Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mandela Ndeupi Wacho (Now, Which One Is Nelson Mandela)?

I remember it like it was yesterday: for a few days, rumors had been circulating in Harare that the ANC's President was about to be released from prison; finally that day had come (Feb 11, 1990); it was a weekend and the whole extended family were gathered around the TV. My parents, brothers, cousins, an aunt, we were all gathered around the TV waiting for the liberation icon to emerge onto our (satellite) TV screen.

Finally, there he was! But no, that wasn't him. The Apartheid South African regime had kept all present images of Madiba under wraps. I, like millions of other Africans, had his much younger image of him in my head. The image of him (posted below) as a lawyer,

in a crisp, dark suit with his hair carefully side-parted...that was the image I had of Nelson Mandela. Alas, at the moment that he was released, and in the kerfuffle that ensued, no-one in our family living-room could quite make out who of the men on our TV screen was Madiba.

There was an ANC official who had rushed out ahead of the crowd and was busy directing affairs. "Uyo Mandela", (there he is) I shouted out, but swiftly, my older cousin retorted, "No, that's Ramaphosa!". Indeed, Nelson Mandela was right in front of us, walking hand-in-hand with his wife, Winnie Mandela, but for a period of thirty seconds or so, we just couldn't see him. Everyone was looking for the younger Mandela, the figure in their heads. Then Madiba and Winnie gave a Black-Power salute and that's when it dawned on all of us, collectively, that the old man holding Winnie Mandela's hand was none other than Nelson Mandela himself.

My father immediately slumped in his chair, wearing a deep frown on his face, and my aunt asked, "what have they done to him". Twenty-seven years in prison, being subjected to psychological as well as physical torture on a scale unimaginable to the ordinary human being, is the answer to my auntie's question.

This blogger cannot even imagine spending 27 hrs (one day!) in prison, let alone 27 years. But that's the task Madiba proposed to himself, and saw it fit that one day his people would be free and that they would live in a multi-racial, free and democratic South Africa. I salute the epic struggle and achievements of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and I say Hamba Kahle.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vinyl Album Covers

I still have about 200 or so vinyl albums and 12 inch singles. Being a music aficionado, I kept on buying vinyls well into the 90s even when the CD format had become totally dominant. What I cherished most about vinyls were the album covers. For many albums the cover-art was worth the price of the album alone.

I often -- and I'm sure many others did too -- bought an album just for the cover-art. Album covers were a genre in their own right, and what we've gained in the ease and convenience of the MP3 format, we've lost in the artistic seduction and beauty of album cover-art. Please let me take a moment to share with you some of my favourite vinyl album covers.

The German group Kraftwerk were one of the pioneers of the electronic, techno sound (together with the British group Depeche Mode). Not only was their music revolutionary but their album covers were out of this world. Above and below are two examples of Kraftwerk's album covers. It's such covers that made one grab an album, just for the cover art!

The British group Soul ll Soul were another band whose album covers were always outstanding. The one that stands out though was the album cover for the 12 inch single Get A Life. "Simply outstanding", is the only description I can give for this wicked piece of album cover-art. It's as if they had hired Basquiat himself as artistic director for their album cover.

The rap genre too had many memorable album covers, and here's one from Scarface (with his game-face on) when he was at the top of his game.

With all respects to Scarface though, I think for the generation of 80s teens, one couldn't find better album covers than those of Kool Moe Dee. Here he is below in his signature all-black outfit and wrap-around shades.


And finally, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that's the case, the album cover for Timex Social Club's "Rumors" is a picture that tells it all, literally. A brilliant album cover, it would later be much used and borrowed for other artistic endeavors all over the world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zimbabwe Cabinet: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Zimbabwe's new Cabinet was announced today after a month-long wait. Let me just briefly unpack a few of the names and the issues surrounding the appointments (and non-appointments):

Amai Mujuru: Our Vice-President was clearly the winner in all of this. After wrestling supremacy of her own Mashonaland Central Province from another clique, she went ahead and stamped her authority on the make-up of the new Govt. Of-course President Mugabe (with the help of Chief Cabinet Secretary, Misheck Sibanda) is the final arbiter on all Cabinet appointments, but this Cabinet has "Amai Mujuru" written all over it.

