Thursday, June 28, 2012

African Dictators Work Hard Too.

An Essay By Tendai Tagarira

African Dictators are often portrayed as grossly inefficient in managing state affairs and they are. But one has to give them credit for being the most hard working of tyrants. Surely, to reduce a whole nation to poverty and starvation must take quite some hard work. It must be exhausting to steal all those billions of dollars and stash them away in offshore accounts. It definitely takes a lot of muscle to rule with a tight grip and suppress a whole nation.

Elections are probably the toughest time for Africa's tyrants as they have to apply a cosmetic show of democracy to the world, in order to garner some form of legitimacy. I doubt it is easy to steal the ballot in front of the whole world. But some of our African dictators seem to get away with it. Mugabe tried stealing the ballot in 2008, but the world was unconvinced. So he turned to a cosmetic democracy theatrical by partnering opposition leader,Morgan Tsvangirai to form the GNU. This guaranteed his political survival for the time being, but I don't think this was an easy option for a man who is used to rule the roost without being challenged. Mugabe once told Tsvangirai, Zviroto zviroto, ngazviperere kuzviroto, “Dreams are dreams and dreams should end in your dreams” This is clearly not a man who wants to share power. I am sure having to share the government with Morgan Tsvangirai is a stone in his shoe.

Sooner or later some run out of luck. Recently we saw Charles Taylor, Gaddafi, Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak run out of luck. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years by the ICC, sending shivers down many African tyrants. Personally I think these dictators should be tried in their home countries. I find it absurd that the ICC seems to only persecute African dictators when the world is littered with so many corrupt politicians. In any case, I think the justice system in Africa is good enough to try these deposed tyrants and bring some closure to the citizens. Such is the case of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

When the end is nigh, some dictators have it pretty rough, as the case of Gadaffi. In his last moments, the megalomaniac was clutching a golden pistol and hiding underneath a dirty bridge. All the billions he stashed away in secret offshore funds abroad could not help him. He died with a bullet through his head and flies buzzing over his copse. Personally I think the way he was killed is not a good foundation to replace a tyrant with good governance. Violence often begets violence. I think it would have been prudent to have him tried by his people like what is happening to Mubarak.

For his hard work in remaining in power, Zimbabwe's Mugabe rewarded himself by expanding Gushungo Estates, a vast network of farms taken over from both black and white farmers. He clearly indulges in the vast diamond revenues that Finance Minister Biti can not account for. Mugabe spends millions on foreign trips with his large entourage, blowing government funds. This is his way of rewarding himself I guess, for managing to remain in power for so long. Recently, a former pilot of his was forced to stop building a 200 million rand mansion in Cape Town, which many speculate is a front for the Mugabe's. I am sure Mugabe and his wife are splashing their ill-gotten wealth by building many mansions abroad.

Former Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha had mansions in the French Riviera, rewarding himself an aristocratic lifestyle for his hard work, like the silencing freedom of speech when he had Ken Saro Wiwa hanged. I am sure the British Shell Petroleum company rewarded him with lucrative kickbacks when he silenced Saro Wiwa. Yet Saro Wiwa fights on from the grave. In Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang (the son of dictator president Obiang) is building a yacht worth about USD 200 million. He has several mansions dotted in several countries. He flies his jet ski toys on a private gulf stream jet to Monaco where the rich and wealthy hang out, displaying his show of ill goten wealth. The yacht he his building is fully equipped with a basketball court and other untold luxuries. Equatorial Guinea has almost the same GDP per capita as Denmark and Belgium, yet its citizens live on less than a dollar a day. Now his father is working very hard to have criminal charges brought against him in a French court quashed.

Surely, African dictators work hard to remain in power. Their hard work however benefits themselves and their top aids or boot lickers. The fruits of their labour is not hard to see on the streets of Africa, where the majority live on less than a dollar a day. One can see it in the infrastructure that never gets developed, the dams and bridges that never get build. One can see it in the suffering eyes of the citizens, who are often reduced to destitution. This is the success of the African dictators enterprise of amassing wealth at the expense of the people. The question is, for how long they can get away with it?

