that the people may well take matters into their own hands and take retribution against those who committed Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the general violations that have characterized the behavior of the regime managed by these same hardliners." - MrK
“If that is not bad enough, the hardliners have to know that we in the MDC have kept detailed records of every violation of our rights and the abuse of the people.
“We have all the facts and evidence to press charges against several thousand thugs and worse and many of the most senior leaders responsible could face The Hague,’’ he charged without any sense of irony.
Surprising, quite surprising coming from a Rhodie who was spared the gallows by the same people he threatens today. Who does not know that Rhodies had a hand in Gukurahundi, along with their allies in apartheid SA?
[Check out the history of Super ZAPU and Operation Drama, as recounted by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe' report. - MrK]
Cross should be careful lest he be hoist by his own petard. He should not insult the nation’s collective memory by adopting a holier than thou attitude when even the blind can read our scars like braille.
By his own admission, Eddie Cross worked for Rhodesia, moving people from prime agro-ecological regions to semi-arid ones, which makes him a Rhodie to the core.
He is a cross we have had to bear due to our good hearts when we could have nailed him on the cross along with his Rhodesian kith and kin on account of the atrocities they committed during the liberation struggle.
That the same man who was spared the gallows by the progressive policy of reconciliation stands up today to thumb his nose at his benefactors to the extent of issuing empty threats, and misrepresenting history, testifies to the triumph of our democractic tradition and tolerance.
That we are a thriving democracy can only be contested by mentally and financially bankrupt characters of Cross’ ilk.
Democratic elections have been constant features of our body politic since we taught it to the likes of Eddie Cross. This democracy, however, was not handed to us on a silver platter as we had to fight for it and continue defending it from those who want to subvert it for their selfish, neo-colonial ends.
The subversion began at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, where British and Rhodesian interests ensured that, for a whole decade, 20 seats were reserved for white MPs and white voters per se in the post independence binary voters roll.
This provision ensured that the likes of Ian Douglas Smith, the former Rhodesian prime minister, continued to defile the august house with their supercilious diatribes, under the aegis of the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe, formerly the Rhodesian Front.
Smith and his white supremacist cronies were, however, tolerated in line with the new policy of reconciliation espoused by Prime Minister Mugabe, who proclaimed in his address to the nation on the night of Thursday April 17, 1980 that;
‘‘If yesterday I fought you as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest, loyalty, rights and duties as myself. If yesterday you hated me, today you cannot avoid the love that binds you to me and me to you.’’
Where would Cross be if Government had decided to take the route of retribution on account of Rhodie atrocities not the imaginary charge sheet he waves at Zanu-PF?
This spirit of tolerance exists to this day even though the Rhodesians have regrouped under the Western-funded MDC, which continues the futile quest of subversion. The hideous intentions are always couched in the neo-liberal regimen of minimalist democracy; rule of law and something called “good governance”.
For instance, the MDC’s first motion in parliament was an attempt at impeaching President Mugabe for alleged human rights abuses, the irony was the fact that some opposition elements who served in the Rhodesian security forces were part of the motion.
Yet if it were not for the largesse of the man they wanted to oust, they would have been hanged for atrocities in areas such as Nyadzonia, Chimoio, Tembwe, Freedom camp, and the Zimbabwean countryside.
On their first day in the house, the MDC legislators wore black armbands “mourning” fictitious “victims” of political violence, rather than the thousands of patriots who made it possible, even for askaris of their ilk, to masquerade as representatives of the people.
The MDC and those who follow it forget that the liberation struggle itself was a quest for good governance.
Good governance, being the empowerment of the people through people-centred programmes such as agrarian reforms.
It is not measured by high-scores on the neo-liberal indices of the self-styled Western “human rights” watchdogs such as Reporters sans Frontieres, Transparency International, AfroBarometer and the West Minster Foundation for Democracy, to name just a few.
Good governance is measured by the socio-economic transformation of the lives of the previously marginalised indigenous populace, and on this score we are not found wanting.
Its, however, quite instructive that it makes Cross very cross.
Labels: EDDIE CROSS, MDC VIOLENCE
RBZ blacklists Zimplats . . . blocks platinum mine’s access to banking services
Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00
THE Reserve Bank has directed banks to stop offering banking services to Zimplats after the platinum producer defied an order to repatriate funds in its offshore accounts. In February, the Government put in place a policy compelling mining firms to close offshore accounts and transfer the money into local accounts, but Zimplats did not comply.
RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono said this will not be allowed to continue, warning that any bank that did not take heed will face “serious penalties”.
RBZ senior division chief (Exchange Control) Mr Morris Mpofu yesterday directed banks not to process any transactions from Zimplats.
“Due to failure by Zimplats to adhere with the provisions of this directive to close their offshore accounts and transfer their funds to a bank onshore as directed, exchange control has taken corrective administrative measures to enforce
compliance,” read part of the letter.
“In this regard, authorised dealers are hereby advised to stop processing and facilitating international or any cross border payments on behalf of Zimplats . . . (and) to stop processing and facilitating any exports, including the issuance of export documentation, electronic or otherwise on behalf of Zimplats.”
Zimplats spokesperson Mrs Busi Chindove yesterday said Zimplats had received the RBZ directive and had no objection to it.
“Zimplats acknowledges receipt of the RBZ directive. However, we must say we were surprised because in reality Zimplats had no objection to the initial communication from the RBZ. To this end, the company is now paying for 75 percent of its expenditure in Zimbabwe. The remaining 25 percent related to observing the tenets of its foreign loans that were raised with the knowledge, support and approval of the monetary authorities. Zimplats is urgently liaising with the Monetary
Authorities to resolve this matter amicably,” Mrs Chindove said.
