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Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Monday
Apr092012

Mr. Gay World Takes Africa by Storm as Controversy Continues on the Continent (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: A billboard advertises the Mr. Gay World finals at South Africa's Gold Reef City, Johannesburg, on Sunday/MABUTI KALI)(HN, April 9, 2012) - A 32-year-old New Zealand manager for a chain of stationery stores, won the title of Mr. Gay World during the final competition that ended late Sunday at the Gold Reef City resort in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The grand finale was hosted by local stars Soli Philander and Cathy Specific, who were joined onstage by the group African Umoja, and international performers such as Ukraine's top pop star, Kamaliya and guest artist Baby M from Japan, as well as local stars Terrence Bridgett and Alexander Steyn.

Andreas Derleth, 32, a German man who lives in New Zealand won the competition which included 24 other delegates from all over the world including:  Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Only three of them are from Africa and it's also the first time black Africans took part.

Founded in 2008, the Mr. Gay World competition was created as`a positive environment for gay men to share their stories. The winner would not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self-assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities, but would also take care of his physical beauty.'

Prizes included $25,000 in travel vouchers to enable the winner to spread his message around the world.

Gay rights have been under pressure in many parts of the globe recently - Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East - but primarily in African nations where gay rights activists have been threatened and killed and where dozens of countries have passed laws banning homosexuality.  

Of particular concern in recent years have been attacks on lesbians sometimes called "corrective rapes."

(PHOTO: Lexus sponsors the Mr. Gay World contest, Johannesburg, SA/Mr. Gay World) Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws.

In nations such as Uganda, Zimbabwe  and Ethiopia court battles and street clashes have defined the movement with strong feelings on both sides as the continent modernizes.

Therefore, many of the African participants faced the most intense discrimination and prejudice, though the location of the event took place in South Africa - the only country on the continent where gay marriages are allowed.

The bill of rights adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 explicitly bans `discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation'. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa.

Originally, Africa was to be represented by South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, as a lack of sponsorship and funding prevented delegates from Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya from taking part.

But relentless government pressure on the Zimbabwean delegate, Taurai Zhanje, forced him to withdraw from the competition fearing the publicity was making life difficult for his mother. 

Namibia's representative, Wendelinus Hamutenya, was attacked in early December and landed in hospital but his family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition.  "Bring the trophy home,"  Hamutenya's mother said to him.

Though he lost, a disappointed Hamutenya said he would nonetheless return to Namibia to fight "for gay rights and human rights."

Since becoming Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya has lobbied for a repeal of his country’s anti-sodomy law. And he says, politicians have been receptive to his arguments.

The Ethiopian delegate, Robel Hailu, is a student in South Africa and after his candidacy was announced on Ethiopian radio a media storm broke out and his father cut off all communications.

(PHOTO: Andreas Derleth beat out 24 other contestants to be crowned Mr. Gay World/Mr. Gay World) It wasn't just African gays who faced difficulties this year however. The Chinese contestant was unable to come to Johannesburg because of anti-gay pressure there, organizers said. 

Mr. Gay World includes an essay test on the history of the gay rights movement. But the swim suit competition counts for more, according to the judges’ handbook. The seven judges from around the world include journalists and an actor.

South Africans Charl van den Berg and Francois Nel were Mr. Gay World in 2010 and 2011 respectively, bringing home the honor of winning a world event twice in a row.

"We look for the best man, whether he’s white or black or any other color," said Tore Aasheim, one of the Mr. Gay World organizers, adding he hoped more contestants from Africa would participate in future contests.

---HUMNEWS

Wednesday
Dec282011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/28/11

Afghanistan 

India, Iran to resolve crisis in Afghanistan

(PHOTO: Canada's 1915 IDP's in La Ferme, Canada. MONTREAL GAZETTE)Albania

 Ton of cannabis seized in Albania

Algeria

Turkey accuses France of genocide in Algeria

Angola

Government pledges to cultivate human rights 

Antigua & Barbuda

World Bank says climate change talks bring ‘good and bad news’ for the Caribbean

Argentina 

Five Argentines Die in Traffic Accident in Southern Brazil

Armenia

Armenian women’s national team beats Vietnam’s team

(PHOTO: Tariq Ramadan at the Toronto1 gathering. The convention lured an impressive galaxy of distinguished scholars, including Prof. Tariq Ramadan ONISLAM.NET)Bolivia

