Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jimi Hendrix & Jimmy Page: Two Of A Kind.

Last week on the 13th, I saw a special, one-off cinema event that featured the English rock group Led Zeppelin. The band broke up in 1980 but got together again just for this one-off event in 2007 in London to honor the founder of Atlantic Records. I'm a huge fan of Led Zeppelin, even though they were way before my time, and I have most of their albums either on vinly or CD. But every time I hear Jimmy Page on lead guitar, I always have to ask myself: who's the better guitarist: Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page?

Jimi Hendrix was way before my time and passsed away in 1970 at the at the age of 27, but his music is timeless. For those who've never had the opportunity to see him in action, I suggest a (DVD) viewing of "Jimi Hendrix: Live At The Isle Of White". You'll never tire of listening to "Hey Joe" no matter how many times it's been played on the radio. Jimi Hendrix "reasoned" with his guitar, treating it like an errant child that needed to be reasoned with. As for "eating" his guitar and playing it with his teeth, there's no-one better for doing that than Jimi Hendrix.

On the other hand, Jimmy Page "talks" to his guitar, like a stern scholmaster giving his class a right telling-off! His guitar-play on "Kashmir" is brutal, and yet on "Stairway To Heaven" he's ever so subtle, right up to the final climax. I've seen lead-guitarists play the guitar with their teeth and their elbows, but only Jimmy Page had the arrogance to play his guitar with a violin-bow! The man's a genius, and though many folks will disagree with me, I have to say that Jimmy Page gets the nod over Jimi Hendrix -- but only by a whisker.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ghana Shows The Way (once again)

A tall tale told to me years ago in the Gaborone Sun hotel, in Botswana, went like this: a Musarwa (Bushman) was invited by some Scandinavian do-gooders to spend the night in a hotel. They had heard many a legendary story about Bushmen and wanted to observe one up-close. However, in the morning, the Scandinavians were astounded to find out that their new-found Bushman friend had passed out and died in his hotel-room.

Apparently the Bushman had died of shock. The notion of of having readily-available tap-water was foreign to him, and so when he turned on the taps, and out came the flushing water, he was immediately overcome with shock and died on the spot!!

On Tuesday I witnessed (on Twitter) the Ghanaian I.E.A Presidential Debates, as the candidates went head-to-head, asking thought-provoking questions at each other, all live-streamed onto the Internet. The ease with which the democratic-process is practiced in Ghana is revealing. It's noticeably absent of the violence, opaqueness and buffoonery that exists elsewhere on the African Continent. For me it was totally shocking! On Tuesday, I was that "bushman in the hotel-suite", totally unused to the ease at which others conduct their political-affairs.

Where do our Ghanaian brothers succeed, where others fail hopelessly? What is it in the (political) water of Ghana that makes their political-process so much more democratic? Anyway, as for me, I was fortunately able to recover from my initial shock (unlike the Bushman in Gaborone) and live to see another day!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mo Ibrahim Prize

Once again we're witnessing the embarrassing spectacle of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for good governance lacking a winner. I myself was always skeptical of how Mr Ibrahim, despite his noble intentions, could find a winner for his prize, year in and year out.

First of all,  there are 54 African countries of which only a handful (Ghana, Zambia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Botswana, Cape Verde) have progressed into fluid democracies, with robust, free-and-fair elections. The rest have not and are often ruled by aging leaders who resolutely refuse to leave their posts. That's why your average African President is a doddering geriatric in his mid-to-late 70s.

So, it would have been a stretch -- if not mathematically impossible -- for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to find a candidate who met their criteria, year in and year out, given the "dead wood" of African leadership they were working with. If one handed the stats of Africa's leadership to an actuary, and gave him the criteria used for the award, he would probably have concluded that winners of the award would be few and far between.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Mo Ibrahim's prize or his noble intentions. It's just that the "dead wood" of Africa's geriatric leadership makes finding a candidate who meets his strict criteria an almost impossible task.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Searching For Sugar Man

Yesterday evening I saw the movie Searching For Sugar Man, which was directed by the Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul. I had been intrigued by the hard-to-believe story of a down-and-out musician from Detroit, barely known in America, who nevertheless managed to be immensely popular in the Apartheid-era South Africa of the early 1970s. In fact Sixto Rodriguez managed to sell 1/2 million albums in the White-South African market of about 5 1/2 million people.

