Vote ANC

I recently spent a little more then a month in Zimbabwe, a country which has seen the same party and leader retain power for 32 years and counting. South Africans feel an affinity with our neighbour to the north, with many Zimbabweans immigrating here in the early 80s post-independence and more recently we have seen an economic exodus of Zimbabweans to South Africa with an estimated 2 million expats living and working in SA.

Over the past 32 years, Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have presided over a progressively steep slide into economic and social disaster. Hyper-inflation, a rampant HIV/AIDS pandemic and political crackdown and torture are just a couple of the headlines.

The question many people ask is how do they remain in power? Surely the people of Zimbabwe are sick and tired of this poor governance and would have by now voted in the opposition. And in a way they did, but in keeping with the finest traditions of third world leadership, Comrade Robert and his cabal of politicians, generals and businessmen managed to steal the election.

While that is all fine and well, the fact remains that people voted ZANU-PF – many people, even adjusting for voter fraud. This leads to the second conundrum, why vote for a party that has consistently proven to be corrupt and inept?

Before I attempt to answer that question, I would like to shift the attention to the South African political scene. We too have one major party, in this case the ANC, who dominates our government. Although there is proven corruption and mismanagement at almost all levels of national and provincial government, I must make the point that it is not nearly on the scale of the Zimbabwean problem.

Quick aside: If one more person says the words ‘South Africa is becoming Zimbabwe’ to me I am going to simply bludgeon them into unconsciousness and put them aboard a bus to Zim. Read my lips, we are nowhere near Zimbabwe.

In the same way the majority of Zimbabweans vote ZANU-PF regardless of the fact that they have not lived up to their promises and electioneering, so do over 60 percent of South Africans.

Now we return to our conundrum, why vote for a party that has consistently proven to be corrupt and inept? My personal answer: because they are still the only party that ever did anything for me.

Wait, wait those of you (specifically my Caucasian friends) who are reaching for the keyboard and scrolling to the comments section and hear me out. There can be no question that the ANC and its leadership by and large brought about the end of apartheid. Not the DP nor the PAC nor FW de Klerk, it was the ANC.

What does that mean for me, and for you? It means that I have actually been able to leave the country using a South African passport, it means my friends can choose to marry their same-sex partners should they so wish, it means that I can watch South African sportsman and artists and musicians perform on the international stage without having to resort to representing the country their granny or great-granny was born in.

Don’t get my wrong, if you choose to vote for the DA I have no issues with that(incidentally another privilege you have the ANC to thank for) but I don’t recall Mrs Zille or many of her lieutenants spending time on Robben Island or Victor Verster. Guess who did? Members of the ANC including the great man himself Nelson Mandela. Yup,

Nelson Mandela is the ANC.

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Poor journalism

I am somewhat angry today, for a couple of reasons on which I will elaborate. Firstly I am still struggling to get a newspaper or magazine to run the albino story which is more a case of disappointment then anger but I remain optimistic.  Secondly I came across a piece of what I regard as hack journalism regarding the disappearance of an albino boy in South Africa.

I will post the link below and would encourage you to check it out, if only to get an idea of what I am talking about. However basically it’s a kidnapping piece sexed up by the fact that the little boy involved is albino. Now I am not saying that the disappearance of the child has nothing to do with him being albino, but there are no genuine facts in the article.

Instead they reprint information readily available on forums like Wikipedia or other articles concerning albino attacks. The images they use are repurposed, (this is the politically correct term), from stories previously printed regarding Tanzania’s albinos.

The picture of the witchdoctor? I don’t even want to get started but should you want an image of one I can oblige. Let me assure you you will not find any masks.

Reporting like this is not only of poor quality but also badly researched and dangerous. It perpetuates stereotypes and offers nothing new in terms of information gathering and reporting.

Yes, I do believe the feature we spent a month working on is superior to an article wacked together just before deadline but that’s not the point of this little rant.

I want people to read magazines and newspapers with a healthy sense of skepticism, consider what you are reading, cross-reference it if you can. Expect more of your papers, demand more of them.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2010889/Albino-child-disappeared-way-home-school-kidnapped-witch-doctors-tribal-sacrifice.html

How do we write about Africa?

I have recently been spending a lot more time perusing the world of twitter. Now for those of you who are somewhat unsure what twitter is let me try and explain it the way I experience it.

People have 140 characters per message to express themselves, some use it to keep the world constantly updated as to their every move and others use it spread news and issues.

I use it primarily as a work tool, by paying specific attention as to what leading commentators and observers are saying and reporting about Africa. Last week a hot topic in the so-called Twitter’verse was an op-ed piece by the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof.

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/01/how-should-we-cover-africa/#more-9683

Kristof is a very smart man with an even more impressive resume of reporting from around the globe. The crux of his piece is how difficult it is to report on Africa when it comes to finding a balance between the good and the bad. He also looks at the way readership ebbs and flows depending on what he writes or even in some cases when the subject is simply an African issue.

