Twitter a while back: ‘Robert Mugabe is old enough to be Muhammadu Buhari’s father.’ Robert Mugabe, 93, is campaigning to be reelected next year. He is “slurring his words and dozing off (just resting his eyes, a spokesman claimed).” He may still win. Wole Soyinka was right in 2011 when he described Mugabe as “still riding it out on his own wall, blotting out the horizon for others with his grossly inflated ego. As for Buhari, he has been in London for nearly 50 (take that in) uninterrupted days on the second of his “medical checkups” this year (the first was a month) and we’re only in June. Word is he suffered a speech impairment. He can’t speak. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s economy is currently mired in a recession. As we said last week, this is about the north wanting to have its turn in the presidency. Nigerians be damned.

Moving on. South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, is dominated by the Jacob Zuma-faction. He is close to the Guptas. They’ve captured the state and lining their pockets. They also have a media operation: a British PR agency, a TV channel, a newspaper, “opposition” research (basically “fake” news) and “paid twitter.”  They are also cynically exploiting South Africa’s class and race inequalities. “White monopoly capital” and “radical economic transformation” are their manifestos. The first is a real problem and the second is a worthy goal. The truth is the Gupta-Zuma’ites want neither of these. Instead, they’ve presided over a period in which black South Africans, the majority, have been subjected to high levels of state violence, broken schools and overcrowded hospitals. In the process, the Zuma-Gupta faction (and their boosters) have discredited left ideas in the public sphere and emboldened liberals and the right. As one economist told me: “Chris Malikane [a New School economic Ph.D. hired as a policy advisor by the Finance Minister] probably did serious damage to left economists wishing to make public interventions in South Africa.” The same goes for the noises they’re making about reforming the central bank (known as the Reserve Bank), as the country’s public protector recently suggested. There are legitimate reasons to debate the role of central banks (see former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s new memoir). Most South Africans can’t wait for 2019.

About time: South Africa’s “Competition Commission has laid a charge against Rooibos Limited for its alleged abuse of the tea market.”

Did ECOWAS (the 15 member West African economic organization of states) forget about the occupation of Palestine when they welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to their annual summit? We predicted this.

“Can Africa prosecute international crimes?” A better question would have been: “Have African countries prosecuted international crimes?” Yes, the 2016 prosecution of Hissène Habré. As Sarah-Jane Koulen argues, “had the title been a research question, it would have been poorly formulated as it allows for a simply yes or no answer. In addition, it strikes me as indicative of a particular kind of evaluative paternalism that has come to operate within the discursive field of international criminal justice. An audience gathered in Europe to ask of Africa whether it can … Do what exactly? Measure up? Meet the standard? Contained within the question, lies an implicit presumption that the conclusion of the discussion could be ‘no’. This is not provocative. It is cynical and offensive.” Read the rest here.

Obligatory cultural reference: We don’t like to judge movies by their trailers, but why can’t I shake the feeling that the #BlackPanther teaser trailer reminds me of a mix of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ and ‘Coming to America’? Basically, two sets of mutually reinforcing fantasies about Africa and Africans as backdrop for the morality tale of a comic. Not so fast, says one of my interlocutors:  “It has a “lost world” King Solomon’s Mines look except Alan Quartermain is the villain and the natives are the heroes and not impressed and they definitely won’t be mistaking any guys who played hobbits in other movies as gods which is to say it looks great.”

The new Tupac movie, “All Eyez on Me,” is not just bad history and bad facts, it is also has bad politics.

Speaking of excellent cultural criticism. Zadie Smith on the new film “Get Out,” Dana Schutz and the empty debate (in the phrase of Huffington Post editor of chief Lydia Polgreen) on who owns black pain.

And Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo, Jr. does it again.

All bullshit claims aside about Lavar Ball turning capitalism on its head (he is basically a mix of a showman, carnival barker–an old American tradition–who gets how US media culture and promotion works), he sounds like a great father.

RIP Prodigy. “I’m only 19, but my mind is old

Eid Mubarak.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.