As the movie unfolds, we are told of Rodriguez' drug-use; his peripatetic existence; and his bizarre on-stage habit of singing with his back to the crowd. Having heard his songs, I must admit that his melodic voice does make him sound a bit like John Denver( strung out on drugs). And there is a deep melancholy about his lyrics. Two questions immediately came to mind: why didn't he make a move to California, where his folk-sound would have found a ready audience? And why didn't Americans catch on to his unique sound? Had he been under-marketed by the record companies? Or maybe, as a Mexican-American, was he "too ethnic" for the mainstream market? These questions linger.

Apparently, Rodriguez was totally unaware of his South African success and did not see a penny from royalties sent to his American record-label, Sussex Records. He therefore had to continue to work as a manual-laborer to pay the bills. But the story of Rodriguez doesn't end there. After being tracked down by his South African fans, he finally made a tour of South Africa in '98 and sold out six concerts. The concert-scenes in the movie are the movie's most poignant moments. Very moving! Very touching!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Zimbabwe: Bring Back The Leadership Code

I'm calling for the re-imposition of the The Leadership Code amongst all three of Zimbabwe's main political parties (Zanu-PF, MDC-T, and Zapu). We've just witnessed disciplinary action being taken by the MDC-T against twelve of its errant members serving as City Councilors, Mayors and Deputy-Mayors. Not to be out-done, Zanu-PF is engaged in one of its habitual factional imbroglios, as different factions square off to benefit from hunting concessions recently awarded in the Save Game Reserve.

Off-course, we also need an independent prosecution authority with teeth that can go after errant, pilfering politicians, but that's contingent on the political authority in place. What we need to do, first and foremost, is to bring back The Leadership Code -- the moral code-of-conduct which Zanu-PF itself adhered to from independence in 1980 until 1989 (it was quietly shelved in 1989).

This moral code was not perfect; some made fun of its provisions; whilst others violated its moral intentions from the get-go! Nevertheless, it did keep the brazen material aspirations of Zanu-PF bigwigs in check. After it was quietly shelved in 1989, all hell broke loose.

To check the brigandage that passes for political behaviour in today's Zimbabwe, it's imperative that all three of the main political-parties sign up to a new Leadership Code. This code would serve as a moral check on excessive greed. Absent of this, the brigandage, banditry and wholescale misuse of public resources will continue unabated, with all the main political parties taking part.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympic Moments

We're now a week into the London Olympics, and I thought I'll share some of my most touching Olympic moments:

(1) After winning the 100M breaststroke, South Africa's Cameron Van Der Burgh was received at the winners' podium by none other than anti-Apartheid stalwart, Sam Ramsamy. There we had a South African of Indian descent -- who did so much in the fight against the racial-injustices of the Apartheid era -- awarding a swimming Gold Medal to a White South African. Not only that, but Cameron Van Der Burgh heartily sang along as Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika was played . It was a touching moment. Hendrik Werwoerd (the architect of Apartheid) must have been turning in his grave!

(2) As a Zimbabwean I was proud that our flag-bearer at the Opening-Ceremony was swimmer Kirsty Coventry. By herself, she has won more medals than the whole nation combined; actually she has won more Olympic-medals than the nation of India, with its 1.2Billion people! Not only that, she exemplifies the multi-racial, multi-cultural reality that is modern-day Zimbabwe. Some people watching the NBC coverage on tape-delay would have thought that Zimbabwe was a "White" country, and indeed, comments were made to that affect on Twitter. But no, having a White flag-bearer is not even an issue in Zimbabwe. We've left racial-strife behind us.

(3) I must say, the team event in Women's Gymnastics was out of this world. The last performance on the floor-exercise by US gymnast, Ali Raisman, was herculean! She nailed all her flips and somersaults, and then on the last flip, she landed on her feet and then immediately vaulted into the air again, breaking into an emotional smile whilst in mid-air! Words cannot describe her performance. This truly was an Olympic moment to savor!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Whither The English Weather

When two Africans meet the talk invariably gets to African politics; when two strangers meet in England the conversation-starter is always the weather. With the Olympics only a few hours away I have to admit that -- like most folks -- I'm intensely worried about the English weather. Will  it rain incessantly throughout the duration of the Olympics? Will the beach-volleyball players compete in driving rain? After all, last month was England's wettest June on record. It rained non-stop throughout the whole month, disrupting the tennis at Wimbledon and the F1 racing at Silverstone.

You see no-one has ever made two-and-two of the English weather; it's neither here nor there. One minute it's sunny, the next it's grey and overcast. As for the English weather forecasters: forget about them, for they're about as useful as the economic statistics from Papua New Guinea!