Until next time
Tendai Tagarira
Author and African Renaissance man.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Tribute to my Alma Mata ... Embakwe Coloured School (Zimbabwe)

Embakwe Coloured School was a mission school for Coloured children, i.e, of mixed race. The main admixtures comprised Euro-African, Cape Coloured and Afro-Asian. Embakwe was started in 1902 when, so legend has it, King Lobengula said to Roman Catholic missionaries ... "Go teach my dogs …"

This is what Michelle Faul, writing for Associated Press, has to say –  
“Embakwe Mission was founded in 1902 by the spirit medium Njemhlophe, who gave up throwing the bones after he converted to Christianity. He came at the behest of Catholic missionaries who soon followed, a Jesuit priest on horseback and three intrepid nuns fresh from England in an ox wagon loaded with provisions, including a hen, a cock and a cat.
First they turned back because of a thunderstorm with forked lightning. On the second attempt, the wagon got bogged down in mud. So the nuns, from the Belgian-based Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, trudged through the sludge to their new home, a loaf of bread under one arm and a bottle of altar wine tucked under the other.”

By the time of my arrival in 1955 it was well developed, with the main buildings constructed of unplastered red brick, contoured and ornate. It would be wrong to imagine that because it was then reserved for Coloureds, we were highly privileged. The privilege, undoubtedly fundamental and vitally important, was that payment of basic fees by government was guaranteed. African black children were denied this.
However, as an educational institution, Embakwe was the poorest and most under-resourced of all Coloured schools in the colony. It was without both a science block and a library.

It is pertinent to point out that two great African schools in the Plumtree area, Empandeni and Tekwane, were both better resourced and each had a science block and a library. In addition the outside World would only grant scholarships to Blacks, not Coloureds, as we were classified as "White" for educational purposes. However this "White classification" gave us no access to scholarships to South African universities. So, to put it bluntly, we were stuffed!

All three schools however were "slums", when compared with nearby Plumtree High School, reputably one of the best schools in the history of the country, and therefore reserved for Whites. Most of the children in Embakwe were from poorer families. The school also served as a "reform school", to which problematical children were committed, on Court order.
Not to put too fine a point on it, we were a rough tough lot of proverbial ragamuffins ... as the picture, taken in 1956 of some Embakwe boys, shows

Still, I could not have got a finer education. The curriculum was British and students left on attainment of either Cambridge School Certificate of the General Certificate of Education [GCE].  It achieved a pass rate in excess of 95%. The current pass rate for South Africa [2008] as regards its Matric results is 62, 5%.

I could not have been better prepared for the problematical  world that this region was and still is. All of us are forever indebted to teachers like Richard Brown, Vernon Bowers, Danny Pillay, Abie Davies, Ethel Faul, nee Bowers, and our legendary Head Mistress Sister Mare Nugent SND.

Sister Mare was light years ahead of her time.  She introduced sex education in 1958, decades before the World even started thinking about it.  I should say we may have needed it rather badly. We boys boasted that we we all having sex and that our girlfriends fainted at the moment of penetration. All lies that nobody disputed.
She also introduced  "social and life skills", now standard subjects in schools.  In the result Vernon Bowers was tasked to teach us ball room dancing at which we all became proficient.  Believe me when I say she also allowed us to become champion "Rock n' Rollers", something most schools discouraged.

What makes me realize what genuis there was in our education is that our "Embakwe way of thinking" is now the vogue throughout the planet.

No one was more discerning of the inherent hypocrisy of so many "revolutions" than we were. George Orwell, and his iconic novel Animal Farm, represented truth in its finest form.  World history since then, especially as regards Africa, fully vindicates this perception.  