Dzikamai Mavhaire: It's a mystery as to how a man who was once President Mugabe's chief critic, somehow managed to worm his way back into his good graces. Throughout the mid-80s and into the 90s he railed against President Mugabe's long reign, and yet, here he is back in Cabinet as Minister of Energy and Power Development. All I can speculate is that Cde Mavhaire "knows too much" and is too much of a loose-canon to be kept outside the tent, hence the need to have him tied down (inside the tent) with a Cabinet position.

Jonathan Moyo: If ever there was a man with nine lives then "The Nutty Professor" has to be that man. In fact, Harry Houdini couldn't touch this fellow when it comes to rebounding out of tight situations. At the Ministry of Information, the incoming Minister will have to bear with the obstreperous Permanent Secretary, George Charamba, as well as the equally verbose incoming Deputy-Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira. Expect fireworks at this Ministry as the three men (who are said not to get along) begin to squabble like junior wives in a polygamous household.

Walter Shamu: The appointment of the 67 year old Cde Shamu as I.C.T Minister is bizarre, to say the least. This has to be one of President Mugabe's strangest actions. A fiction-writer couldn't have made this one up.Ce n'est pas possible, the French would say. One wonders if our erstwhile I.C.T Minister owns a computer (or has ever sat down in front of a keyboard!)...anyway, let's move on.

Fancis Nhema: He's a decent fellow, calm and efficient, but are these the characteristics we need at the Indegenisation Ministry? Much of our industry is still in the hands of Westerners and White Zimbabweans and these folks do not yield an inch. I much preferred the "wrecking ball" approach of the previous Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere. A softly-softly approach might placate the markets, but that approach will not wrestle our industrial-capacity away from greedy Westerners. Having said that, let's see how Cde Nhema progresses in his new portfolio.

Josiah Hungwe: Poor old Josiah! The old Masvingo war-horse was rewarded for his seniority and loyalty with an obscure Ministry whose title is yet to be deciphered by the cognoscenti. What exactly is the job description for "The Minister of State for Liaising on Psychomotor Activities In Education and Vocational Training". What exactly are "Psychomotor Activities". Readers reading this paragraph would think that this writer has a vivid imagination and likes to make things up, but gentle readers, I kid you not! Such a Govt Ministry actually does exist in my beloved nation of Zimbabwe.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Zimbabwe Election Campaign 2013: My Observations

Three days to go to Zimbabwe's elections and never a dull moment to the election campaign. I thought I'd share with readers a few snippets of some of the goings-on in this crucial election campaign.

ZimboNames: Foreign readers trying to follow the action will quickly be perplexed by some of the English-sounding first names they encounter. You see, in Zimbabwe, names like Reason, Jealous, Hatred, Lovemore and Witness are actually common first names. So in our political circles we have Reason Wafawarova (a political analyst), Psychology Maziwisa (a publicity guru for the ruling party ZPF), Stylish Magida (an opposition politician), Lovemore Madhuku (who runs a leading NGO), Jealousy Mawarire (a polittical operative) and Kisnote Mukwazhi (a Presidential aspirant). 

Party Colours: All the political parties have their own colours to identify themselves, but the party-colour that has really piqued my attention is the bright-red worn by the main opposition MDC-T. In the picture below is the MDC-T's youthful organising secretary, Nelson Chamisa (dressed up as an Oakland pimp, in matching red shoes, suit and tie), dancing with the party faithful.

The British: Yes indeed, the British bogeyman has to make an appearance in these elections. Speeches made at campaign rallies of the ruling-party ZPF always site the Brits as the cause of most of the country's woes. It's the British this, and the British that. A Martian listening in on the radio would presume that these were the British elections! 

The First Ladies: Not only are the Presidential candidates duking it out on the campaign-trail, but their spouses are engaged in a bitter campaign of their own. After all, it's their husbands' jobs that are on the line. The incumbent, Amai Grace Mugabe, has gone for the jugular and I'm scoring it (boxing-style) 7-5 in her favour against her rival Elizabeth Macheka.  Below is a pic of the incumbent busting a move at a rally.

