Weekend Special, No. 9975

Image by Lucie Diondet, via Flickr.

First Things First (excuse the pun): Put on “Gang Signs & Prayer,” the debut studio album of Stormzy (Government Name: Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo, Jr.), as this is  going to be a long Weekend Special. 20 items deep.

(1) Respect. Namibian freedom fighter Andimba Toivo ya Toivo passed away last week. So did the famed South African photographer Ranjit Kally. They were both 92 years old. (We’ll hopefully have longer tributes to Kally and Toivo ya Toivo later this week.)

(2) This is what Zambian political debate has become? I finally watched the AJ Stream (Al Jazeera) “debate” on “Is Zambia’s democracy in danger?” In summary: It is a shitstorm of people shouting over each other. By the end, or no one else, was none the wiser on what is going on in Zambia. It was exhausting just listening to these. Laura Miti was an exception, but even she could not compete with the spin. Predictably, Jeffrey Smith and his consultancy made an appearance. Where there’s “political crisis”… And these people were just party operatives and “social commentators.” I can’t even imagine what it would be like if the actual political leaders went on air. As someone said on Twitter: “Zambians don’t deserve their self serving politicians.”

Is Zambia’s democracy in danger?

(3) The US outsourced some parts of its occupation in Iraq to private security companies… who in turn hired former child soldiers. Yes.

Because they’re cheap; it keep overheads low: USD$250 per soldier. That’s after Peruvians, Colombians and Ugandans — seemingly the usual “soldiers for hire” — were deemed too expensive:

The child soldiers who fought in Iraq.

(4) The band Radiohead is embarking on a “World Tour.” For some bizarre reason they’ll start in Apartheid Israel. Thom Yorke, the band’s leader, has resisted requests he cancel the trip to Apartheid Israel and that he join the cultural boycott. He said, among others, he knows about Palestinian suffering because the wife of one his band members is Israeli. SMH. Nevertheless, Yorke’s prevarications reminds me of Paul Simon’s explanations for breaking the cultural boycott against apartheid South Africa to make his Graceland album.

(5) Who is behind the slick Mawazo Institute, and why are they secretive about who funds this? Meanwhile, I am also anticipating the “this is decolonizing education in Africa” tweets and op-eds, something like the free advertising The Conversation Africa gave the private African Leadership University.

(6) There is a new film out about Winnie Mandela, Winnie. Reviewing the film, Sisonke Msimang wrote what is probably the best thing you going read about Winnie Mandela in a long while. Not to be outdone, Huffington Post South Africa went an interviewed the Mother of the Nation. Their salacious headline about Nelson Mandela’s many extra-marital children (by now anyone who still thinks the old man was some sort of saint — Fallists deem him a sellout — must have been living under a rock) takes away attention from what else Winnie Mandela has to say on more substantive politics (though, why Winnie Mandela repeats unsubstantiated and slanderous claims that it was ANC people who killed Chris Hani, I don’t know).

(7) The best reaction on Twitter to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’s gains in British elections (despite the media and the pollsters), came from Kitila Mkumbo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Tanzania: “Long live Socialism and leftism!

(8) Some parts of what passes for the Left in the US (mimicked elsewhere) suffer from “vague autoimmune disease”:

Just as Trump remade politics as television, we’ve allowed political action to mimic the spiteful, futile patterns of online bickering: our fellow anti-capitalists betray us all by enjoying or creating the wrong art, reading the wrong articles, championing the wrong theories, or even laughing at the wrong jokes. The Left is at once flailing and sclerotic. Afflicted by a vague autoimmune disorder, we cannot even retain what little power we have, nor do we have any institutions capable of doing so; thus, we are able to smack only those within arm’s reach of us — ourselves. Meanwhile, the bigger and stronger the right gets, the more insular we become, single-mindedly obsessed with purifying our own ranks and weeding out the problematic among us.

This is a spot-on diagnosis.

(9) Apart from a Youtube channel, which Vice.com sporadically updates, why is Vice News’s daily television news bulletin only on premier cable HBO? That’s a shame, because it is really good.

(10) Contributor Omolade Adunbi ‘s book Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria (published by Indiana University Press) wins The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland’s Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology.