No one was more cynical about the inherent tendencies of dominant groups, and their governments, to propagate "convenient untruths" and suppress "inconvenient truths"  than we were. The "Arab Spring" and "Occupy Wall Street" has more than validated our cynicism, just for a start. 

However what clearly marked us out as being different was our brand of humour. It was unconventional, basic and thoroughly irreverent of the status quo.  At the time this incurred disdain for for us by others in society. We were often referred to as "raw", i.e, insufficiently sophisticated to appreciate social order and imperatives. Our stance, as regards people and governments, was that if you are going to be that concerned with self and your importance, you are already a big joke. In later life, when we met in pubs, a favourite song that we would resort to with little provocation was "Who is fooling who" by Ray Phiri and Stimela.
Today, programs like South Park, John Steward's "Daily Show" and the "Colbert Report", are smash hit industry standard examples of our Embakwe brand of humour and social commentary. Any number of my mates from school would be more than competent as a script writers for these shows. So we were indeed way ahead on our time.

This region has not been kind to us people of mixed race pedigree.  To Whites other Whites were regarded as "us", Black folk were regarded as "them" and Coloured folk as "the other”. It was a huge management problem for the colonial government, and its dominant White society, given the incredible racial diversity and colouring of my people.
It remains so to-day despite revolutionary changes in the region. We are still "the Other"[1]. Thus our kith and kin were brutally reminded of when they were recently told by Chief Government Spokesman, Jimmy Manyi that the Coloured people were "over represented" in the Western Cape, even though they are the sole descendants of the Khoekhoe and San people; the original inhabitants of the region. Where do we fit in under Zimbabwe's "indigenization" program? 

However, throughout the difficult period of the last 40 years, the "Embakwe spirit" has always been noticed, commented on, as being remarkable, infectious and indomitable. I like to think that I have in some way epitomized that spirit. As a result of the start I was given at Embakwe I did succeed in later life and have left some footprints in the sands of time. So too as regards most of my school mates. 

On behalf of myself and all ex-Embakweans I want to say "thank you" to Embakwe and, in particular, to Sister Mare Nugent and her incredible team of teachers mentioned above. You did indeed make a difference!
Deo gratias.

Extract from book --- 

25. And necessity is the mother of invention

It is 1958 and there is a terrible drought in the area. Cattle are dying. Carcasses are retrieved and dragged to the mission by tractor. The meat is served up in our meals. It smells rotten. We cannot eat it. Hunger is now the order of the day. Adventure Boys needs to deal with this privation. On Sunday afternoon the hostel master, Richard Brown, assembles the boys as is the routine. An audit is conducted as to what we will be doing that afternoon so that he knows where boys are and what they are up to. Adventure Boys is going fishing to the dam. We have constructed fishing rods which we hold up in a show of true intent. He waves us off.
We run off, but do not go to the dam. We hive off to a farm owned by a Mr. Skinner some 5 kilometers away. On arrival we survey our target. It is the fowl run, situated some 100 meters away in an open grassland clearing. Baiting our hooks with mealie rice, we leopard-crawl up to the fowl run. We cast our hooks into the run and soon bag two fowls.
It is just then that an ambush is sprung. Skinner's gang of workers have been waiting for us. They now start to emerge from behind a building a fair distance away. Mark starts to laugh uncontrollably. I shout out "belt it ... !" and we start to run. Given the head start we have, I have every confidence that the workers will never catch us. But then we hear the sound of barking dogs behind us. Dogs are quite another matter ... bad news ... very bad news. There is something terrible about knowing that you are being pursued by dogs. Dogs are fast. They will catch you, and when they do they will bite you, with big sharp teeth, and tear your flesh apart.
We run for all we are worth through the bush towards the river. The barking of the dogs grows louder as they gain on us. I think of dropping the fowl I am carrying in the hope that the dogs will stop to investigate it. Instinctively I change my mind, concluding that it is a vain hope. Ill gotten gains are never easily parted with. The river is in front of us. We run down the bank, across the dry river bed and up the other side.
Immediately we all stop, turn and crouch down, untangling our cattys from around our necks as we do so. Everything now goes into slow motion. As the first dog courses down the other bank, and reaches the river bed, the cattys twang in unison. There is a loud yelp from the dog and it half keels over. The second and third dogs meet the same fate. They yelp and howl out loudly as they are hit again and again. One runs back, the other two run around in circles howling and whimpering in pain. The workers have arrived. They stop and take cover on the other side of the river. There is a deathly silence, broken only by the now occasional whimper of the dogs, who have all rejoined their masters.
It is a classic stand-off. After a while we crawl away and make good our escape. Later the fowls are roasted on an open fire and eaten with some meat packed and reserved for consumption in the days to follow. Mark starts to laugh again and mimics the running around of the dogs after being hit by slingshot. "Did you see that...?" he says, face brimming with joy - "did you see how the garu[2] was yowling and yowling? " and shamelessly we all join in with peals of laughter.
The next day an identification parade is conducted. Skinner's workers pick out the other three members of our gang, but not me. Fuyane's [3] magic is at work. The punishment is six cuts and one week in the cellar. The cuts are administered in public, at the boys' hostel, on towel-covered buttocks, using a sjambok. Heads are then shaved and the culprits confined to a dark cellar receiving a little light via a very small ground level iron-grated window. Food consists of unsweetened mealie porridge served in the morning and the evening. After a week my friends emerge with eyes as big as an owls and a strong greyish white tinge to their skins on account of sunlight deprivation.

