South Africa: 100 years of landless blacks Nigeria: The myth of free healthcare Somalia: Smiling or crawling? Culture: The rise and rise of African art Diaspora: The American brigade against BHM New african
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10 Black History MONTH
We cover the release of a report into the Dag Hammarskjöld mystery; three epochs of African-American history; a planned coup; slavery and reparations; Mozambique’s struggle; Fela and his legacy; South Africa and land issues; and Africans running into the history books. Readers’ LETTERS 04 Your news and views Baffour's BeefS 08 The trouble with Tsvangirai COVER STORY
Black History Month 10 The Dag Hammarskjöld mystery 16 BHM’s US detractors 20 Marching to freedom’s dream 24 When lynch mobs roamed 26 How Walls nearly spoiled it 30 It’s time for reparations 34 The Dutch and slavery 36 Mozambique’s history of struggle 40 Democracy and legitimacy 44 Fela: Rebel with a cause 48 South Africa’s land issues 52 Running into history 56 Seddick Isaacs: Unsung anti-apartheid hero sPECIAL REPORT 60 Thabo Mbeki debates Zimbabwe 64 The SADC’s election report
FEatures 66 Nigeria: Healthcare in Delta State 70 Ghana: A dazed nation 74 Somalia: Smiling or crawling 76 Liberia: Ten years on UNDER THE NEEM TREE 78 Tales of a taxi-driver’s mate DIASPORA 80 Saving the Africa Centre Out of Africa 82 The battle for an African dream MUSIC 92 The man behind Lusafrica Focus on THE ARTS 96 In and out of Africa 97 A newfound visibility 98 From the ground up 100 Beyond entropy 102 A visionary modernist BACK TO THE FUTURE 106 Turning borders into nations
Letters Readers’ views
Akufo-Addo, the defeated Ghana presidential candidate, took his case to court. Was he right to do so?
African politicians and elections
It is very unfortunate that Akua Djanie is criticising African politicians for her own self-interest, saying elections in African countries are held without manipulations, malpractises, irregularities and rigging. She said it is wrong for leaders like Nana Akufo-Addo and Raila Odinga going to court to file a petition against the results of the elections in Ghana and Kenya respectively. She is of the view that these leaders must accept the election results without recourse to the courts. Going to court is one of the principles of democracy. The two leaders do not want their countries to follow what happened in Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia etc., where citizens of these countries fought among themselves, leading to destructive incidents and violence that hindered their economic development. Those who are mandated to supervise elections in Africa are the root cause of all election problems. Instead of being neutral, they put the governing party at an advantage over the opposition parties. An example is the Electoral Commission of Ghana. During the election petition hearing in the Supreme Court, there were so many irregularities and malpractises which the electoral commissioner himself accepted, saying it was down to human error. Nana Akufo-Addo never asked his supporters to be violent and create bloodshed. Djanie, in staying in the UK and keeping herself informed through phone calls, Facebook and Twitter is poorly advised. Her opinions are just like an old lady in my village.
The constitution of Ghana provides that one can go to court if he or she feels that the elections were not conducted freely and fairly. Akua, you can buy a ticket and fly to Ghana and go to Bole, the home town of President Mahama, and you will see the development there. Compare that to Kyebi, the hometown of Nana Akufo-Addo. What Africa needs now is leaders like Nana Akufo-Addo and Raila Odinga and others who believe in real democracy and abide by the country’s constitution, giving them the right to go to court if they believe election results to be unfair. That is far preferable than violence that destroys a country’s democratic principles and retards the development of Africa. Alex Tuffour Hamburg, Germany
Indigenisation and Zimbabwe
I have long been a reader of New African magazine. However, I found your July Zimbabwe supplement to be highly misleading in at least one respect. In the article “Empowerment: What Others Did”, you note that many other countries have used Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Programs (IIE) to promote economic growth. One of the examples you provide is of the US, which restricted foreign ownership and investment in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But it would be very odd to say that it was the “indigenous” people of the US who benefited from such policies, unless one considers the descendants of white settlers to be indigenous to the US. None of the laws or policies you mention
helped the Native Americans in any way, who had their land stolen in much the same way as the indigenous peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Another example you discuss is Taiwan, which built its economic success on the back of state-owned industries. However, as with the US, it was the Chinese mainland settlers who benefited from these policies, not the indigenous Taiwanese who were forcibly assimilated under Sun Yat-Sen and his followers. In any case, what Zimbabwe has done under its IIE programme has not been the removal of power from foreigners but from white Zimbabwean citizens. In none of the examples noted in the article did the states in question remove control over economic assets from a rich ethnic or racial minority, making the value of these comparisons poor at best. Elliott Green London, UK
Gallant African Leaders
I’ve been an ardent reader of Akua Djanie’s column ever since she appeared in your esteemed magazine, but take a great exception to some of the issues she raised against Raila Odinga and Nana Akufo-Addo in the July issue, describing their actions as uncouth (defined as a person or their appearance or behaviour as lacking good manners, refinement, or grace). If taking election petitions to court can be described as uncouth, then I beg to defer. Neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire was nearly thrown into a state of conflagration, all due to election dispute handling. The 1992 constitution of Ghana states clearly that: “The validity of the election of the President may be challenged only by a citizen of Ghana who may present a petition for the purpose to the Supreme Court within 21 days after the declaration of the result of the election in respect of which the petition is presented”. This demonstrates that those who framed the Ghanaian constitution anticipated the possibility of disputed elections and hence this provision. For the first time in the lives of many people of my generation, we had the opportunity to appreciate what con-
4 New African Magazine October 2013
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Letters Readers’ views
A view from Kenya: Mismanagement, nepotism, corruption, poor governance etc. is damaging Africa's cause
tempt of court means and the implications thereof. In this landmark case in Ghana there have been five persons (Sammy Awuku, Stephen Atubiga, Ken Kuranchie, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie and Hopeson Adorye) charged with contempt. In the courtroom some of them were reprimanded and made to apologise on the networks where they made such contemptuous statements, others were fined and made to sign a bond of good behaviour, and still others suffered custodial sentencing, being imprisoned for three to 10 days. For her attack on Akufo-Addo’s free education policy, the least said the better. If Akua could cast her mind back she would note that when President John Dramani Mahama ascended the high office as president of Ghana for the unexpired term of our beloved President Mills who passed on, he presented his policy direction for the unexpired term. This should inform all well-meaning Ghanaians that Ghana runs an executive presidency. “The executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this constitution”. Let us all encourage aggrieved parties to any election dispute in any part of Africa to go to court rather than incite people to violence, which makes other people see us as savages. In a civilised democratic country like Ghana, which has been touted as the gateway to Africa, the rule of law and not the rule of men is what must be up-held. D.C. Kwame Kwakye Cape Coast, Ghana
What ails Africa
Thanks for the serious attention you give to what it is that ails the African continent. In your June edition and under the banner: “The deals and dirty tricks bleeding Africa dry,” you hit the nail on the head. It is really true that some deals and dirty deals are bleeding the African continent dry. I quite concur with you. But I would also suggest that it is the underhand dealings of our elected leaders that are haemorrhaging our beloved continent. Could I also add that apart from just our leaders’ shortcomings, other vices such as mismanagement, nepotism, corruption, poor governance etc are contributing to the demise of the African continent. One can only hope that after 50 years of the continent’s independence, these bad habits are not allowed to continue – the time has come for our leaders to make every effort to have our beloved African continent cleared of these travesties. Let these bad vices be consigned to history as our continent moves forward in the next 50 years. Ng'ang'a wa Gatibui Kibichoi, Kenya
Creating a constructive energy
I read with keen interest William Gumede’s article published in New African magazine (March 2013) entitled “The African crisis of mass broken individuals.” The article sheds light on the disruptive effects of colonialism on the African individual’s psychology. I strongly believe that the intellectual elite in Africa can
play a leading role in helping the African individual to overcome the constant and bitter feeling of alienation, frustration, and discontent which have been generated by long years of cruel racial oppression during the colonial era and the systematic marginalisation under the corrupt regimes that governed African nations during the post-independence period. Some of the African illegitimate immigrants (who were found alive, but in a very bad condition near the Tunisian coast, rescued by the maritime guard after the their boat sank on their way to the Italian island of Lampedusa) confessed to the Tunisian media that they were ready to risk their lives and throw themselves into the sea [to reach land], feeling they had nothing to lose. They admitted that they had lost faith in having a good future in their homelands, not because they were jobless or poor but because they felt that they were marginalised and ignored by the national political elite, who were unable or reluctant to listen to their real preoccupations. African intellectuals should give up their passivity and elitism and bear the historical responsibility of saving a whole generation of despondent African individuals from imminent loss. They are invited to take seriously this delicate issue and to set out effective strategies in order to help the African individual to transform his negative feeling of despair and anger into a constructive creative energy. African intellectuals should get closer to the mass and contribute significantly in the efforts to forging a progressive national culture. They are supposed to use all means provided at hand in order to reconcile the African individual with his race, culture and history. They should establish multiple channels of communication and interaction with all portions of society (not only the well-educated people in urban areas) and urge them to express themselves through various forms of intellectual and artistic performance. Ben Jemia Hatem Tunis, Tunisia
6 New African Magazine October 2013
from the editor
Baf fo u r ’s Be ef s
The trouble with Tsvangirai “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones” – William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Act 3, scene II.
eaders who have followed my work over the last quarter century know how much I love George Orwell’s famous words: “He who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the future, controls the present.” For me, this must be the greatest 16 words ever written by the man whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair. Thank God he was so different from the other Blair who went and bombed Iraq on a lie. A huge lie! That Blair is the cause of the humiliation that Prime Minister David Cameron and his foreign secretary, William Hague, recently suffered at the hands of the House of Commons, when, despite the gung-ho attitude adopted by Hague on Syria, the House still voted to stop British military action in Syria. If all parliaments could have that sense of history! But don’t tell President Barack Obama. He might divert his cruise missiles and drones to your village. In fact, I pity those who don’t want to learn from history, who think all that matters is the here and now. But how can the here and now matter most when everyone has a yesterday, a today, and a tomorrow? Yes, there is no today without a yesterday, and unless one dies today, there can be no tomorrow without a today. There is an organic link holding the three together? In fact, it is the natural order of things and we subvert the order at our great peril. That is why George Orwell’s most famous (to me) 16 words fascinate me no end. He starts with “the past” and jumps to “the future”, following the organic link between the two, which, he infers, impacts favourably on “the present” only when the natural order between “the past” and “the future” has been harmoniously observed.
For Africa, from whatever angle one looks at it, Orwell’s words speak to the core of the continent’s current condition. We, on the richest continent by natural resources but the poorest by bank balance, tend not to study our past and use it to determine our future. As a result, our present is messed up. This is why once again, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s former prime minister and losing presidential candidate, has rejected his country’s election results, claiming that they were not free, fair and credible despite the best efforts and words of every credible election observer mission that came to observe the elections. In rejecting the results, Tsvangirai has given comforting support to his Western allies (notably Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia and the European Union) to continue with the economic and other sanctions they imposed on Zimbabwe 13 years ago. I find it quite amazing that Tsvangirai lives in Harare and yet still behaves as if he is the only stranger in Jerusalem – sorry, Harare! The core of Tsvangirai’s problem is that he has a history; and that history does not sit well with his country’s and people’s interests! In fact, Tsvangirai’s sense of history is poor, very poor! Else he would have seen, right from September 1999 when his opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed by the grace of foreign direction and funding, that his “future” would be what it is today, and therefore he should not, in the least, be surprised at his messed-up “present”. After all, according to the Gospel of George Orwell, “the past” and “the future” determine “the present”.
Four historical landmarks I know most people have forgotten them, but let me remind readers of the following four historical landmarks that have an uncomfortable bearing on Tsvangirai’s “present”. Landmark No. 1: In 2001, the Westminster Foundation, the British establishment’s front organisation that manages funds put together by the country’s three main parties, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, published on its website a breakdown of money that it had spent nurturing, repeat, nurturing, and holding the hands of Tsvangirai’s MDC – all with the expressed aim of regime change in Zimbabwe. When President Robert Mugabe’s government made a fuss about it, the Westminster Foundation, now realising the monumental mistake it had made, quickly took down the pages from its website. But the cat was already out of the bag – Tsvangirai’s MDC had been exposed by none other than the Westminster Foundation as a British project! And in the Zimbabwean firmament, that was a big kiss of death! Landmark No. 2: On 2 September 2002, at the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development held in South Africa, President
8 New African October 2013
Morgan Tsvangirai (r), doing Zanu-PF’s clenched-fist salute on 22 May 2013 at the signing of Zimbabwe's new constitution, as President Mugabe looks on
“We, on the richest continent by natural resources but the poorest by bank balance, tend not to study our past and use it to determine our future. As a result, our present is messed up.”
Mugabe, then under heavy attack by Britain and its Western allies (who had imposed economic and other sanctions on Zimbabwe), made a poignant point in his speech to the Summit: “Let [allow] no-one who is negative,” Mugabe said, “who wants to spoil what we are doing for ourselves in order to unite Africa. We belong to this continent. We don’t mind having and bearing sanctions banning us from Europe. We are not Europeans! We have not asked for any inch of Europe, any square inch of that territory. So Blair, keep your England, and let me keep my Zimbabwe!” The applause Mugabe got nearly brought the house down, showing where the sympathy of the ordinary people of the world lay, and Tsvangirai’s misalignment with that opinion. Landmark No. 3: Before Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off in June 2008, Tsvangirai announced that he was boycotting the run-off because of political violence in the country. His supporters’ lives were in danger, he said. A few days later, Tsvangirai proceeded to take refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare, supposedly because his life too was in mortal danger. The Western media had a field day, gorging
themselves on sensational headlines. Then, five or so days into his refuge, Tsvangirai went back to his home in the Harare suburb of Strathaven where he called a press conference. Tsvangirai sat at the high table flanked by his MDC top brass. After making his initial remarks, he offered to take questions. One female journalist asked him if he would go back to the Dutch embassy. Tsvangirai told her: “You journalists like to sensationalise everything. People are hungry, people are dying, thousands are dying in this country, and that is not news. My going to the Dutch embassy rather becomes the news!” This was the man who had inferred that his life was in so mortal a danger that he needed the protection of a European embassy in Harare. Now that same man comes out of his sanctuary only to reprimand the very media houses running the “sensational” stories on his behalf! Which meant his life was not in any danger. With the support of his Western handlers, he had merely manufactured an artificial situation to impugn the reputation of Mugabe’s government, all in the name of regime change. Landmark No. 4: In February 2009, days after the inauguration of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government, which brought together the three main parties in the country (Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC-M), Prof Arthur Mutambara, the then leader of the MDC-M, was interviewed by the Ghanaian-British filmmaker, Roy Agyemang, for his film, Mugabe: Villain or Hero? The discussion centered on the formation of the government, which now offered the possibility of getting the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West removed. Mutambara told Agyemang, on camera: “We, in our wisdom or lack of it, have decided to bury the hatchet and put Zimbabwe first. We are saying to everyone in Europe, in America, those who put sanctions on our people, on our country, please, Zimbabweans have decided to work together. The sanctions don’t make sense any more. The sanctions were put to support me. I don’t want them any more. So who are you to impose them on me? The sanctions were put to support Tsvangirai. He does not want them any more. So why do you patronise me? How can you know better than me what is good for my country?” Those words were profound! “The sanctions were put to support me… The sanctions were put to support Tsvangirai.” Dear readers, that is the history I am talking about. It is Tsvangirai’s history, his “past” that informed his “future” and now his “present” in the form of the electoral defeat of 31 July 2013.
New African October 2013 9
B L A C K
H I S T O R Y
M O N T H
There can be few events in contemporary African history as important as the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations Secretary-General. Hammarskjöld was working tirelessly to resolve a crisis in the Congo. He is generally recognised as perhaps the most effective Secretary General in UN history. Driven by a deepseated humanitarian instinct, the man’s quest for justice and the integrity of newly independent African countries won him many admirers. But it also won him many enemies, especially amongst those clinging to white supremacy, and existing corporate interests – those that clearly saw their privilege and wealth endangered by Hammarskjöld’s support for Africa’s liberation. The mysterious air crash that took Hammarskjöld’s life, along with those of 15 fellow passengers flying from the Congo’s capital (Leopoldville, now Kinshasa) to the Northern Rhodesian (now Zambian) city of Ndola for a meeting with Moise Tshombe, leader of the Congo’s secessionist Katanga province, has attracted much speculation. Was it an accident? Was it assassination? At the time, the UN’s own inquiry was unable to reach a conclusion so the international body left the matter open, adjourning its proceedings until more evidence came to light. In an attempt to gather together such evidence, the Hammarskjöld Commission has issued a report to present to the UN. Last month (September), New African’s Stephen Williams attended the Hammarskjöld Commission report of the Commission’s Inquiry, released in The Hague, the Netherland’s capital. He summarises proceedings for BHM.
The Dag Hammarskjöld mystery
New report released!
Was it murder?