(11) I finally got to see The Fall, Daniel Gordon’s documentary film about the 1984 Olympics 3000 meters final between between Zola Budd and the world’s best runner at the time, the American Mary Decker. Budd, then 18, went from running in all white races in South Africa before she was taken by the Daily Mail (as a publicity stunt to up its circulation) to the UK to compete for Great Britain. (South Africa was banned by the IOC because of Apartheid.) The result of the race is known — Decker fell; at the time she blamed Budd; the crowd and the media took that line too — but I’ve never seen Budd talk about it at length on camera. One thing I was dying to hear/see Budd talk about is apartheid. The film, which is self-indulgent at length, includes some great footage of the anti-apartheid protests in Western Europe against Budd. At the time, Budd couldn’t get herself to say Apartheid was wrong, because “sports and politics don’t mix.” What the film reveals, however, is that 30 odd years later, she still defends that position and that she was the victim; not an unusual one for many white South Africans of her generation. (BTW, Budd also comments on her father  being bisexual/gay: “He was different” SMH.)

(12) “Sembene!,” the documentary film about the great Senegalese Marxist filmmaker and former dockworker, Ousmane Sembene, (“the father of African cinema) can be viewed for free till tonight. A while back Noah Tsika reviewed it for us. Watch it here.

(13) South Africa’s new Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and the man who helped him get there, Solly Bux, are both working class heroes. (Click on the hyperlinks for the full story.)

(14) Nigeria’s elites are in a class of their own. The President is in London on “medical leave” again. Since January, he has spent more than SEVENTY DAYS there (on two trips). An investment consultant told the Wall Street Journal: “Will he survive this year? I doubt it. You look at him, you know he’s terminally ill.” Vice President Oluyemi Osinbajo basically runs the country, but everyone has to keep up appearances. Osinbajo is a Southerner and since the advent of democracy, northern and southern elites have passed their presidency between them. It is now the North’s turn, though, like with President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the North feels it may be shortchanged if Buhari too dies in office. So, “there are those who are prepared to work hard to make [Mr. Buhari] stay on as president, even if he is a vegetable.”

Meanwhile, it emerged last week that between them 55 top businesspeople and government officials stole US$4.4 billion from the Nigerian state since the advent of democratic rule. And remember that story of US$43 million and another UK£27,800 cash lying around an apartment in In Lagos, Nigeria. The apartment happened to be owned by the wife of the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, who is being investigated for corruption. Now the government claims “no one has come forward to claim” the money so wants to keep it. Should we even trust them?

(15) In South Africa, where the government continues its murderous assault against black people, a two-week-old baby dies during housing protests in Durban, South Africa; she inhaled tear gas fired by police.

(16) The Gupta family, the corrupt benefactors of South Africa’s President, turns out to be racist against black people too. Here’s from workers at a wedding the family threw: “…Workers at Sun City reported that Gupta security personnel ordered black waiters to wash themselves before they could serve the wedding guests. ‘This blatantly means that black people smell and the Gupta guests would not be served by smelly black people,’ a resort employee was quoted as saying by City Press. The paper said bodyguards and butlers hired for the wedding were white.” The Guptas identify the problem in South Africa as one of “white monopoly capital.”

(17) I’m just going to leave this here: A Ghanaian church in Accra held a Thanksgiving service for Chelsea FC supporters (the club won the English Premier League). Everyone came decked out in new replica shirts. The pastor is an Arsenal fan. Not to be outdone, a Nigerian state government used public money to celebrate Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League title win (that’s that game after which Juventus manager said about Cristiano Ronaldo: “What are you going to do? He looks like he is napping all game and then he pops up and scores two goals.”).

(18) Here’s quick quiz: “Just compare the number of pictures of fallen trees in driveways with SUVs with the number of pictures of flooded shacks. See if there are more stories of foam on the Sea Point promenade than interviews with those injured and left homeless, and see if you can find any hard questions posed to the [Western Cape provincial government or the City of Cape Town] about what has been done since previous winters, and you’ll have your answer.” That’s my friend (and AIAC contributor) Herman Wasserman responding to my question whether media coverage of the damage caused by rainstorms in Cape Town (especially on the Cape Flats where most of its black residents live) have gotten any better since Ron Krabill and I did this mid-2000s study.

(19) BTW, long before people got woke to “ghetto tourism,” we told you about “township tourism.

(20) Finally, the Ivorian footballer Cheikh Tiote collapsed on his Chinese club’s training field and died. Tiote won an African Cup of Nations with Cote d’Ivoire, but played his best football for Newcastle in England’s Premier League, where he scored this goal to tie the score against Arsenal in 2011.

Sean Jacobs

Sean Jacobs is the Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country. He is on the international affairs faculty of The New School in New York.

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