[1]  Book link site ---
[2] Garu – is an Embakwe term for “dog’
[3] Fuyane is the spiritualist who "fixed" me up at birth in traditional Ndebele "lungisa" ritual. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dear Police Commissioner Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega

We wholeheartedly congratulate on your appointment as our Police Commissioner.  This is because, on your impeccable record, it is plain that you are a good person. 

It is not always the case that good people are elevated to high office.   Our country has seen a parade of mamparas given top jobs simply for being, either connected to the ruling elite, or being favoured in terms of the now pandemic culture of patronage. 

However, I still believe that advice is not misplaced.  We all need it.   In my humble view you have one big advantage already. You are a woman.  Based on a lifetime of experience, spanning over 40 years, I have little doubt that women are better as leaders. You may want to read my blog post titled "Now who should be the boss" -- at

Secondly, you certainly can do no worse than your two (2) male predecessors, the first of whom was no more, no less, a criminal. The second has only a nodding acquaintance with governance. 

Thirdly, from your record in particular, it is unlikely that you will be imbued with the customary arrogance that we have become accustomed to seeing with your male counterparts.  This means that you will be naturally inclined to understand your limitations as being "cadre deployed" and be willing to find ways and means to overcome them.
We have a spectacular precedent with another woman, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. 

Fourthly, as regards these limitations, I am sure you accept that, because you did not secure the post on merit, you have a very significant problem as a leader. Any leader's first attribute has to be credibility, i.e, instinctive widespread acceptance by those being led that the leader merits the position. This is especially so as regards disciplined forces, such as the army and police.

So you are in the very challenging situation of having to build up that credibility.   Accept it as an exciting challenge.   Use your God given talents to find the ways and means to build up you credibility.   There is much wisdom out there, especially from our elders, as to how to achieve this.   I really don't think that you have any difficulty in understanding that the normal male, testosterone driven, "I am the boss" approach will not work.  
A tip that I would respectfully recommend is to immediately openly acknowledge your limitations to your support team and adopt the stance that they have the skills to make you and them look good.  Empower them in a climate of diamond hard trust.   It will be something new for them and, if done right, will inspire them to respond positively ... towards you and their briefs. 