I even have a pet-theory that the Pilgrim Fathers who left England for the New World in 1620 did so not for religious freedom, but rather to escape from the dreary English weather. They just couldn't take it anymore! Rather than be driven insane by the cold, grey, dreary English weather, they decided to save themselves by seeking out more pleasant surroundings to live in. And they found it, here in the good 'ol U.S of A.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nigeria, Where Art Thou?

As I watched the tragic destruction of centuries-old African tombs in Mali by religious fanatics from the Maghreb, I could not but think of  Nigeria. Yes, you heard me right, Nigeria. If Nigeria was truly the "Giant of Africa" with an economy of, say, $600Bilion to match its population of 162 million, no rag-tag army of religious zealots from Algeria, Mauritania & Pakistan would have dared smash there way into an African country and abused its population and heritage.

It's because Nigeria lays comatose under the directionless leadership of (the fantastically misnamed) President Goodluck Jonathan, that the ancient heritage of Mali and Black Africa is being abused by barbaric nomads from afar. Let us not forget that Black Africa too has produced its fair share of barbarians. But these barbarians were swiftly dealt with by the Nigerian authorities. In Sierra Leone, the villainous R.U.F rebel movement was wont to chop the hands off innocent civilians until the Nigerian military intervened (in the 90s) to make the peace. The Nigerian military intervened too in Liberia (90s) after the civil war there got out of hand.

Of-course Nigerian intellectuals would say (in their defence) that they have too many problems at home to worry about the problems in Mali. But, it must be stated that the domestic problems in Nigeria are all the symptoms of the dysfunction of the Nigerian political elite. Had Nigeria developed economically and socially as it should have, we never would have heard of the Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. 

In the same vein, as I've stated above, a prosperous Nigeria would have never tolerated the rape of Black-Africa's heritage by nomadic barbarians from afar. It's time for the Nigerian "ship" to be put back on the proper course of economic and social development. Where goes Nigeria so goes the rest of Black Africa.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Zimbabwe: Travel Sanctions Must Stay

I have been reading that the E.U is considering dropping all sanctions against the Govt of President Mugabe and I welcome this positive development. But having said that, I wish to state categorically that only trade sanctions should be removed; the travel sanctions against leading members of Robert Mugabe's Govt must remain firmly in place. Here's the reason why.

After Kenyans, the most Anglophile folks on the planet just might be my fellow Zimbabweans. Anglophilia runs amok in my beloved Zimbabwe, to almost comical proportions. Were all sanctions to be lifted, all functions of the State would come to a screeching halt, as all Govt functionaries would hop on the first plane out to London.

There literally would be no Govt Ministers, Permanent Secretaries & senior bureaucrats left in Harare to carry out the affairs of the National Govt. Bond Street & Oxford Street in London would be teeming with Zimbabwean bureaucrats, elbowing Arab-Shieks and Russian Oligarchs out of the way. The food-court at Harrods would be emptied out as our Zimbabwean bureaucrats gorged themselves silly with exotic-food.

As I've just colourfully explained above, Zimbabweans are besotted with all things British and so, for the benefit of our National Exchequer and our essential governing functions, it's important that the Travel Sanctions Stay Firmly In Place. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anita Baker: Black Don't Crack!

My suggestive heading above alludes to the ageless beauty of Black women. The 80s soul-singer, Anita Baker, is still as beautiful as she was twenty years ago. Her voice is as angelic as ever. Last Sunday (24th of June) I happen to have attended a concert at the Stern Grove musical festival with Anita Baker as the main draw. Boy, oh boy, did she not disappoint!

Let me tell any reader that I've been to many concerts given by 80s musicians, where I wish I could have had my money back. Some of the musicians looked 'beaten down" by life, whilst others were simply studio musicians who could not deliver on the live stage. But not Anita! She started off with "Same 'Ole Love" and then proceeded to "Good Love" and "Angel" and by the time she belted out "Watch Your Step" she had the crowd mesmerized and begging for more!

There's no better feeling on this Earth than listening to a musician pouring out her soul, as she belts out a classic tune from days gone by. This is what life is all about, and not the proverbial bills/rat-race fandango that most people get caught up in. Once again, Anita Baker: I salute thee, oh beautiful one with the angelic voice. You made my day, and brought back sweet memories.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Portugal's Great Football Teams

I always love to watch Portugal's football team in action; they're my default team at any major championships. Part of the reason is that the Portuguese -- for all their faults in the colonial era -- have steadfastly featured African players on their squads for over fifty years now. They and the French teams are always the "African" teams at any European championships. 

