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.