10 New African October 2013
Right and below: Miners illegally at work in an open mine outside Lumumbashi in DR Congo. The Asantehene is keen to prevent the practice of galamsey spreading in Ghana
ust over 52 years ago, on the night of 1718 September 1961, a Swedish aircraft, the Albertina, carrying 16 people, one of them the UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, crashed into a forested area near Ndola in what was then Northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia. All those aboard the aircraft died, 15 at the scene of the crash and one later, succumbing to his injuries in hospital. A civil aviation inquiry, held immediately after the event, was unable to ascribe a cause to the crash; a Rhodesian commission of inquiry in February 1962 attributed it to pilot error; and the UN’s own commission of inquiry in April 1962, like the civil aviation investigation, found itself unable to determine the cause of the crash but presciently adjourned the inquiry rather than close it. The UN inquiry’s report was presented to the General Assembly in October 1962. The report requested the Secretary-General to inform the UN General Assembly of any new evidence relating to
if you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress Barack Obama
UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld inspects a guard of honour when arriving on peace mission duties
the disaster. Various conjectures and conspiracy theories concerning this incident have circulated in the intervening years. Was it an accident, as the Rhodesian inquiry concluded citing pilot error; or was it an assassination? If the latter, who could have been responsible and can anybody, 50 years after the event, be held accountable? Many who have investigated the incident have pondered long and hard over these questions. Two years ago, we drew attention to Dr Susan Williams’ book, Who Killed Hammarskjöld? And as part of our Black History Month issue, New African published a lengthy extract from this important work of painstaking investigation. While Williams’ book offered no conclusive evidence of the murder of Hammarskjöld, most readers would have drawn the inference that crucial questions required answers as the balance of probabilities were that the Secretary-General’s death was no accident, at least not in the conventional sense. One reader of Williams’ book was the eminent
New African October 2013 11
UN/HAMMARSKJÖLD British trade unionist, Lord Lea of Crondall. Lea is a former assistant secretary-general of the UK Trades Union Congress and co-founder and vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Africa since 2002. He told New African that he already had an interest in that period of Central Africa’s history and the life of the Congo’s first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, as well as Hammarskjöld’s UN work. Lea had also served as an election monitor in the DR Congo in 2007. In July 2012, Lea decided to organise the Hammarskjöld Inquiry Trust, made up of eight senior diplomats, church leaders, lawyers and academics, including Dr Susan Williams. Two Africans were among the eight trustees: H. E. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth secretary-general and Professor Naison Ngoma, director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia. The Hammarskjöld Inquiry Trust, in turn, invited Sir Stephen Sedley, a recently retired Lord Justice of Appeal for England and Wales, to chair a commission of jurists to inquire into the disaster. This commission included Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa, as well as Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen of the Netherlands and Ambassador Hans Corell of Sweden. They agreed to serve with Sir Stephen as Commissioners. The Commission’s agreed remit was, working completely independently of the Trust, to report on whether the evidence now available would justify the UN’s General Assembly in reopening the inquiry it had adjourned in 1962. (The Commission did not seek itself to determine the cause or causes of the crash of Hammarskjöld’s plane). The Commission released their report at The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands last month (September). The 50-page document is meticulously written and carefully concludes that, yes, there is sufficient new evidence for the Commission to recommend to the UN that the inquiry be reopened. The chair of the trustees, Lord Lea, confirmed that he would travel to New York this month (October) to present the report in person to the UN so that it may go forward to the General Assembly to make a decision on the matter. While the Commission’s report is, to the layman at least, couched with reservations and studiously objective, reading between the lines there seems to be little doubt that the Commissioners believe there is a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence that the cause of the crash of Hammarskjöld’s plane was the result of foul play. As noted earlier, since Hammarskjöld’s death, alternative explanations of the crash at Ndola have proliferated. In the Commission’s opinion two of the more prominent theories are, in its judgment, insubstantial. The first is the altimeter theory. The plane’s three altimeters were found, after the crash, to be correctly calibrated after examination made by experts, putting paid to the theory that altimeter error (whether a technical fault or sabotage) caused the crash. If it was an altimeter fault, the Commission states, the three altimeters would have had to be tampered with after the crash and the fire by one or more persons
Above: The UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld (3L) arrives in Leopoldville in 1961, welcomed by General Joseph Mobutu (L) and Premier Cyrille Adoula (2L). Right: The Commission of Inquiry Report is launched by (l-r) SA Justice Richard Goldstone; Sir Stephen Sedley (chair), the Peace Palace director Steven van Hoogstraten; Justice Wilhelmina Thomassen of the Netherlands; and Ambassador Hans Corell of Sweden. Lord Lea sits at the end of the table.
complicit in the conspiracy and with the necessary specialised knowledge, and it would have been almost impossible to make such adjustments on damaged instruments without it being evident to the experts who in due course examined them. The second theory that the Commission discounts is the so-called “17th passenger theory” – that the crash was the result of a hijack attempt made by a 17th passenger, possibly to divert the plane to Katanga where the UN Secretary-General could be “persuaded” not to oppose the secession of Katanga by exerting the UN’s military force. Even given that aviation security 50 years ago was less rigorous than it is in today’s post-9/11 world, it does seem unlikely that an infiltrator could have boarded Hammarskjöld’s private plane. Furthermore, the Commission notes, it seems unlikely that nobody would notice a stranger on board; that the hijacker
12 New African October 2013
would have waited until the plane was about to land at Ndola before attempting a hijack. As the Commission notes dryly: “While few things are impossible, we regard this scenario as involving far too many unrealistic assumptions to merit further examination.”
witnesses is an open question. One suggestion is that African testimony was considered, because of prevalent racist attitudes, unreliable. Another suggestion is that African accounts might be coloured by nationalist sympathies and a desire to bring the administration into disrepute. The first question raised by the aerial attack hypothesis, the Commission report highlights, is the most easily answered: How could it have been known that Ndola was the Albertina’s destination, when everything possible had been done by the plane’s pilot Captain Hallonquist, and by the UN, to conceal where the plane was heading? “The answer is painfully simple,” the report reads. “Moise Tshombe and his advisers, mercenaries and their sponsors among them, had agreed that Ndola was to be the meeting place for peace talks with the UN, and the Rhodesian and British authorities had made elaborate arrangements to receive both parties there. Journalists were awaiting the DC6’s arrival at the airport.” As it was an open secret that Ndola was the Albertina’s destination, it is entirely feasible that another plane might have been able to intercept the Albertina.
Was it sabotage? Next, the Commission examined the various sabotage theories. Evidence has emerged from a South African source that suggests the plane’s steering gear was disabled by a bomb placed in the plane and detonated, by timer, radio command or fortuitously by gunfire, on the final approach to Ndola. Extraordinarily, the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in July 1998, unearthed a dozen documents passed to that Commission by South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency relating to the assassination in 1993 of the leader of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani. Amongst these Hani papers, a researcher found about a dozen documents relating not to Hani but to an operation codenamed “Celeste”. The documents, which bore the letterhead of the South African Institute for Maritime Research, seemed to say that a bomb planted on Hammarskjöld’s aircraft had failed to explode on take-off from Leopoldville (the colonial name for Kinshasa) but had been activated before landing at Ndola in northern Zambia. But, regrettably, this smoking gun appears to be as mysterious as the circumstances of the papers’ discovery in a totally unrelated group of documents. “Little can be ascertained about the South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR),” the report states, “and the Commission was unable to trace any scientific research published by it.” A second sabotage allegation, quoting verbatim an alleged CIA report submitted to US President John F. Kennedy in 1962, was published in a men’s magazine in 1978. This was an allegation, first mentioned in the Washington Post on 3 June 1978, that the Soviet intelligence agency, the KGB, had placed a bomb on the aircraft because of Hammarskjöld’s resistance to the proposal that a “troika” of officials representing what were then known as the first, second and third worlds should take over peace negotiations. “There is evidence collected by our technical field operatives that the explosive device aboard the aircraft was of standard KGB incendiary design,” the purported CIA report stated. But the Commission notes that there is no known evidence that supports this theory, nor the supposed CIA report, unless it is locked away in the US’s National Security Agency archives (a matter that this article will later return to). So, again, the Commission places little importance on this line of enquiry. As Williams’ book makes clear, the Rhodesian inquiry discounted many of the eye-witness statements that were made at the time. There were a number of people that came forward to explain they had seen the plane crash and that there appeared to be two planes in the sky shortly before it did. Why the Rhodesian authorities chose to ignore these
Lights in the sky
TheY listened to eye-witness accounts that were not heard by any of the three initial inquiries.
The Commission heard eye-witness accounts that were not heard by any of the three initial inquiries. Many of the African witnesses thought in 1961 that they would not be believed by the Rhodesian authorities. Although now elderly, the witnesses were interviewed by two of the Commission’s members (the chair Sir Stephen Sedley and Justice Richard Goldstone) in the Zambian town of Bemba. Williams had only interviewed Mama Kankasa for her book Who killed Hammarskjöld, but the Commission members had found another six witnesses to the events of that fateful September night. For example, John Ngongo had gone to the forest with his neighbour (who has since died) to burn charcoal. He described how they saw “something in the sky … coming down in a tilted position… Because of the sound you could tell it was a plane… It had already caught fire… Within the inside of the plane [we] could see some fire, but what I remember is that the fire was on the wings and the engines…” At dawn, he and his neighbour went to find the plane wreck. They found Hammarskjöld’s body lying back against a termite mound. His hands were behind his head and there was something like blood on his face. They heard no calls for help and did not see Harold Julien, the one surviving passenger. The Commission also talked to a husband and wife, Safeli and Emma Mulenga, who were outside their home watching for chicken thieves when Mrs Mulenga saw a plane circling. It went round twice, then on its third circuit she saw a “ball of fire coming on top of the plane”; she was not sure whether it came from outside or inside the plane. The plane came down at an angle. Mr Mulenga’s testimony recounted that on the plane’s third circuit of the Ndola airfield there appeared to be “a flame … on top of the plane … like a ball of fire, just on the centre.” Custon Chipoya, a charcoal burner, recounted that he and his colleagues were sleeping after setting up a
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UN/HAMMARSKJÖLD charcoal kiln. At about midnight (he had previously placed the event at 9 or 10 p.m.) he was woken by a plane coming from the north-east and circling. On its third round “we heard some kind of a bang and then the fire … on top of the plane” and towards the front. Chipoya then saw a second, smaller plane following the first: “I saw that the fire came from the small plane …” Margaret Ngulube, giving evidence to the Commission, remembered seeing two planes in the sky, the larger of them on fire “in the wings”, and that the plane then fell in “a ball of fire”. These new witness accounts vary in certain ways, but all have one thing in common. They describe a burning plane coming down, and are largely consistent in describing the presence of a second, smaller aircraft. “There is in the Commission’s view enough primary evidence that the plane was on fire when it crashed.” And, furthermore, the evidence supports the comments that the sole survivor of the crash, Harold Julien, made before he died, describing the plane being on fire. These new witness statements make for new and compelling evidence that the Albertina was attacked in the air and this is what caused the plane to crash. But then questions arise as to who would wish Hammarskjöld harm. Who had both the motive and the means? It is important to understand the political realities of those times that have been described as the “height of the Cold War”. The Congo was a hotspot of the proxy war taking place between the US and USSR in Africa. Essentially, the USSR generally supported the nationalist liberation movements seeking to rid Africa of colonialism, and Hammarskjöld was a committed champion of Africa’s liberation. The US (and the West) had its own self-interests in mind with regard to the mineral wealth that the Congo possessed. With an abundance of uranium deposits, said to be the richest in the world, the Congo was considered a prime Cold War asset – uranium being the fuel of nuclear warheads – and there were deposits of cobalt, copper, gold and many other minerals. As for the US, it would appear that President Kennedy supported the independence of the Congo, but the US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) held an opposing view, a situation that is described in the Commissioner’s report as a “cleft in policy”. Less than two weeks after independence from Belgian colonialism in June 1960 – on 11 July, the Congo’s Katanga province’s most powerful politician, Moise Tshombe, declared Katanga an independent state. There is much evidence that this move had the support of the Belgian military command and also suited the interests of the CIA, the British colonial administrations in the neighbouring Rhodesian Federation, and the South Africans. The Commission’s report notes: “While the UK and Belgium, both members of the UN, had no formal alliance at state level, there were strong commercial links between them and with US and South African interests. Union Minière [the dominant mining company in the Congo] had close relations with the British company Tanganyika Concessions (known as Tanks): the chairman of Tanks, Charles Waterhouse, was also a director of Union Minière. Tanks had links with Anglo-American, the Rhodesian Selection Trust
The smouldering wreckage of the Albertina. Questions have been raised as to why the Rhodesians took so long to find the crash site, and whether mercenaries got to the scene first
and the British South Africa Co. “In addition to their shared concern that an independent African state might expropriate foreign commercial holdings, as Egypt had done in 1956, South Africa feared that its system of apartheid, which was in large part operative in Rhodesia, would succumb to a domino effect as national liberation moved southward.” Indeed, Justice Richard Goldstone is on record as remembering as a student in South Africa that news of Hammarskjöld’s death was greeted with celebration by apartheid supporters. The British High Commissioner to the Rhodesian Federation, Lord Alport, “... was a strong supporter of the Federation’s [white] supremacist policies.” So there is the appalling possibility that one or more of the external state powers, including the breakaway Katangan entity, had the motive to conspire to use air power to attack Hammarskjöld’s plane. Two types of planes held by a fledgling Katangan airforce might have made such an attack; Fouga Magisters and De Havilland Dove aircraft. Although the use of the Fouga Magisters had been discounted by earlier inquiries on account of their limited range, the Commission report states: “If stationed not at Kolwezi [in Katanga] but at Jadotville or Kipushi, or if able to refuel en route, a Fouga would have had no difficulty in reaching Ndola and returning.” Furthermore, a CIA operative, David Doyle, who was in charge of the CIA’s Elisabethville base (now Lubumbasha, capital of Katanga) until April 1961, recorded in a memoir that in January 1961, he went to the airport at night to make a routine check and found there a US-registered KC97 commercial Stratocruiser. Its civilian crew was unloading three Fouga Magisters for delivery to Katanga “in direct violation” of the US’s stated policy of not arming the Katangan forces. However, the Commissioner’s report says that “at
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least one expert commentator” thought that an adapted De Havilland Dove was the likely attacker. Katanga possessed such aircraft, adapted for warfare by cutting a hatch through which grenade bombs (of a type manufactured by Union Minière) could be dropped on a target below. Even a near-miss could bring down a plane. Could this form of attack explain why so many of the new witnesses describe lights in the sky (the Dove aircraft lighting up the Albertina for such an attack) and how the fire appeared to be on top of the plane? Another theory of an aerial attack was outlined in Susan Williams’ Who killed Hammarskjöld? book. Based on the transcript of a tape recording, a Belgian mercenary pilot named Beukels claimed that he flew one of two Katangan Fouga at the behest of a group of European political and business interests and that they set out to intercept the Albertina and redirect it to Kolwezi. Beukels implies that his “clients” feared that Tshombe was about to capitulate or compromise on Katanga’s independence, and wanted to “persuade” Hammarskjöld of their case. When Hammarskjöld’s plane did not comply, Beukels says he fired what was intended to be a warning shot that might have hit the tail plane, causing the plane to crash. The Commissioner’s report says: “Beukels was adamant that he had not known who was in the DC6
The Congo was a hotspot IN the proxy war taking place between the US and USSR.
Suspicions of a sinister cause “I welcome this report wholeheartedly. It is an authoritative, judicious and powerful analysis of the evidence relating to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. It shows beyond a doubt that suspicions of a sinister cause – suspicions which have continued to fester in the 52 years since the crash – deserve careful investigation by the UN. It is also practically focussed and identifies next steps in terms of trying to obtain intercept evidence from the NSA. For the first time since the crash, the crucial voices of Zambian eyewitnesses have been heard and taken seriously by a commission of jurists. Three inquiries were conducted in 1961-62: two Rhodesian and one by the UN. The testimonies of Zambian eyewitnesses – even those living near the crash site – were rejected, dismissed or disqualified. “It was incredible,” observed Timothy Kankasa, later a government minister in independent Zambia, “that all the black witnesses were supposed to be unreliable.” Timothy Kankasa is sadly deceased but he would have been delighted that this year the Hammarskjöld Commission interviewed his wife, Mama Chibesa Kankasa – who also became a government minister – about what they both saw. “Also silenced was the voice of Harold Julien, the sole survivor, who spoke of ‘sparks in the sky’ and said the plane ‘blew up’. Julien was left badly injured and without help for 15 hours, exposed all day to the baking sun – even though, as the Commission’s report shows, the authorities appear to have known of the crash many hours before it was officially found. “This report is a very substantial step forward in the search for the truth about that terrible night in Zambia. Working tirelessly, and pro bono, the four distinguished members of the Commission have helped to set the record straight. But their work is also of significance at a broader level – as a major contribution to our understanding of the functioning of the British empire and of white minority rule in Africa.” Dr Susan Williams Who Killed Hammarskjöld: The UN, The Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa is now in paperback at £12.99. ISBN: 9781849043687
until he returned to base at Kolwezi, when he was heavily interrogated and feared for a time that he was going to be executed for shooting down the plane instead of diverting it.” It then goes on to clarify: “With all the reservations which attend multiple hearsay of this kind, it is impossible not to be struck by the correspondence between those aspects of Beukels’ reported narrative ... and the [new] independent testimonies.” But there is another aspect of Williams’ research that is truly intriguing. She tracked down a certain Charles Southall who, in September 1961, was serving with the US’s National Security Agency and stationed in Cyprus where there was an important “listening post” for US intelligence. Called into the office one night, Southall recalls he was one of four or five officers clustered around a loudspeaker listening to a “cockpit narrative”. That narrative, he told Williams, was of a pilot saying: “I see a transport plane coming low. All lights are on. I’m going down to make a run on it. Yes! It’s the Transair DC6. It’s the plane … I’ve hit it. It’s going down. It’s crashing.” In Southall’s opinion, the communication must have been transmitted to, or intercepted by, a CIA field command post on Very High Frequency and then retransmitted on to Cyprus for relay to Washington. Who was the pilot talking to? Southall believes it was to the CIA or with some other Katangan, Rhodesian or British base co-operating with the CIA. He adds: “If the CIA didn’t order Hammarskjöld’s death, at least they paid for the bullet.” And that is just one of a number of good reasons why the Commission’s report has called for the release of documents, especially transcripts of radio signals intercepts, under the US Freedom of Information Act. As the Commission report states: “If the suggested attack or threat in reality occurred, the live cockpit narrative, whether in the form attributed to the pilot Beukels or in the form of the recorded cockpit narrative recounted by Southall should in the ordinary course of events have been monitored, recorded (as indeed Southall testifies it had been), logged and archived by the US National Security Agency. It is likewise to be expected that any dialogue conducted by the Ndola control tower, and any messages or signals transmitted or received by the Albertina, were monitored and logged by the NSA.” And, in addition, a number of witnesses remember seeing US planes at Ndola and other airfields that they believed were monitoring radio messages. So is it likely that the US will open up its records as the Commission has requested? Certainly, if the request was also through the UN, it would add great weight. But it must be recognised that now, as 50 years ago, particularly within the intelligence community, the UN is not universally loved. Nevertheless, and significantly, the UN’s SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon has said that he will closely study the findings of the report. In a press release Ban’s spokesperson said the UN is among those most concerned in arriving at the whole truth of the circumstances leading to Dag Hammarskjöld’s death. “The UN Secretariat will closely study the findings of the Commission’s report,” the spokesperson noted, BHM adding their thanks to the Commission.
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If Morgan Freeman, the Oscar-winning African-American actor, had his way there would be no Black History Month in the USA. “Ridiculous” is how Freeman, who has played Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, and God in movies, describes it. Though his line of thinking is supported by many, there are many more who insist Black America still needs Black History Month, reports Leslie Goffe from New York.