In the picture below is the is the great (Mozambican-born) captain of the Portuguese squad from the 60s, Mario Coluna, and further below him is another Mozambican-born star from the 60s, and probably Portugal's' greatest ever player.....the incomparable Eusebio.


The African and Latin flavor of the Portuguese team always make them a joy to watch, and I particularly like the present team spearheaded by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. But, in no way, is this team the best Portugal has ever fielded. Let's go back to 1984 to the great team that featured Joao Pinto in defence and the Angolan-born Jordao in attack. They (pictured below) played some marvelous football, but were unable to stop the Michel Platini-led French team winning the tournament.

Having said that, all football pundits agree that Portugal's greatest ever crop of footballers was the so-called "golden generation" that featured Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, and Vitor Baia (the team is pictured below). As juniors, this team won the FIFA U20 World Championships in '91 and coalesced as a group, finally peaking at the Euro 2000 Championships. 

For all their firepower, they never actually won any championships (after their success in '91), but boy were they a sight to behold: the wing-play of Luis Figo; the crafty midfield-play of Rui Costa; and the clean-hands in goal of Vitor Baia. I rank this team in the top five teams ever to grace a football-field, up there with the Dutch teams of the 70s and the great 1970 Brazilian team of Pele, Tostao and Revelinho. This truly was a golden generation of football players.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Didier Drogba's Ridiculous Hairstyle

I don't usually blog about fashion or hairstyles, but I had to put this one out for one of my pet-peeves. This peeve is to do with Didier Drogba's contemptuous and out-dated "straight-perm" hairstyle. For how long is he going to stick with a hairstyle that went out of fashion circa 1992? It's totally unbecoming for a public-figure of his stature to be sporting such a ridiculous hairstyle in this day and age.

Let me digress a little here, and confess that I too once sported a "soft-perm" in my youth. Going to Harare clubs like Rumours, Bretts and Archipelagos, I had to follow the fashionable trends of my suburban peers and get my hair done like everyone else. But that was in 1989 when perming one's hair was all the rage. Though, I must admit that keeping one's hair greased was a hellish, financial burden. Finding the money to buy hair-food (like "TCB" and "Kubi") was a job in itself. In fact, some of my (poorer) peers took to applying cooking-oil to keep the grease in their perms !

Now, back to Drogba. I have even thought of  putting out an on-line petition to get him to clean up his act and sport a more dignified look. A married man of 34 should not -- and maybe, should not be allowed to -- sport a ridiculous hairstyle that went out of fashion about 20 years ago. How would people feel if some public-figure started to go around in bell-bottoms and platform-shoes (see below) from 35 years ago? Think about it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The British Aristocracy & Zimbabwe

On the eve of our 32nd independence anniversary, I would like to point out to readers some keen links between my beloved nation of Zimbabwe and card-carrying members of Britain's aristocracy.

In the picture above are, from left to right: Robert Mugabe, Lord Soames and Prince Charles. Lord Soames, the heavy-set and jovial figure in the middle of the picture, was the last Governor-General of Southern Rhodesia, serving from Dec 1979 to April 1980. Prince Charles had arrived in Zimbabwe just prior to independence in 1980 to represent the British Govt at the Independence ceremony.

Now, although Prince Charles was already involved in a relationship with Lady Diana Spencer (his future wife), his official hostess/consort to the Independence ceremony was Camilla Parker-Bowles, an old girlfriend with whom he had kept up a relationship & who he would marry years later. Here she is pictured below (in a much younger-looking photo).

But Camilla Parker-Bowles was already married to one Colonel Andrew Parker-Bowles, who just happened to be stationed in Zimbabwe as the senior military liaison officer to Lord Soames . And below is a picture from late 1979 of Colonel Andrew Parker-Bowles (on the left) and the Zanla Commander, Rex Nhongo (in the middle of the picture, dressed in military fatigues).

If this all sounds too strange to be true, just bear in  mind that the British aristocracy are known for their complicated romantic entanglements, as well as for their love of all things African. This genuine love is reciprocated by African leaders like President Robert Mugabe and President Jacob Zuma who are famed for their Anglophilia (and indeed, for their own complicated romantic entanglements).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kamuzu Banda's State Visit To Zimbabwe

Like many Zimbabweans, both at home and in the diaspora, I've spent the last three hours or so eagerly following President Mugabe's much-anticipated return from Singapore. I've been following the blow-by-blow accounts on Twitter and in Zimbabwe's media-sphere. This brouhaha surrounding President Mugabe's return has been surreal; almost like the 3rd coming of Christ! In its strangeness, I was immediately taken back over two decades ago to the surreal drama that surrounded the visit to Zimbabwe of Malawi's octogenarian President, Hastings Kamuzu Banda. 

