Things I have read quickly, seen or watched, listened to, been forwarded, did not really have the time to think about properly, here for your reading pleasure:

* On Freedom Day, last Tuesday, South Africa’s government released this picture of the country’s president, Jacob Zuma, taking an Aids test. He tested negative. (The test was done on April 8th.)  It is part of a national campaign to encourage people to have themselves tested–the target is 15 million in 14 months. Amen. This is a big break from that of Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, who not only denied the extent of the AIDS crisis in South Africa, but also questioned the science behind AIDS despite not being a medical doctor.  Most observers feel Zuma’s private life contradicts his stance.  Here, here and here are a few of the better mainstream analyses of the impact of the new policy.

* South African rockers BLK Jks has released a new song “Zol,” through their American label, that I am finding hard to warm to. Driven by a drum machine beat with little of the band’s usual sound and sounding like it was cooked on a mix desk, the song resembles much of the generic electronic music (house, kwaito, etc) emerging out of South Africa and everywhere else.  I am all for change, but hope this is a temporary diversion for BLK Jks bought on by performing at the World Cup opening ceremony. I would have for them to go down this path permanently.

* Wole Soyinka, the Nobel author, is pissed at the BBC over their documentary “Welcome to Lagos,” which thus far has largely focused on the worst parts of Lagos.  It’s colonialist and patronizing, he told The Guardian.  It’s let off a firestorm on the internets, with some supporting him, while others see this as a pattern–remember his recent rant of British as a hotbed of Islam fundamentalism, his rantings against “Big Brother Africa,” among others.  There’s a good summary of all the views over at Jeremy Weate’s Naijablog.

* BTW, the same piece mentions that Soyinka “… recorded a series for the international network about post-apartheid South African writing, to be broadcast in May and June.” I remember hearing about this because someone called me to suggest names to the producers to go and interview. I recommended some people. Wonder how it will turn out. .

* Sorta related. National Geographic has a South Africa piece coming up in the June issue in time for the World Cup. It’s by Zimbabwean-Zambian writer, Alexandra Fuller.  I can promise it will be good.

* Jared Bell of Black Agenda Report on Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates’ selective research about slavery and reparations.

* My man Peter Alegi’s new book on African football, “African Soccerscapes” is out just in time for the World Cup.

* Barack Obama’s grandmother gets interviewed by another American reporter.  Excerpt: “Don’t bother me with this,” she snaps at her daughter who suggests that she wear better clothes to be interviewed for my documentary film on social tragedy in west Kenya. “In the United States people don’t dress any better.” Well put grandma. [Foreign Policy in Focus]

* We published the first in a series of articles by cultural journalist Bongani Madondo about singer, Busi Mhlongo a few days ago. He published the second of these in the South African newspaper, City Press. You can read it here.

* Word from a journalist just back from South Sudan post-election: “The South is a bit tense … They’ll go for independence next year but I think they’re storing up a few problems for the future–it will be another one-party state.”

* In Senegal, even death cannot stop violence against gays as the remains of gay people are desecrated. In one recent case, “… Madieye Diallo’s body had been in the ground for only a few hours when the mob descended on the weedy cemetery with shovels. They yanked out the corpse, spit on its torso, dragged it away and dumped it in front of the home of his elderly parents.”  [The Associated Press]

* Family business, Namibian style: “… The prospect of a Nujoma dynasty looms with the promotion of Utoni Nujoma, the eldest son of founding President Sam Nujoma, to the senior cabinet position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. President Hifikepunye Pohamba made the announcement on Independence day, 20 March, after growing pressure from Nujoma Senior and his allies within the ruling South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO).” [Africa Confidential]

* Few black Africans will be able to afford to book seats for Africa’s first black World Cup argues my man Peter Alegi, now based at the University of Kwazulu Natal on a Fulbright, in this recent interview with the English service of France’s public radio network, RFI. Worth a listen. [Radio France International]

* I should have posted this a while ago: Rebecca Greenwalk, an editor at the online think tank, Atlantic Community, sent me a link to a theme week they were running online on the subject on increasing the effectiveness of Western aid to Africa. The featured authors, mostly Westerners, include Lawrence Haddad (Director of the Institute for Development Studies, who discusses “6 ways that aid to Africa can be improved”), Owen Barder (of Development Initiatives and the Center for Global Development who highlights “the need for greater transparency in aid programs”), Greg Adams (Director of Oxfam America’s Aid Effectiveness program, who “comments on the need for Western aid programs to work with the African people to produce better and more lasting results”), Malcolm McPherson ( of Harvard University) who “outlines an aid exit strategy to break African dependence on Western aid”), and Greg Zachary (former Wall Street Journal Reporter and author of the book, Married to Africa, who “points to how aid donors can reverse the effects of the ‘brain drain’ “), Teddy Brett (of the London School of Economics “on the political obstacles for aid programs) and Cecilie Wathne (formerly of the Overseas Development Institute, who calls “for a new Paris Declaration to address aid effectiveness”).

Sean Jacobs

Further Reading