Below is a pic of the well-coiffed and manicured contender, Lizzy Macheka, on the campaign trail.

The SADC Observers: Many observing teams are being sent to observe these elections, with the A.U being the most prominent. SADC will also be sending its own observing-team, and no doubt, they will be observing the action...from the safety of Harare's local bars. You can always count on the SADC observers to catch up on a little gossip with their revolutionary comrades in Harare and to partake in a little (second) wife-chasing. After the elections are over, of-course, the SADC observers will deem the elections to have been "free-and-fair"...and all this "observation" will have come about without ever having left the comfy safety of Harare's watering holes.

The Numbers (just don't add up): A statistician would lose his mind trying to reconcile the figures being put forward by our electoral committee (Z.E.C). With an electorate of 6.4 million, why is there any need to print 8 million ballot papers? In some constituencies the number of registered voters are higher than registered residents. And when the votes are tallied, I'm sure some winning candidates will have received more votes than there are registered voters (in their constituency)! Tallying up the numbers in any African election is always fraught with difficulties, and let's only hope that a fair modicum of vote-counting is achieved in these crucial elections. Having said that: may the best man win! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zimbabwe Elections: Should Be About Dynamism and Generational Change

On my first trip home to Zimbabwe from College in N.America (early 90s) I made my way to see my grand-mother in Gweru. On seeing me she asked whether I still rode my bicycle as I did before, since she had been told that North American Winters were quite cold. I told her that, yes, I still rode but now most of my riding was indoors, in a gym, and on a stationary-bike. This I did to keep trim. We then went on a back-and-forth in our (Shona) language as I tried to explain to her exactly what a stationary-bike was and how it helped me stay fit. Now, my grand-mother knew what a bicycle was and she knew what exercise was, but she couldn't compute why someone would ride a bike and go nowhere! "Where will you be going on this bike of yours", she kept on pressing which I answered, "nowhere!'

I recalled this conversation with my late grand-mother this morning, when I was scanning the news updates on the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe. The Amadala (old geriatrics in their late 60s, 70s and 80s) who run the ruling party ZANU-PF, are clueless as to why elections are held in the first place. They know what elections are and they duly aim to win (by any means possible), but the concept behind elections, of democratic dynamism, is beyond these old geriatric folks.

Like my late grand-mother asking me "where I was going" on a stationary-bike, these old folks probably ask out aloud, "but who will replace us if we lose?". They cannot compute that losing, change, dynamism, and an infusion of fresh-blood are implicitly written into any democratic system. In fact this dynamism is really what democracy is all about: a chance to give newer faces (and a fresh, younger generation) a democratic-mandate to tackle the nation's problems. Not only that, but democracy implicitly allows the older ruling elites to depart from the stage gracefully. This quandary, of Africa's geriatric ruling elites not understanding why elections are held in the first place, is what's holding modern Africa back.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Dictatorial Route To Egyptian Democracy

The antidote to snake-bite is antevenom made from snake-poison. Similarly, to cure the need for authoritarianism and "strong-man" rule in Egypt, the Egyptian state must first have to be subjected to a harsh dose of iron-fisted rule by a strong leader -- and this heavy-handed rule must be buttressed by full-blown capitalism. Egypt neither has the resources (like Saudi Arabia) to re-distribute to a pliant populace nor can it afford Liberal Democracy on the empty bellies of its 85 million people, half of whom are illiterate and live on $2/day. After all, "you can't eat democracy", goes the old saying.

Here's my crude blue-print for what Egypt has to do to get itself out of its malaise. Firstly, a strong leader should be at the helm; someone who can rule with an iron-fist and who eschews all the niceties and trappings of democracy. Secondly, the strong-leader must appoint a small team of leading economists and technocrats to implement a top-down, root-and-branch overhaul of the Egyptian economy. Egypt has no choice but to go with the full-blown form of Capitalism. Demographic pressures on the ground and a woeful lack of resources means that it must literally go for broke with full-blown Capitalism. There literally is no other way!