Earlier yesterday, Dr Gono had told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Small to Medium Enterprises that he will take drastic action on Zimplats.
“Just this morning, before I came to this meeting, I had a running battle with one of the companies that sought to defy the central bank directive,” said Dr Gono.
“This company is Zimplats. I have said no to that. If it defies, everyone else will defy. I will not accept a situation which causes anarchy.”
Zimplats once resisted the indigenisation policy, but later submitted an acceptable plan on how it intends to allocate at least 51 percent of its stake to indigenous people.
In an interview after the session, Dr Gono said other big mining companies like Mimosa had complied.
Dr Gono said Zimplats accounted for at least 25 percent of the country’s mining exports.
Zimplats, said Dr Gono, was the only firm in this country that sought to defy the RBZ, saying executives from the company were now inciting other firms to disregard the directive.
Mimosa, owned by Implats, the majority shareholder in Zimplats, had complied.
“The same shareholder is now questioning why Mimosa management should not learn from Zimplats’ management style, political and other connections.
“We are not taking their operating licence . . . That’s for Minister (Dr Obert) Mpofu. I am merely expelling them from using the country’s financial infrastructure of which I am the chief superintendent,” said Dr Gono, adding Zimplats was free to appeal to the Minister of Finance.
“They are free to appeal to my Minister and only when and if the Minister gives me instructions otherwise, then they can operate a bank account but without that, they must comply with my directives borne out of exchange controls and directives of the central bank,” said Dr Gono.
He said defiance by any bank to the directive will not be tolerated.
In March, Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Mpofu said Cabinet resolved that all mining firms should bank with local banks after it emerged that billions of dollars in export earnings were kept offshore.
This was happening at a time when the economy was facing serious liquidity constraints.
In February, Dr Gono and Finance Minister Tendai Biti also announced that with effect from March 1 2012 banks will be required to maintain a maximum of 25 percent of their nostro accounts balances offshore to meet their day-to-day international payment obligations while repatriating the balance. The maximum will rise to 30 percent with effect from June 1 this year.
This was intended to increase liquidity in the local market, which has been suffering from shortfalls since the introduction of multiple currencies in 2009.
Labels: GIDEON GONO, RBZ, ZIMPLATS
Lesotho braces for crunch polls
Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:00
MASERU. — Lesotho votes today in the most hotly contested election since Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili came to power in a 1998 vote that sparked rioting and a South African military intervention. After 14 years in power, he has established himself as a towering figure in the mountainous kingdom, bordered on all sides by South Africa.
PM Mosisili has stayed in power through elections consistently endorsed by observers, even though Lesotho’s political disputes sometimes erupt in violence. He survived a 2009 military-style assault on his official residence that left four people dead.
Eight people are standing trial, and the precise motives remain unclear.
But signs of discontent with his rule are everywhere.
Within the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), which brought him to power in 1998, efforts to push Mosisili from the top spot provoked a dramatic split in February as he resigned from the party and launched his own Democratic Congress, taking a majority of parliamentarians with him.
Now the LCD is led by former communications minister Mothejoa Metsing, who led the movement to remove Mosisili as party leader.
The party’s leadership conference planned for January was cancelled at the last minute amid fears the dispute could turn violent.
The two rivals are running in a three-horse race with the opposition All Basotho Convention and its leader Tom Thabane.
Tomorrow’s vote is seen as a toss-up in one of the most fiercely fought campaigns since independence from Britain in 1966. — Sapa/AFP.
International Law: Law of the victors
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 22:33
On March 7 2003, Charles Taylor was indicted by the Special Court of Sierra Leone and on December 4 the same year, Interpol issued a “Red Warrant” (of arrest) for the former Liberian leader.
Taylor launched an appeal against the indictment and it was swiftly dismissed by the Appeals Chamber on May 31 2004. Nigerian authorities, who have increasingly become notorious for treacherous politics in Africa, apprehended Taylor on March 29 2006.
Nigeria was instrumental in the arbitrary suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth immediately after the country
had forcefully reclaimed its colonially stolen farmlands from white occupiers in 2000. It was again Nigeria, South Africa and Gabon that insidiously and obviously backed the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the bombardment of his Libya through Resolution 1973 at the UN Security Council in 2011.
On April 3 2006, Taylor pleaded not guilty to all the 11 charges pressed against him before the Special Court and Western countries started campaigning for a trial away from Africa. As a result of this campaign, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1688 which cleared the way for Taylor to be tried at The Hague, arguing that the Liberian ex-leader’s presence in West Africa was “an impediment to stability and a threat to peace.”
Just four days after this resolution, Charles Taylor was swiftly transferred to The Hague, in a move quite similar in swiftness to how Libya was attacked by French warplanes, just a few hours after UN Security Council Resolution 1973 had been passed.
On January 7 2008, the prosecution witnesses began testifying against Charles Taylor, and this process only ended on January 30 2009.
All in all, 91 witnesses testified, and these included 29 insider witnesses, 58 crime base witnesses and four expert witnesses.
The defence unsuccessfully applied for the closure of the case on the basis that witnesses were not credible, and on April 26 this year a landmark conviction of Taylor was announced to the world, with some people hailing it as a success, while others are convinced it was travesty of justice.
Charles Taylor has personally charged that most of these witnesses were “paid, coerced and, in many cases, threatened with prosecution if they did not co-operate.” The Special Court is simply not interested in entertaining this possibility, as it currently seems.
Canadian writer Stephen Gowans recently quoted the US State Department hailing the conviction of Taylor as “sending a strong message to all perpetrators of atrocities, including those in the highest positions of power, that they will be held accountable.”
Of course, this does not include atrocities perpetrated by Western armies on the lesser peoples of this world, like the reckless indiscriminate killing of tens and tens of thousands of innocent Libyan civilians in 2011, or the continuing drone bombing of Afghan and Pakistan people by Obama’s murderous forces. These are democratisation ventures and not war crimes.