Prior to his touchdown, protocol officers were already working behind the scenes to ensure that the trip went smoothly. Now, here's where things started to take a bizarre turn. Zim Govt officials working on the visit slipped out the information that Ngwazi -- as Kamuzu Banda was titled -- had some strict demands that needed to be met. First of all, he insisted that his convoy of motor-vehicles be larger than that of our President, Robert Mugabe. Secondly he insisted that the welcoming coterie of dancers from the Womens' League should have his photo on their brightly-covered outfits and not that of our President. A tall order, I would say! Even authoritarian regimes in one-party states would have had trouble meeting the demands of the Ngwazi. 

When Kamuzu Banda did land in Harare, he did get the extra long convoy of cars, but his other request was fudged and fiddled with. And there he was: almost ninety years old; doddering and senile; spitting into a spittoon; with his nurse/hostess/paramour (Mama Cecilia Kadzamira) constantly by his side. Throughout all of this drama our President, Robert Mugabe, kept a wry smile while the protocol-officers kept a straight face. But all was not well, and everyone could see it. We Zimbabweans wondered out aloud, how a President who was close to ninety and worse for the wear was still hanging onto power. How could this be? 

Well, little did we know that over two decades later, many Zimbabweans would be forced to ask the same questions about our very own leader, as he himself disembarked on a plane from Singapore. How can a leader who is close to ninety and obviously worse for the wear still obstinately cling onto political power? How can this be? They say that history repeats itself first as tragedy, and then as farce. I can confirm that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Education Is The Key

I finally got to watch an earlier edition of BBC's "Africa Debates", that was held in Accra, Ghana on Jan 27th. It made for some interesting viewing. What captured my attention was a comment made by one of the panelists, Kuseni Dhlamini of South Africa. He said that many African Govts deliberately abandon the public-education sector in order to disempower the citizenry, and to preempt any checks on their overwhelming powers from a literate populace (demanding economic and democratic justice).

This statement was glossed over and the panelists went on to deliberate over other issues. But I feel that education (or the lack of) is the key issue bedevelling the African Continent. To be educated is to be empowered. Having a thorough and comprehensive public-education system is the greatest duty of any developing country. It's even more important than the other essentials of development: roads, rail, potable water and telecommunications.

I'll use Angola and Mali  to show how nations disempower their citizenry through their sinister education-policies (or the lack off). Angola receives anywhere from $50Bil to $75Bil yearly from oil sales, and yet illiteracy -- in that country of 18 million -- is over 50%. Why is this so? Well, Angola's ruling elite knows all-too-well that if literacy rates reached over 90%, then people will be empowered enough to demand more democratic rights and accountability, and that would be the end of the corrupt rule of Angola by a narrow coastal-based elite. So, their solution to this convoluted dichotomy? Kill off the public-education sector and keep the masses in a state of ignorance and misery. That way, they'll never have the wherewithal, the means, to demand for their rights.

In Mali, the noted intellectual Cherif Keita has stated that during the reign of military dictator Moussa Traore, the most determined defiance of his regime came from Mali's public-school educators. So what did the evil dictator do? He deliberately maligned the public-school sector, stripped it of resources, and eventually forced many capable teachers to flee to neighboring countries.

That's how the erstwhile dictator of Mali got rid of his most fierce opposition (and wrecked the future economic prospects of his country in the process). So there it is: Education (or the lack off) is the key in dictating the democratic and economic progress of a country.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mali: The Entente Cordiale Unravels

The Tuareg rebellion in Northern Mali, which precipitated the military coup in that country, has finally put to rest the neat arrangement between the British and French in Africa, known as The Entente Cordiale. Well, now there are more players in the game: The Americans, The Chinese, and Militant Islam. 

Militant Islam is in an all-out war for the hearts-and-minds of Muslim West Africa and the Chinese need resources to fuel their economic expansion and new markets for their products. On the other hand, the Americans need to check Chinese interests in Africa; to halt the spread of militant Islam (in their wider "war against terror"); and to supplant the French as the dominant power in French-speaking West Africa. With a Malian military-regime facing its back against the wall, and a Malian populace hungry for Western modernity, the Americans will be free to implant themselves into the Malian political-economic sphere.