The team of economists and technocrats must immediately implement the following economic measures: (a) all capital-controls to be lifted (b) all tariffs on capital-equipment to be removed (c) the Egyptian Pound to be made free-floating (d) all loss-making state-enterprises to be sold (e) all restrictions on the-ease-of-doing-business removed. In this business-friendly environment it should take no less than a week to start a business, and all the paper-work should be available online. (f) the removal of all food and fuel subsidies. I know this will be extremely painful, but these are the subsidies that are bankrupting the state, and the Egyptian state can ill-afford such extravagance. And finally (g) a flat tax of 15% to encourage Egypt's wealthy class to pay their fair share of taxes. Compliance with such a low flat-tax will increase (and not decrease) revenues in a developing economy like Egypt's.

After enacting the above measures the Egyptian economy will start to grow again, albeit from a low base. Egypt should be shooting for growth rates of between 7-10% per year (economic growth of 10% per year will double the economy every seven years). Egypt's poor masses cannot eat the empty rhetoric of democracy, but what they can eat is the sustained prosperity of a growing economy. Once the economy ticks, THEN incremental political and social reforms can be implemented. This is an important point: get the economics right first, and then tackle all other needed reforms. I repeat: this is a crucial point. Often nations like Egypt (stuck in a rut) try to "democratise" their way out of their problems first, before tackling economic problems, with the result being more misery and even anarchy.

A growing economy will feed on itself and a more prosperous citizenry will then demand a greater say in the running of their own affairs. Once the hypothetical "strong-man" hears these words from the streets, he will then know that it's time to allow for a more democratic political-dispensation. And that, my friends, is how Egypt can steer itself to a more prosperous and viable democracy, via the steely hand of a dictatorial-regime and prudent economic policies. If it sounds contradictory, it actually isn't. That's how South Korea and Chile steered themselves from misery to prosperity, and then gradually to viable democracy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

We're All Nigerians Now

I've always theorized that all Black Africans have a dormant Nigerian gene that is made active or inactive depending on the particular circumstance that one finds oneself in. When Chinua Achebe passed away in March, all educated Africans fell over themselves to heap literary praise on the undisputed master of African writing. In fact Achebe's own writings were recycled in that praise and Ogidi, Umuofia and Okonkwo were resurrected by admirers who had never set foot in Nigeria. For once, all of Black Africa were pseudo-Nigerians, or wannabe Nigerians.

That admiration for all things Nigerian came to an abrupt end in May when two Two British Muslims (of Nigerian descent) hacked to death a British soldier on the streets of London. All Africans quickly pointed an accusing finger at the two attackers, who were themselves quickly disowned by the wider Nigerian community.

Now we are in June and the Confederations Cup of Football is upon us. Once again the pendulum has swung the other way and that dormant Nigerian gene has been made active once again. For the next two weeks expect to see Nigeria's population miraculously grow from 150 million to 750 million as all of Black Africa gets behind Nigeria's football team, the Super Eagles. Football fans from Dodoma in Tanzania to Dakar in Senegal will be cursing at their TV-screens and choking on their food as the Super eagles take to the field. Every cross from the wings will be scrutinised; every near miss by the strikers will be lamented.

Have mercy on Nigeria's fantastically misnamed President, Goodluck Jonathan. For the next two weeks he will have to deal with 750 million critics as opposed to his usual 150 million. In Africa, where football and politics often morph into a singular pursuit, football fans will use the opportunity to blast every decision he makes. They will criticize his choice of cabinet-ministers and even his wardrobe, while following the exploits of the Super Eagles.

That, my dear Africans, is what it means to be a modern African: following the footballing exploits (and travails) of a nation you most likely have never set foot in. That's what I meant by the header, We're All Nigerians Now.  You gotta love being an African!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Robert Mugabe's Template For Racial Reconciliation in Southern Africa

Today is Zimbabwe's 33rd independence anniversary and I would like to take readers back to an amazing event that took place on March 4, 1980. It was the first ever speech made to the new nation by the incoming Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, and I have posted this speech at the bottom of this blog. This statesman-like speech of racial reconciliation and nation-building set the tone for a decade of economic prosperity, racial healing and great advances in education and health.