Bolivian Minister Highlights Economic Growth 

Brazil

Due to Too Little Structure & Too Much Pesticide Brazil Exports Less than 1% of Its Fruit

Cameroon

Eto'o launches mobile network

Chinese Goods Top Christmas Wish List In Cameroon

Canada

Toronto Convention Inspires Canada Muslims

Remembering the spirit of Canadians unjustly interned

China

Chinese dissident Chen Wei gets 9 years in prison

Snack makers face expired food probe

Facebook Follows Server Brains From Taiwan to China

Colombia

Colombia, The Netherlands  Sign Rivers Dredging Agreement

(PHOTO: In Cyprus, poaching of the Blackcap birds is surging in defiance of a European Union ban. József Szabó.)Congo (DRC)

Congo: What’s Rwanda got to do with it? Interview

Cyprus

Illegal bird trapping a surging problem in Cyprus

Egypt

Egypt’s Amina Diab forges ahead with handbag collection

From Burning Bodies To Burning Books: Egypt Becoming “House Of Dust’ (Perspective)

Equatorial Guinea

Seadrill semi-tender rig gig off Equatorial Guinea

Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Swedish journalists to spend 11years in prison

Finland

Finland Authorities Clear MS Thor Liberty With 11 Ukrainian Citizens On Board After Finding Explosives To Travel Again 

Guinea

Guinea to review mining contract – Mr. Alpha Conde

India

Guwahati campus to become operational next June, says TISS Director

Don’t write off the India story yet (Perspective)

Iran

(PHOTO: Taiwan election-inspired merchandise on display in a shop. CHANNELASIA.NET)Iran and Russia survey regional developments

Iran envoy:  Abducted engineers in Syria are safe and sound

Iran threatens to stop Gulf oil if sanctions widened

Stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb (Perspective)

Japan

Anti-Whaling Activists Use Drone to Track Japanese Fleet

Japanese PM Noda in India on economic mission 

Jordan

Libyan health minister visits Jordan field hospital

Kosovo

Serbia returns to dominate Kosovo market

(PHOTO: Screen shot of Tunisia's new Islamic TV channel, "Al Kalam")Kuwait

Kuwait donates 1 million to support Gaza preschool children 

Second consignment of Kuwaiti fuel donation arrives in Benghazi 

Lebanon

Lebanese al Qaeda operative eulogizes Jordanian killed in Afghanistan

Libya

Aid workers in Libya ponder future role in oil-rich country

Benetton Donates UnHate Statue To Libyan Capitol

Malta

(PHOTO: S. Sudan, the planet's newest nation opens its embassy in Washington, DC this week. WASHINGTON POST) PM, wife unharmed as shots fired close to Girgenti Palace

Montenegro 

Montenegro police arrests 16 members of international drug trafficking ring

Morocco 

Journalist Denied Access Into His Office

On the Verge of a Clean Energy Transformation: Morocco

Myanmar 

Burmese embassy in Thailand appoints labour official

Niger

A 'children's crisis' unfolds in West and Central Africa's Sahel region (Press Release)

(PHOTO: A gorilla stops to groom a tourist in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. DISCOVERY NEWS)Nigeria 

Christians flee north as Nigeria mourns church bomb victims

North Korea

Web blackout helps North Korea craft new cult of Kim

Oman

Pirates Seize Enrico Ievoli Ship With Five Ukrainians On Board Near Oman

Philippines

The Rights of the Child (Perspective)

Russia

Egyptian Foreign Minister in Russia to discuss Syria crisis

Rwanda

Country Committed in Fight Against Climate Change - Kamanzi

(PHOTO: `Harare Beyond Words' opens at H Gallery, Bangkok Thailand Jan 5-30th, 2012)Saudi Arabia

AIDS patient sues Qunfuda hospital

KSA residents protest fines for 'wasting water'

Value of Saudi's delayed public projects hits $147bn

Mobile phone subscriptions in Kingdom up to 56.1m in Q3

'Hafiz' flayed for precluding job hunters above 35

Endless debate over death penalty (Perspective)