The coup in Mali is thus a God-send for the Americans, and they will milk it for all its worth and spread their regional-influence. Add to this are the Malian people themselves, who no longer see France as their dream nation. Now their gaze is turned to America: to Hollywood, to The American-Dream, to the NBA, and to the urban culture of Black-America. 

It's not incidental that coup-leader Sanogo was trained in America and speaks passable English. A generation ago this would have been unthinkable. Many of the new Malian elite are educated in America and are comfortable with English. The days of a neatly-guarded area of West Africa under French control are now truly over and The Entente Cordiale has finally unraveled.

Mali Coup & Elections in Senegal

Being a keen follower of African affairs is likely to give you cardiac arrest. The highs and lows are just too much! Just a week ago I was in the depths of despair after a military coup had toppled Mali's democratically-elected leader, Ahmadou Toumani Toure. I was beside myself with agony, and couldn't believe that such a calamity had befallen one of Africa's democratic success-stories.

From the depths of such lowly despair I was catapulted to giddy exhilaration, only a few days later, when Senegal's octogenarian President, Abdoulaye Wade, gracefully conceded defeat and bowed out of office. Having lost the election he even called the incoming President, Macky Sall, to concede defeat and to wish him well.

To think that I had gone to sleep on the eve of the election having "conceded" the Presidency to the incumbent, President  Wade! I thought that nothing would stop him from "cooking the books" and charging into a third term. But, alas, I had misread the situation on the ground. A unified opposition, a vibrant press and a (somewhat) neutral electoral-commission had ensured the impossibility of President Wade even attempting to "cook the books" and winning at the polls.

Such are the highs-and-lows of observing African-politics; the despair and exhilaration all rolled into one -- enough to give you a massive heart-attack!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

When Maggie Thatcher Met Winnie Mandela

I had to re-post this piece for wider viewing on my blog. It was culled from a Zimbabwean forum, one of those numerous Zimbabwean fora that specialise in mixing African-politics with sordid humor. I cannot vouch whether Winnie Mandela ever did meet the Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher, but even if they'd never met, an imaginary meeting between the two "Iron ladies" would still produce fireworks. Read below.......
At a cocktail party in the United-Kingdom, Winnie Mandela spotted Maggie Thatcher on the other side of the room. She barged past everyone, spilling the drinks of several invited guests on the way. Then Winnie elbowed her way to Maggie, stood brazenly in front of her and declared:

(Winnie Mandela)"I hear they call you the Iron Lady."

(Margaret Thatcher) "I have been referred to by that name, yes", replied Maggie Thatcher, peering down her nose at the impudent upstart.

"And whom, may I inquire, do I have the honor of addressing", asked Maggie icily.

"I am the Iron lady of South Africa!", replied Winnie, pumping her fist in the air!

""Oh yes", replied Maggie dryly, "And for whom do you iron?"

Thanks for reading. I hope you had a chuckle!
James Chikonamombe

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Andy Brown, R.I.P Fellow Comrade.

This week, one of Zimbabwe's finest musicians succumbed to pneumonia. Andy Brown made a name for himself with the 80s Afro-Pop group Ilanga, and then went onto further fame as a solo musician. Starting in the 90s, he also began to be known for his very vocal support of the policies of Zanu-pf, Zimbabwe's ruling party. Now let me digress here a little bit: supporting the  policies and the ideals of Zanu-pf does not mean, in any way, that one is a party stooge who parrots all the ruling party mantras. It simply means that one realises the economic and racial injustices that dedevil Zimbabwe; that one acknowledges the role played by Zanu and Zapu in liberating Zimbabwe from colonial slavery; and that one supports the ideals and aims of the Liberation Struggle (land-reform, equity, education, health-care, racial-harmony etc).

For all of Andy Brown's support of the ideals mentioned above, he was vilified by a large section of Zimbabweans. In his death, some of the comments coming out of the mouths of his fellow Zimbabweans have been  scathing, to say the least. What poor, old Andy ever did to to deserve this venom, no one knows. It's now become perilous, even heresy amongst a large section of Zimbabweans, to even espouse ideals that are in tandem with those of our Liberation Struggle. To do so is to invite ridicule, even violence. Such is the time we Zimbabweans live in.

If only people would step back a little, like the late Andy Brown, and note that 4000 white, commercial-farmers cannot continue to own 83% of Zimbabwe's arable land; or that Zimbabwe -- with $2.5 trillion in mineral-resources under its ground -- cannot be content with getting a paltry $190 million in royalties per year from Western mining companies, for all the resources they cart out of Zimbabwe

We need to think about these things, and our late comrade Andy Brown, did indeed think and articulate his thought on these issues. May his soul forever rest in peace.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daylight Savings Time....In Zimbabwe?