The charges against Taylor included terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, outrages upon personal dignity, cruel treatment, inhuman acts, recruiting child soldiers, enslavement and pillage.
Being convicted on the basis of these egregious charges makes Taylor the personification of ultimate evil, up until one is told that, in fact, Charles Taylor did not commit any of the crimes for which he was charged and convicted, an indisputable truth coming straight from the Special Court’s own acknowledgment.
This is what the Special Court had to say about Charles Taylor’s conviction: “The prosecution had not alleged that Mr Taylor had committed these crimes in person.”
The statement went on to say that Taylor had only “aided and abetted the rebels by providing them with arms and ammunition, military personnel, operational support and moral support.”
According to the Special Court, it is the rebels who committed the crimes and Charles Taylor is “individually responsible” for the criminal acts just on behalf of the perpetrators. Taylor did not deny involvement in the Sierra Leone decade-long conflict — arguing that his logic for intervention was that “without peace in Sierra Leone there would be no peace in Liberia.”
This is not different from the logic of pre-emptive war, as executed by President George W. Bush on the people of Afghanistan in 2001. But, of course, we must always remember that there is something called American exceptionalism, and that the law that prosecutes little Taylor cannot be big enough to prosecute mighty George W. Bush.
As rightly pointed out by Stephen Gowans in his recent article titled “Charles Taylor Conviction: Don’t Cross Us,” Taylor was convicted for exactly what Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron did in Libya in 2011: arming and supporting an atrocity-committing ragtag rebel army.
The countless war crimes and atrocities of the Libyan rebels are well documented, with Amnesty International detailing charges that the rebels “abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured, and killed,” so many civilian Libyans to see their way through the Western-backed rebellion.
This is not to mention Nato’s relentless bombardment of the city of Sirte right to ground level rubble, literally leaving no stone unturned and, of course, the indiscriminate shelling of the same city and other pro-Gaddafi cities like Bali Wadi — all clear acts of war crimes.
The war criminals in Libya must not fear the fate of Charles Taylor because the law that convicted the Liberian ex-leader is not exactly the law for those who commit war crimes, but the law of those who rule — the law of the victors. In fact, international law has just become the law of the powerful — bluntly put, the law of Western powers.
It started way back with the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War. Atrocities committed by members of the Allied Forces only became crime once they were traced to the responsibility of the Nazis.
Only those from the Nazi side of the war were charged of war crimes, even in clear cases where similar acts had been carried out by members of the Allied Forces.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was also all about charging Slobodan Milosevic and his people, even where the other side had carried out similar acts of crime.
In Libya today the rule of law is just the law for those who rule, the so-called National Transitional Council, otherwise it would be indisputable to charge, try and convict the Libyan rebels of “multiple counts of murder, acts of terrorism, outrages upon personal dignity, cruel treatment and inhumane acts,” — all charges easily preferred against poor Charles Taylor, and for Libya against pro-Gaddafi officials and soldiers.
No doubt Taylor was no saint. If this special court really wanted Taylor’s personal involvement in war crimes, they should have just investigated his ascendancy to power at the expense of Samuel Doe.
He and Prince Johnson did pretty horrible stuff quite fitting to all the charges Taylor was vicariously held responsible for by the Special Court for Sierra Leon, but that cannot be investigated because then Taylor and Johnson were both carrying out US-sponsored war crimes in the service of imperialistic interests.
According to the landmark logic of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron must all be “individually responsible” for the atrocities that happened in Libya last year, regardless of the fact that none of them was on the battle field carrying out any such crimes. Nato leaders and their foot soldiers can be excused together with the murderous ragtag Libyan rebels.
What is indisputably clear is that the three “aided and abetted” the rebels, “furnished them with arms and ammunition, gave them military personnel, provided operational support (especially aerial fire power), and provided them moral support.” Guilty as charged if we follow the logic of the Taylor trial.
We can in our bitterness for true justice totally forget about the possibility of a Special Court for Libya, and surely there will be no indictments, at least none sponsored by Western nations.
It is just like it will not happen that George W. Bush will be dragged to some special court one day, and like it will not happen to those ruthlessly murdering Bahraini protestors and to those Libyan war criminals, certainly not to the heartless Israeli thugs that habitually kill Palestinians for fun.
This is precisely because in these cases the criminals control the courts, either directly or through alliance to criminally minded Western imperialistic powers.
As rightly outlined by Stephen Gowans, “ . . . the function of international courts controlled by Western nations is not to deter atrocities, for atrocities committed in the service of Western imperialism are never prosecuted, but to deter military action against Western interests.”
When Zimbabwe intervened in the DRC conflict in 1998, the outrage from Western quarters and their Zimbabwean puppets was more against the side on which Zimbabwe was fighting and far less about the economic impact of the war on Zimbabwe, inasmuch as the later logic was peddled widely for propaganda purposes.
If Zimbabwe had joined Uganda and Rwanda to fight alongside the Western-backed Congolese rebels, it is quite clear that President Mugabe was going to be hailed as a legendary fighter for democracy, and would even be immensely funded for his troubles, with awards and accolades following galore.
The human rights abuses alleged to have been carried out in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2008 are more of pretexts to find prosecution grounds for hated enemies of imperialism than they are a pursuit for justice — regardless of whether there are elements of truth in the allegations or not.
Someone must one day be held “individually responsible” for the crimes of the unprosecuted, even when it is openly declared that the convicted person did not commit any of the crimes.
This is what some white South African judge is laying foundation for through a local court ruling declaring South Africa’s extra-territorial jurisdiction over Zimbabwean suspects accused of playing a part in the said abuses.