Senegal

EALA roots for disaster experts in the region

South Africa

SA envoy visits drug mules in Thailand jails

Discovery of world's oldest bedding in SA (VIDEO)

South Sudan

South Sudan’s entrance on world stage includes setting up Washington embassy

South Sudan: Africa’s next farming frontier

Creating a film industry in South Sudan from scratch

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Fresh Insights On Attempts To Join ASEAN – Analysis

Sudan

Steps to Launch the Sudanese Satellite

Swaziland

(PHOTO: First community of hackers, called Hacekerspace were found in Tunisia this week. Nawaat.org) Electricity consumers soon to decide on tariff hikes

Whoonga - a new social threat

Switzerland

Swiss village in uproar over asylum centre

Switzerland slips in global ranking

Switzerland to renew Turkish-Armenian mediation

Syria

Telecomix hackers helping Syrians detect and avoid government surveillance online

Syrian NGOs: A dual-use technology?

“30%” Syria Oil Production fall, Minister

Syria refugees find sanctuary in Libya

Taiwan

(PHOTO: Zimbabwe farmers tend their fields. IITA) Taiwan poll campaigns spark merchandise

New prevention policy needed for tuberculosis: medical expert

Renowned Taiwan Lantern Festival set to light up heavens on February 6

Taiwan monastery hopes to attract tourists to see Buddha's tooth

Tanzania

Diplomatic, Trade Row As Dar Blocks Ugandan Exports

Serengeti Investor Speeds Up Social and Economic Development

World Bank stresses improvement of public health facilities in Tanzania

Investor: Tanzania good for pay TV

Thailand

Thailand battles with post-flood clean-up (VIDEO)

Thailand wires up with free Wi-Fi

Thailand prepares to be cloud hub

Seventh Anniversary of Thailand's Boxing Day Tsunami (VIDEO)

Zimbabwean art show opens next week in Bangkok

The Arctic

NOAA issues draft study for Arctic Sea oil drilling

The Netherlands

The battle for free speech continues

Tonga

Tonga’s Speaker facing arrest when he returns to the country

Tunisia

First Community of Cyber-hackers Founded in Tunisia

Train Operators Join the National Wave of Strikes

New Islamic Tunisian TV Channel “Al Kalam” Announced

Douz: Gateway to The Desert

Air France launches new direct flights to Tunisia destination

Turkey

Tourists visiting Turkey hit 30 million this year, surpassing target

Turkey is the answer (Perspective)

Uganda

Man Groomed by Gorillas On Trek in Uganda

Activists oppose plan to build railway through national park

The Joys of a Christmas Celebration in the Village

A List of the Most Corrupt Would Help the Poor More (Perspective)

Time is now for Ugandans to rise against the cancer of corruption (Perspective)

Ukraine

Ukraine becomes the European capital of rabies

Russia, Ukraine do not envision gas war this year

Ukraine, Turkey sign visa-free travel agreement

United Arab Emirates

UAE pledges to bolster China-Arab trade relations

100 distressed overseas foreign workers in Abu Dhabi spend Christmas in shelter

UAE launches first association for policewomen in Arab world

Property market is being rebuilt in the UAE

Meet the UAE's Marathon Woman

Emirates Airline Launches U.S. TV Ad Campaign (VIDEO)

United Kingdom

UK businesses investing in social media for 2012

Morrissey named PETA UK Person of the Year

United States

U.S. population growth slows

America’s Best Kept Secret: Rising Suburban Poverty

U.S. gets holiday gift in the form of Occupy Wall Street (Perspective)

US needs to act as melting ice transforms Arctic (Perspective)

Uruguay

Uruguayan Economy Grows

Uzbekistan

No more panties in public eye in Uzbekistan

Venezuela

Venezuela: UN human rights experts voice alarm at extended detention of judge

Hugo Chávez claims that Venezuela's economic strengthening "is amazing"

Vietnam

Vietnam freezes oil product prices, eyes import tax on gasoline

Vietnam masterpieces in auction for the poor

New high-income consumers emerge in Vietnam

Endangered wildlife dealers arrested in southern Vietnam 

Virgin Islands

A windsurfing nightmare called Maho Beach

Western Sahara

U.S. foreign aid done right (Perspective)