Early this morning in America, our clocks go forward 1hr as part of Daylight Savings Time. This act got me thinking about my native Zimbabwe, and the fact of how few things are actually "Universal", but are in fact specific to a certain country/region or are specific to a certain generation/time period. If I was go to my beloved native region of Chikomba, in Zimbabwe, and announce to an audience of wisened, old villagers that the clocks had been moved forward by an hour, I would probably be accused of sorcery. Such is the cultural disconnect between my beloved Chikomba and Northern California's Bay Area, the American region I reside in.

The wisened, old villagers of Chikomba, would probably enquire as to "who gave me the right, the wherewithal, to take it upon myself to dictate the change-of-time to them". That our so-called "Daylight savings Time" is meant to increase our productivity here in America, will be lost on the wisened, old villagers of Chikomba. There, time is "elastic" and the rhythms and cadence of village life are punctuated by the agricultural seasons, deaths, births and marriages, rather than by the hourly rituals of economic survival, as it is in most American cities. Some things, in fact most things, cannot be transported out of their cultural environment. Nevertheless, life goes on for the wisened, old villagers of Chikomba, getting on in their lives in that indomitable way that African villagers approach life.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Margaret Thatcher: The Iron Lady

About six weeks ago, I watched the movie "The Iron Lady" starring Meryl Streep. I was going to blog about the movie and Maggie Thatcher, the person, but I got distracted. So, better late than never, here it is:

                                                       The Movie
The acting in this movie is superb. Meryl Streep morphs into Maggie Thatcher, and gets everything right: the shrill voice, the accent, the mannerisms, the steely determination, the intense glare. There is a scene where she's hectoring one of her senior Govt officials for misspelling "committee" in a Govt paper. This scene alone is worth the price of admission! Jim Broadbent is superb as Sir Denis Thatcher.

                                            Maggie Thatcher, the person

Love her or hate her, you can't fault her for lack of trying. In stuffy England, no-one from her lower middle-class background could have climbed to the heights that she did without her steely determination. Americans -- who might be unfamiliar with England's (still) rigid class-system -- might think that she was a feminist icon. She was no such thing. I believe most women hated her, and still do! But inspite of her modest origins, she managed to climb her way to the top of the "greasy pole" (the British political system).


Something had to be done to stop Britain's industrial decline. Only the discovery of North Sea oil had saved Britain from begging money from the IMF (in '76). Thatcherism, despite all its faults, was the only way to re-position Britain's economy into the modern era. Had to be done, and there she was to  lead the charge! A weaker politician would have caved in over the Falklands Islands. Not Maggie! She wouldn't stand for any of that nonsense!

                                        Relations With African Countries

It was under her clock that Zimbabwe would achieve independence in 1980. The Zimbabwean Govt has always claimed that they have warmer relations with the Conservatives than with the Labour party. I tend to agree. In the 80s she would tussle with the other Commonwealth leaders over South Africa. I think that -- like everyone else in the British political Establishment -- she was simply looking out for British interests above everything else. Can't fault her for that.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Football and The Power Of African Presidents

I thought I'd post this very pertinent post on the eve of the African Cup Of Nations final between Zambia and Cote D'Ivoire. Note well, I'm recalling from memory so some of the details might be sketchy. In 1981 or 1982 I attended a football match between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Harare's Rufaro Stadium. I went with my elder brother. In those days the (titular) President of Zimbabwe was Canaan Sodindo Banana. Robert Mugabe was still nominally the Prime Minister (although all power rested in his hands).

Now this was the great Zambian team of the early 80s featuring players like Pele Kaimana, Alex Chola and Peter Kaumba. As it happened, Zambia scored a goal in the 2nd half (from what appeared to be an off-side position). The scorer, I recall, was either Peter Kaumba or Pele Kaimana. The ref immediately whistled off the goal as being off-side, but the Zambians protested. The ref would not listen to the Zambian players, so they decided to walk off the pitch. That's when something extraordinary happened: The ref then walked up to the match commissioner, but instead of conferring with the ref, the match commissioner immediately made his way up to the V.I.P stand where President Banana was seated. This was in the full view of all the fans.

After conferring with the President, the match commissioner then made his way back to the sidelines to commiserate with the ref. Then, the ref ran back onto the pitch and called the Zambian players -- who had been standing on the sidelines after walking off -- back onto the pitch to resume the game. Then he signaled that the Zambian 'goal', which had been scored from an off-side position, would stand. In other words, our President had overruled the ref and allowed the goal!