USA: The brigade against Black History Month
lack History Month USA is a nationwide celebration recognised by the US government and observed by thousands of US schools and businesses, and by millions of African-Americans each February. Unlike its British counterpart, which is celebrated in October, Black History Month USA has been a fixture for 87 years – nearly a century. But don’t tell the famous African-American Hollywood actor, Morgan Freeman. “Ridiculous” is how he describes the month-long celebration. “You are going to relegate my history to a month?”, Freeman protested when asked on US television a few years ago why he believed Black History Month (BHM) was ridiculous. “Which month is White History Month?”, Freeman asked the reporter of European descent. Fuming, Freeman said, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Well, he was both right and wrong. He was right when he said black history was an integral and inseparable part of American history. He was also right to say the history of Africans in America, from chattel slavery to the first black president, was infinitely too large, too extraordinarily complex, and just too damn rich, to be tackled in a single month; and the shortest month of the year, February, at that. But Freeman – who is no Uncle Tom and has, in fact, long been a staunch defender of important black causes – was wrong to call for an end to Black History Month. However short or compressed the celebration might be, it is nonetheless an important month-long series of events that remind African-Americans of where they were yesterday, where they are today, and where they intend to be tomorrow. Despite their increasing population, now said to be over 40 million, African-Americans are still considered a minority group in the larger American constellation, and they need events such as BHM to build solidarity among themselves and within the larger American society. That is not to say Morgan Freeman does not have 16 New African October 2013
his supporters. There are many well-meaning AfricanAmericans, and many not so well-meaning whites, who believe as Freeman does, that it is time to bring to a close the annual parade of important people and events in the history of black America. Among those who want to call a halt is Trudy Bourgeois, an African-American entrepreneur. “Black History Month,” she says bluntly, “needs to go away.” It should have gone away a long time ago, she adds. “Are you shocked,” Bourgeois asks, “that I would say such a thing?” And she is not alone. Clinton Yates, an AfricanAmerican columnist at the Washington Post, confessed in a recent column that after years as an ardent adherent of Black History Month, he had begun to question its value. “I wonder,” Yates wrote, “has Black History Month lost its purpose?” It had not, he concluded. But he is
worried the celebration has “lost its way”. This view is supported by other people of African descent. Samuel Gebru, the director of an Ethiopian organisation in Massachusetts, says “Black History Month today is an anachronistic holiday that continues to isolate the history of African-Americans to one month – the shortest of the year.”
Big business takes over Morgan Freeman, despite his views on Black History Month, has been a staunch defender of important black causes. Below: Dr King (centre left in the crowd) and other civil rights leaders during the ‘March on Washington’
The problems with Black History Month are many, its critics say. First, BHM should be celebrated every day, not just once a year. They say, and not without cause, that the month has been hijacked by big business, who use the event to target African-American consumers. In February last year, Nike launched three BHMthemed sneakers, each pair costing around $150. This past BHM 2013, Nike debuted its special “Black History Month Product Collection”, which featured jackets, caps and sneakers with the initials “BHM” and “Be Bold, Be True” emblazoned on them. Critics of BHM say the month-long celebration has not been bold or true in a long time. Their chief charge is that BHM is outdated. “Do African-Americans, in 2013, in a post-racial America, really need a remembrance of things past?” they ask. “What need do black people have of an event to puff up racial pride when there is a black man in the White House?” But this is where they shoot themselves in the foot. They forget to add that this black man, Barack Obama, is in the White House only until 2016, when his term ends. And who knows how long it will be for another black man, or black woman, to get into the White House again, if there ever will be an again! BHM’s job, therefore, is to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative. And the most positive and affirmative of BHM tales usually require the mention of three black men: Daniel Hale Williams, Charles Drew, and Garret Morgan, who achieved enormous things against the odds. For example, Dr Hale Williams, the son of a freed slave, performed the first successful open heart surgery operation in the USA, and Dr Charles Drew was the physician and surgeon who helped set up the first blood bank. Tragically, and most ironically, Dr Drew died after being injured in a car crash and being refused a blood transfusion by white doctors. And let’s not forget Garret Morgan, whose father was a slave. Morgan invented the gas mask and the first traffic light. Black people have been buoyed by these sorts of BHM story for years.
The history BHM started out as “Negro History Week” in 1926 and became “Black History Month” in 1976. Now it is increasingly known as “African-American History Month”. It did not come easily and so should not be surrendered easily. After all, the academic and activist, Carter G. Woodson, who came up with it – and who is referred to now as “the father of black history” – fought for years to win acknowledgment for his
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USA celebration of black pride. After earning his doctorate at Harvard University in 1912, and becoming only the second black person to do so, Woodson moved to Washington DC, where, in 1915, he set up his Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Unmarried and without children, he threw himself into his work. In 1926, after much tweaking, Woodson launched his “Negro History Week”. The annual celebration would, he said, take place in the second week of February in order to coincide with the birthdays of “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln and the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. “The Negroes seized upon the idea as the thing upon which they had long been waiting,” a thrilled Woodson told a black newspaper in 1926. Of course, he was not the first to set out to educate the mis-educated. Other black historians and authors had tried before him, but their books mostly gathered dust on bookshelves, unread by the people they were intended for. It took Woodson to make black history into a cause and not just a book project. He had been employed for a time as a professor at some black colleges, and he took the giant step down from the ivory tower to share his knowledge with everyday people. Often struggling to pay his bills, Woodson was harsh in his criticism of the black professional class. They are, he said, “worthless in the development of their people.” His “Negro History Week” was just what the African-American masses needed in 1926, a year in which the Ku Klux Klan was at its height and in which 23 black men were lynched. While some, like the African Blood Brotherhood, a militant, semi-secret organisation, called for an eye for an eye, Woodson, the revolutionary of the mind, told African-Americans to revolutionise their thinking. “To handicap a student by teaching him that his black face is a curse and that his struggle to change his condition is hopeless” is, Woodson wrote in his groundbreaking 1933 book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, “the worst sort of lynching.” He also wrote, tellingly, that “if you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself.” If that man is made to believe that fate intended that he be an outcast then, Woodson said, “you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” This is what made Carter G. Woodson, alongside Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the towering black thinkers and activists of the early 20th century. Now, having come up with the idea for “Negro History Week” himself, Woodson was determined to direct how African-Americans experienced it. He set themes he felt ought to be explored each year. In 1934, for example, his designated theme was: “Contribution of the Negro in Poetry, in Painting, in Sculpture and in Science.” In 1937, the theme was: “American Negro History from the Time of Importation from Africa up to the Present Day.” In 1929, he had chosen “Possibility of Putting Negro History in the
Top: African-Americans being addressed by hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1938. Above: Carter G. Woodhouse, who made black history a cause
Curriculum” as the theme. Woodson had no trouble convincing black churchmen to preach about black achievement in their sermons. Nor did he have trouble convincing the presidents of the 100 or so black colleges in the USA to put Negro history on their curriculum. He failed miserably, however, in convincing the many schools and colleges in which whites were in the majority to open their doors and minds to black history. They shut their eyes to his teaching materials and closed their ears to his lectures. The white man, they told the quiet black man of letters, was the measure of all things, and other races simply didn’t measure up. A white man, they told him, was the first man and Europe was the first continent. Woodson countered this view in his writings and lectures. He told African-Americans that it was the African, not the European, who was the first man, and that Africa, not Europe, had been the first continent. Just as Eve had come from Adam’s rib, Woodson said, so the white man had come out of the black man, and had come, whether he liked it or not, out of Africa, too. “If the white man wants to hold on to it,” Woodson once said, “let him do so; but the Negro, so far as he is able, should develop and carry out a programme of his own.” This programme was Negro History Week, which got a boost in the 1940s and 1950s with the emergence
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of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1940s, Negro History Week found an ally in US President Harry Truman. He had won AfricanAmericans over when the once racially-restricted jobs in the defence industry were offered to AfricanAmericans. Truman won more praise when he pushed through landmark legislation de-segregating the US armed forces, and burnished his black credentials additionally, in 1946, when he became the first US president to give his support and sanction to Negro History Week. Asked by the International Workers Order organisation what he thought about the annual celebration, Truman wrote in a January 1946 letter: “I am glad to hear that Negro History Week again will be celebrated. The achievements of the Negro have been remarkable. It is very essential that we have knowledge of the past of a people in order to understand their aims and aspirations for the future. I congratulate all those who seek to extend this knowledge. Their efforts are most praiseworthy.” But though Truman seemed to be a supporter of Negro History Week, he was no fan of AfricanAmericans. He often called blacks “niggers” and “coons” when with white friends and family in private, his associates revealed after his death. “Harry is no more for nigger equality than any of us!”, the president’s sister, Mary Ann, told a white journalist around the same time in 1946 that Truman had been expressing his support for Negro History Week. Other whites, too, seemed ready, in the 1940s, to relent – a little. The departments of education in two southern states, North Carolina and West Virginia, agreed to ask their schoolteachers to cooperate in
US President Harry Truman expressed support for Negro History Week. Endorsed by Martin Luther King, Jr. (above r), it went from strength to strength. If it was good enough for Dr King, its successor Black History Month should be good enough for Morgan Freeman (r), here pictured with Zindzi Mandela
Can black history month be improved? Of course it can. should it honour a more diverse group of africanamericans rather than celebrate the same old standbys every year? of course it should.
the highlighting of black achievement during Negro History Week each February. In the 1960s, with Black Power on the rise and the Civil Rights Movement (led by Martin Luther King) non-violently changing the face of America, Negro History Week got an even bigger boost.
Martin Luther King’s endorsement In 1964, Martin Luther King mentioned Negro History Week prominently in the introduction to his book, Why We Can’t Wait. “Not all of history is recorded in the books supplied to schoolchildren in Harlem or Birmingham,” King wrote, pointing out that the textbooks that black children were required to read were routinely “censored by the white writers and purchasers of board of education books”. King credited the organisers of Negro History Week with helping black youngsters discover that black men, like Crispus Attucks, who was the first martyr of the American Revolution, and Benjamin Banneker, who helped design the US Congress Capitol building in Washington DC yet got no credit for it, had done much for America. King also credited Negro History Week with letting African-Americans know “how, for 200 years, without wages, black people, brought to this land in slave ships and in chains … helped … lift this nation from colonial obscurity to commanding influence in domestic commerce and world trade.” If Negro History Week was good enough for Martin Luther King, Black History Month should be good enough for Morgan Freeman. After all, after Dr King’s endorsement, Negro History Week went from strength to strength, and in 1976, Woodson’s celebration of black achievement was granted federal recognition by the US Congress! That year, the name was changed from Negro History Week to Black History Month. “We can seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history,” Woodson said. Since 1976, each American president has issued a Black History Month proclamation. And, interestingly, in honour of all the work that Dr Carter G. Woodson did to promote the study of African-American history, an ornament of him is placed on the White House Christmas tree every year. By the time of his death in 1950, at the age of 74, city and state officials all across the United States had begun, each February, to issue proclamations announcing the arrival of Negro History Week. So, can Black History Month be improved? Of course it can! Should it honour a more diverse group of African-Americans rather than celebrate the same old standbys every year? Of course it should! African-Americans have not come as far as they think they have. They still have a very long way to go, and therefore they need the boost of pride that Black History Month provides every February, allowing them to endure the other 11 months of being black in BHM America.
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Having just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, where Nobel laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream…” speech, New African talked with the Photo-journalist Dan Budnik who covered that event and many of the seminal civil rights marches in the USA.
Marching to freedom’s dream Photo: Rene Burri
hen you called at the newsstand to buy a copy of New African last month, you might also have been tempted to purchase the special commemorative edition of Time magazine that carried a photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. on its cover. It was to mark the 50th anniversary, on 28 August, of the March on Washington – when a quarter of a million people assembled in the US capital. Dan Budnik took that photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. moments after Dr. King ended his “I Have a Dream” speech. Budnik describes the atmosphere of that hot summer’s day in Washington as “exciting”. “It was much more than a ‘freedom march’; the official title was ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” Budnik states. “But you had to be there to have any idea of what it was like,” he adds. The March on Washington, whatever its description, was a seminal event for African-Americans in their ongoing struggle for equality. As the TV networks broadcast the event live, and watched by President John F. Kennedy in the White House, people gathered – ostensibly to demonstrate for human rights – but a good many just to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. Budnik says he took a big gamble to get the photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. used for Time magazine’s cover. “I made the decision not to be at the sides of the podium, or at the front, where all the photographers were. But I figured that he would have to go back up the steps after the speech to get out, so I positioned myself by those steps behind him, and I took the photograph as he was exiting, having made his speech.” Dr. King was the last of the day’s speakers. Introduced to the podium on the Lincoln Memorial as “America’s moral leader”, he began reading the speech that he had worked on until 4am that morning. In the prepared speech, there was no mention of “The Dream”. Then Mahalia Jackson, his favourite gospel singer, spoke out from behind him. “Martin, Martin.
you had to be there to have any idea of what it was like. Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream …” she pleaded. It was a theme that he had used in prior speeches. But, in fact, Clarence B Jones, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speechwriter, had advised him to omit the dream reference from his address. Budnik observed that Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed the pages of his speech aside and continued to extemporise, speaking from the heart. Here is an extract from what he was to tell the crowd packing the National Mall before him: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of
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Photo: Dan Budnik
“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. “… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last’.”
Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. “I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character… “I have a dream today!
Above: Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King lead the Selma to Montgomery March. Above left: The young Dan Budnik on assignment with his Leicas
It was, in Budnik’s opinion “...the greatest speech Martin Luther King, Jr. was to make in his life. It is so poignant, it reached around the world. The freedom movement came to a head a couple of years later in 1965 with the Selma to Montgomery March. Yes, that speech was his greatest speech, but the Selma to Montgomery March was Dr. King’s greatest achievement.” The Selma to Montgomery March was extraordinary. It took five days for the marchers to travel the 54-mile distance and involved 3,900 soldiers and guardsmen as well as FBI agents and US Marshalls to protect the marchers. There were strong concerns that diehard white “segregationists” would attack them. It culminated in a huge festival just outside Montgomery featuring entertainers such as Harry Belafonte; Dick Gregory; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Johnny Mathis; and Alan King. The march was concerned with voting rights. In 1954, when Martin Luther King, Jr. became the Minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (now the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church) Montgomery’s population was around 120,000. A third of the population were African-Americans – but few of them were registered to vote. This made voting rights an ongoing and imperative issue. Without the right to vote there was no way African-Americans could be empowered. They were given ridiculous ‘intelligence’ tests before they could register to vote, like being asked how many bubbles a bar of soap made. Budnik explains, “But the dynamics, the demographics of the South changed after President Johnson pushed through the National Voting Rights Act in 1965.” It is clear that Budnik believes the civil rights’ marches made the difference and convinced US politicians to create the laws that would end segregation and discrimination. As US former President Bill Clinton said at the March on Washington commemoration event in August 2013, without the voter rights’ changes, he would never have been elected, nor Democratic Party Presidents such as Jimmy Carter before him, nor Barack Obama after him. Essentially, the black vote goes overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party in the US. In the early 1960s, most of the South of the US was still in the grip of overt racism and segregation. It was remarkably similar to apartheid South Africa. Black people had to use different and generally inferior public facilities such as lavatories as well as drinking
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Photo: Dan Budnik
fountains, as well as separate schools and restaurants. They were forced to sit on different public benches and sit at the back of buses – where white passengers had preferential rights and blacks would be forced off the vehicle so the white passengers could board. But by the late 1960s, there was a huge groundswell of opposition to the “Jim Crow” state and local laws that enforced a segregation of the races. Segregation was most obvious in the Southern States (the old Confederate States where the plantation culture had taken hold). But it was clear that racism also blighted the rest of the country; it is simply that it was never legislated for but existed de facto with opportunities being denied to black people, or very severely limited, in terms of housing and jobs. The US Supreme Court declared state-sponsored school segregation unconstitutional in 1954 (in the Brown v. Board of Education ruling). Generally, the remaining “Jim Crow” laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but many of the Southern States prolonged the tension by dragging their feet in enacting this legislation – eventually to no avail. Among those that raised their voice in protest were many of the popular entertainers of the day. A famous Budnik photograph of the March on Washington shows Charlton Heston, Julie and Harry Belafonte, closely followed by James Garner, Diahann Carroll and a very young and hirsute Paul Newman. They are followed by Anthony Franciosa and Marlon Brando. At the March on Washington, Budnik also photographed luminaries such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez who sang for the people, film star Sidney Poitier, writer James Baldwin, and director Joseph Mankiewicz. Budnik also tells an interesting story of when he went to the airport in Montgomery, Alabama on the fourth day of the Selma to Montgomery March. He was standing next to Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott
L-r: Charlton Heston, Julie and Harry Belafonte on the Washington march, closely followed by James Garner, Diahann Carroll and a very young and hirsute Paul Newman
Budnik has been Involved in the struggle that native Americans have been waging for their rights.
King who were holding hands waiting for a delayed flight carrying Harry Belafonte from California. “I raised my camera to take a photo, not knowing how they would react. Dr. King started pulling away but Mrs. King wanted me to photograph that moment and she pulled him back. In that moment I realised the strength and power of this extraordinary woman.” In fact, when asked how well he knew Martin Luther King, Budnik says that although he did speak with him on a number of occasions, as with all his subjects, he tried to keep his distance from those he was photographing “or your concentration could get disrupted – it changes the dynamic”. In October of 1958, during Eisenhower’s presidency, Budnik accompanied a group of young multi-racial student activists during the Youth March for Integrated Schools. Harry Belafonte and Bayard Rustin led the students to present the president with a petition calling for integrated schools. Presenting a petition is the constitutional right of every American. “Reaching the gates of the White House, which to my relief were open,” Budnik recalls, “the two student leaders approached to present their petition. The gates to the White House were then flung shut in the face of the students. “The captain of the guard yelled out ‘What y’all want’. Answering, they told this captain, who I could tell was a Southerner and most probably a racist, that they wanted to present their petition. The captain told them, ‘Well, he ain’t here right now, the president’s not here’. It was total intimidation. “Then from behind the gates, where there was a little kiosk, two secret service agents came out with 16mm cameras. One started filming as if he was collecting mug-shots, but when he got to me he was startled as I was a white and I was photographing him. ‘And what do you think you are doing?’ he asked. I was so angry, I said, ‘You b*****d, I’ve been with these kids all day. They’re solid Americans and they are just doing what any American has the right to do’. Well, he didn’t have an answer to that and just turned on his heels.” Since 1966, Budnik has been involved in the struggle Native Americans have been waging for their dignity and rights. While there are some echoes of the early African-American civil rights issues, the issue of American Indians (principally the Hopi and Navajo nations whose reservations are nearby to where Budnik currently resides in Arizona) is quite different. Budnik’s primary focus has been to call attention to the abuse that Native Americans endure. Trolley Books (www.trolleybooks.com), began a Kickstarter Campaign to ensure that Budnik’s historic Civil Rights photographs reach a wider audience. Essentially, those that donate to the campaign will receive a copy of Budnik’s Marching to the Freedom Dream book in the Spring of 2014, but you’ll have to hurry. The Kickstarter Campaign finishes at the end of September, giving readers barely 10 days after New African’s October Black History Month special issue appears on the continent’s newsstands. Budnik’s very first professional assignment was in 1957, photographing Tom Mboya, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry Belafonte for Drum magazine. To learn more about Dan Budnik or view more of his images, BHM please visit www.danbudnik.com.
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The sanitisation of history appears to be gaining currency in the USA as people forget that 43 years before Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, black men were still being lynched in America, reports Ifa Kamau Cush.