Charles Taylor bitterly complained at the Special Court that George W. Bush was not being dragged to any special court despite his bragging about authorising torture and Afghanistan Nato crimes.
Perhaps Charles Taylor needs to be reminded that in its 10 years of existence, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted 28 people from seven countries. Every single one of these people is African, despite that the lawless Iraq war was after July 2002, with the atrocity-laced Afghanistan war stretching well after this date, the murderous South Lebanon bombardment by Israel coming in 2006, followed by the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinians in 2007, the deadly Libya bombardment by Nato in 2007, not to mention the Colombia war and other conflicts like Obama’s drone attacks in Pakistan.
There are documented atrocities for each of the above listed conflicts, yet there is no single indictment on a single person outside the African continent.
International law has become the law against the weak, the law of the rulers of this world. Taylor has not been convicted of war crimes at all. He has been convicted of backing the wrong side of atrocities.
If Taylor was backing Western interests in the Sierra Leonean conflict, he would today be wielding the Nobel Peace Prize in place of the conviction he is vainly trying to fight.
Africa, we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
* Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.
Labels: ICC, LIBERIA, REASON WAFAWAROVA
‘We’re not ripping off tobacco farmers’
Saturday, 19 May 2012 00:00
There has been turmoil within the tobacco sector of late with auction floors accusing some tobacco processing companies of delving into areas they are not licensed for. Assistant Editor George Chisoko (GC) spoke to the Managing Director of Mashonaland Tobacco Company Ken Langley (KL) about accusations of setting up parallel auction floors and ripping off growers, levelled against his company.
GC: It has been alleged, following your company’s appearance before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee this week that you are operating illegally because your company has not been licensed by the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board?
KL: In terms of the TIMB regulations, we have an “A” Class Buyers’ licence that allows us to purchase tobacco on all four auction floors. We also have a Contractors’ Buyers’ licence for all the three contract floors, namely Harare, Rusape and Karoi, thus dispelling suggestions that we are operating illegally.
GC: Are the Rusape and Karoi auction floors or contract buying floors?
KL: These are purely contract buying floors for the purchase of tobacco from our contracted growers. Both floors are licensed by the TIMB as such.
GC: Why did you open contract buying stations in Karoi and Rusape?
KL: Karoi and Rusape floors have been established for the following reasons:
* We have about 1 700 smallholder growers contracted in Rusape and at least 1800 in Karoi
* These floors provide a more convenient market for growers by reducing logistical challenges and substantially reducing their transport costs
* These operations benefit the rural communities where our growers are based with employment and additional revenue in local businesses
* We benefit from reduced potential side marketing, thus limiting potential bad debt
* Efficiency considerations at the Harare facility coping with an increased number of contracted growers.
GC: There has been extensive coverage in the media that accuses MTC of buying tobacco from non-contracted farmers at your Rusape and Karoi buying stations. Were you actively recruiting these farmers?
KL: No, we have not been actively recruiting non-contracted growers to sell on our floors. However, we were approached by growers wanting to sell through us. Subject to clearance by the TIMB, growers have the option of where to sell their tobacco provided that they have no prior contractual commitments.
To date, 482 previously uncontracted farmers have, after due authorisation from TIMB, sold 170 tonnes of tobacco to MTC. This volume represents less than 0,2 percent of national crop deliveries to date.
GC: Have you received the volumes you anticipated at your Rusape and Karoi floors?
KL: We are currently at about 80 percent delivered of our anticipated smallholder contracted volume
GC: Why do you have your own contract floors when there is sufficient capacity at the four registered Harare Auction Houses?
KL: It is only a few years ago that the auction floors withdrew this service from the contractors because they wanted space themselves to cope with increased volumes. Contractors have now realised that they can provide this service more efficiently and cheaper themselves
GC: How true is it that as a contractor you pay more for tobacco sold on your contract floor than you do on the auction floors?
KL: MTC contracts tobacco to achieve socially responsible, sustainable and traceable production to meet the demands of the world marketplace and the global regulatory environment. Our contract programme is designed to produce tobacco that has been grown in an environmentally sustainable manner using good labour and agricultural practices and involving active reforestation.
This tobacco is of higher value to certain customers than same grade tobacco on auction floors due to its total quality profile. Tobacco purchased on the auction floors lacks traceability and such total product integrity, and as a consequence is less marketable to certain international customers.
MTC, however due to its broad customer base has continued to purchase on the auction floors. It is also worth noting that contracted tobacco has other advantages for the contractor, which include:
* better quality tobaccos due to the agronomic support and provision of correct inputs
* the ability to encourage the production of styles of tobacco most in demand by our customers
* the ability to monitor and minimise the incidence of non-tobacco related material in the product and of nested and mixed tobaccos
* reduced handling of tobacco before processing, resulting in less breakage and consequently a better quality and higher yielding product
GC: According to the auction floors your activities have resulted in a drastic decline in volumes on the auction floors. What is your response?
KL: In the past two years, two new auction floors have opened, but there has not been any noticeable increase in auction tobacco because the increase in the crop is largely being financed by contractors.
GC: Could you please expand on the issue of side-marketing and bad debt that you referred to?
KL: Side-marketing is the sale of tobacco by a contracted grower to a buyer other than the contractor who financed its production. When this occurs, the company fails to recover its investment.
Our financial investment this season to smallholder growers amounts to over US$6 million. In the past few years we have experienced high and unsustainable levels of bad debt, as a result of side-marketing and we have now improved our systems and controls to minimise the incidence of side-marketing and protect our investment.
GC: What are your intentions for next season with regard to the smallholder contract sector?
KL: We are committed to smallholder tobacco production in Zimbabwe and through continued utilisation of licenced decentralised floors, we plan in 2012 to support an increased number of smallholder grower base of over 8 500 growers, which will in turn produce an estimated 10 million kg of flue-cured tobacco.