All the while I was being given a running commentary by my elder brother and other fans about what was going on. Once this news percolated through the stands, all hell broke out. That's when my elder brother grabbed me and told me that we must leave the stadium at once. I can only recall following my elder brother down the Rufaro Stadium stands and I never did find out what followed after that.

My point here is that, it's preposterous that a country's President could even take it upon himself to overrule a ref's decision at a football match! But then again, what sometimes happens in Africa must be filed under "to be seen to be believed", or even more ominously, "only in Africa".

The total power that's vested in our African Presidents is overwhelming and suffocating. With no checks-and-balances, their power wades even into trivial matters. Can we imagine President Harper, of Canada, stepping in to disallow a hockey goal, or President Obama nullifying a (baseball) 3rd strike! Preposterous! We Africans need to see to it that our Presidents "know their place" and are hemmed in by Constitutional checks-and-balances, so that they don't overstep their boundaries. We owe this to ourselves.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Memo To A Presidential Candidate

I have an online acquaintance whose e-mails I've been reading for over ten years now, and who's been prepping himself to contest in Nigeria's 2015 Presidential elections. Here's an online memo I wrote to him, telling him what needs to be done in his first 100 days in office.
1) A ban on the wearing of (English-style) white-wigs by judicial officials -- This is a colonial holdover that has absolutely no place in modern Nigeria. Those white wigs look ridiculous on Englishmen, let alone Africans from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Gambia. This madness must stop at once!

(2) A Presidential directive stating that all Nigerians who have received honorary doctorates from dodgy universities will cease to be titled as "Dr" forthwith! -- They can keep their dodgy doctorates in their drawers and stop boring ordinary Nigerians (and other Africans) with their gaudy, unearned titles. Furthermore, all fraudulent PhD holders who style themselves as "Dr" (without having gone through the required academic route), will henceforth have the law of the land brought unto them. This is a pet peeve of mine (and many other Africans, as I've come to realise). A Martian landing on Earth would think that all Nigerians were Doctors!

(3) Presidential Protocol must be followed at all times by the Presidential office-holder -- if the U.S Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs arrives in Abuja, he/she must be met by his/her opposite number in the Nigerian bureaucracy (and not the President himself!). This issue rankles! A visit by a middling,Western bureaucrat often brings African Presidents rushing to the airport (cabinet in tow, sirens blazing!), just to be seen shaking the hands of the (often-bemused) Western official. For example, a visit to Dakar by the Deputy-Mayor of Marseilles will have President Wade dropping whatever he's doing and taking his 86 year old legs to the airport to greet his guest. All boot-licking practices must be stopped pronto! We Africans must maintain our dignity at all times.

(4) Only Nigerian nationals will be appointed to coach the national Football Team, The Super Eagles. In the event that no suitable Nigerian candidate is found, candidates will be sourced from the West African Region or from farther afield on the African Continent -- nothing screams "Inferiority" more than African football teams that parade 3rd rate foreign coaches at the World Cup. I take it that a cultured African such as yourself, Dr Ojo, will never allow this ludicrous situation to continue unabated.

Please note: I was addressing this memo to Dr Valentine Ojo,  a long-standing online acquaintance of mine who had intended to contest the Nigerian elections of 2015, but sadly passed on in Aug of 2014. May his soul forever rest in peace. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ndoda Zibonele

I've been following the tragic tale of the stricken Italian cruise-ship, the Costa Concordia. 11 people perished and a further 21 are still missing, after it ran aground off shallow Mediterranean waters. But what rankles even more is the behaviour of crew-members and the ship's captain itself, Francesco Schettino. Reports say that once disaster hit, crew-members shoved aside old-ladies to get to the life-boats. The captain himself was one of the first to evacuate the ship, and he refused orders from the Italian Coast-Guard to return to his ship. So much for the ideal of captains going down with their ships!

The insane behaviour of the ship-captain captures the Me First Individualism of today's age. Everyone is consumed in his own affairs, in a hamster-like, non-stop hustle for survival. No-one has any time for anyone else. Even amongst my fellow Africans, famed for our communalism, our Ubuntu, the ethos of dog-eat-dog individualism is now deeply entrenched.

The Ndebeles of Zimbabwe say "ndoda zibonele", meaning man will always take care of himself. But in today's age this maxim has now been stretched to its logical conclusion, with each man now, literally, walking over dead bodies to maximise his own utility. I shudder to think where humankind will end up with this insane and unhealthy behaviour.