When lynch mobs roamed free in the USA
s Americans celebrated, in late August 2013, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech, which concluded the black people’s historic march on Washington in 1963, hardly was it mentioned that in 1920, a mere 43 years before the speech, African-Americans were still being lynched in the USA, and King’s speech was in part to exorcise the demons of that ugly past and give AfricanAmericans their full rights as human beings. The sanitisation of history appears to have won the day as even President Barack Obama, the first black president of the USA, who gave a rousing address to mark the 50th anniversary of King’s speech, stayed clear of the territory of the lynch mobs, as if there was no organic link between lynching and what King and the others were advocating for by marching on Washington. No one, in fact, knows for certain how many African-Americans were lynched between 1880 and 1920, when the grisly practice was at its height, but probably about 3,000 were hanged, shot, burned alive, or tortured to death in order to establish and preserve white supremacy in the USA’s deep south. In fact, the terror of lynching lay more in its threat than in its execution. Lynching intimidated blacks and excited whites not because it was common, but because it could be perpetrated at any moment without fear of punishment. Lynchings in the South were typically carried out by “respectable” citizens, whose actions were supported by the police and defended zealously by local politicians. Police officers released victims into the custody of the lynch mob, and the only regret commonly expressed by southern politicians was that they were not able to take part personally. The most common justification for lynching was the allegation of rape, a highly emotional charge that southern whites used to disguise the harsh political logic of their lawlessness. “There is only one crime that warrants lynching,” South Carolina governor Benjamin R. ‘Pitchfork Ben’ Tillman declared, “and governor as I am, I would lead a mob to lynch the negro who ravishes a white woman.”
Southern whites generally defended the practice of lynching fiercely. For example, when Ida B. Wells, a black teacher and journalist, began to attack it in 1892, she was forced to leave the South under threat of death. Born into slavery in northern Mississippi, Wells attended Rust University, where she had studied to become a teacher. Rust was one of many schools for freed people founded in the South by northern missionaries after the American Civil War. Unfortunately, a yellow fever epidemic in 1878 killed both her parents, forcing her to leave school to care for her six younger siblings. Using what she had learned at Rust, Wells found teaching jobs in small, rural schools and later in nearby Memphis. Although her low wages barely sustained her, the fact that she was a teacher bestowed a measure of middleclass respectability which she used to great advantage in Memphis’ bustling black social life. Discovering that she preferred journalism to teaching, Wells soon began writing articles for a local black newspaper. In 1891, she became part-owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech newspaper. On 9 March 1892, Calvin McDowell, Thomas Moss, and Will Stewart were taken from the Memphis city jail and lynched, a horrible racial crime that greatly affronted Wells. The three prosperous African-Americans had jointly owned a grocery store, the People’s Grocery Company, that was competing successfully with a neighbouring white store. Resentful of their success, their white neighbour had begun feuding with them, and over time the dispute escalated from street brawls to the shooting of three sheriff’s deputies by armed men guarding the store. On 21 May 1892, an unsigned editorial in the Free Speech denounced the lynchings as murder. “Nobody in this section of the country believes the old threadbare lie that negro men rape white women,” Ida Wells wrote anonymously. The Memphis Evening Scimitar responded with its own editorial urging that the author of the Free Speech article (assumed to be a man) be tied to a stake and castrated. Wells’ male business partner fled the city, and she herself, lecturing in New York City, chose not to return home. Because the lynchings of McDowell,
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The most common justification for lynching was the allegation of rape, a highly emotional charge that southern whites used to disguise the harsh political logic of their lawlessness. Moss and Stewart had followed unquestionably from a business rivalry rather than a rape, Wells began looking into the circumstances of other lynchings and came to the conclusion that the practice was fundamentally a means of keeping blacks in their economic place. Her research led to the publication in 1895 of A Real Record, which used statistical analysis to show that charges of rape occurred in less than a third of all lynchings – and even in those cases, Wells argued, the accusations were usually fictitious. Wells’ efforts changed many minds, both within the United States and overseas where her European lecture tours generated broad sympathy. Even so, the political reality in America remained largely unaffected. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt told Congress (against the pleadings of Booker T. Washington) that “the greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetuation, especially by black men, of the hideous crime of rape”. Not until the Great Migration of the late 1910s, when black workers began leaving the South in large numbers, did southern whites begin to curb the practice in order to keep their labour force at home. BHM
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On 1 March 1980, as Zimbabwe was waiting for the result of its independence election, General Peter Walls, the country’s military chief, wrote a letter marked “secret” to the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, telling her of his wish to stage a coup to prevent Robert Mugabe from coming to power. Thatcher managed to dissuade the general. It is uncanny that General Walls, just like Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe’s recent polls, was calling for an election that would bring Mugabe to office to be declared “null and void” (“on the grounds … of massive intimidation”) before the result was officially known. Below is Walls’ letter in full and Thatcher’s response through an intermediary.
How General Walls nearly spoiled it SECR ET
Salisbury 1 March 1980 The Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher, MP Prime Minister 10 Downing Street LONDON SWI Dear Prime Minister
I am exercising the right conferred upon me by you personally that I have direct access to you when the situation warrants it. I believe it is my solemn duty and responsibility to now report to you directly and make an appeal on behalf of all freedom-loving and law-abiding Zimbabwe Rhodesians. Many of these have trusted you
and your Government because of my colleagues and my own example, assurance and encouragement, and in the case of the security forces, our command. We have now completed three days of voting as part of the electoral process agreed at Lancaster House and await announcement of the results on next Tuesday morning. I therefore judge this to be the right moment for me to take this action. I must first explain the background. Despite the assurance to me that Lord Soames would measure up to the grave responsibility delegated to him, I must confirm reports sent to you, through intermediaries, that he has proved to be inadequate, lacking in moral courage, lacking in ability to listen and learn, and above all incapable of implementing the solemn promise, given by yourself and Lord Carrington, that he would rely on us for advice on military and other situations, and act in accordance with the interests of [the] survival of a moderate, freedom-loving and anti-Marxist society. I will not accuse him of being unwilling to do so,
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although many in their bitterness think this to be the case. He has often treated us as if we had no special status in your eyes and certainly not as people who, at great political sacrifice, had agreed to go to the conference table after militarily forcing the other parties to agree to do so. It is true his task has not been made easier by your Government insisting on unrestricted entry of hundreds of observers and journalists, many of whom are avowedly left-wing orientated and definitely anti-Muzorewa. Many of them, and some junior monitors, have been arrogant enough to set themselves up as instant experts on this country, and Africa generally, and have made pronouncements accordingly, contributing greatly to the emotional and hysterical wave of hostile propaganda levelled against us. Had the Governor acted resolutely and effectively in the early days of the pre-election period, his task would have been much easier, and our survival as a democratic nation would have not now be [sic] so seriously imperilled.
British PM Margaret Thatcher and then Zimbabwe PM (later President) Robert Mugabe, share a firm handshake
Although it is possible the moderate parties may achieve acceptable results in the election, I must say to you in all sincerity and gravity that it will be a miracle if it happens and in spite of intimidation, breaches of the ceasefire, and sheer terror accepted pathetically by your representatives. Although I have sufficient faith in God to hope that the true wishes of the people in this country will be manifested some day in some way and may be even now, I must take the precaution of making contingency plans for the worst case on this occasion, especially as reports from all around the country indicate that massive intimidation makes a victory by Mugabe the most likely if not inevitable result of the election. I should add that many of the affidavits about intimidation, in the hundreds being forwarded to us today, have been sworn by your British policemen and other visitors. I wish you could see the sullen hurt and misery in the eyes and faces of our black people, who are normally so cheerful, good-natured, and full of goodwill.
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ZIMBABWE My appeal to you must be on the following basis: (a) If Mugabe succeeds in gaining a simple majority by winning 51 seats or more, or if he is able to attract sufficient defectors from other parties, it is vital to our survival as a free nation that you declare the election null and void on the grounds of official reports of massive intimidation frustrating the free choice of the bulk of the people. (b) If Mugabe gets less than 50 seats but has more than any other party, our present efforts to form a coalition based on the tripod of [Bishop Abel] Muzorewa, [Joshua] Nkomo, and [Ian] Smith must be given every opportunity and help, however overt or devious as may be necessary, to succeed in governing the country and resisting the efforts to overthrow them of Mugabe, and anybody who supports him. (c) In the event of the election being declared null and void, or the moderate parties failing to form a viable coalition with a working majority in the House of Assembly, it is essential from my considered point of view that you maintain a British presence in ZR [Zimbabwe Rhodesia] to run the country with a Council of Ministers, thus allowing us to provide, if necessary, the military conditions for an orderly and safe withdrawal of those people of all races who wish to take refuge in South Africa or elsewhere.
Lieutenant-General Peter Walls, the Rhodesian Commander-in-Chief, appealed to Thatcher for the green light in an attempt to topple Mugabe
This will be preferable to my taking unconstitutional action which would be fraught with snags and dangers, apart from being loathsome to me as a professional soldier, and almost certain to result in much bloodshed and damage to property, and embarrassment to your Government. However, if you are unable to see your way to honouring the bond between us, I must reserve the right to take whatever action is necessary in the interests of the majority of [the] people whom I am pledged to serve. It must be without precedent or at least abnormal, for a person like myself to address such a message as this to no less than the Prime Minister of Britain, but I wish to assure you I do so only in the extremity of our possible emergency, with goodwill, and in the sincere and honest belief that it is my duty in terms of the privileged conversations I had with you and Lord Carrington. I don’t know how to sign myself, but I hope to remain your obedient servant.
Peter Walls (According to a minute on the letter written by a Mr Powell, Margaret Thatcher saw General Walls’ letter on 2 March and a reply was sent to him on the following day, 3 March, dissuading him from taking the unconstitutional action he had in mind. Thatcher chose to communicate with Walls through an intermediary)
Foreign & Commonwealth Office London SW1A 2AH 3 March 1980 Dear Michael Lafferty Rhodesia: Message from Gen Walls
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary discussed with the Prime Minister yesterday evening the message from General Walls. Lord Carrington recommends that instructions should be sent as soon as possible today for the Governor or Sir A Duff to reply to Walls on the Prime Minister’s behalf. The purpose will be to calm and reassure Walls, without giving hostages to fortune about the precise composition of the government, or our own role after the elections results are known. The implied threats in Walls’ letter are worrying and no doubt reflect the strong pressure which Walls is under from within the armed forces. But he has played a helpful role over the past week or so both in bringing together the forces of the two sides and in establishing the foundation for a coalition between Mr Nkomo, Bishop Muzorewa and the Whites, He will be aware of the grave consequences of any action to overturn the election results; and it is unlikely that he has any firm assurances of South African support. While the risk of hasty action in the event of a Mugabe landslide undoubtedly exists and there is evidence of contingency plans in the Rhodesian forces to deal with the PF in the assembly places, we have no grounds to think that any action is imminent. Lord Carrington considers that the Prime Minister’s reply should so far as possible seek to reassure Walls and to recognise the vital role that he has played in recent days. Clearly, he cannot be given any specific commitment about
It will be very difficult to bring the Whites to accept such a government in which Mugabe would have such a prominent role
the formation of a government. But provided Mugabe gets less than 40 seats (i.e. short of a majority of African seats), the sort of coalition between Nkomo, Muzorewa and the Whites that Walls is seeking would be a perfectly legitimate objective, though it might be possible to take some elements of Zanu-PF into it. Walls should therefore be reassured that we share the goal of a broad, moderate and stable government which contributes to national unity and reconciliation. If Mugabe gets more than 40 seats, the situation will be much more difficult; and it will be hard to avoid a situation in which he does not have a leading role in the government. Walls and the Whites could probably be brought to accept some form of national government, though their suspicion of Mugabe is such that we should have to approach it carefully, emphasising the need for unity and reconciliation after the elections and for a broadly-based government which reflected all viewpoints in the country. If Mugabe wins an absolute majority, then our aim will again have to be a national government in which all parties are represented, and Mugabe’s influence thus diluted. It will be very difficult to bring the Whites to accept such a government in which Mugabe would have such a prominent role, and the risks of a White reaction would be strongest in these circumstances. But it is probably the best outcome that we can hope for. Our role in such a case would be difficult, But to reassure the Whites we would have to indicate that we stood ready to help with the problems involved with the transition to independence (though we would not envisage extending the Governor’s stay by more than a matter of days and certainly not beyond independence). I enclose a draft letter of instructions for the Prime Minister’s approval. Yours ever Roderic Lyne
(Assistant Private Secretary to Lord Carrington)
28 New African October 2013
The ICPD Beyond 2014 Review is an opportunity to influence the future of global population and development policy at national, regional and global levels. It provides a once in a generation chance to define what needs to be done to deliver a more equal, more sustainable world for the 7 billion people - and more - who share it.
The Beyond 2014 Review process will engage world leaders from governments and civil society and create a renewed consensus and global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• African Regional Conference on Population and Development Harnessing the demographic dividend - the future we want for Africa
30 September - 4 October African Union
• Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
www.icpdbeyond2014.org 15/09/2013 16:29
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A new book, Slavery Reparations Time Is Now: Exposing Lies, Claiming Justice for Global Survival – An International Legal Assessment, provides a fresh voice in the debate over reparations. It is authored by New African senior contributor, Dr Nora Wittmann. Here we provide an edited extract from this important work.
Slavery Reparations The time is now
he prevailing scholarly legal opinion categorically shuts the door on claims for justice and slavery reparations by referring to the principle of non-retroactivity and to the allegation, presented as if it were a fact, that transatlantic slavery would have been “legal” at the time. This is indeed the basic argument that European and US ex-enslaver states always come up with first. In fact, this is really the principal argument that they persistently repeat each time they are confronted with the topic, indicating that this is where the crux of the legal matter lies. This principle of non-retroactivity, a tenet of international law, has the effect that a state can only be found legally responsible if that state committed an act that was “internationally wrongful” at the time it occurred. It is the combination of the allegation of international “legality” of slavery at that time with
this principle of non-retroactivity that is invoked to categorically block transatlantic slavery reparation claims. This is not a scientifically pertinent and tenable position, however. When one contends that “slavery” was “legal”, it needs to be asked by whose standards it is supposed to have been legal. The allegation of legality is based solely on the colonial laws that European enslaver states passed after they had been the driving force in transatlantic slavery for more than a century already. However, transatlantic slavery was not legal by the laws of affected Africans, nor was it compliant with international law standards of the time. It was not even “legal” by the laws of European enslaver states, most of which had come to pass, in developments up to the 16th century, legislation abolishing, or at least severely restricting, slavery and outlawing chattel slavery. In their majority, these laws were never abrogated and thus continued to be in force throughout the transatlantic slavery period.