Yemen

Yemen malnutrition data should "shock"

The Emergence of a New Political & Social Consciousness in Yemen (Perspective)

Zambia

Stray Dogs 'Besiege' Kapiri Mposhi, Spread Rabies

MTN Zambia deploys first solar-powered site

Zimbabwe

WFP buy local scheme helps farmers

Zimbabwe loses again on AIDS funding‏

Labour Law - Dilemma of New Employers

Sunday
Jun122011

Opposition Growing to Draconian 'Secrecy Bill' in South Africa (REPORT)

South African President Jacob Zuma has shown little tolerance for media criticism. Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro - famous as 'Zapiro' - was sued last year by Zuma for a 2008 cartoon showing the President preparing to rape Lady Justice. And last Friday, Zapiro did it again - producing a cartoon about the Protection of Information Bill that has Zuma apparently preparing to “rape” a woman labelled “Free Speech”. Photo: The Witness(HN, June 12, 2011) - Opposition to a proposed secrecy bill - also known as the Protection of Information Bill - is presenting the Government in South Africa with one of its biggest-ever challenges.

Observers describe the bill as sweeping in its powers to muzzle civil society, as well as the media; possibly a knee-jerk reaction to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to stinging criticism from the media and civil society - as well as published embarrassing details about the private life of President Jacob Zuma.

Tensions between the Zuma Administration and mainstream media have reached a boiling point. One observer told HUMNEWS Zuma sees the media as essentially an elite, white-dominated entity - hostile to a predominantly black government. 

The Bill is a revised version of a 2008 piece of proposed legislation that was withdrawn after protests that it would give state bodies too much leeway to quash information.

The Bill establishes serious hurdles for the media and civil society to obtain information about official corruption mismanagement and government service delivery issues. It gives government officials wide powers to prevent disclosure in the interests of “national security” which is broadly defined to cover a vast array of information.

The Bill applies to all organs of the state, including national and provincial government departments, independent commissions, municipal and local councils and forums. It empowers the Minister of State Security to “prescribe broad categories and sub-categories” to classify information to prevent it from entering the public sphere. The heads of government departments are further empowered to put in place departmental policies, directives and categories for the purpose of classifying and declassifying information.

Under the Bill, journalists who publish classified information could face draconian punishments ranging up to 25 years in prison for a host of offences, including obtaining, possessing, intercepting and disclosing classified information. A proposed media tribunal would be empowered to punish journalists.

One analyst described the provisions on media as "the most dangerous assault on media freedom since the end of apartheid."

The popular South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro - also known as Zapiro - said he has produced stinging depictions of Zuma because he feels strongly about the serious threat posed by the bill. “Silencing the media and whistle blowers is terrible. I wanted to communicate the need to fight for freedom of expression and free speech. I’m angry and upset about the bill. The whole of society will be badly affected. It’s appalling and it’s not what our constitution stands for," Shapiro was quoted as saying.

According to Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT), South African journalists and civil society activists are extremely anxious about their ability to pursue their quest for the truth in the future. 

Dale McKinley, an independent writer, researcher, lecturer and political activist based in Johannesburg, voiced in a column what many people in South Africa have to say about the Bill.

Wrote McKinley: "It is clear that unless many more speak out now, the ANC will use its parliamentary majority to pass a Bill that will 'normalise' the gagging of the very democracy that so many inside and outside this country struggled and sacrificed to realise...Everyone needs to stand up, speak out and put a stop to what now represents an enforced 'marriage' of elite convenience."

In recent weeks, several civil society organisations, political parties and ordinary people have publicly voiced their opposition to the Bill, effectively forcing the ANC as the key backer to temporarily extend the time frame for the Bill's passage by two more months.

One international petition currently being circulated online says the Bill "could take South Africa back to the dark days of impunity -- allowing government institutions to operate without public scrutiny, and stopping the media from exposing corruption, and abuse of power."

The ANC has been ridiculed for arguing that their Bill is on the same footing as similar legislation in countries such as Zimbabwe.