Having demonized Robert Mugabe as a "terrorist", "war-monger" and "Communist" throughout Zimbabwe's war of liberation, White Rhodesians were understandably terrified of the incoming Black African nationalists who were to take over the reigns of power. Furthermore, the mass evacuation of a quarter-of-a-million Portuguese to Portugal on the eve of Mozambique's independence in 1975, was still fresh in the minds of Rhodesia's Whites. After Robert Mugabe's ZANU had been declared the winner in the elections, White Rhodesians literally had their bags packed waiting to escape the incoming racial retribution and tyranny that they thought was to accompany ZANU's rule. Alas, no such thing happened.

On the 4th of March 1980, Robert Mugabe gave one of history's greatest speeches, a speech that is up there in the same league as Dr King's, "I have A Dream" speech and Winston Churchill's wartime,"Never, Never, Surrender" speech. It was a speech that changed the course of history. Prime Minister Mugabe assured the nation's Whites of their rights and economic freedoms in the new and independent state of Zimbabwe, and stated that there was to be no racial retribution for past misdeeds. This racial-reconciliation would allow White Zimbabweans to prosper for a decade-and-a-half in ways they had never imagined before!

This White prosperity and racial harmony in Zimbabwe was also keenly followed by White South Africans. It was this harmonious Zimbabwean template that would convince White South Africans of their own place in a free and independent South Africa under Black majority rule. Had the Black African nationalists in newly independent Zimbabwe gone for racial retribution, the Whites in South Africa would never have acquiesced to majority rule in their own country. They would have fought  to continue with the evil Apartheid system and this would have engulfed the whole of Southern Africa in a racial inferno. Mercifully, that ghastly outcome never saw the light of day, thanks to the foresight and statesman-like conduct of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe. We salute him and thank him for that.


 mugabe cover copymugabe 1 copy

mugabe 2 copymugabe 3 copy

Monday, April 15, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Lessons For Africa

I've never hidden my love for Maggie Thatcher, the now dearly-departed former PM of Britain. I'm an unashamed fan and I've always kept her speeches, biographies and videos in my personal records. Her faults were legion and her enemies ran into the millions, but nevertheless, she ruthlessly stood for British interests and the policies that she thought would help Britain prosper. Some of these policies were brazen in their cruelty, lacking not even an iota of empathy. And yet, these were the policies she wanted, these were the policies she stood by (whatever other people thought), and these were the policies that ultimately saved the UK from turning into a basket-case. We too in Africa need to produce a few "Thatchers" of our own to move our countries forward. We need to produce leaders that are daring; willing to "radically alter the pieces on the chess-board" and change the status-quo; even to be cruel -- where doses of cruelty are needed -- in order to achieve their aims.

Other countries have had leaders who were prepared to take unpopular, even exceedingly cruel actions, actions that in the long-run greatly benefited their countries. Chairman Mao ruthlessly crushed China's feudal elite; allowed peasants to farm for themselves; increased female literacy from 1% to 80%; and set in motion the progressive direction that led to China's dominant position today. Joseph Stalin took over Europe's most backward, illiterate nation and within thirty years had turned the Soviet Union into a Super-Power, albeit at great human cost. The South Korean Generals who took over after the Korean War crushed all dissent; marshaled all resources in a concentrated effort to catch up with the West; and in a generation-and-a-half turned the once backward, inward-looking "Hermit Kingdom" into one of the world's most dynamic regions.

We have had three leaders in Africa who could be defined as "Thatcherian" in their revolutionary idealism. The first two were Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara, and third of the trio has to be Robert Mugabe. The bold actions of the first two were cut short prematurely, and we will never know what could have transpired in Ghana & Burkina Faso had their revolutions been allowed to run their course. In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe has returned land back to its original owners and is in the process of re-possessing the mines and other key sectors of the economy. The jury is still out on his reforms, but by golly, he has shown the Chutzpah, the gumption, the revolutionary idealism that would have made Margaret Thatcher proud! In fact, in many ways, they were kindred spirits.