GC: The auction floors seem to have ganged up against you by criticising your operations?
KL: We don’t take it as war with us but simply an expression of concerns where people lack the right information. We will continue to have good relations with all the auction floors as we are in the same industry and striving for the same cause — to increase tobacco production in Zimbabwe.
GC: Thanks Ken for your time
KL: You are most welcome, George.
MDC-T officials disrupt prayer meeting
Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:00
MDC-T officials and supporters yesterday disrupted a prayer meeting organised by the Intercessors for Zimbabwe at Civic Grounds in Harare. Some of the party officials, who included councillors and some youths, arrived at the grounds in buses and cars while singing political songs.
MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was expected to attend the prayer meeting. Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Mr Luke Tamborinyoka, said his boss wanted to be at the prayer meeting, but failed to attend because he was travelling.
“He knew about the prayer meeting and he expressed an interest to attend if he was not travelling,” he said.
“The Prime Minister would have attended and he attends any gathering that has to do with peace.”
Organisers of the meeting were told to disperse by the police around 1pm after it had become clear that the conditions were no longer conducive for a prayer meeting.
According to police, IFZ did not point out that the PM was going to address them and that it was not a “political meeting” when it applied for clearance to hold the meeting.
IFZ also wanted to hold a musical concert after the meeting which was scheduled to end at 6pm, a fact they did not mention to the police.
The organisers later negotiated with the police and were granted almost an hour to wind up business.
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau confirmed that some of the people came to the prayer meeting singing political songs.
“I am not aware that the Prime Minister was going to address the meeting, but all I can say is that we told them to finish early because of some reasons,” Insp Sabau said.
He said when the organisers applied to the police, they never said that they were going to hold a gospel musical concert after they finished their meeting.
“They were making arrangements to call musicians for a concert after the church service,” said Insp Sabau.
“And our other worry was that when they came, they were singing political songs, while we expected them to hold a prayer meeting.”
Insp Sabau said when the organisers applied to hold the meeting at the open space, they said they were going to provide mobile toilets but did not do so.
“We were surprised that there was not even a single toilet when people were going to be kept up until 1800hrs and what were they going to do?” he said.
“So, we ordered them to finish at 1:30pm and they agreed.”
Insp Sabau said when the Independence Day Gala was held at the same venue recently, there were mobile toilets.
IFZ national co-odinator Reverend John Chimbambo yesterday confirmed that they did not provide mobile toilets at the venue.
“We were supposed to finish at 6pm, but we agreed with the police and finished at 2pm,” he said.
Rev Chimbambo said he was not aware that the Prime Minister was going to address them.
“I didn’t know that he was coming, but he didn’t come,” he said.
“People didn’t come as we expected. They were very few. I don’t know of other centres.”
On Thursday, Rev Chimbambo issued a statement saying: “The National Day of Prayer is non-partisan or a political event which strictly observes the tenancy for a divinely driven nation where every Zimbabwean despite their political affiliation are afforded an opportunity to come together and pray for their nation.
“No political statements will be given by whatsoever person despite their political affiliation. The meeting is going to be addressed by pastors only.”
The prayer meeting was part of the Africa Day celebrations observed by Zimbabweans yesterday.
Africa Day is commemorated annually on May 25 to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on the same date in 1963.
The OAU has since transformed into the African Union. Africa Day is observed as a public holiday in only four African countries — Ghana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
But celebrations are held in some African countries as well as by Africans in the Diaspora.
Labels: MDC, MORGAN TSVANGIRAI
UN rights chief calls for suspension of sanctions
Saturday, 26 May 2012 00:00
Lovemore Chikova Deputy News Editor
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navanethem Pillay yesterday said illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe must be suspended until the conduct and outcome of elections.
She was addressing a Press conference to mark the end of her five-day visit to the country.
But Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa addressed the same journalists, saying Ms Pillay’s suggestion was off the mark. He said the sanctions must be removed in totality because they were imposed illegally and were hurting the country.
“We want sanctions to be lifted unconditionally,” he said. “We do not want any talk of suspension because the sanctions were imposed unprocedurally.”
Minister Chinamasa said no foreigners should interfere in Zimbabwe’s electoral issues.
On the illegal sanctions, Ms Pillay said it was clear from her meetings that they were opposed by the three political parties in the inclusive Government.
She said the sanctions had a wide impact on the general population.
“I have yet to hear a single Zimbabwean inside the country say they definitely think sanctions should continue,” said Ms Pillay.
“While it is difficult to disentangle the specific causes of Zimbabwe’s major social and economic ills, there seems little doubt that sanctions regimes have, at the very least, acted as a serious disincentive to overseas banks and investors.”
Ms Pillay said the stigma of sanctions had limited certain imports and exports for Zimbabwe.
“Taken together, these and other unintended side-effects will in turn inevitably have had a negative impact on the economy at large, with possibly quite serious ramifications for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable populations who have had to cope with the political instability and violence as well as severe drought.”
Ms Pillay said it was unfortunate that there was still polarisation in the country as that could affect future elections.
But she said there were a lot of positives, including significant improvements since 2008 when “the country seemed to be on the brink of catastrophe”.
Women’s rights, Ms Pillay said, were being observed as evidenced by the fact that half of the Supreme Court judges were female.
A number of Government ministers and public officials were also women, she said.
“One very positive development during my visit has been news that the Government is proposing to sign and ratify the international treaty known as the Convention Against Torture,” said Ms Pillay.
She said she was happy that many small farmers managed to acquire land during the land reform.
“The pride and enthusiasm of some of the small farmers I met, including several women, was a pleasure to see and I hope the Government will fulfil its promises to help them make their farms productive and profitable,” said Ms Pillay.