A little over a month, McKinley says, during a sitting of the parliamentary ad-hoc committee tasked with processing the Secrecy Bill, ANC MP Vytjie Mentor energetically argued that Zimbabwe was a good example of how information could be successfully kept secret and thus was worthy of the committee's closer attention as it fashioned South Africa's own secrecy legislation.

Western diplomats have also voiced concern. Last year US Ambassador Donald Gipps suggested the proposed BIll would be a step backwards after hard-won battles to create a model constitution. He said: "South Africa must not turn away from that history now."

Some segments of the business community are worried that the bill could give state-owned organs, such as South African Airways, a competitive edge if it allows them to suppress information about internal operations.

Last year, the state-owned electricity utility, expressed concern, saying restrictions on sharing commercial information under the Bill could complicate negotiations with foreign investors.

One observer told HUMNEWS that, even if the Bill passes, it could face significant challenges from the country's Constitutional Court.

- By a HUMNEWS correspondent in Johannesburg, with files.

Thursday
Apr282011

Meddling Media: How media plays a role in shaping Sub-Saharan Africa (REPORT)

By Vanessa Yurkevich in New York

(HN, April 28, 2011) - Ndimyake Mwakalyelye was a reporter working for Voice of America (VOA) during the presidential elections in Zimbabwe two years ago.Sanjukta Roy and Michael Behrman at the Columbia panel. CREDIT: Vanessa Yurkevich

The government quickly realized people were turning to VOA for their election information and that’s when the government blocked the station’s air waves. “Someone had found a way to penetrate the system,” Mwakalyelye said, referring to the media’s role in the election. After spending what she calls “a small fortune” on the right equipment to override the block, VOA’s listenership went from hundreds of thousands of people to millions. “The jamming” by the government, she said, was “creating a need to broadcast more.”

Zimbabwe is one of nearly a dozen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is no freedom of press. At a conference at Columbia University in New York Wednesday, journalists working in Africa, policy makers and researchers discussed the power and restriction of media in the region.

Mwakalyelye, who sat on a panel, said the landscape of journalism is evolving, and bloggers, citizen journalism and social media are playing larger roles in inciting change. “Its power is unbelievable but it needs to be in good hands” Mwakalyelye says. “Uganda tried to block Twitter and Facebook during the elections” she recalls. “People saw the revolution it caused in Egypt and Tunisia.”

“Freedom of the press is necessary, but not sufficient to ensure a healthy and effective media sector,” said economist Sanjukta Roy, who is currently working on the Media Map Project with Internews, which helps to support independent media and access to information.

In partnership with the World Bank Institute, the project will provide guidance to NGO’s and donors on how investments in local media might serve to advance a country’s governmental and developmental objectives.

Roy explained that in order for press freedom to thrive, the country must also be financially viable and establish an educational system with developmental goals and basic access to food. She said professional journalists and a plurality of sources are essential to a successful media.

Michael Behrman studies quantitative methods in media at Columbia University and said, “Press freedom is an important component in maintaining a long term democracy.” For example, he said. the democratic nation of Mali has one of the freest media in Africa and the government protects freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Behrman, citing a country like Niger, which never fully capitalized on its a freedom of press during a democratic period in the 1990s, said the country has seen its press freedom deteriorate significantly.

Behrman points out that Africa has the least amount of data regarding the media, and panelists agreed there is currently no means to measure the quality of the content being produced, in part because it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, propaganda from truth.

Behrman said while the lack of data is troubling, it is exactly the reason it’s not easy to predict whether the uprisings in the Middle East could be paralleled in Sub-Saharan Africa. The best way to determine what can cause such a social media and political revolution is to study what happened in the Middle East and use it as an indicator for other regions.

“It would be good if there were such data so that you can get a glimpse and a better understanding” Behrman said. “It would be a natural experiment.”

Monday
Apr042011

Can Knowledge Arrest Corruption and Poverty in Africa? (Perspective)

Can African youth escape the crushing weight of poverty and corruption? CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS- by Pokuaa Busumru-Banson in Johannesburg

(HN, April 4, 2011) - So I sit in my constitutional law class and we are engaged in deep philosophical debates about the importance of constitutional supremacy vs. parliamentary supremacy and democracy.