Fifthly, and MOST importantly, please understand that there is a wholesale lack of understanding of the underlying causes of our pandemic crime situation.  No question whatsoever!!!!   So you have an outstanding opportunity here. Really!  You have a unique opportunity to come up with the solution where others have failed --- DISMALLY! 

The current approach, now embedded by your predecessor Bheke Cele, of more police, more force, more violence, "shoot to kill", harsher penalties ... etc ... etc ... is incredibly naive and misplaced ... and doomed to failure.   A much more sophisticated, innovative and imaginative approach, involving the whole nation, is required.

You see, the underlying problem is a national phenomenon know as anomie.  Forgive me for imagining that you have not heard of this condition.   What it means is that our nation has a widespread culture od deviance, which then spawns crime.  For instance, I think you will agree that the same people who scream at our police force to shoot to kill, park their Mercedes Benz cars, go into a meeting, and then fix commodity food prices to to the detriment of the poorest.  Weekly,  Carte Blanche exposes lawyers, doctors, accountants, mechanics, politicians ..... (the list is endless) for deviant and criminal conduct.

The reality is that our whole nation is part of the problem. Our whole nation needs to be involved in the solution. Might I sincerely and respectful advise you to --- 
2. Immediately assemble a cluster of criminologists, who will not only confirm without exception that this advice is 100% sound, but will also help you plot a way forward. 

If you do this you will be the first leader in this country that displays an understanding of your brief on crime and will start the process to rid us of the scourge. More of the same will be a truly tragic mistake on your part.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.  Marie Curie

May the Good Lord guide you every step of the way!  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dear Danny Jordaan

All the news networks have carried reports of you “red carding” Euro 2012™ finals on the solemn grounds that, as a South African that made a stand against racism, you are compelled to do so now.

"If the host country acts contrary to the spirit of the game, then one must take a principled decision," you are quoted as saying.

“In this country we always condemn racism … so I must be consistent … strong condemnation is required” you have said live on news media. "If I am seen as fighting against it in my own country, I cannot be seen as turning a blind eye because it is in another country". 

Right now you are on E-TV saying that "in this day and age we cannot accomodate racism".

Danny, these are very pious statements. However, the whole world does believe you. Really! Many even admire your cancellation of a family trip to  Euro 2012™ .

Alongside is a plaque correctly depicting the apartheid socio-economic model.  F W De Klerk, and gang, cannot deny it, wish it away or seek to rationalize its reality.  I am sure you will agree that it is overtly racist in letter and spirit. No question! 

Under this model a White person was entilted, as of right, to a job and the award of contracts, denied to a Black person.

It is against this model that you are taking a stance against, telling the whole World that you are principled and consistent. You are 100% right. All right thinking human beings will agree with you.

Now please have a look at the plaque on the right side. It is EXACTLY the same plaque as the first one, with ONLY the colour coding reversed.

It correctly depicts the express letter and spirit of the current socio-economic transformational model in South Africa. No question! 

Under this model a Black person is entilted, as of right, to a job and the award of contracts, denied to a White person, even if the White is a 24 year old who had nothing to do with apartheid..

Under both models a Coloured person (and Indian) was/is forced to deny his/her ethnicity in order to access socio-economic justice.  

So here we have harsh reality. The current socio-economic transfomational model is an EXACT MIRROR IMAGE of the apartheid model. We cannot deny it or wish it away. 

If one is racist, so is the other; or is it not in terms of some new brand of logic?  When rights and priviledges are allocated on the basis of race/ethnicity/skin coloour we have racism. Or is this not the case in terms of  newly discovered reasoning? 
With respect, it cannot change simply because one is a White product and the other is a Black product. Surely?

So please explain to the World, that you are posturing to, why is it that you are not "taking a principled deciision"  and "a consistent stance"  as regards our current model?  

Why is it that you are not, in fact, "always condemning racism" having claimed that this is what we do in this country?

Is this what Nelson Mandela meant when he said in his "Never Again" speech that? - -
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
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