Breaking the chains, as this famous statue celebrates, is just the beginning of the whole process of justice
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it is evident that reparations, though demanded by law, would in the last consequence result in a fundamental change to the global system and the end of capitalism such as we know it Before the time of transatlantic slavery, many regions of Africa were active participators in international relations, and many African societies had highly developed political and social institutions. Contrary to what we are often made to believe, African political entities of that time were as much the creators, actors and subjects of international law as their European counterparts. The available historical evidence shows that these rules of international relations were known and respected by African states in their encounters with European officials and traders before and at the beginning of transatlantic slavery. Tragically, this conformity with international law was not reciprocated by their European counterparts who disrespected agreements, ignored the sovereignty of African states and violently deposed rulers who were unwilling to collaborate with them in enslavement. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when European nations started to legislate on transatlantic slavery,
international law was no tabula rasa [blank slate]. And Europeans, having always been only a global minority (and before transatlantic slavery not a particularly powerful one), could neither unilaterally impose what international law was, nor change it. And contrary to hegemonic opinion, historical sources referring to African, European and international law show that transatlantic slavery was indeed illegal at its time. Now, the concept of legal responsibility and its ensuing obligation to make reparations for wrongful conduct too was, in one form or another, historically present in all legal systems concerned – African, European and international. Once the illegality of transatlantic slavery can be established and responsibility legally attributed, in appliance of the law of the time and looking at the facts, reparation is due for this most massive crime. Quite obviously, the assessment on its own that African states were subjects of international law does not yet tell us anything about the legal status of transatlantic slavery at that time. In order to get there, a thorough historical investigation into the laws and legal concepts of both European and African states, and their confrontation with the ferocious reality of transatlantic slavery, is necessary. Such a review, also considering historical examples from world regions other than Africa and Europe concerning the legal status of servile labour and slavery, will allow us to come to assess general principles of law, which are, next to treaty and customary law, one recognised source of international law and are generally defined as legal principles common to a large number of systems of national or municipal law. Reparation detractors regularly contend that Africans would have “enslaved” one another from time immemorial; and that they would have actively and voluntarily participated in transatlantic enslavement. Both contentions are of high legal significance because they serve to basically bolster the allegation that transatlantic slavery would have been “legal”. Documents and notes by contemporary European officials testify that transatlantic slavery was totally different from African servile labour through the former’s complete disregard of the humanity of its victims. On the ships, sick people and toddlers, weak and prone to sickness, were often thrown overboard. The average life expectancy of a person enslaved in the transatlantic system, once he or she passed childhood and was put to work on the plantation, was five to seven years. In contrast, in African societies “slaves” were gradually integrated into the lineage. Common punishments in transatlantic slavery included putting people into facial or whole-body gibbets, with metal spikes on the inside; the utilisation of thumbscrews; extreme lashing and smearing of wounds with salt and hot pepper; limb amputation; alive muring [being encased within a pit or walls]; covering the enslaved person entirely with honey and then putting him or her on a tree for days so that bees, ants and mosquitoes would cover and bite every inch of the body. No laws protected the African from any cruelty the European masters could conceive. Men, women, and children were at their complete mercy. “The enslaved
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Slavery Reparations person could be roasted over a slow-burning fire, left to die after having both legs and arms broken, oiled and greased and then set afire while hanging from a tree’s limb, or be killed slowly as the slave owner cut the enslaved person’s phallus or breasts. “A person could be placed on the ground, stomach first, stretched so that each hand was tied to a pole and each foot was tied to a pole. Then the slave master would beat the person’s naked body until the flesh was torn off the buttocks and the blood ran down to the ground.” The Middle Passage from Africa to the plantation colonies took approximately three months during which the people remained enchained in darkness in minimum space, the living, sick and dead side by side, laying in their excrements and vomit, and without any possibility of movement. No reparation detractor has ever been able to come up with documentation of any such institutionalised barbarities happening in pre-Maafa African “slavery” because they simply did not exist there. The eminent historian Basil Davidson pointed out that at the beginning of transatlantic slavery semantic manipulation was employed by European traders to justify their dealings. It is important to see clearly and acknowledge that this very same manipulative argument is still used today to fend off reparations claims. In its indigenous form, slavery had functioned on the edge of society. Generally, slaves were people who had failed to pay debts, been convicted of crimes, seized in war, or transferred as compensation for damages. As in Europe, the causes that could justify war were limited to the violation of interstate treaties which had been sealed with the respective national oaths; the harming of envoys and the failure of the violating state to make reparation for the violation; the support of an enemy during war by a hitherto friendly or tributary state; and the defence of a state against an aggressor. Some acknowledged rules for the conduct of war also existed. For example, the lives of innocents were to be spared as far as possible, and sacred groves were considered inviolable. Domestic slavery also played the role prisons serve in industrialised societies. There is ample evidence that domestic slavery was a marginal economic and social force before transatlantic slavery took off. “In fact, domestic slavery became a significant phenomenon in Africa only by the nineteenth century when it was influenced by global forces and demand.” One effect of transatlantic slavery was the corruption of indigenous legal institutions. Instead of resorting to traditional legal means of redress, the corrupt powerful turned to the slave trade. Many African rulers who traded slaves with Europeans acted without the constitutionally proscribed advice or consent of other gremia (advisory/decision-taking bodies). Such agreements of “slave trading” were thus contrary to customary law and illegal. Comprehensive reparations must also provide means for thorough investigation into these developments that are at the root of numerous grave problems and conflicts in African society today. The vast majority of those deported to the Americas were neither criminals nor war captives, but people
Africans endured not only captivity but unspeakable brutality – for which the call for reparations is now being made
kidnapped in raids. When talking about African collaboration, it is important to remain conscious of the fact that throughout the long centuries of transatlantic slavery, many African people and leaders fought with all their might to stop this massive crime. What is essential to retain is that, just because some individual African rulers were corrupt and participated criminally in transatlantic slavery, this does not mean that chattel slavery had been lawful in their respective countries. African resistance and attacks on transatlantic slavers and trading posts bear witness that transatlantic slavery was not considered normal and “legal” in the eyes of the African majority, but as decidedly illicit. This is the reason why, wherever possible, as in SaintLouis and Gorée (Senegal), James (Gambia), and Bance (Sierra Leone), slave dungeons were located on islands to render escapes and attacks difficult. African people opposed transatlantic slavery to the extent that in some areas, such as Guinea-Bissau, Europeans gave instructions that as soon as people approached their ships “the crew is ordered to take up arms, the cannons are aimed, and the fuses are lighted. One must, without any hesitation, shoot at them and not spare them. The loss of the vessel and the life of the crew are at stake”. From the early 16th century onwards, it is documented that ships belonging to an African “fraternity” patrolled in the Gulf of Guinea, with their crews of 60 and more armed men. Such resistance was also put up by various chiefs and kings. Until the mid-18th century the entire countryside from Sierra Leone to Cape Mount was
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rife with rebellions against transatlantic slavery. Not a single year passed without groups of Africans attacking some slave vessel. People succeeded in establishing free zones on the coast and attracting runaway slaves from all over the area. Tragically, the resistance of African leaders and people did not prevail because Europeans supplied firearms to African rulers and individuals who were ready to enslave others. This scheme resulted in a situation where the choice for most Africans became one of being enslaved or enslaving others. In the 18th century alone, between 283,000 and 394,000 guns were imported into Africa each year by European traders. At least 20 million guns were sold to African merchants in total during the time of transatlantic slavery. Between 1750 and 1807, England sold massive quantities of both gunpowder and lead annually. These arms exports were controlled by European states, as can be seen by means of the many e xamples cited here. Wars were oftentimes directly stimulated by European states in order to produce slaves for their use. For many regions, the relationship between gun importation by Europeans and the expansion of transatlantic slavery has been clearly established. Such conduct by European states, constitutive for transatlantic slavery in its entirety, taken together with other essential elements of the transatlantic slavery system for which those European states were solely responsible – such as slavery legislation and the setting of policy for the Middle Passage and on the colonies – engages the legal responsibility of European enslaver states via Art. 8 of the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility. Transatlantic enslavement led to a massive expansion of slavery in Africa, and slave societies are generally not innovative since people with no perspective on freedom have little incentive to develop their efficiency. This situation in turn facilitated the imposition of European colonial domination that aggravated the problem structurally, technologically and mentally, thus hardening the chain imposed by transatlantic slavery, not broken until today. Only a comprehensive reparation strategy, involving different forms of reparation such as restitution (repatriation), compensation (financial reparation for the genocide and stolen labour), satisfaction (assessment of what really happened, and diffusion of that knowledge; as well as the naming of responsibility) and cessation (abandonment of genocidal structures of exploitation) can “repair” this global situation. So for what exactly does the entitlement to reparations due under international law constitute? The general and foundational rule of the international legal reparations regime was laid out by the Permanent Court of International Justice when it proclaimed in the Chorzow Factory case that “reparation must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed”. Whatever the details of reparation will finally be, if we stick to the requirements of international law – that is, to redress the damage as far as possible – and of African and European legal traditions, we will get
the choice for most africans became one of being enslaved or enslaving others
to where we need to go. Any reparations that do not respect these legal requirements and aim to restrict themselves to the sole payment of a certain amount of money could never be adequate to settle this claim. The ultimate aim of reparations must be the destruction of the structures of exploitation that have persisted since transatlantic slavery. If the general goal of reparation, as defined by law and justice, is to “as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and re-establish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed”, this would involve the re-establishment of African sovereignty and the end of the genocide against African people and of global apartheid. Considerate of this, it is evident that reparation for this crime, though demanded by law, would in the last consequence result in a fundamental change of the global system and the end of capitalism such as we know it. Beyond the legal case for reparations, today the fact remains that Africa was and is the resource-richest continent of the globe. Before transatlantic slavery, these resources were not taken from the continent but remained for the benefit of its people. But after transatlantic slavery and up until now, structures were put firmly in place to drain the wealth of Africa and make hundreds of millions of Africans suffer poverty. Reparation, the healing of Africa, is also vital for the indispensable re-balancing of our planet. The Western system, which has emerged out of transatlantic slavery and is still dependent on mechanisms and structures laid down in transatlantic slavery, has not only killed off unimaginable numbers of people during the past centuries, but has also brought our planet to the verge of collapse. This system, that is also responsible for the massive environmental catastrophe that we are currently faced with, has its foundation in the enslavement of African people and of Africa. Reparation, if sticking to international law, also translates into the abolition of this system. One of our great challenges in these times is to grasp the signs of the moment and get the global social justice and environmental movements to understand that their claims are in fact connected to the claim for transatlantic slavery reparations, and that it is a claim that is well grounded in international law. We have a legal entitlement to the end of capitalism, of genocide, of racism and of massive industrial and nuclear pollution. Looking at our world, any sound-thinking person should easily see that it is in serious and urgent need of re-balancing and healing, if we are to stay here. Transatlantic slavery reparation is fundamental to this healing. BHM
Slavery Reparations Time Is Now: Exposing Lies, Claiming Justice for Global Survival – An International Legal Assessment is published by Power of the Trinity Publishers at $25.99. ISBN: 9783200031555
New African October 2013 33
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M O N T H
Dutch trouble with ugly slavery past Once upon a time in the 17th century, the Netherlands was the largest slaving nation in the world. But dealing with that past has become a dilemma. Like other former slaving nations, Netherlands, as a country, has found it difficult to apologise for slavery, but its Council of Churches thinks otherwise; in June this year, the Church formally apologised for its role in slavery. Our correspondent Femi Akomolafe was in the country in July to cover the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the Dutch, and sent us this report.
n 1 July 2013, the Netherlands marked 150 years of “formally” abolishing slavery in 1863. Actually, it took another 10 years before the slaves began to enjoy their freedom. Therefore, many descendants of the slaves consider 1873, not 1863, as the date of abolition. In contrast, England proclaimed abolition in 1834, France in 1848, and the USA in 1865. So, the Netherlands was one of the last countries to abolish the abhorrent crime. Students of history will also remember that in Africa, the Dutch were also the last to decolonise in South Africa.
Top: In rememberance of a terrible past, this man expresses his thoughts in a personal way beside the Oosterpark National Slavery Monument in Amsterdam
That notwithstanding, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery was marked with ceremonial fanfair at the National Slavery Monument at the Oosterpark in the east of the commercial capital, Amsterdam. The Dutch king, Alexander III, and Queen Máxima were among the significant figures that graced the occasion. The Netherlands, one of the smallest countries in northern Europe, was among the most enthusiastic of slave nations, but how to deal with this past is now a dilemma. As the historian, J. W. Schulte Nordholt, informs us in his seminal work, The People that Walk in Darkness: “The Dutch share in the slave-trade was
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large: in fact, in the 17th century, it was the largest. The Dutch West India Company had various settlements on the African coast, and millions of slaves were ferried from there, especially during the time of the Dutch occupation of Brazil. In 12 years [between 1637 and 1648), they transported no less than 23,163 slaves from Elmina and Loanda, for an amount of 6,714,423 guilders and 60 cents [the Dutch were very precise!]. They bought slaves from the Congo for 40 to 50 guilders and sold them in Brazil for 200 to 800 guilders. Certainly a worthwhile business.” Here is how Nordholt describes a scene from the slave trade: “I stopped the carriage at the water-side, to behold a group of human beings, who had strongly attracted my attention... They were a drove of newly imported Negroes, men and women, with a few children, who were just landed from on board a Guinea ship that lay at anchor in the roads, to be sold for slaves. “The whole party was such a set of scarcely animated automatons, such a resurrection of skin and bones, as forcibly reminded me of the last trumpet. These objects appeared at that moment to be risen from the grave, or escaped from Surgeons’ Hall; and I confess I can give no better description of them, than by comparing them to walking skeletons covered with a piece of tanned leather.” The Dutch were not only leading participants in the transatlantic slave trade, they were also the cruellest among the slave masters! As we read from Marcus Garvey and the Vision of Africa, edited by the AfricanAmerican historian and Egyptologist, John Henrik Clarke: “The Dutch had established themselves in Berbice in 1624. During the years 1624 to 1763 they were the cruellest of slave masters. The Dutch slave code was much harsher than the Spanish code. The savagery of the Dutch code is shown by one provision of calculated cruelty: the burning alive of mutinous slaves over a slow fire. The Dutch had no institution comparable to the Spanish audiencia, a tribunal which included four judges. The ruthlessness of the Dutch created the situation that came to a climax in the Berbice slave rebellion.” Sadly, but not surprisingly, slavery remains a taboo subject in the Netherlands, a country that profited so enormously from it! Like most Europeans, the Dutch enjoy only those aspects of history that celebrate themselves. As such, many Dutch people go through school and life learning absolutely nothing about the vast crime that contributed so much to the wealth they now enjoy. And it seems that all that Dutch
incredible as it may seem, the christian church was at the forefront of the abhorrent trade in human flesh, and received much of its inglorious wealth from this unholy trade Fort St Jago. Built by the Dutch in order to seize Elmina Castle from the Portuguese. It is believed that within 12 years, the Dutch West India Company transported more than 23,000 slaves from the West coast of Africa
hagiographers busy themselves with today is to trumpet the concoctions of African chiefs gathering and selling their people to God-fearing traders from Europe. Missing in the “blame the victim” narratives are accounts of the letter that the Congolese king, Affonso I, wrote to King John of Portugal in 1526, condemning the enslavement of his people. Also missing are the exploits of Madam Tinubu, a slave-trader who became an ardent abolitionist after discovering the true nature of the horrendous trade. Largely, Dutch commentators would like to pretend that they never heard of figures like Queen Njingha Mbandi of Ndongo (in modern Angola) who fought gallantly to drive the Portuguese slavers out of her realm. They also feign ignorance of the various battles King Agaja Trudo of Dahomey fought to keep the slavers away from his kingdom and stopped them from building their slave forts. Mention is also not made of the internecine wars the Europeans instigated in Africa to fuel their despicable trade. Of course, European historians do not tell how these powerful African kings were subdued, when the European slaving nations supplied better guns to the rivals of the kings in order to overwhelm them. Also missing in the narratives is the obvious contradiction of why the Europeans needed guns, gunboats, and other instruments of violence and war if they were genuinely interested in conducting honourable trade in Africa. Incredible as it may seem, the Christian church which today drips with brotherly love and all that, was at the forefront of the abhorrent trade in human flesh, and received much of its inglorious wealth from this unholy trade. In 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued a papal bull, Dum Diversas, which granted the Portuguese King Afonse V the right to reduce any “Saracens, pagans, and any other unbelievers” to hereditary slavery, thus legitimising the incipient trade in slaves. This bull was further extended in another papal bull, Romanus Pontifex, of 1455. Thirty-eight years later, in 1493, Pope Alexander VI, through another papal bull, Inter Caetera, extended these rights to Spain to cover the New World (the Americas and parts of the Pacific). In this milieu, it was no surprise that even relatively enlightened Christians like St. Thomas Aquinas opined that: “Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.” Taking their cue from the Pontiffs, Christian theologians zealously published texts to justify the odious trade. As a result, few slave ships sailed without Christian priests on hand to bless them. Today, many Christians will feel discomfited by the fact that the first slave ship that actually took African slaves to the USA was named The Good Ship Jesus, which was lent to the pirate John Hawkins by the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. In the Netherlands, however, things appear to be changing. Whilst Dutch politicians, like their counterparts elsewhere in the West, fear the financial consequences of rendering a formal apology, the country’s Council of Churches, headquartered in Amersfoort, offered a public apology in June this year for the role the church played in the transatlantic slavery (see over). BHM
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The story of Southern Africa’s liberation movements, from both colonialism and apartheid, is complex and intertwined. Mozambique was just one part of the jigsaw but, nonetheless, a pivotal influence on the course of the region’s struggle, as Stephen Williams explains.
A history of struggle
he history of the liberation struggle in Mozambique, it can be argued, extends over four broad periods. The first of these began in the 16th century when what later became modern Mozambique was colonised by the Portuguese, but from the outset there was what might be termed a popular resistance against European rule – the Portuguese limited their activities to building fortified ports along the Indian Ocean coast. It was not until the 1920s that Portugal attempted to impose real control over the region, through military campaigns of subjugation to impose Lisbon’s wishes upon it. Portugal’s wishes were simply to exploit the colony’s agricultural resources, principally in the growing of sugar and cotton, using a Mozambican forced-labour system. The colonisers were both brutal and crude – as well as being particularly incompetent. Because they had failed to establish administrative control, the Portuguese encouraged their companies to take concessions to develop sugar and cotton plantations and take control of their particular areas of operation. This gave rise to different parts of the country being subjected to different colonial experiences – but in general, the colonial experience was truly terrible. The settlers had little loyalty towards the country, and many were simply there to get rich quick and return to Portugal. And remarkably, a large proportion of them, around one-third, could neither read nor write. But it was these settlers who forced the Africans to use their land to grow crops for the state before they grew their own food. It was a type of taxation system similar to the hut-tax imposed by neighbouring Southern Rhodesia – to force Africans into virtual forced labour. This dreadful system intensified under the Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar, who tightened Portugal’s stranglehold over every aspect of Mozambique’s administration, demanding ever-greater production of agricultural products, especially the export of cotton that underpinned Portugal’s textile industry. Production of this crop was tightly controlled and African farmers received pitifully small wages to grow it. The Portuguese companies that had operations
Right: President Samora Machel’s statue in Maputo. Machel took the struggle to the Portuguese colonialists and steered the country to independence in 1974
It was not until the 1920 s that Portugal attempted to impose real control over the region.
in Mozambique prospered, particularly during World War II when Portugal’s neutrality meant the colony could trade raw materials with both the Allies and the Axis powers, although half of all exports were still shipped to Portugal. After the War, what can be seen as the second era of the country’s struggle began. African workers were becoming increasingly angry at the conditions being imposed upon them by the colonisers. By the 1960s, there had developed a strong popular sentiment to rid the country of the exploitative Portuguese colonialists. Protests in the Makonde cotton-belt were directed at the appalling living conditions and slave-labour wages. Police opened fire at a large demonstration in Muende, in the Makonde cotton-belt region, massacring about 500 people. This is considered a watershed of Mozambique’s history. New resistance movements, headquartered in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, were formed both in Mozambique itself and amongst the country’s migrant workers. These movements coalesced into a single, unified national political front, Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, or FRELIMO) under the leadership of Dr Eduardo Mondlane. Within two years, FRELIMO had instigated an armed struggle against the Portuguese. As Mondlane himself was to report: “In 1964 FRELIMO had only 250 trained soldiers, operating in small units of 10-15 men. By 1965, FRELIMO forces were already operating with units of company strength, and in 1966 the companies were organised into battalions. In 1967 the FRELIMO army had the strength of 8,000 men and women … in other words FRELIMO increased its strength 32 times over those three years.” The Portuguese responded by deploying 50,000 troops and unleashing its secret police (PIDE). Despite PIDE having some early successes, using assassination, kidnapping and brutal torture, FRELIMO gathered strength in the northern and central provinces of the country, wresting control from the colonisers and establishing communal farms, health clinics and schools for the people. PIDE’s headquarters in Mozambique’s capital
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Maputo, the notorious Villa Algarve where captured FRELIMO fighters and sympathisers were incarcerated, interrogated and tortured, still stands, but only just. It would seem FRELIMO made a conscious decision that rather than bulldoze it flat, they would leave it to collapse in its own time. The many victims of the unspeakable barbarity that had taken place within the Villa’s ornately tiled walls, would no doubt approve.
Machel’s leadership A huge blow was suffered by the liberation movement when, in early 1969, FRELIMO’s leader, Mondlane, was killed by a parcel bomb delivered to the house where he was staying in Dar es Salaam, believed to be the lethal handiwork of PIDE. Eventually, following an initial triumvirate leadership, Samora Machel took over the FRELIMO leadership. Under Machel, by the early 1970s, FRELIMO had posted significant gains and had struck south, attacking railways and other economic infrastructure. The Portuguese, ever more desperate, attempted to establish camps in which to relocate the population (to deny FRELIMO the people’s support), and began calling up Africans for military service. However, before the independence war intensified even further, in April 1974 the rightwing regime in Portugal was toppled. The new socialist Portuguese administration signed a ceasefire with FRELIMO and ushered in independence. Machel inherited an economy that was intricately tied to that of apartheid South Africa. Despite his opposition to South Africa’s odious racism, he retained links with Pretoria – trapped by the necessity of continuing to supply migrant labour to South Africa as remittances were one of the few sources of foreign exchange that his economy so desperately needed. Mozambique now entered the third era of its struggle: the immediate post-independence years. By now, the Zimbabwean war of independence was intensifying following Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence in 1965. When, in 1974, Ian Smith released many African nationalist prisoners, Robert Mugabe led a Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union (Zanu) delegation to all the frontline states – Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique and Zambia. But Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere refused to meet with Mugabe as he was secretarygeneral of Zanu (the leader was Ndangabini Sithole, who Mugabe was challenging for Zanu’s top post). Furthermore, Nyerere was suspicious of Smith’s motives in releasing the prisoners, fearing it was a conspiracy to sow division within the liberation forces. It was symptomatic of the power struggles that were taking place within the liberation forces. Furthermore the liberation movements had to contend with assassination attacks, instigated by Pretoria and Rhodesia. Notably, in 1975, Herbert Chitepo, a senior founder member of Zanu, who led the Dare reChimurenga (the central council for the armed struggle), was killed by a car bomb sent to his house in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, by Rhodesian agents. Mugabe declined attending Chitepo’s funeral and instead tried to enter Mozambique. But Machel was also suspicious of Mugabe, and first had him
New African October 2013 37
Mozambique detained and then effectively rusticated to the central Mozambican city of Quelimane, where he taught English for about three months. However, Machel was to finally relent and recognise Mugabe as the Zanu leader who would eventually lead the party to power in Zimbabwe’s first inclusive elections in 1980.