Further we read about the importance of seperation of power and how "power arrests power." We mull and chew on the importance of voting and majority vs. minority rights. The more I attend this class the more emotion rises up in me about the current state of Africa.

In as much as the effective implementation of democracy rests on the assumption that the majority of the population is educated, I'm realising more and more that knowledge in an African sense is power - but not necessarily one that will eradicate corruption or poverty.

I'm sure if there had to be a competition for the best written constitution, Africa would collect all the prizes. The intellectual quotient of the African is quite high and I'm almost certain that we would find a large number of genius people in our midst (whether the test is also structured in a way that incorporates all cultures is a debate for another day; maybe we should develop our own tests).

Take Zimbabwe.  If we were to look at the concept of powers in a mechanical way Zimbabwe definitely has a good system.  On paper, there is rule of law, and in theory, one can litigate against the state and win.

So what is the problem? I'm of the view that a different approach to corruption is needed. Zimbabwe had one of the highest literacy rates in Africa and the world. At some stage it was easier to get admission into the Ivy League colleges than institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe because the standards were so high.

The African education system produced the best professors and doctors. But, sadly, even with all of this, we still find ourselves lagging behind in almost of things - except corruption and poverty.

In Japan and South Korea not even the president is above the law. One can leave a camera on a park bench in Singapore and come back and find it. Yes there is no such thing as a perfect system but what am I trying to get at? Culture.

I can speak for my own country (Ghana) and maybe parts of South Africa because it's what I know. I speak to people who fear undergoing drivers licence tests because they don't have extra money even for a can of coke. It's ridiculous. It's now no longer the amount of money you give but the system is so used to corruption that anything small suffices.

Or on the contrary, in Africa one can no longer give a gift as an act of appreciation for the person's effort (which is African culture to begin with) without it being received as a bribe. The culture needs to be taught at schools from a young age and practiced at grass roots level.

Education can teach us that corruption is wrong but if culture says it's ok then guess what? Corruption it is.

We as Africans should no longer accept the status quo as life, and merely say 'awww well that's life, that's the real world.'

Statistics and norms can be challenged and changed. We just have to be willing to change and fight the system.

HUMNEWS youth contributor, Pokuaa Busumru-Banson, was chosen to speak on a panel by The Elders at the Fortune Summit in Cape Town. A national of Ghana, she is currently studying law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Monday
Mar072011

People Power Has Arrived in Africa (PERSPECTIVE)

By Imraan Buccus

The Zimbabwean Newspaper created an ad campaign featuring huge posters, wall murals, flyers, and even billboards all made out of trillions of Zimbabwean dollars. CREDIT: The Zimbabwean(HN, March 7, 2011) - People's power has arrived in Africa and, as some have recently argued, it's not just Africa north of the Sahara in which the democratic spirit is stirring. The thrilling political earthquake that began in Tunisia, exploded into Egypt and then rippled out to Libya is set to leave lasting changes in its wake.

Its too early to say exactly what those changes will be but one thing is for sure – this is the greatest moment in the global struggle for human freedom since 1989 when the Soviet Union and its dominions across Eastern Europe fell.

When the protest spread from Tunis to Cairo they began as a carnival of freedom. Men and women, Muslims, Christians and secular people, old and young and rich and poor were all united in their excited opposition to dictatorships. It was a beautiful moment which the philosopher Nigel Gibson has likened to the Paris Commune of 1871.

In Tripoli the North African revolution is taking the form of pitched battles against a ruthless and psychopathic dictator. Here there is courage aplenty but no carnival. Irrespective of the ultimate fate of the Libyan Revolution a loud and clear message has been sent to dictators around the world. That message is that while it is possible to oppress a people for a long time, even generations, the people will reach a point at which they decide to rise.

The time will come when the will of the people will be expressed. In our own neighbourhood (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe and Mswati (King of Swaziland) must be watching the revolutions raging across the North of the continent with considerable anxiety. Neither ZANU-PF nor the Swazi monarchy will run their brutal dictatorships for ever and while the rest of us thrill to the winds of change blowing down from North Africa that wind must be chilling to the tyrants in Harare and Mbabane.