She said President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai should continue issuing strong calls against political violence.
The new Constitution should be confirmed by a referendum for electoral reforms to be carried out before elections, said Ms Pillay.
She welcomed the establishment of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission which she said should not be involved in historical investigations.
The commission, said Ms Pillay, should “deal with the many pressing issues that face Zimbabwe today and in future and in particular all the human rights issues surrounding the forthcoming elections”.
“Instead, I have urged all parties to consider setting up another body or bodies such as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee or a Commission of Inquiry to look at major human rights violations that took place some time ago,” said Ms Pillay.
She alleged some human rights violations such as the arrest of human rights defenders, journalists and political activists.
She called for the amendment of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act and the Broadcasting Services Act.
“The corrosive effect of these laws and of other forms of past and current, albeit lower level, harassment and intimidation of political party activists, including restriction on their right to freedom of assembly, is deeply worrying,” said Ms Pillay.
She said the army should not openly support any political party.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission, said Ms Pillay, seemed more concerned with controlling and censoring media than promoting freedom of expression.
Ms Pillay said she was disturbed by laws outlawing homosexuality, saying those practicing the act should not be discriminated against.
But Minister Chinamasa said there was a tendency by outsiders investigating issues in Zimbabwe to bring pre-written reports.
He said Ms Pillay’s statement on her visit was unfair since it regurgitated what has been said in the media on human rights without any proof.
“If they come with statements already written we will not co-operate with them,” he said. “We are not a perfect country and no country is perfect.”
Minister Chinamasa said Ms Pillay relied on information that has not been investigated and authenticated.
“Our position is that we do not want any politicisation of human rights issues,” he said. “The issues should be reported accurately, but there has been a lot of fiction and distortions.
“It is difficult to distinguish between facts and fiction.”
Minister Chinamasa said most violations of human rights in Zimbabwe were being taken care of by criminal laws.
During her week-long visit, Ms Pillay met President Mugabe, PM Tsvangirai, Government officials and civic groups.
She toured Boka Tobacco Auction Floors and visited a farm in Mashonaland Central.
Labels: PATRICK CHINAMASA, SANCTIONS, UN
S Africa: Giant phallus that split the rainbow
Friday, 25 May 2012 23:21
As I write, South Africa is boiling with anger, divisive anger. Never in the history of mankind has a society debated so heatedly, has a society been divided so sharply over a matter so private, a matter so obscene, so revealing. Some white man, one Brett Murray, produced something to which one places a label as they see fit: a work of art for some; graffiti for others. Some even described it as an assault by some leftover of apartheid on a man who happens to be a president, a man who is an African.
All those multiple identities of the supposed victim gave wider meaning to Murray’s product — a giant phallus abutting, jutting out, or drooping from the made-to-fit rainment of an otherwise iconic representation of visionary, decorous leadership, a representation in the mould of the leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladmir Lenin.
With such a sensitive organ obscenely appended to this painting that clearly resembling one Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, Murray’s thing immediately thrust itself into a fiery din of public controversy sure to impart and guarantee immortality to it, sure to stand erect in the annals of South African and wider African history.
Wings of hate, wings of love
And with this new found fame or notoriety, depending of course on where one stands in the whole controversy, Murray’s thing increasingly assumed wings, in the process becoming real art both in spite, and because of those who angrily dismissed it as graffiti, becoming more or better art for those who saw artistic virtuosity in this bold representation from the very beginning. Those for it and those opposed to it alike read or inadvertently gave a profound social commentary from or to it, respectively, in the process vindicating the thing's claim to art, much worse, the thing’s claim to fame. Nor did its transposition to art diminish its direct or denotative meaning.
Viewers saw a real President’s real penis, never mind that it could not be, can never be given that Murray never had access or sight of it. And the offended President himself did not help matters. He took action in the name of invaded privacy, a complaint which seemed to suggest that indeed, Murray’s penis was his! And the angrier Zuma’s supporters became, the stronger the phallic painting became real, became the President’s organ! If not so, why would there be so much anger?
I can imagine the frustration of the ANC whose leader is supposedly maligned by Murray’s creation or creature: the more they opposed it, the more they validated its rich semiotic value, its connotative dimension. The more they got agitated by it, the more the President looked exposed! And of course anything that embarrasses assumes both referential and symbolic meaning.
Governors deserve brickbats
Real or unreal, there is no denying the thing has generated both interest and deep controversy, with some in South Africa viewing the thing as some nemesis for a politician who is a public figure, a politician who holds public office and because of that, daily makes decisions that impact differently on the public. Consequently, they argue, his person evokes deep emotions among the governed on whom his actions impact directly, emotions of revulsion or of admiration. He must thus accept all his actions or non-actions in the course of daily governance perforce come under the sharpest spotlight, for better and for worse. Murray’s thing thus becomes a test of South African democracy, indeed an opportunity to see how leadership behaves when goaded, as happens and should happen in a democracy. This vein of reasoning concludes that Zuma must not be pitied or defended; rather he must take it in his stride, absorb it as part of the ups and downs of holding public office.
There is also a small, inconvenient detail. When South Africa under apartheid moved to the system of executive presidency, it removed the constitutional clause that protected the hitherto ceremonial president from demeaning slurs. The reasoning was that to the extent that the new president was taking executive decisions, it was important that he became accessible to public anger the same way praiseworthy decisions would bring him joy, laughter and satisfaction. The Rainbow Nation could not be governed under intolerant tenets, without losing its high moral ground. This compelling argument is still to reach my Party Zanu-PF which sponsored a clause that seeks to protect the holder of executive power, President Mugabe. The clause has not worked, indeed has turned people who do not have a proper mouth into instant political heroes, merely for hurling an epithet or two at the person of the President. Because of this law, a transient hurt (to the extent that it is spoken) gets immortalised through drawn out trials that follow.