What we now need is a newer, fresher, younger generation who come forward and radically re-vitalise the African landscape. This is not a utopian fantasy, but a necessary course that might be our saving grace. Without radical change in Africa, we risk turning into African versions of America's Native Indians...a defeated people who no longer direct their own destiny.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Phandu Skelemani and Botswana: A Napoleon Complex Writ Large

Way back in my clubbing days I was always weary of attracting the ire of short people. I knew that if an argument broke out in a night-club it was always the little guys who wielded a knife (or even worse, a gun). You see, short people always have a point to prove and the same can be said for the little countries that most people have never heard off. It's always the Qatars and Botswanas of this world who make the most noise in the international arena, despite their having small populations.

Just this week we witnessed the bizarre tale of Botswana's Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani, threatening to arrest Kenya's President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, if he dared to set foot in Botswana. One could almost imagine Uhuru Kenyatta sitting in his office, straining his eyes and trying to find Botswana on a map of Africa! The fact that little Botswana (population1.8Mil) could dare to throw the rule-book at Kenya (population 41 million) was a shock to many people. What gumption!

The truth of the matter is that, in the wider scheme of things, Botswana simply does not matter. No-one gives a rat's ass what the Foreign Minister of that little country thinks or says! Most people in East or West Africa would have a hard time naming the sleepy capital of Botswana (Gaborone) or even one MuTswana who has ever achieved any fame (I couldn't).

Let's leave pontificating on Continental issues to the big boys of African politics, the Nigerias, South Africas and Ethiopias of this world. They have the clout, size and Continental heft to make their voices heard throughout Africa. Small nations like Botswana, Lesotho and Eritrea should speak only when spoken to.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rest In Peace, Hugo Chavez.

Whatever we think of Hugo Chavez we must at least concede that he did make an honest attempt at making the Venezuelan masses active participants in their own country's development. Previous rulers -- representing a very narrow elite -- had ignored the bulk of Venezuela's Mestizo and Mulatto masses, and instead had focused on living in their false utopia. These European-descended elites had always cared more for plastic-surgery and shopping trips to Miami rather than caring for the welfare of schoolchildren in Caracas' barrios.

Thanks to Hugo Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution, the state finally re-orientated its machinery to providing for the basic needs of the teeming masses. Ironically, the Bolivarian Revolution was named for Simon Bolivar, an independence-era member of the wealthy elite, but whose predecessors had chosen to ignore his noble intentions. Centuries of deliberate and structural "active inactivity" on the part of Venezuela's do-nothing elites meant that nothing had ever been done to uplift the poor. Absolutely nothing!

Until roughly thirty years ago, the only path of progress available to upwardly-mobile Mestizos and mulattos in Venezuela was to be found either in the military or as teachers. That's how Hugo Chavez -- a sharp mind from the lowly classes -- found himself in the military. As ruler himself, he could never change centuries of misrule in two decades, but he did give his best shot.

By no means is modern-day Venezuela a verifiable utopia, with its serious problems of crime and inequality, but at least the masses now have a foot in the door. It was Hugo Chavez who upturned the chessboard and put the masses in play as actors in their own development. For this we thank him! We salute him and may he forever rest in peace.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Yahya Jammeh: Barking Mad Or A Revolutionary Genius

Thank God it's Friday, and especially so in The Gambia. You see the tin-pot dictator in that West-African nation, Yahya Jammeh, recently decreed that from now on all public-sector workers will only work a four-day week. What a stroke of genius! He might be short of a fuse or two, but we should give this deranged-fellow credit where credit  is due. Furthermore, his revolutionary action does go far in proving the proverbial claim that, indeed, there is a thin line between being a genius and being barking mad.

This is not the first time, by the way, that Alhaji Sheikh Professor Dr. Yahya Jammeh (to use his full title) has shown his revolutionary colours. In 1995 he attempted (in vain) to ban the use of skin-lightening creams in The Gambia, and in 1998 Gambia's first university finally opened under his rule.

