Category Archives: Africa

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe


Thanks to In Zimbabwe, a Picture is Worth One Hundred Billion Words by Nontando Hadebe on Sojourners. More pics there.

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Posted by on January 16, 2009 in Africa, humanity, other blogs


What an amazing Test Match!

Uncertain right down to the last seven minutes of a five day game!

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This man and his extraordinarily courageous captain – deservedly “Man of the Series” — almost saved the game for South Africa

I watched just about every minute today. Oh, we won, though losing the series. But kudos to South Africa’s rainbow squad.


I am not the only one to have been enthralled by this test match. See Jim Belshaw’s “live blog” Exciting cricket, and Thomas’s case for the real winner having been Cricket: How cricket saved itself.

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Posted by on January 7, 2009 in Africa, Australia and Australian, Cricket


Cholera? What cholera?

Crazy quote of the year?

President Robert Mugabe has declared that the crisis is over and that there is no cholera in Zimbabwe.

"I am happy we are being assisted by others and we have arrested cholera," Mr Mugabe said in a speech in which he also attacked what he described as Western plans to invade Zimbabwe and topple his government.

"Now that there is no cholera there is no case for war."

ABC News Australia


See There is nothing for Zimbabweans to celebrate on Human Rights Day.

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Posted by on December 12, 2008 in Africa, health, human rights, humanity


This post is by no means meant to be cynical…

There’s a story in Lawrence Potter’s This May Help You Understand The World (2007) – see Book notes and footnotes – that prompted this, along with today’s Sun-Herald story NSW students to get promised laptops.

Lawrence Potter was at one time teaching in Rwanda.

The school I taught at had a link with a school in Australia, which occasionally raised funds for it. During my time, the link resulted in two improvements. A group of Australian schoolchildren visited and painted the school hall yellow, and twenty laptop computers arrived on the back of a truck.

I don’t want to be ungrateful, but it struck me that there might have been better uses for the raised funds than yellow paint and computers. The school hall had been a little dingy, but it was perfectly capable of doing its job, and was really only used by the karate club anyway. Meanwhile, the students slept two-to-a-bed in the dormitories (not out of choice), and most of the classroom windows were broken. And what about the computers? Well, I know that ICT is meant to be the solution to most problems, but it can’t do much if there is no regular electricity supply. Nor is it that helpful if nobody knows how to use it. The computers sat around in a room, to which visitors of the school were often shown. But students never went near it.

And I note: Rwandan Government to Digitalize Schools (22 July 2008).

The Rwandan government is moving to digitalize primary and secondary school curriculums based on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) plan, which aims to provide each student with a laptop computer.

Rwanda is participating in the OLPC roll-out program, which the government said will be extended to all primary school children within five years.

The initiative is a move away from the traditional chalk-and-blackboard methodology, instead using ICT in curriculum development and transmission to students, said Théoneste Mutsindashyaka, Rwanda’s minister of state for primary and secondary education.

Integrated science and technology in the education sector is one of the ministry’s priorities, Mutsindashyaka said. Rwanda’s ICT adviser is currently in India in order to adopt that country’s digital science content, he affirmed, as the two countries have similar curriculums…

While the ministry hopes for all schools to make use of e-learning, details remain sketchy, as Mutsindashyaka was tight-lipped regarding the deal with OLPC and its cost.

Last year, Rwandan President Paul Kagame confirmed that a deal had been reached between the Rwandan government and OLPC to supply laptops to schools. Under the deal, Kagame said at the time, OLPC would provide laptops and support to fully test its concept at no cost to Rwanda.

I am not knocking that story, though the juxtaposition with the previous one is intended, as it is with our latest Kevin Rudd and NSW venture:

EVERY senior NSW public school student will get to keep a mini laptop after a new funding deal was thrashed out at yesterday’s Commonwealth-state funding talks in Canberra.

Some will receive their custom-built computers, powered by a wireless broadband network, by the end of term two next year, with the State Government planning to seek expressions of interest from manufacturers as early as Wednesday.

The successful tenderer will produce laptops based on a prototype already developed by IT experts in the Education Department. Students will be able to keep their computers after they leave school.

The funding breakthrough came after months of bitter fighting over the Federal Government’s offer of $1 billion to the states to fulfil federal Labor’s election promise to give every year 9 to 12 student a computer…

the breakthrough in negotiations yesterday means NSW students will soon add a lightweight laptop to their schoolbags after Premier Nathan Rees secured sufficient funding to finalise a massive bulk buy with a computer company.

The Federal Government has coughed up an extra $3.55 billion in education funds to the states.