Interestingly, all those who have committed such an offense have always opted for full blown trials, in the process generating negative coverage for the very victim of the insults. But that is Zimbabwe, a different country.
Demolishing a precious lie
Then you have the family, the Zuma family epitomised by the President’s own daughter who has weighed in, predictably in defence of her father. Her coming into the controversy brings in quite a private and devastating dimension to the whole saga, does it not? Is it not odd, nay devastating, that some white man, all in the name of art, has got children to view their father’s private parts or, if one is unwilling to suspend disbelief, to watch suggestive visual representation of them? And of course the hefty debate that follows!
After all, to all children, parents have no private parts, or if they do, have parts that cannot work, that don’t work, that should not work. More accurately, parts that should never be known to work by us, in spite of our coming into this world because they worked, indeed in spite of our mothers’ womby stomachs, saggy breasts, both from working parts. Parents do not make love, still less fornicate, a lie we assert reverentially, with no expectation of contradiction by anyone, living or dead.
Our parents, our mothers especially, are the only habitual, lasting virgins long after they bore us. They remain in pre-lapsarian innocence, a state of unsullied righteousness asserted by all their children, from first born to the last one who closes the door to all, to everybody, to everything but daddy and daddy’s respectively. Joseph Conrad called it a saving lie: that precious lie we hold on to dearly in order to get by, that lie whose demolition is sure to bring about our own destruction. You need it, keep it, believe in it, even against overbearing outward reality.
Today, Zuma’s daughter lives that moment where her precious lie has been demolished, resultantly feeling more naked than Murray’s thing. She is bound to protest. She actually did, but to a South Africa too excited, too angry to be silenced too soon against its still gushing emotion.
The new global citizen
Poor girl, her society has done worse than disregard her plea. It has institutionalised the controversy in a manner sure to make it linger longer, sure to immortalise it even. The matter has spilled over into the courts, seemingly inconclusively. The ANC will not have their very own abused, all in the name of art. They have gone to court at one level, while indulging in some calibrated protest, all to force the gallery on which this giant piece is hung, has been hung for public viewing, to pull it down, cart it away, hide it from public view possibly and preferably forever. They have decided to boycott newspapers from the City Press until the group removes the offending painting from its website.
That way, so the ANC believes, the infra dig will be repaired, somewhat. In this pursuit, the ANC has refused to be deterred by the reckoning that The Spear, as the piece is named — again controversially — has long digitally migrated from its country of both creation and revilement to become a stateless creature of the diaspora. And the more the ANC pushes this line, the more The Spear becomes more deserving of asylum, assuring it of many homes, many parents, indeed making it a global citizen that it already is. So whatever judgment the courts give, The Spear will continue to thrust forward, erect, defiant, undeterred, snotting at the ANC. Poor ANC! Poor Jacob Zuma!
Reading from court reports, it is clear the ANC had hoped to push forward a racial argument, a racial charge which would have made Murray an incorrigible child of unreconstructed apartheid politics, of an apartheid sensibility with its well-known mean regard for Africans, for blacks. Such an argument would have rallied black South Africa behind the ANC, something crucial for Zuma ahead of the see-sawing elective Congress scheduled for December.
But in court, the argument came unstuck. Murray — the accused — produced three black art connoisseurs who vouched that the controversial figure resembling Jacob Zuma, with its giant, naked, sinewy phallus humbly looking downwards, possibly in satisfied rest, was but a piece of remarkable art, art so great that it had, like all good art, provoked deep emotion, triggered furious debate, in the process pushing outwardly the frontiers of public discourse. Art need not please, need not demur, need not comport to the prevailing moral sense or sensibility. Or doff to sensitivities. Art profanes, treading where angels will not dare set foot. It can provoke, shock, detonate sharp emotion, embarrass, demean, etc, etc.
An Age-old fascination
The artist has no obligation to power, particularly power so given to flaunting its own boundless prowess, including and especially in its sexual dimension. Is the piece not speaking to real excesses of power, current power at that, they asked. They raised another argument that was calculated to curry favour with international readers. Throughout history, human art has always been fascinated with the penis, which is why London, Paris, Copenhagen — all European capitals in fact, live and decline under the shadow of giant phalluses strewn all over grand squares, some even perched on holy spires. Including the priggish Vatican, itself the city of worshipful morality, or so we think! They quoted Picasso, quoted Rembrant, quoted Blake, quoted many more who sit composedly in the pantheon of world art, both as human giants and as normative statements on art and its infinite limits. Art has no skin, haina ganda, and so cannot blush at the thought or sight of foreskins, presidential or belonging to more mundane beings. So instead of hypocritical outrage, why not appreciate and celebrate Murray’s artistic panache, particularly the arresting detail he gives to the limb, the procreative girth he accords this lovely rendition of thrustful African sexuality?
From attack to a plea, then tears
Predictably, the judge — thoroughly white — must have been quite grateful to have such an inventive defence before him. Those black testimonies gave the judge the leeway to quash the issue of racism, asking the ANC advocate how against such black-led testimony, the issue of race could ever arise. Pitted against his own, the poor ANC advocate had no choice but to admit that indeed race was not an issue. Elitism maybe. And he pleaded that artists for the beau monde needed to always bear in mind that the rest of society was not so educated, was not so refined in taste as to see art as art. A key component of his attack had been disabled, leaving him to plead for coarser tastes, coarser African tastes. It was an admission that condemned a race, a people in ways more damaging than The Spear. A virtual apology, a virtual plea. Our plea for some sparing, we blacks, we Africans, against a clear, racial effrontery. Worse was to come.