We who live in The West can also also use some of his chutzpah. Half of all public-sector employees (here in the West, at least) are really filing clerks and are surplus to needs. To keep present employment levels in our public-sectors, maybe we should follow Yahya Jammeh's lead and make the work-week a four day endeavour.

Monday, February 4, 2013

SF 49ers: Why Oh Why?

Until the day I die I will never know why the SF 49ers called three straight passing plays -- all to the same player -- in their last offensive drive of the title game, and all in the opposing team's Red Zone. They had all the momentum, and were in striking distance of the end-zone. On top of that they had in Frank Gore the league's best short-yardage runner, and in QB Colin Kaepernick, the league's best rushing quarterback. And yet, to the horror of everyone, offensive-coordinator Greg Roman proceeded to call three straight passing-plays to wide-receiver Michael Crabtree. 

Crabtree has been QB Colin Kaepernick's favorite target all season long and the Baltimore Ravens knew this. They had been double and triple-teaming him all afternoon long. Why, oh why did the 49ers insist on calling these bone-headed plays to a marked receiver when running it in would have been a much better option. Why oh why?? Even a draw-play by the QB would have put the team into the end-zone.

Anyway, we'll never know what possessed Greg Roman on that Sunday evening. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the play-calling of the 49ers in that final drive was a "riddle wrapped in a mystery". It was a case of lousy play-calling at its worst and it spoiled a fine season by the Bay Area's finest sports franchise.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

49ers Game Plan

I know, I know, I live in Oakland across the Bay, but like most Bay Area folks I'll be rooting for the cross-town SF 49ers on Superbowl Sunday. Here's my game-plan for the day:

1] The 49ers must go with the ground-game, grinding out the yards on short-yardage plays. They have the league's premier short-yardage back, Frank Gore, a running-back who runs like a full-back (straight-up-the-middle).

2] The Niners must run the ball on most downs, pounding out the yards, and to do this they have to control the line-of-scrimmage. If they control the line-of-scrimmage and run the ball on most downs (keeping the ball out of the hands of Ravens' QB Joe Flacco) then victory is assured. Possession football is what I'm talking about here.

3] Niners QB Colin Kaepernick should only throw on third downs and he mustn't gun it long either. Remember, it's all about possession football. Kaepernick must not get into a shootout with the Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who can air it out. Furthermore (on throwing downs) the Niners should go with a version of the WestCoast Offense, dumping the ball off to the Tight-End (Vernon Davis) or to any of the backs coming out of the backfield.

4]. All Kaepernick has to do to ensure victory is to spend the afternoon handing the ball to Frank Gore and (on third downs) dumping the ball off to the tight-end, Vernon Davis. That's all!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mali's Descent Into Hell: Deja-Vu All Over Again

Watching Mali descend into chaos gives me a sense of deja-vu. Wasn't it only too recently that Mali was held up as an African, democratic success-story? For the past ten years all Afro-optimists blurted out "Mali" when they wanted to show a democratic, multi-ethnic, and religiously-tolerant African state. In hindsight, we can now see that it was all an illusion. We were blind to glaring reality. The Malian political elites were just as bad as the rest of their Continental cousins, busy engaging themselves in massive looting of public coffers, corruption and even facilitating drug-smuggling.

I've seen this movie before, and it's all too familiar. A creeping case of deja-vu, all over again. In the 80s and early 90s, Ivory Coast was held up by all Afro-optimists as the sole success story (in French-speaking) Africa. "Paris" was the word blurted out to describe the shiny veneer of Abidjan, and all Afro-optimists pointed out to Ivory-Coast as the one African state "that worked". Well, we now know that all the shiny veneer of the famed Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan was nothing but an illusion.

An overvalued currency allowed the Frenchified elites of Abidjan to import all their basic needs from France (even toilet-paper!) and keep up the appearances of living in a modern (i.e. French) state. The structural imbalances of the economy and political system were glaring and were cruelly exposed after the death of the 1st President, Houphouet-Boigny. What we witnessed with Ivory Coast in the 90s, we're now witnessing again in Mali. A nation thought to be successful, but with deep structural imbalances in its economic and political system, has been cruelly exposed and brought to its knees. I weep for my beloved Africa.