Mugabe seems to be especially anxious. Gadaffi has been one of his biggest backers and has used his oil money to turn the African Union (AU) into a new version of the old Organisation for African Unity (OAU), which was rightly disparaged as a dictator's club. Zimbabwean state television has, liked Chinese state television, steadfastly ignored the revolutions in North Africa. And when the International Socialist Organisation, a courageous but tiny Trotskyite organisation, arranged a meeting at which people could watch some footage of the protests in Cairo, Mugabe promptly had all 46 people arrested and charged with treason. This has been followed up by axe wielding mobs attacking MDC meetings. Paranoia is a sign of weakness and this paranoia is even ridiculous by Mugabe's own standards. He must know that the thread by which his authority hangs could snap at any minute.

Mugabe successfully stole elections in Zimbabwe in 2000, 2002 and 2005. Each time he was assisted with the complicity of various forces in and outside of his country. In South Africa there are factions who remain solidly pro-Mugabe but generally political parties, trade unions, poor people's movements and civil society are united in their opposition to the Mugabe dictatorship.

When we think of Zimbabwe, in the context of the North African revolutions, we are confronted by three urgent questions.

Protests against Mugabe in Zimbabwe have often been met with brutal forceThe first is how we offer solidarity to the Zimbabwean refugees in our country. The periodic attacks on Zimbabweans by ordinary people and the ongoing and harassment of Zimbabwean refugees by our police needs to be urgently opposed. We need to recall the solidarity shown to South African exiles in other African countries and demonstrate basic human decency. Change can come to Zimbabwe soon, and in the potentially uneasy days of a difficult transition from dictatorship, SA will need to offer immense support to Zimbabwean refugees.

The second question that we need to consider is the nature of the flaw in some of our leaders that has allowed them to become complicit with tyranny. The struggle against apartheid was supported by governments, ordinary people and civil society around the world. One would have thought that we would have taken a similarly activist position towards tyranny in other countries. But instead some in SA some have taken the same position towards tyranny in Zimbabwe that Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher took towards apartheid - "constructive engagement" or, in (former South African President) Mbeki's outdated spin, "quiet diplomacy."

The third question we must ponder is the question of what went wrong in Zimbabwe. The argument that Mugabe was a good leader who went rotten holds no water. Revisionist Zimbabwean historians have pointed to ruthless abuses during the liberation struggle. And of course we cannot forget Operation Gukurahundi, the ethnic cleansing of the Ndebele in Matabeleland in the early 1980s which cost more than 20 000 lives. This crime against humanity is enough, on its own, to ensure that Mugabe should be called to account for his crimes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

It is clear that the political culture of Zanu-PF was authoritarian and rapacious long before the fiasco of recent years. Zimbabwe has been governed by ruthless and predatory elite from the beginning. The seeds of the later crimes, the plunder of the Congo, the attacks on shack dwellers and street traders and the ruthless suppression of internal opposition, were planted early on.

What this means is that it is essential to think holistically. Just because a man and a movement opposed one form of tyranny does not mean that they are opposed to tyranny. There is a tremendous difference between using democracy to come to power and being democratic. A democrat is not defined as a person who came to power by democracy. A democrat is defined as a person who, when in power, welcomes debate and dissent. By this definition it is clear that Zimbabwe has never been a democracy.

We should be proud that our Constitution commits our government to welcome dissent and to be aware that in a democracy we need to always protect this. Any signs of Zanufication in any part of our society are a challenge we must all take up. So, as South Africans, when we think of Zimbabwe in the context of what is happening in North Africa, we need to also reflect on the important role that South Africa needs to play in promoting democratic transformation in Zimbabwe.

We are, no doubt, appropriately reminded by the Zimbabwean media entrepreneur, Trevor Ngube, that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have restored the collective faith in peoples' power. The clear signs that Zanu PF has been shaken by the North African revolutions show up that the regime in Harare is not all powerful and that it will go the same way as the dictatorships in North Africa. It is a question of ‘when’ and not 'if'.

Buccus is attached to the School of Politics at UKZN and the Democracy Development Program. This article first appeared on the website of the South African Civil Society Information Service - SACSIS