The judge went further to ask how the court was being expected to slap a ban on a piece of art which was already in public domain, already being enjoyed worldwide through the Internet. Was the world not already in custody of the piece? So why punish South Africans, why deprive them from enjoying what the rest of mankind was already savouring. The judge was defending the continued availability of our wounded image, and doing so in the name of our collective rights as South Africans, as Africans! The already lamed advocate could not help himself. Or the ANC. Soon after, he broke down, in the process reducing ANC action to tearful haplessness.
The native hits back, lamely
Gentle reader, the complications multiplied. A day before, a white Afrikaner who professed not to like Zuma, or to belong to any political party, had moved into the gallery in which the offensive piece was on stubborn display. In vast swift strokes, he daubed the offensive piece, starting with its offensive giant phallus. He got away with it. Not so with his black successor who sought the same end. Before doing much, he was felled by a gallery guard — all black — who must have reasoned that the sanctity of private property by way of this white art was a higher calling than expiating injury to black Zuma. The dutiful guard would be arrested soon after, to answer charges of common assault. At the time of writing, it was not clear if the assault victim would answer to any charges at all, including the likely one of malicious injury to property. Here was a nice transposition of race and role: a white Boer successfully defending Zuma’s honour; a black South African failing in the same endeavour, stopped by another black South African defending and asserting the sanctity of white property, which is white art!
More art would follow though. In retribution, sympathisers of Zuma produced their own drawings, two all told. One showed Helen Zille, the Democratic Alliance lady leader, all along well clad until one traced her down to her loins. There, the viewers then met the drawing of a huge vulva in the shape of a broken shield, itself a symbolic counterpoise to Zuma’s drooping phallus which Murray dubbed “the spear” in clear parody of the ANC’s “Spear of the Nation”.
The second drawing was less dramatic. It aped Murray's piece, but with a Zuma firmly zipped down his loins. Outside the courts and gallery, South Africa continues to argue and to demonstrate inconclusively, in the process exposing a deep chasm so neatly cutting between races, between histories, between politics, between struggles, between rights, between sexes, between senses of humour, indeed between identities and cultures.
Deferring to white whims
I didn’t think the ANC thought through its actions, thought through likely outcomes, given the legal and psychological realities of post-apartheid South Africa. With its liberal constitution, its neo-apartheid bench, little was and should be expected. For a long time to come, the courts shall not be points of justice, points of redress, especially where litigants follow the colour line, with a white judge in the saddle, presiding. And of course an ANC which strives to come across as a civilized political party, sure to behave within the law as interpreted by white judges, shall continue to suffer mounting indignities. The laager has got a thin and sharper end of the wedge in. It has impiously touched the genitalia of the highest man epitomising post-apartheid blackness, played around with that genitalia, all to get away with it. Nothing is sacred anymore.
Through a charade of a trial, blacks have conceded poetic license to white provocateurs who masquerade as artists. Terrablanche ripped through black arses, in a clear homosexual assault. Murray was not moved enough to draw, to paint. The victim was a black farm laborer, firmly indentured to white whims, white sexually deviant caprices. Thankfully, the black victim evened out, in his own way. Today he faces trial for charges arising from defending his own integrity against predatory white phallus. But he did better, much better than the ANC which breaks down in court, to weep inconsolably.
Widening gyre of infra dig
But the matter is deeper. Not too long ago, a white judge interdicted the ANC, through its problem child Julius Malema, from singing its own songs of freedom. Imagine a white court in America gagging blacks from singing “Gumbaya my Lord Gumbaya”: that indigenised song through which their forbears purged their suffering, their anger, their tribulations. Imagine. This gesture by white law, white court, white judge, touched the very pith, the very soul of the ANC as a liberation movement. Incredibly, the ANC conceded, preferring to proceed by way of appeals to courts it does not own. Contrast that with the ultimatum the Boers gave during Codesa, over their apartheid-time anthem which had to be retained, which had to be sung in post-apartheid South Africa. This column made a passionate case for militant rejection of this jaundiced verdict. No, the ANC chose to be better behaved, against a deadly encroachment to its civilities. Today the white world has grown bolder, and seeks to run the State it has lost through stilted decisions handed down by courts. I wrote about the same in the recent case against the State, involving Zimbabweans.
Being and consciousness through art
But that is not where the real tragedy falls. Against the new political dispensation, South Africa remains an apartheid country, the same way we remained Rhodesia until recently when the land came. The architecture of apartheid obtains in that country, undisturbed, unchallenged, nay, with blacks mistakenly believing all the apartheid glories have transferred to them, thanks to the alchemy of Mandela's rainbow. They brag about their first world citizenry, pointing to Sanlam which cannot employ them or their children. The deep chasms of apartheid remain. Of course with the entangled state of deep western interests in that country, one understands, indeed one cannot wish for a speedier transformation.
But what hurts, what gets one to at times despair, is that today black South Africans are aroused by a painting of a phallus hermeneutically linked to their President, never by real issues of resources and selective access to them which, after all, grant whites the kind of cockiness we see in this Murray guy. They rise, rally around a fictional penis, around a fictional assault, while being dead and indifferent to real, material assaults they suffer daily. They are mobilised, actuated by irreverent art, never by irreverent economics.
For as long as the long apartheid gives whites a material basis for racial impudence, art will continue to mirror the asymmetry of power that characterise that country. And blacks, occasionally assisted by liberal whites — Boers or English — will seek to superficially daub expressions of this deep-seated, profoundly institutionalized effrontery, but nothing much will change. And Marx is always there to remind the ANC: it is not consciousness which shapes Being, rather, it is material Being which shapes consciousness. The artwork could only come from a Murray; the victim could only have been Jacob Zuma. Icho!
Labels: APARTHEID, JACOB ZUMA