The RENAMO terror But prior to that, in 1976, Ian Smith’s intelligence chief, Ken Flower, decided to establish the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), as a means of destabilising Mozambique, which was providing bases and sanctuary for Rhodesia’s freedom fighters (as well as the ANC of South Africa) and was broadcasting messages of solidarity to the fighters and the people of Rhodesia. RENAMO had some success in persuading rural Mozambicans working in communal farms that they were being exploited by FRELIMO in the same way as the Portuguese had done. But, generally speaking, RENAMO relied on intimidation to build its support. It was also responsible for a number of atrocities against civilians, as it often resorted to banditry and destroyed infrastructure. Machel confronted this insurgency, and a bitter civil war raged. This intensified following Mozambique’s decision to comply with UN sanctions against Smith’s rebel Rhodesian government. The Mozambican leader is also credited with persuading Mugabe to attend the Lancaster House talks that led to Zimbabwe’s independence. Nigeria, it is said, twisted the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s arm to agree to the Lancaster talks, by threatening to cut off Nigeria’s oil and nationalise the assets of British Petroleum (BP), if Britain refused. After Zimbabwe’s independence, RENAMO received funding and direction from apartheid South Africa and continued to destabilise Mozambique. The cost to the country was horrendous. This brought independent Zimbabwean forces to fight on the side of FRELIMO against RENAMO, in a gesture of solidarity with Machel’s government for the help it gave to Zanu in Zimbabwe’s liberation war. Joseph Hanlon, a Mozambique specialist academic, quotes UNICEF figures suggesting the RENAMO war cost Mozambique half of its potential GDP. “The number of health posts had been increased from 326 at independence to 1195 in 1985, but 500 of those were closed or destroyed by Renamo,” Hanlon writes. “More than 60% of all primary schools were destroyed or closed,” he adds, “and more than 3,000 rural shops were destroyed or closed, and most never reopened.” Pressure on Mozambique’s leadership built to such an extent that President Machel, surely with the greatest reluctance, agreed to a non-aggression pact with South Africa – the so-called Nkomati Accord. It was honoured by the Mozambicans but did little to change South Africa’s brazen attempts at using RENAMO to undermine both the FRELIMO and Mugabe governments. The two African governments were viewed as an “ungodly Marxist threat” by Pretoria and its Western allies. In 1986, Mozambique suffered the loss of its second post-independence leader when Machel was killed in an
The remains of Villa Algarve, allowed to crumble into obscurity. It was once the headquarters of the much feared PIDE, Portugal’s notorious secret service
In 1986, Mozambique suffered the loss of its second leader when Machel was killed in an air crash.
air crash. He was returning from meetings in Malawi when, it is believed, South African agents deliberately lured the plane off-course with a decoy radio navigation beacon, causing it to crash.
The fourth era Before he died, Machel had already been making first steps towards creating a market economy, but this was accelerated by his successor, Joaquim Chissano, who, it can be argued, heralded the fourth era of Mozambique’s struggle. Not only did Chissano succeed in all but stopping the war, signing a peace deal with RENAMO and supporting a multi-party democratic system, but he was also to agree to one of the biggest industrial developments in Africa, the building of the MOZAL aluminium smelter just outside Maputo. Hanlon is critical of the deal that led to this development, suggesting that the tax breaks enjoyed by BHPBilliton (then Billiton) and its partners in the smelter project were unreasonable. Yet, undeniably, MOZAL kickstarted the country’s economic renaissance as other investors realised that Mozambique was a glittering proposition. But Mozal was just the beginning for the country as it gradually discovered and exploited huge mineral resources, including one of the largest coal deposits in the world. In 2005, Chissano stood down and Armando Guebuza (a millionaire businessman) came to power as the new leader of FRELIMO. Five years later, there was a huge discovery of natural gas in the offshore Rovuma Basin in northern Mozambique. With subsequent discoveries, it has been estimated that Mozambique has gas reserves approaching three trillion cubic metres, making the country the third largest gas province in Africa (after Algeria and Nigeria). But Mozambique must ensure that these Godgiven resources are competently exploited and future economic growth drives an equitable distribution of the wealth they will generate. That, as they say, is Mozambique’s current struggle – Aluta Continua! BHM
38 New African October 2013
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The time has come for Africa to stand up together and fight with one voice the attempts by the metropolitan powers to dictate who is a legitimate leader in Africa and who is not. The history of such dictation shows the pursuit of Western self-interest at the cost of African nationalist interests, writes Dr Motsoko Pheko.
Right: President Samora Machel’s statue in Maputo. Machel took the struggle to the Portugueze colonialists and steered the country to its independence in 1974
Democracy and legitimacy in Africa
imbabwe is once again a wake-up call to all Africans who value their national sovereignty and control of their mineral wealth and other natural resources. The sustained attack on Zimbabwe is an economic war by Western countries on Africa. These countries have a long history of a “planned regime”. If this fails, they resort to “regime change”. To Britain and America, and all their satellites, “democracy” and “legitimacy” is when their interests prevail over those of the African people. It is reported that the American, British, Canadian and Australian governments do not believe that the recent election results in Zimbabwe represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe. It is, therefore, important to point out that for all the long years when African states and the United Nations demanded economic sanctions against Ian Smith’s rebel colonial regime in Rhodesia and against apartheid South Africa, the European powers (led by the USA) opposed these sanctions. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher argued that sanctions would hurt “ordinary Rhodesians and black South Africans”.
the countries of western europe had long had a “planned regime” strategy for the post-colonial days in Africa.
40 New African October 2013
This was all false. The countries of Western Europe had long had a “planned regime” strategy during the colonial days in Africa. This was put in place immediately they got a signal that Africans were determined to end colonialism and all forms of domination. In Zimbabwe, the Western countries preferred Bishop Abel Muzorewa. Many attempts were made to assassinate Robert Mugabe even after the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in 1979. In colonial Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Britain and its Western allies preferred Harry Kumbula to Kenneth Kaunda. In Lesotho, they preferred Jonathan Leabua to Ntsu Mokhehle, to the point of staging a coup d’état against him and stopping his being sworn in as the prime minister of Lesotho. In Ghana, Britain never liked Kwame Nkrumah. It was only when the “Gold Coast” (now Ghana) became ungovernable that Britain conceded to the demands of Nkrumah’s CPP Party. In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta of KANU was never the British colonial preference. They called him a Mau Mau leader, “a leader of darkness’”. In South Africa (Azania), Prof. Robert Mangaliso
The West’s attitude to African leaders has depended on how they fit in with its plans. Clockwise from left: Jomo Kenyatta holds Kenya’s document of independence in 1963, flanked by Britain’s Prince Philip; Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, vilified by the Western media; former Zimbabwe-Rhodesia PM, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, here campaigning during elections, who was approved of by the West and routinely referred to as a ‘sell-out’ by Mugabe
Sobukwe was never liked by the West and their agents. He was imprisoned on Robben Island without even a mockery of a trial and later banished until his death – through poisoning, his colleagues said. President Nkrumah was democratically elected in Ghana. But the Western countries (led again by America) used the CIA to overthrow his government. Patrice Lumumba was legitimately elected the first prime minister of DRCongo. The Belgian and American governments were involved in his assassination and overthrow of his government. There is also a strong suspicion that white supremacists conspired, possibly with the collusion of Western powers, to assassinate Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary-General who was championing the Congo’s independence and defending its sovereignty (see story, p. 10). Milton Obote of Uganda was equally overthrown by Britain under Edward Heath’s government. Idi Amin was installed and he murdered thousands of Ugandans. All these African leaders were overthrown or killed because they did not fit the “planned regime” strategy of the West. They were not trusted to look after neocolonial economic interests at the expense of African
New African October 2013 41
Democracy economic interests. This century Western leaders have come up with a “regime change” strategy. The excuse is that some African leaders had stayed too long in power. Well, in Britain, Prime Minister Robert Walpole ruled for 21 years. Elsewhere in Africa, Daniel Arap Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years. Hastings Banda ruled Malawi for 33 years. Mobuto Sese Seko ruled DRCongo for 37 years. Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo was president for 41 years. Omar Bongo Ondima of Gabon equally ruled for 41 years. Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years. Western leaders never pointed fingers at these leaders. They toed the line. They served western interests more than those of their own countries. In fact, Mobutu and Mubarak were very close allies of the USA. None of these leaders were ever asked to give in to democracy until their people drove them out of power. It is an insult to intelligent Africans who recall that the countries that practised slavery, colonialism and racism and perpetrated atrocities against other humans, killing them and taking their lands and riches, are today posing as “teachers” of “democracy”, “legitimacy”, “good governance” and “rule of law”. In 1994, the Americans and other Western countries showed up in a big way in apartheid South Africa. They applied their “planned regime” strategy. They picked from the liberation movements who was “extremist” and who was “moderate”. By “moderate” they meant leaders who would protect especially their foreign economic interests at the expense of their own African people. Western countries, with few exceptions, supported the apartheid regime in South Africa. Relying on this support, Dr Gert Viljoen, the minister of constitutional affairs under President F. W. de Klerk, in 1990 made his government’s position very clear about who the South African regime would negotiate with. “We want to change our approach,” he said. “But we would be negotiating even the name [of the country]. Many blacks call it Azania. I think there is no likelihood of coming to an agreement with them. They are the extreme Pan Africanist Congress [PAC]. The name Azania sounds a warning note of a break in history. In our thinking, a complete break in history would be unacceptable. We will have to provide some continuation of the past.” Indeed, that “continuation of the past” is obvious in South Africa today. Whites, who are only 8.9%, according to the recent population census, still control 87% of the land to 13% allocated to the African indigenous majority, who make up a good 79.2% of the population. This land dispossession is entrenched in section 25(7) of the “New South Africa” constitution, and they tell us this constitution is one of the most progressive in the world! Explaining the reason why the apartheid regime should quickly negotiate with the “moderates”, The Star newspaper in Johannesburg reported at that time: “To the left of the ANC is the PAC, a bunch too radical for reasonable conversation... Unless the government talks to the ANC soon, and reaches an accommodation, the time will come when it would wish it had the ANC to talk to instead of the more radical organisations. Better by far to talk to the Mandelas, Tambos and Makatinis, conservative men all of them.”
If an african leader is not favoured by western powers, he is a wrong leader for democracy. if he or she wins elections, they are illegitimate.
During the 1994 elections, the American government heavily financed Mandela’s ANC to ensure that the De Klerk-Mandela “planned regime” succeeded. Stanley B. Greenberg and Frank Geer directed the ANC election campaign. These two men were President Clinton’s own pollster and image-maker respectively. In his book, Dispatches from the War Room, Greenberg writes: “The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) launched an anti-pass campaign... Close to 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville were massacred, putting the international limelight on the Pan Africanist Congress... “The PAC was the only other party with standing in the anti-apartheid struggle, thus a majority of Africans viewed it favourably. The PAC boycotted the negotiations ... and ... advocated the expropriation of white land without compensation.” The truth however is that the PAC had a long policy of equitable redistribution of land. It was the European colonial settlers who expropriated land from the Africans, and not the other way round. Now it is nearly 20 years since the “negotiations” with the “moderates” ended in South Africa. But land and its riches are still the property of a European minority. When the 1994 election results were announced, even The Times (of London) conceded that the election could not have been considered “free and fair’’. The newspaper reported: “There is agreement that there was widespread fraud and cheating.” Bill Deeds of the Daily Telegraph (also of London) added his voice: “By our own electoral standard,” he wrote, “the conduct of South Africa’s general election
42 New African October 2013
and counting of votes has been deplorable.” A senior official of the South African apartheid regime later corroborated that the 1994 elections had been “embarrassing and flawed”. He indicated that De Klerk and Mandela agreed that the elections had to be declared “free and fair” because the alternative would have been a political disaster. “We simply could not afford this thing to go down the tube. It would serve no purpose to cry foul.” This makes it clear that if an African leader is not favoured by Western powers, he is a wrong leader for democracy. If he or she wins elections, they are illegitimate. If indeed, the leaders of Western countries are people of high morals and almost “infallible”, as they think they are, why did they not give even as much as a hint about the flawed elections in South Africa in 1994? President Clinton’s two experts, Greenberg and Freez, were there. They had financed and conducted the elections. They knew what had happened! The Western countries were aware of the majority African support for the Pan Africanist Congress and its undeniable strength in the run-up to the 1994 elections in South Africa. On 29 April 1990, Deon Delport of the Star newspaper in Johannesburg wrote: “A recent survey found among many Sowetan youngsters [that] the PAC is increasingly preferred to the ANC which is viewed as being promoted by the apartheid government.”
Two thorns in the side of the West. Left: Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, meeting Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. Below: Zimbabwean PM Robert Mugabe clenching his fist at a meeting in Harare Stadium in July 1984
zimbabwe is being attacked because it wants to control its own riches, which have been looted by western companies for far too long.
In the same article, Delport reported that wide support for the PAC had been found by the researcher Sue Lerena for McCann, a Johannesburg-based advertising firm. Lerena later said: “My own view was [that] we could end up like in Zimbabwe where whites were stunned and shocked by the defeat of Bishop Abel Muzorewa by Mr Robert Mugabe.” The media further reported that: “The so-called main players are losing support, but where is it going to? The most important change over the past years has been the rise in support of the Pan Africanist Congress among blacks. The PAC is poised to emerge as the single most powerful electoral force ... even though it is almost exclusively black.” (Work in progress magazine, 17 June 1993.) After the assassination of Chris Hani, several newspapers reported on Clarence Makwetu, the president of the PAC and Nelson Mandela of the ANC. “Mr. Nelson Mandela, the icon of the black struggle against apartheid, was booed at a meeting in Soweto when he upset many in a crowd of around 30,000 people with a friendly reference to the ruling apartheid party. One of the biggest cheers of the two-hour event came when Mr Clarence Makwetu, leader of the radical Pan Africanist Congress, strode into the packed stadium in the middle of Mr Mandela’s speech. “Mr Mandela was forced to pause as the crowd cheered and whistled for a beaming Makwetu who told them ‘we have come to a time when leaders run out of words’. The crowd rose to him and set off thunder flashes, while some ANC officials on the platform looked dismayed.” So how did the PAC voters disappear on Election Day, 27 April 1994? Was there massive rigging in the presence of Clinton’s own men? What did they do about this? They never said a word after that! Writing about the strength of the political parties in South Africa, Dr Vladamir Tickhomiov, the learned secretary of the Russian Academy of Science’s African Institute, confirmed prior to the 1994 South African elections, that: “The alliance of the ANC is weaker than that of other black organisations and movements. The ideology of Africanism and black awareness prevail among the majority of the politically active blacks. “This was especially true when black organisations had the opportunity of leaving the underground and becoming legal.” “It was not surprising when a German magazine, Geheim, stated: “The so-called independent electoral commission as well as the technical personnel handling the elections in South Africa was infiltrated by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) agents in places like Johannesburg, Western Cape, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Durban” (Geheim, 30 April 1994). Zimbabwe is being attacked because it wants to control its own riches, which have been looted by Western companies for far too long. Africa must defend Zimbabwe. Africa cannot forever have its riches looted by imperialists through puppet leaders. Former slave traders have no credentials to qualify as champions of democracy and legitimacy in Africa. BHM (Dr Motsoko Pheko is author of several books, among which are ‘The Hidden Side of South African Politics’; and ‘Towards Africa’s Authentic Liberation’)
New African October 2013 43
B L A C K
H I S T O R Y
M O N T H
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (pictured) is acknowledged as a titan of African music. Few people knew him better than his friend and business manager Rikki Stein, who still looks after the affairs of the musician and his family. He spoke to Stephen Williams about the life and times, as well as the legacy, of the King of Afrobeat.
Rebel with a cause
ikki Stein recalls his first encounter with Fela Kuti in the late 1970s with a laugh. Stein, who has had a long career managing musicians and dance troupes on tours around the world, was in the back of a Mercedes van with an African dance group called Ekome, “lying in a pile of bodies going home from a show.” During the journey, somebody put a cassette in the van’s player – it was Fela’s 1977 album, Sorrow, Tears and Blood. Like many people who first hear Fela, Stein was immediately bowled over by what he heard. “Sometimes you just hear something, right?” he explains. “‘What the hell was that?’ I remember asking. That music just registered with me and after that I did some research and got entranced with this guy called Fela.” But it would be a year or so later that he would actually get to meet the man. Stein was involved in putting on a festival of Rain Forest music. The idea was to invite musicians from all the world’s rainforest countries to come to the UK to perform. He’d got the site for the festival and was working with a foundation called Earth Life that had established a huge conservation area in Cameroon of thousands of square miles of forest. Guinness (the brewers) were going to sponsor the event. Then, Stein heard that Fela was in London. Using a network of friends to find out where he was staying, and putting the Rain Forest Festival’s proposal together, he went to see if Fela would agree to join the board of advisors and also take part as a performer. Stein tells the story this way: “It was a bitterly cold winter’s day in London. I went and visited his hotel and knocked on the door. I was wrapped up in a heavy coat, sweater, scarf and hat. When the door opened, the room was so hot I almost fainted. You know, Fela used to travel with electric heaters to supplement hotel heating! And there he was sitting in his Speedos! “Anyway, I had put the presentation together in a Morocco leather folder and sat next to him while he looked through it. I don’t remember what I said but I said something. He just turned around and looked at me and we both started to laugh, and I can’t explain it but we just became friends in that instant, and then he called me ‘Nature boy’ ”. “I remember, I said to him, ‘I have got to go now’, and he walked me to the lift in his five-star hotel.
fela spoke truth to power all his life, and he became known as a rebel. but what he was saying is still true today. He was talking about human rights.