Naturally some of the readers and tweeters out there were highly insulted, others in agreement and most somewhere in between. It is however an issue worth looking at and one which I am forced to confront as I continue to grow as a freelance reporter on the continent.

Personally I believe things are much more nuanced. Africa is firstly not a country, it’s a continent full of countries and people each facing their own issues and challenges.

Secondly, stories are simply not just a case of good or bad. To relegate the news coming out of the continent to either good news or bad news is to do the people and the places a massive disrespect, not to mention the audience.

Small victories

The news this week is good news. Cat has not only secured a part-time position teaching English online but has also organised a volunteer position with a prominent HIV-Aids NGO. Its unpaid, of course, but the experience will be invaluable as she will be working on presentations, conducting research, writing reports and even travelling to a variety of projects across Africa.

Needless to say I am very proud of her.

On my end, I continue to reach out to publications in the hope of securing some paid freelance work while at the same time promoting the piece on albinos. So far I have had what I would term semi-success in that a few editors have suggested I pitch some ideas at them while one magazine is pushing the piece up the chain. Here is hoping.

I am also working on a small photo and text book with Philipp Engelhorn. I always knew writing books would be hard but gee whiz, it really is.

Outside of that I am trying to set up my own personal website in order to become somewhat more professional in nature. I am also as ever in search of solid African stories that will appeal to an international market.

There you have it. The Gentleman Adventurer keeps on trucking.

An inspiring Friday

This is a link to a story that won’t take you all that long to read. It’s personal in nature as I am one of the Jeppe boys who Mr Martin Ledwaba blessed with his kindness, enthusiasm and determination.

In a time when people are recognised for the most inane of reasons Martin is a man who should be celebrated and lauded at every opportunity.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/2011/06/23/triumph-of-the-human-spirit

Of blogs and money

So growing up we were always taught that one should never discuss politics, religion and money. Well I have already discussed two of the three on the blog so here comes the trifecta.

Some or maybe all of you received an e-mail yesterday sent by one of my friends and blog readers C. In it she suggested people contribute to the blog if one felt the urge to.

Now its come to my attention that some folks were a little uncomfortable, annoyed or just confused by the mail. Firstly I want to apologise if this was the case, I know that was never C’s intention, she is just trying in her own way to support me.

Please know that Cat and I are doing ok financially and things are as good as they can be for newly weds living on their own for the first time. I understand what C was suggesting was that if you are a regular reader of the blog and by some twist of fate even enjoy it then you may feel inclined to support it.

I really want to draw a line under this issue and move on so what I am hoping is that everyone understands a little better the background to this and can chill out. If you want to talk about it or yell about it drop me a line and hey if  you want to stop reading then that’s cool with me as well.

Killing our neighbours

Its World Refugee Day today and so its serendipitous but also unfortunate that Xenophobia is once again the hottest topic in sunny South Africa. Actually it’s not which is on its own a pretty damning indictment of things.

Almost two years removed from a wave of killings and attacks aimed at foreigners it seems as if the monster has awakened from its uneasy sleep and is ready to wreak havoc. Most recently a Zimbabwean man was stoned to death in the northern province of Limpopo, while worldwide attention has been captured by cell phone footage of a mob murdering a man in Johannesburg’s Diepsloot township. The accusations leveled against these men were that they were criminals. Proof, they weren’t from South Africa. Here are some of the stereotypes I have heard since being home – Zimbabweans are the hijackers, Malawians are the burglars, Somali shopkeepers steal business away from South Africans and Tanzanians deal drugs. I am not even going to touch the Nigerian and Congolese stereotypes except to wonder if they are left alone as they are generally big burly fellows who stick together (oh look I just did it). I will go out on a limb here and suggest that we can all agree that the attacks are barbaric and shameful but at the same time maybe we can take a step back and try to understand the reasons South Africans are turning on their neighbours.

In Diepsloot and other townships around South Africa crime is rampant, while the Police are under-staffed, ill-equipped and unfortunately in many cases uninterested. This has led to members of the community forming what are known as Community Policing Forums (CPF), in my understanding a fancy name for a neighbourhood watch. At their best these forums can be useful and positive additions to the area and at their worst vigilantes. Problem two is the unemployment issue. With so many ‘locals’ out of work there is bound to be resentment towards outsiders who are employed or seemingly better-off.

The fact is that an illegal or even legal immigrant to South Africa who is providing for a family back home will often times work for less than the average wage and longer hours which undercuts South African workers. Not the bloke from Malawi’s fault but instead just how the market works.Employers are unfortunately always going to exploit the market and cutting wages while getting the same, if not more output amounts, to increased profits.

On the African continent I have met Ethiopians, Tanzanians, Ugandans, Kenyans and Zimbabweans who all harbour dreams of coming to South Africa in search of success, fortune and a ‘better life’. I do my best to dissuade or at least educate them as to what they may be in for but the lure can be just too strong.

Refugees, be they political or economic, are a reality and we as South Africans need to figure a way to understand and embrace them while dealing with our own issues before things get completely out of hand and a fire starts that cannot be put out.