Mr Rees immediately pledged that NSW would lead the country by providing 197,000 senior public school students with the specially designed teenager-friendly computers. [sic!]

Half the state’s public high schools would have wireless internet connections by mid-2009, he promised, signalling the start of the laptop rollout. Mr Rees told The Sun-Herald NSW would receive $200 million from the Commonwealth for computers in public schools – and offered the other states and territories the chance to join NSW in a huge computer spending spree.

"We’re ready to push the button to seek market players as early as Wednesday and we can help other states get on board by being the national broker for the deal."…

Hmm. This may not be as good an idea as it seems. Think about it.

Very often foisting things on people because it seemed a good idea at the time is not the brightest thing to do, but it makes good copy and gives the impression of decisiveness. I would include the former Australian government’s Northern Territory Intervention in such a critique, by the way. In another era Disadvantaged Schools in NSW were at some time (I think in the 70s) all issued with carpet, because it was decided, not all that unreasonably, that this actually had certain educational benefits, noise reduction and insulation not least. However, it soon became a standing joke that you could always tell a Disadvantaged School because even the store rooms were carpeted… Carpet was just thrown at them whether they needed or wanted it or not, and had to be used for, well, something.

I have similar niggles about what Rudd and our Premier Rees have just stitched up. I can see the potential for all sorts of duplication and wastage here. I can, I might add, see why the schools don’t, it seems, get to keep the laptops. After two to three years of “teenager-friendly” use they will probably not be worth keeping!

Back to Lawrence Potter again. I love his ability to take a really fresh look at the issues he deals with, while clearly taking great care to check his facts – a point he does make in his introduction. Don’t let his “teenager-friendly” style fool you. He is hard-nosed when needs be, but it is impossible after reading his concise account of world finances and the developing world (a term apparently not quite politically correct in some circles) to escape the conclusion that Free Market Enthusiasm is itself a convenient delusion which has among its many advantages its power to relegate concrete human problems and real ethical and moral issues so that they don’t interfere with profit too much.

And on “teenager-friendly”: should we read that as a clue? See Hewlett-Packard to Unveil Teenager-Friendly Computer Line.

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Posted by on November 30, 2008 in Africa, Australia, Australia and Australian, awful warnings, computers, education, future schooling, globalisation/corporations, Kevin Rudd, NSW politics, Political, politics, weirdness


Why I just cannot take the hard Left seriously….

…or the hard Right either, I hasten to add. If the history of the 20th century has taught us one thing it is that radical solutions, in the main, have sucked big time, produced most of the mind-boggling suffering that century was famous for, generally have led to unintended consequences of monumental proportions, and/or have collapsed ignominiously in the end. Much the same applies, or will apply, to the false hope some apparently see in hard Islamism – not a majority Muslim position yet despite so many Islamophobes doing their best to bring that about. (Another example of unintended consequences?)

And yes, this is a rant.

Take Zimbabwe. Yes, the foundation of Rhodesia is not all that distant in the past, certainly for old people, as it was in just 1923 that Rhodesia was annexed by Great Britain, having been under Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company from 1888. According to Wikipedia, the peak of white population was 296,000 in 1975, and today is less than 1% of a population impossible to guess accurately, but generally given as around 11 million. At least half a million Zimbabweans are in South Africa, the Congo, and other neighbouring countries. There is no doubt that most of that hundred years and more of history has been a tale of an unsustainable venture (except by repression of one kind or another) playing out as a tragedy for all those caught up in it. One can well understand that the situation well described here would generate problems:

Starting in 1893, successive uprisings were bloodily suppressed by the colonizers and the British government. A particularly virulent strain of apartheid was introduced. By 1914, notes Steve Lawton in "British Colonialism, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform and Settler Resistance", 3 percent of the population controlled 75 percent of the land. The blacks were "harshly restricted to a mere 23 per cent of the worst land in designated Reserves. There were only 28,000 white settlers to nearly one million Africans in Zimbabwe at this time."

Land ownership hasn’t changed much since. The 1930 "Land Apportionment Act" perpetuated the glaring inequality. At independence, according to "Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Revolution" edited by Mandivamba Rukuni and Carl Eicher and published in 1994 by the University of Zimbabwe Publications, 6000 white commercial farms occupied 45 percent of all agricultural land – compared to only 5 percent tilled by 8500 black farmers. Another 70,000 black families futilely cultivated the infertile remaining half of the soil.

As black population exploded, poverty and repression combined to give rise to anti-white guerilla movements. The rest is history.

So on the face of it Mugabe may be seen to have a case. Our Sydney Communist Party (rump of a Party that dissolved itself some twenty years ago) newspaper The Guardian remain true believers in that case, for example in 2007 citing People’s Weekly World.