44 New African October 2013
Fela and Rikki
There was a couple standing by the lift, obviously going out to a reception or something, wearing ball gowns and tuxedos. You can imagine their reaction on seeing Fela wandering up the corridor barefoot and dressed only in his Speedo swim-shorts.” Fela was about to do the last date of his tour in London, and he invited Stein to come along. After that, Fela stayed a few more days in London and Stein got a telephone call every day, inviting him to the hotel. They would have dinner together and chat. “Around two o’clock I’d say, ‘OK, Fela, I’m off now’. Fela would reply ‘Now Rikki, listen – there’s this thing I wanted to tell you’, and he would start telling me some story. I would stagger out of there at five o’clock in the morning, go home, shower, change my clothes and go back to work again and this went on for days on end. “You can imagine, I was working morning, noon and night on the Rain Forest Festival, and spending the rest of my nights with Fela. No sleep! “So that was the beginning of my relationship. Then unfortunately, at the last minute, Guinness pulled out and the festival didn’t happen. Anyway, I had also met Fela’s manager, Francis Kertekian, and you know when somebody like me turns up when you are on the road, for a manager this is a danger signal! At first he was alarmed and concerned about how quickly Fela and I had become firm friends. But, anyway, cutting a long story short, Francis and I also became good friends and we are still friends today. He started asking me to do some things and then the next thing that happened was that Fela asked me if I would like to co-manage and things just developed from there.” Stein has a treasure trove of anecdotes about the years he spent with Fela, including his first taste of the madness on his first visit to Lagos. “I arrived at Fela’s house, and fell into conversation with another guest, a promoter, who wanted to put on Fela at the national stadium. When he put the proposition to Fela, Fela just said, ‘Oh, Rikki! You know about these things, you will do it’. “But this guy was a complete lunatic. He had bought a PA system in New York that he was flying in, and he was building his own lighting rig. Problem was, he didn’t know what he was doing and when we went to see how they were getting along we found he
New African October 2013 45
Fela Kuti had had it made it out of steel, can you imagine, steel! It took 30-plus people to pick it up. Anyway, the show happened. “Next thing was the African-American sound engineers turned up with the PA and a lot of attitude. We put all this together. Then, at one point, somebody ran out and said, ‘Rikki, come! Come quickly’. There were these area boys [street gang boys] who had been sitting on the stadium roof and urinating on the police below. Then these area boys came down and began running around. There was an incredible ballet that took place, with all the area boys taunting the police and running around the stadium. It felt like a riot. But, despite everything, we had a great show at the stadium.” Stein continued to help manage Fela’s interests right up to the musician’s death in 1979 and has done so ever since. During the 1990s he and Kertekian started the process of collating and re-mastering Fela’s catalogue, reconstituting the original sleeves, having the lyrics translated, and fighting-off the pirates. “It was a huge job,” Stein says. “I mean, the catalogue was so disparate. It was just scattered across
so many different labels. Fela always had a fractious relationship with labels. But what we did was create a coherent body of work, but it took us 10 years to do it.” Just after Fela’s passing, on behalf of the family, Stein and Kertekian signed a $1m deal with Universal. The executors of his estate, which were his children, invested their money wisely, and built from the ground up the new African Shrine, not far from the club with the same name that Fela had created as his base in Lagos. And Stein played a key role in the huge success that the ‘Fela!’ musical generated on both sides of the Atlantic. How the musical came about is a story worth telling in itself. It all began when a commodity broker in the US, Stephen Hendel, was surfing the web and for some reason or another (he is still not quite sure just why) he bought a Fela record from Amazon. “He just became fascinated,” Stein explains. “He listened to it all the time in his car. First of all, the music grabbed him and then he [Hendel] started listening to what Fela was talking about. He is a man who has a very keen sense of social justice. Perhaps I am speculating, but he did not necessarily get to practice in his life what he had a very deep feeling for.” Stein gets all sorts of madcap proposals put to him regarding Fela, and at first, when Hendel approached him with the musical idea, Stein readily admits that
with Jay-z, will and jada pinkett smith as producers, the broadway showing of The musical ‘Fela!’ had credibility, and it played for 15 months he just dismissed the concept as another crazy idea. “I was a self-appointed guardian of Fela’s legacy because I loved him dearly and wanted to ensure that his legacy was respected,” is the way Stein explains his initial reluctance. However, Hendel was not to be dissuaded. “I want to do something, I want to make a musical,” Hendel told his lawyer over lunch one day. The lawyer said he had another client that Hendel should meet. It was Bill T Jones, the famed African-American choreographer. On a trip to New York, Stein met with Hendel. Hendel told Stein flat out that he considered Fela and the Russian composer Shostakovich to be the greatest musicians of the 20th century. Stein finally agreed to do some initial workshops. “We started exploring casting options and developing a story-line,” he says. “My role was really just to be there, and to make sure that whatever was being done
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was faithful to Fela’s memory. I didn’t have too much to do. I had to bump heads a bit with Mr Jones over some issues that needed to be clarified. I think those were all resolved when I asked him, ‘What about the underground spiritual game?’ “He looked at me and said ‘what?’ I said, ‘sit down’, and explained that whenever Fela was playing he called it the ‘underground spiritual game’, which involved everybody present in whatever capacity. For example, when Fela played at his club, The Shrine, nobody clapped. The audience and the musicians were all one and the same.” The preliminary production work went well, so the decision was made to go into a small off-Broadway theatre, a 500-seat capacity venue. The show opened and it was immediately appreciated. Within days celebrities were coming to see it, stars like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and others. A year later the show was to open on Broadway. “Shortly before we went to Broadway,” Stein recalls, “Jay-Z came on board as a producer, and he was to bring in Will Smith and his wife, so we were able to say,
Opposite and bottom: Fela, the king of Afrobeat, with his queens. Middle: Some of the covers from the 46-album re-release of Fela’s back catalogue that Rikki Stein has organised this year, together with the sleeve for a tribute album of his songs recorded by other artists (far right)
‘Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have joined ‘Fela!’ as Producers’. That lent the show real credibility, and the show played for 15 months to half a million people. “Since then we have toured in Europe and America several times and we are now looking at taking it to Africa. So we are looking at maybe creating an African cast. We are also looking at creating a Brazilian cast to tour Brazil.” The extraordinary thing is that Fela’s legacy, through this musical, is virtually guaranteed, and Stein insists that his lyrics still have as much relevance today as they did when they were written. “You know,” he explained, “at his funeral in Lagos, when literally millions came out to pay their respects, they were shouting ‘Fela will live forever’. “And remember last year when the Nigerian government removed the oil subsidy? [Many protestors were quoting Fela.] It doubled the price of petrol – this in a country that has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world, and yet they still have to import petrol. “That import is subsidised by the government. For the first time, the entire population was outraged, and
they were shouting all over the whole country. It’s not for nothing that Fela spoke truth to power all his life, and that he became known as a rebel. Listen to what Fela was saying 30 years ago and it’s still true today. His words have relevance still, not just in Nigeria, but everywhere in the world. He is talking about human rights. “Fela was a radical guy and put his balls on the line on a daily basis and paid a very steep price for it, with scars all over his body. But it never stopped this guy from coming forward.” And, it is quite clear that Stein is determined to ensure that Fela’s legacy lives on. This year he has repackaged and re-released Fela’s entire 46-album back catalogue across Europe. The final tranche goes out on 15 October, Fela’s birthday which, were he still with us, would have been his 75th. Also released on that day is ‘Red Hot + Fela’, an album of Fela songs interpreted by a raft of top drawer artists. All profits from this album go to combating AIDS. Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning documentary maker, is finishing what will be the definitive film regarding Fela’s life. There is also a biopic with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role being made by Focus Features. Those mourners in Lagos, at Fela’s funeral more than BHM three decades ago, were right. Fela lives on!
New African October 2013 47
B L A C K
H I S T O R Y
M O N T H
100 years of landless blacks
The Land Act of 1913 is the root of all the poverty in South Africa. Starting from 1652 when Dutch settlers landed on the southern tip of Africa, followed by the French Huguenots, then Germans, and finally the British, the lives of indigenous Africans on their own land would not be the same. One hundred years on from the Act, the blacks, still without the land, have become even poorer. Pusch Commey reports.
nce successful farmers, the black people of South Africa were gradually reduced to low-wage labourers over the centuries as the new settlers from Europe, basically the Dutch, the French Huguenots, the Germans, and the British dispossessed them of their land via the obnoxious Land Act of 1913. One hundred years later, another dramatic Land Act (of 19 June 2013) was promulgated by a black majority government to mark the centenary of the notorious 1913 Act.
Above: Black people pass a segregation sign, showing separate areas for blacks and whites, in Carltonville, South Africa in 1989
The motivation would always be money. The more powerful British waged war on the other white factions in 1899 over land and resources, when the southern tip of Africa proved to be rich in diamonds and gold. When the Anglo/Boer war came to an end in 1902, the victorious British made peace with their fellow Europeans, now culturally fused to become Afrikaners (Dutch, Germans and French Huguenots). The 1910 South African Act brought into being the Union of South Africa, and then followed the Land Act that eventually allocated 13% of the barren portion of
48â€ƒ New African October 2013
African land to Africans. The Europeans took by force 87% of rich areas. The destruction of African capital formation, and the stunting of their development, has had a lingering inter-generational effect, made worse when oppression was couched in legality with the coming into power of Afrikaners in 1948, and the institution of apartheid. The land and its resources were subsequently used as capital to enrich and empower one group, as well as exploit and oppress another, all justified with false religious interpretations and philosophies. The question now is, what are Africans doing about it, after political liberation? The gini co-efficient in South Africa is 0.70, making it the most unequal country in the world, mostly drawn along racial lines. Unofficial unemployment stands at about 40%, while 40% of the populace rely on government grants and handouts to survive. A poverty culture, bred along the way, means a majority of the populace have psychologically settled for low life. Most are still unskilled low-wage labourers. Others have resorted to crime to make the break. Thus, African capital is scarce in a neo-liberal environment foisted on them after a negotiated settlement in 1994, and embodied in the country’s Constitution.
reluctant to sell. Collusion and corruption between
sellers, land valuers, and government officials have after the inflated market prices. It is now generally acknowledged that the coming into “willing buyer, willing seller” policy has failed. So the government has made an about-turn, pinning power of its hopes on expropriation with “just and equitable” compensation, as is sanctioned by the Constitution. afrikaners A new Expropriation Bill, the introduction of land ceilings and the creation of a Valuer General, is in 1948, the expected to speed up land transfers and prevent the inflation of land prices. But under a neo-liberal rule of land and its law, expect lengthy, frustrating legal challenges, as was resources were the case in Zimbabwe. used as capital Rural issues to enrich A good article on rural issues in thinkafricapress. com opines: “Successive administrations in Pretoria one group, have equated national food security with large-scale commercial farming – a sector dominated by white and exploit South Africans. The potential for millions of black smallholders to increase production, raise incomes and another
The Constitution On the crucial land issue, the final Constitution of 1996 emanating from the relevant Section (28) in the interim Constitution reads as follows: 1. Every person shall have the right to acquire and hold rights in property and, to the extent that the nature of the rights permit, to dispose of such rights. 2. No deprivation of any rights in property shall be permitted otherwise than in accordance with law. 3. Where any rights in property are expropriated pursuant to a law referred to in subsection (2), such expropriation shall be permissible for public purposes only and shall be subject to the payment of agreed compensation or, failing agreement, to the payment of such compensation and within such period as may be determined by a court of law as just and equitable, taking into account all relevant factors, including, in the case of the determination of compensation, the use to which the property is being put, the history of its acquisition, its market value, the value of the investment in it by those affected and the interests of those affected. It is widely accepted that Section 28 represented a compromise between the ANC and the now defunct National Party during the transition to democratic rule 20 years ago. Its interpretation has given rise to what is known as the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle. In 1996, two years after the end of apartheid, some 60,000 white commercial farmers owned almost 70% of agricultural land and leased a further 19%. The ANC pledged to redistribute 30% of white-owned agricultural land to black farmers by 1999, and to restore property lost as a result of racist legislation. But by 2012, only 7.95 million hectares had been transferred, just about a third of the 24.6 million hectares originally targeted. An estimated US$3.2 billion was spent on the land reform programme between 1994 and 2013. The blame has been pinned on the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle. Landowners have been
Durban, South Africa, January 1949. Africans at a displacement camp following the racial conflict between Zulus and Indians, attributed by most commentators to the difficult economic circumstances experienced by Africans after WWII
create much needed jobs has been overlooked. “This was the bedrock of agricultural transformation which fuelled the rapid economic growth of most Southeast Asian economies. In South Africa, the government has prioritised grafting [and] redistributed land onto existing commercial units. Much of this land has been deemed ‘no longer productive’.”
Who owns what?
Between 2006 and 2012, the number of South Africans employed in agriculture fell from 1.09 million to 661,000. Rural unemployment stands at 52%, twice the national average. Acute poverty is rife in rural areas. During a recent budget debate in the South African parliament, an outgoing Freedom Front Plus MP, Pieter Groenewald, warned the government that “whipping up emotions” about land reform threatens to create a “Zimbabwe situation”. Gugile Nkwinti, Minister in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (RDLR), responded disarmingly by calling the comparison with Robert Mugabe an “honour”. Up until the 100th anniversary of the Land Act of 1913, the government was not even sure of who owned
New African October 2013 49
Left: Employees labour on a commercial potato farm. Generally, they earn barely a living wage
what. It was often heard from the white sector that the government owned most of the land and should redistribute that land instead of expropriation. So the government decided to do some stocktaking by conducting a land audit. It was the first. The results have been revealing. The land mass of South Africa is 122 million hectares. Of this the State owns 17 million hectares or 14%. It includes the sites on which 192,000 low-cost houses for the poor have been built, as the government is still the registered owner of these properties. There was a physical inspection of 1.15 million pieces of land throughout the country between October 2011 and March 2013. A good 79% of the land is in the hands of private individuals and organisations, while the audit was unable to establish who owned 8.3% of the land. The 79% is overwhelmingly owned by 9% whites. A large part of black ownership is in the KwazuluNatal Province, where Ingonyama Trust, which made the Zulu King the trustee of vast tracts of communal land, was orchestrated by the apartheid government to placate the restive Zulus. Even then, the apartheid government cherry-picked rich areas from it for whites: mineral resources, coastal resorts and holiday beaches, as well as marine resources and many more.
Will the blacks mess it up?
Political urgency Civil societies that have risen up on the back of the land question, like the Landless Peoples Movement of the last decade, have fallen by the roadside. Deeprooted African political parties with illustrious histories like the Pan African Congress (PAC) and AZAPO have followed suit, due mainly to a lack of funds. Or alternatively the parties are co-opted and picked apart by the resource-rich. A good example of this is the previously staunch PAC stalwart, Patricia De Lille, who formed her own political party and was subsequently picked up by the white-dominated Democratic Alliance. She now sits comfortably as the mayor of Cape Town, with the land issue the least of her priorities. Now, with the jolt of the centenary of the 1913 Land Act, and with the deadline of 30% transfer of agricultural land by 2014 coming up fast, there seems to be some political urgency. More so when the
election day of reckoning cometh, with new political formations seeking to exploit the issue. New legislation – the Expropriation Bill, Restitution Amendment Bill and Valuation Bill – now seems to be the gamechanger. The stakes have risen with a volatile economic environment peppered with industrial unrest “not seen since the days of apartheid”. At the end of May 2013, the World Bank slashed South Africa’s growth forecast for the current year from 3.2% to 2.5%. A Business Day editorial had the headline: “South Africa approaches tipping point”. The ANC has undertaken to create a million agriculture-related jobs by 2030, suggesting that it is beginning to recognise a real opportunity in agriculture as a means of employment and poverty alleviation. The success of the Zimbabwean land reform project is a precedent.
A recent land audit in south africa revealed that 79% of the land is owned by 9% whites.
There is a psychological fear among blacks that somehow they will starve if change comes. And that somehow they are incapable of making use of the resources that come with land. The threat has always been the capital flight of black resources, now owned by whites, that were forcibly taken away from them, and their powerlessness to prevent it. And of course, they are afraid of the punishment that will be inflicted by the white kith and kin in faraway Europe that shares in these blood proceeds. There is a palpable fear of a collapse of the economy and the international media trumpeting, “Will it go the way of Zimbabwe?” But there is always a price to pay for long-lasting changes, and the question is should an African child succeed his parents as a labourer on his own land till kingdom come. The decision has to be made when they are going to pay the price for change. As President Barack Obama once pointed out, power does not give without a fight. And as political freedom in South Africa would never have happened without a fight, so will economic freedom. And as it happens, any change is a threat to others. Some in the white world are genuine Africans at heart, keen on inclusivity and redress. After all, successful countries are inclusive. Many whites have successfully gone out into the continent. Others see change as a zero sum game, with delusions of white superiority and the myth of being the only ones who can make things happen. The salutary success of the Zimbabwean land reform project, and the contestation of great African entrepreneurs, however, exposes the myth. When the richest black man and African in the world, worth over $12 billion (an indigenous Nigerian whose wealth emanated from his home country) is not a white African or African-American, then it is time to think again. And when the richest man who ever lived, Emperor Mansa Musa of Mali in the 14th century, was African, then it is time to think again. It is time to rethink the question of land, resources, governance, education, skills, knowledge, innovation, the formation of real African capital, African empowerment, and its rigorous BHM defence.
50 New African October 2013
B L A C K
H I S T O R Y
M O N T H
Mo Farah has run into history. Black history? British history? Athletics history? Let’s just say – he has run into history. Clayton Goodwin reports on how one of Africa’s sons is mesmerising his adoptive country – Great Britain.
Running into history
y his achievements in winning both the 10,000 metres and 5,000 metres in the recent World Athletics Championships at Moscow, to go with his triumphs at the same distances in the London Olympics a year ago, the Somalia-born long-distance runner, Mo Farah, has become the greatest African/ British athlete ever. You don’t have to take my word for it. (Lord) Sebastian Coe, the supremo of British athletics and, himself, a former multi-medallist, has said as much, and he should know. That doesn’t mean that Farah’s feat on the track is unique. He has succeeded only in equalling, not surpassing, the achievement of the now legendary Kenenisa Bekele and is still some way off attaining the quickest speed for either distance. Yet Mo has won, too, on possibly an even harder track by catching the affections of the British public (and, more surprisingly, of the British press). The United Kingdom welcomes sportsmen/women born overseas – the England cricket team would be woefully weak without its import of players born in South Africa, India and elsewhere – but usually they do not take them to their hearts as one of themselves and they are often resented. Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Bugner, who was born in Hungary, and the recently-deceased cricketer Tony Greig of South Africa found that to their cost and, feeling rejected, both ended up moving to Australia. Nor do the British take kindly to their sports heroes living abroad. Yet Farah, with his wife Tania and his step-daughter Rihanna, who feature prominently in his post-race pictorials, spends most of time at his trainingpost in Oregon, USA. Why then has Mo “bucked the trend” where others have failed – and at a time when the country has such a wide range of international champions from which to choose on whom to bestow their affection? Why, too, has a practising Muslim succeeded when so much of the media, and, sad to say, a good number of the public, have nothing but bad things to say about people of his religion – and at a time when the stories of his home country, and its neighbours, are otherwise so negative? For a start, he retains much of his boyish charm, and who cannot fall in love with that schoolboy-like Mobot pose. Paula Radford, the former women’s long-distance champion, said that the 30 year-old still reminds her
MO has won the affections of the british public. The UK welcomes sportsmen born overseas but usually they do not take them to their heart and they are often resented, like Boxing champion joe bugner and england cricketer tony greig
52 New African October 2013
Mo Farah kisses his wife Tania, next to his daughter Rihanna, after winning the men’s 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics. Opposite: Kenenisa Bekele wins the 5000m at the Beijing Olympics
of that same young man she was asked to mentor when he first came into the national team. Furthermore the “family poses”, which are no doubt genuine, evoke just the right cosy image to counter the seamier stories which beset athletics at the moment. Can anybody really visualise Mo “doing drugs” – whether inadvertently or not? He projects the values which the British public like to think that they, themselves, possess. The British, too, respect an underdog who comes out on top. Here the adverse circumstances of his early years have come to his advantage. It is the stuff of which myths and media-stories are made. Somehow his present adulators cannot understand that it was themselves, or people very like them, who created the social conditions which kept him down in the first place. Surely, in whatever community we were raised, we all know of students who were belittled by the teachers but who those same teachers wanted to claim the praise for when they did succeed. On top of all that, Farah has a “nice smile”. Farah is also of course acclaimed as being the best African/British athlete ever – because he really is the best African/British athlete ever. That is indeed a powerful statement as the country has produced a lineage of great champions going back to and beyond folk-hero Roger Bannister (including Coe himself). None have succeeded so completely and consistently at the highest level of the most arduous disciplines. I have always thought it to be unfair that Usain Bolt should get such adulation for a sprint which lasts less than ten seconds while the likes of Farah, and Bekele, grind out so many minutes on the track. We cannot talk about Moscow without paying tribute to Christine Ohuruogu. The decision to feature her prominently in the publicity for the London Olympic Games last year was criticised by many commentators, including, I must admit, myself. It is true that she has not always lived up to expectations and some of her performances were woefully weak. Why did the selectors continue to favour her? we asked. Fortunately, as at the time of writing I am recuperating indoors at home from illness, I have no need to wear a hat – otherwise I would be forced to eat it! Christine’s comeback was signalled by an outstanding run in the pouring rain at Crystal Palace in London last summer. In Moscow she won a gold medal in the 400 metres and anchored the British team to a bronze in the relay.