Dire economic conditions have caused this remarkable reversal of fortune for the party synonymous with Zimbabwe’s liberation from colonial rule. Food and fuel are scarce, inflation tops a mind-boggling 100,000 percent, and tens of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa and beyond.

Blame for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown over the past decade or so varies depending on political orientation. While the MDC and its western sponsors blame Mugabe, whom they portray as dictatorial, murderous and racist, supporters of the ZANU-PF government and many Africans across the continent charge former colonial power United Kingdom and its allies with crippling the country economically through sanctions.

It is no secret Mugabe has consistently challenged the agenda of capitalists in southern Africa from his days as a guerrilla leader fighting colonial rule to his more recent calls for pan-African unity against US attempts to impose genetically modified crops on communities needing food assistance. Mugabe’s backers believe the West has been pursuing a vendetta against him for decades.

Over the past few days the corporate media has uncritically repeated opposition claims that the government is planning a "bloodbath" and employed racist propaganda that "gangs" of Mugabe’s loyalists were "invading" white-owned farms. In its blind support for the opposition, the West fails to condemn irresponsible, charged comments like the MDC’s assertion that a runoff would lead Zimbabweans "to the slaughter."

Missing in all the so-called analysis is basic historical context. Before winning independence in 1980, Zimbabweans endured over a century of violent white-minority rule in the British colony known as Rhodesia. The most fertile land was stolen from African families and awarded to British colonists who held exclusive political and economic power. Liberation was achieved only through many years of military struggle led by ZANU-PF, supported by the Soviet Union and its allies.

Which is all very well, I suppose – so long as you remain oblivious to the fact that what was once the most promising country in Sub-Saharan Africa is now a total basket case with starvation threatening, and cholera, not to mention the HIV situation. And through it all Mugabe continues on being “Right”… How tragic uncompromising rightness – and I don’t mean “right” as in politics- can be! The determined and certain can create hell on earth without batting an eyelid, and this has happened time and time again on all sides of the political and religious spectra throughout our lifetimes, from Israel (both sides!) to Afghanistan, from China to Nazi Germany, from the former USSR to – well you name it…

Being “right” about unrestrained capitalism or free markets hasn’t proved much more encouraging either. God, we need a world of relativistic pragmatism, a world where absolutes of all kinds are treated with the suspicion they deserve! From Robespierre to today True Believers have been the death of us.

Back in Zimbabwe: check this for a ring of truth. I find these entries loud and clear:

  • I was quoted $2,568,000,000,000,000,000.00 for a spare part this morning. Can you imagine nipping into Tesco or Walmart and being presented with a bill to that value? It’s mind boggling.
  • So the jokes are set to resume again at a date to be announced this week in South Africa. The talks, now called jokes in street lingo, come at a time when the country is in a deeper mess and deepening by the day. An estimated number of more than 200 people have lost their lives due to a deadly cholera epidemic that is set to worsen as the rains continue to fall mercilessly on a country in distress.

    It should be highlighted that most of Harare’s high density suburbs don’t have clean running water and are plagued with burst sewer pipes. I have had the opportunity of driving through these populated urban settlements from Mabvuku, Tafara , Warren Park, Budiriro, Sunningdale, Mufakose, Chitungwiza, Seke and Mbare to mention a few and the likelihood of cholera spreading to these areas and killing more people is indeed very real as service delivery is very much non existent.

Meanwhile, I note The Guardian continues to serve up its comforting pap on other matters to its true believers:

Kind of a reverse Murdoch or Fox News, and not always wrong… But it so reminds me of fundamentalism… We KNOW; the herd DON’T… All very 50s…


Posted by on November 27, 2008 in Africa, Australia, current affairs


Sirdan and his mum at Chinese Whisper

Bit of a special Sunday lunch, as Sirdan’s mother is over from South Africa.

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She enjoyed our Surry Hills food.

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Posted by on November 2, 2008 in Africa, Australia, friends, local, peace, Sunday lunch, Surry Hills


More about yesterday

M called in; he is off to Shanghai for a couple of weeks on Tuesday. He looked through my recent crop of photos and was particularly attracted to this one:


I am about to add another chapter to the Redfern Visions set in a few minutes; do have a look.

Sirdan is a member of what has been in recent years a pariah group, a white Zimbabwean farmer of Afrikaner descent. He retains concern for his birth-country, and to my surprise, as I had been rather cynical on the subject, he does hold some hope for the new power-sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe. Let’s hope he is right.

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Posted by on September 22, 2008 in Africa, humanity, M, Sirdan, site news