New African October 2013 53
Athletics The contest in the individual event was sensational. Ohuruogu unleashed her traditional late run from a long way back to overhaul Amantle Montsho (Botswana) on the line by a whisker. Paula Radford suggested on television that it was by the extra width of padding in a bra, but, as a male, I am not allowed to say that. Montsho, who is a very good runner, must have thought the gold medal was hers for the taking until Christine crashed through on her lefthand side. After that Ohuruogu, who often presents a serious, and sometimes seemingly pained, aspect could not stop smiling for the rest of the championships. Yes, East London, the area in which the Olympic Games Stadium is situated and where Christine was born, can be proud of their “local girl”. As it is Black History Month, it is appropriate to remember other sportsmen/entertainers of African heritage who have captured similarly the affections of the British (and not only British) public, and whose achievements attain a significant anniversary this year. Exactly seventy years ago cricketer Learie Constantine, who was the best-known black person in the country at the time and exceptionally popular with the public, won sympathy, and, subsequently, a landmark court judgement, for the discrimination he suffered at the hands of the Imperial Hotel at Russell Square. There had never been any cricketer quite like Constantine. He was the supreme entertainer. The Trinidadian had an impressive array of scoring strokes, bowled at lightning pace and fielded spectacularly. He was the first cricketer anywhere ever to draw crowds to the cricket grounds just to see him field. Because opportunities were limited in his homeland, Constantine accepted a long-term engagement to play as a professional for Nelson in the Lancashire League in England. He adapted so well to the urban environment around Manchester that he is recognised as being the League cricketer par excellence. In due time, Constantine grew to become bigger than his sports presence. He achieved fame in England for his community activities, for his work as a lawyer, as a governor of the BBC and as Chairman of the League of Coloured Peoples. In Trinidad he was involved in politics leading to, and immediately after, the attainment of political independence, as a result of which he was an automatic choice for the post of High Commissioner for Trinidad & Tobago in London. Honoured by both countries Sir Learie, as he became, was then enobled as Lord Constantine of Maraval in Trinidad and of Nelson in the County Palatine of Lancaster. The one-time youngster who had learned to play his sport with a lump of wood for a bat and an orange for a ball, because he could not afford to buy proper equipment, was the first black man to sit in the House of Lords. Here, however, I am getting ahead of myself. Constantine won the respect of the British public by staying in the country during the Second World War, sharing in the deprivation and hazards of bombing rather than returning to the comparative safety of the Caribbean. He was appointed Welfare Officer in the Ministry of Labour and National Service, with responsibility for helping West Indians engaged there in factory work as part of the “war-effort”. When he was due to take part in a charity game at Lord’s
Usain Bolt wins the 100m at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Right: Christine Ohuruogu triumphs in the 400m. Far right: Legendary Trinidadian cricketer Learie Constantine, who went on to become, among other things, the first black man to sit in Britain’s House of Lords
cricket ground in the first week of August he arranged accommodation at the Imperial Hotel after having received assurance that his colour “was not an issue”. However when Learie, his wife and his daughter booked into the hotel on 30th July 1943, the manageress informed them that they could stay only one night and then must move on. She contended that white military personnel of the USA – to which the United Kingdom was allied – who were staying at the hotel and used to racial segregation in their own country, would object to the presence of black people. The famous cricketer, and a white colleague on his behalf, argued in vain, and the family was moved on to another hotel. Questions about the incident were raised in the House of Commons, and when he took legal action Constantine won his case in the High Court in June 1944. The judgement was considered to be a landmark
54 New African October 2013
because, although it took many further years before equality before the law was achieved, it established that a black man could achieve redress against certain forms of racism (if he had the resources to do so). Yet it was a slow process. Two decades later Learie Constantine became a member of the Race Relations Board, which was instrumental in passing the relevant Race Relations Act. Michael Manley, Jamaican Prime Minister and cricket enthusiast, said that the Trinidadian “enchanted England”. That enchantment was shown most clearly at Lord’s on 25th August 1945 at the start of the England v Dominions game to celebrate the ending of the Second World War. Constantine was selected to play for the Dominions. The withdrawal through injury of the appointed captain, Lindsay Hassett, the popular, diminutive Australian, presented the selectors with a dilemma. In terms of seniority the leadership should have passed automatically to Constantine, but they feared that the ensemble of white Australians, New
Zealanders and South Africans would not play under the captaincy of a black man. Yet nobody else stood out as an alternative candidate. When the selectors called on the cricketers to inform them that Learie Constantine would lead them they were in for a surprise. Before they could announce their decision the players said that they had taken a vote already and, themselves, had elected the Trinidadian as captain. And the Dominions won …. by 45 runs. It was a victory which Wisden, the “bible” of cricket, ascribed in no small measure to Constantine’s captaincy and his batting in partnership with Keith Miller, the charismatic Australian all-rounder. Fifty years ago, the British public were made very aware of their own black community – aware, that is, of their neighbours as people and not merely as a “problem” or as a statistical entity. That awareness
farah’s ‘family poses’, which are no doubt genuine, evoke just the right cosy image to counter the seamier stories which beset athletics at the moment.
owed much to the increased use of television coverage. Appropriately, another West Indies cricketer with strong connections to the game in the northern leagues played a prominent role in such recognition. Frank Worrell was the first black man to captain West Indies, an honour that was denied even to Constantine because of the prejudices of the period. He led his team to a 3-1 victory over England in 1963 in what has been described as probably the most harmonious and sporting series of all time. When Worrell (then Sir Frank) died from leukaemia at the early age of 42 years in 1967 he was mourned throughout the cricketing world, and the flags at the town hall of Radcliffe, his adopted home, flew at halfmast. The Barbadian was honoured with a memorial service at Westminster Abbey on 19th May 1967 which was attended by “the great and the good” of cricket and beyond. In over half-a-century reporting sport I have never heard a single bad word spoken of Worrell which, in a business noted for its backbiting, is exceptional. He was respected as the man who saved the “West Indian” concept (for cricket) after the region fragmented politically into individual territories in the early1960s. The country seemed to be fascinated by the many West Indian spectators who supported their team so vociferously and enthusiastically. Television coverage brought the cricket into their homes. That summer the UK African heritage community was put into an international perspective by the publicity and warmth generated by the successful tour by jazz entertainer Ray Charles, the visit by future world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was still known then as Cassius Clay, and theatrical presentations such as Black Nativity. The new satellite television service enabled hundreds of thousands of Britons to listen to (and see) Dr Martin Luther King’s address at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. If Britons didn’t know about the African diaspora before – and many didn’t – there was no excuse for them for not doing so now. That was November 1963 – the month that the innocence died. On 22 November 1963 the young President Kennedy, to whom, in the absence of any widely acknowledged role model of their own, many West Indians had looked to bring a measure of social justice to their compatriots and counterparts in the USA was shot down in Dallas, Texas. When his photograph was taken down from the mantlepieces, it was replaced by those of Dr Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Frank Worrell and Muhammad Ali. Nothing was quite the same afterwards. In sport, Learie Constantine, Frank Worrell and Carole Joan Crawford ….. Mo Farah follows in a distinguished tradition. In one respect however, Farah is unique. The others – the Trinidadian, the Barbadian and the Jamaican – made their reputations in their homelands and were already well-known when they were accepted so readily by the British public – they came, and they saw, before they conquered. Farah has grown up here from the start, doing his early training, learning his sport and maturing from scratch, and in that he is truly acclaimed as the greatest British athlete of all time. BHM
New African October 2013 55
B L A C K
H I S T O R Y
M O N T H
Incarcerated for 13 years in the notorious Robben Island prison Dr Sedick Isaacs was one of the intellectual powerhouses of the fight against apartheid. His fellow inmates included Nelson Mandela, and the current South African President Jacob Zuma, who he taught. October marks the first anniversary of his death, and in this hitherto unpublished interview conducted at his home in Cape Town – probably the last he gave before he died – Mushtak Parker reveals the growing disappointment and dissatisfaction of the former cadre and revolutionary, with the new South Africa.
The unsung anti-apartheid hero
or a mat hematicia n, educ ationa list, epidemiologist and information scientist specialising in medical informatics, and a political and social activist to boot, Sedick Isaacs cuts a very private and reserved figure. A naturally quiet and unassuming individual, Dr Isaacs was the epitome of the proverbial unsung hero. Typically, his memoirs, titled “Surviving the Apartheid Prison”, were published by himself in 2010, away from the glare of the usual publisher suspects. In his case his actions also spoke louder than his voice. As a young activist he was determined to campaign for justice in South Africa by playing his part in overthrowing the apartheid regime. It was while a mathematics and physics teacher at Trafalgar High School that the 23– year–old Isaacs was sentenced in 1964 to a 12–year prison sentence on Robben Island, after being found guilty of sabotage. His sentence was increased in 1969 for operating a pirate radio, which helped keep him and his fellow prisoners informed about world events, and for making a master key, which he secretly used to open jail cells on the island. On Robben Island, Dr Isaacs played a crucial role in educating fellow prisoners and also organising sporting activities as a way of keeping up the morale amid brutal repression by sadistic warders. Together with fellow inmates Marcus Solomon, Mark Shinners and Lizo Sitoto, he was instrumental in forming the Makana Football Association, the only non–national association recognised by FIFA, when it was granted honorary membership in 2010 – a story that was later made into a movie, “More Than Just a Game”. Even in his retirement, he could not stop himself getting involved – this time in the education and social
He could not stop himself getting involved – this time in the education and social affairs.
affairs of the communities around Cape Town. He volunteered, for instance, to teach mathematics to primary, secondary and university students in many areas including at the Khayelitsha College in a sprawling shantytown in the Cape Flats in the Western Cape; and of course at the University of Cape Town, his alma mater. Sedick, who was Cape Malay Muslim, and myself go back several decades. Our families were neighbours in Leeuwen Street in Cape Town’s Cape Malay Quarters. Although there was almost a generation between us, I remember him tutoring my siblings and me in mathematics when we were at secondary and primary schools respectively. And what about his illustrious former Robben Island inmate student, Jacob Zuma, whom he taught inter alia[CB2] mathematics and English; is he happy with how he has turned out as the South African President? “He is my friend and also the President of South Africa. I couldn’t possibly comment on that,” he retorted diplomatically during our interview. But on the wider issues facing the Beloved Country, Sedick was less coy and exuded a disaffection, which has become so prevalent amongst South Africans of all backgrounds, including supporters of the ANC. He rued the fact that economic inequality had deepened since the ANC came to power almost 20 years ago. This inequality is driven by the strong element of corporatism within the South African economy. “I call it a corporatocracy, which is prevalent all over the world. South African corporates learnt this from counterparts abroad in order to gain more control. In South Africa today, I would say there may be political equality but not much economic equality. The economic inequality has been more entrenched over the last decade or two. Which means the corporates are gaining more
56 New African October 2013
and more control of the government minds[CB2],” he explained. But isn’t this the ultimate irony, in that this was what he and his colleagues on Robben Island fought against? “Yes, it is one of the huge disappointments. Someone wrote a book recently, entitled: ‘Freedom Next Time”. Are we looking for Freedom Next Time? There are more demonstrations at the municipal level in South Africa today than there were during the apartheid era. I think South Africans are a bit too forgiving. This idea of forgiveness has now even permeated into frauds by political party members,” he explained. The scandal surrounding South Africa’s controversial recent arms deals is another case in point. He blames the government for allowing “the West to entrap SA economically”. The country, he objected, does not need arms, yet it ordered sophisticated jet fighters and frigates, which are not being used. “I am told the frigates supplied by the Germans are just rusting somewhere. They are not even operational. What is even more distressing is that when Tony Blair came here with the Queen a couple of years ago, he promised an increase in development assistance should we buy British arms. He promised to build a power station. We paid three times the price for the same arms that were obtainable from Italy. None of the promises have actually materialised,” he maintained. What was puzzling to him is how “streetwise revolutionaries” who fought in the streets of Cape Town and various other South African cities against the apartheid government, and who carried banners with slogans such as “Poverty Eradication”, “Freedom for the People”, “The Freedom Charter”, were now getting entrapped into buying these things.
Siddick Issacs often led visitors on tours of Robben Island where he was imprisoned
“I can’t understand how that occurred,” he stressed. “I think it is to do with (ANC) party development. In the West, parties are funded by all sorts of political donations. South African parties are following this. A recent survey on confidence in governments showed that in South Africa this is still very high compared to that in the UK, US, and the EU. In South Africa this is due to that forgiveness I mentioned earlier.” The gap between the rich and the poor is widening in South Africa as elsewhere. Despite the emergence of a black middle class, the economic wealth is still predominantly white-owned. True, the number of black millionaires has increased, which some people say is testimony to growing economic freedom. This, contended Sedick Isaacs, is not true. “Many of them were manufactured by the policies of the government, or brought in as fronts to South African businesses. In fact, social and economic apartheid has become more entrenched. Look at the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Most South Africans could not afford the tickets, even at R400.” The ANC government is in danger of compromising its revolutionary spirit, not only in its rush to showcase trophy events but, perhaps more importantly, the way it has caved in to the World Bank and IMF advice that the South African government should cut back on public expenditure, public employees and subsidies, supposedly to cut back costs. For many, added Dr Isaacs, the World Bank and IMF have been perceived as American institutions, and lots of their projects in Africa were actually failures. Has the ANC still got a problem in transforming itself from a liberation movement into a government? To him, much of the problem lay in the ANC’s attraction to its liberation history, as opposed to its government history.
New African October 2013 57
Jacob Zuma, whom Seddick taught mathematics and English on Robben Islands
“They [the ANC government] exploit that as much as they can. Nelson Mandela has a history of revolution. When he was released they wheeled him out, as sick as he was, and displayed him on platforms, again to use their liberation history rather than their governing history. I think this is still a huge problem for the ANC,” he added. He agreed that there is a widening disconnect between the ANC government and realpolitik in South Africa. This is because of the in-fighting between various factions within the ANC. Even ANC supporters agree that what is missing from South African politics is a strong opposition party that can give an alternative view to that of the ANC. “In a democracy the opposition is just as important as the elected government. Here in South Africa we virtually have a one-party state,” he added. Post-apartheid South Africa is seen as an outstanding success story for “Truth and Reconciliation”[CB2reverse]. While Dr Isaacs agreed that reconciliation has been a remarkable success, he rued the lack of integration between the various races and ethnic groups, although[CB2check chng from albeit] the idea of the Rainbow Nation is gaining momentum. The medium-term challenges for the Beloved Country are manifold. But Dr Isaacs identified a few pressing ones. Education is the overriding priority, which would give rise to black middle-class professionals, who would be more critical of their governments and take banks and corporates to task if warranted. But perhaps reflecting his own experience, he would remind ordinary South Africans that democracy is not only about electing governments but also about citizens acting as democrats by participating in the political process. This is to act as a check and balance not only against government excesses but also the pervasive power and control of the corporates. In the area of land grabs, for instance, he noticed that in the first ten years of the post-apartheid ANC government, there were more mass removals, largely from farms and rural areas, than under the last ten years of apartheid rule. This was done, according to Dr Isaacs, under corporate pressure. In the last decade or so Dr Isaacs devoted much of his time to education, especially in his capacity as a volunteer mathematics teacher serving the spectrum from primary, to secondary and university levels. His experience, however, was far from ideal as he witnessed, to his chagrin and shock, the steady decline in the quality, especially of
Even ANC supporters agree that what is missing from South African politics is a strong opposition.
mathematics and the sciences, at almost all the various educational levels. The statistics bore witness to this sorry state of affairs, which he even brought up with successive education ministers, but seemingly with little success and impact. South Africa, in fact, is at the lowest end of the annual international league tables for mathematical skills and ability in schools. This is a worrying trend because mathematics “is the basis of many sciences. Mathematical thinking is necessary for engineering and that type of development.” The reasons are manifold. Lack of resources is one. But according to Sedick Isaacs, another reason may be the “numbers system in African languages”, which he explained was very different and complex, where you have to add a couple of numbers to get to the resultant number[CB2 + next sent]. As such, it is not a clear decading system but a number ring system, where at the end children are pushed into a type of mould, which was detrimental. The South African outcome-based education system (OBE) is also causing a huge problem. The government, according to Dr Isaacs, realised that after all these years of not admitting it, the OBE system was not fit for purpose. “I was teaching at the University of Cape Town, when the first OBE students arrived. I noticed a distinct difference between the OBE class and the previous class a year before, made up of non-OBE students. There was a distinct drop in mathematical skills and ability,” he observed. “I did some OBE teaching. You take piles of books home and work late at night. The OBE system is heavily administration based, which puts off many teachers. In the 1990s, many teachers were also retrenched, who subsequently got jobs in industry and other sectors. In the apartheid years the best minds went into teaching because there was nothing much else to do. Today in the post-apartheid era and its openness[CB2] not the best minds went into teaching. With the result, education faculties have great difficulty recruiting people to become teachers,” he observed. Not surprisingly, several educationalists believed the short-to-medium-term outlook for South African state education is indeed bleak. The inconsistency of education policy, and the use of frontline inspectors who are not qualified, are two key problems. “I had first-hand experience of these inspectors - I think they call them subject advisers – who are totally incompetent. They don’t have many skills in advising, both in the subject and in teaching skills. They hardly know the difference between teaching and coaching,” he revealed. The implications are that South Africa is fast developing a two-tier educational system – a first-class private system and a mediocre state system. The same is prevalent in healthcare, which critics such as Dr Isaacs believe would[CB2 – ‘will’] merely serve to exacerbate inequalities in society. The problem of the ANC is cadre deployment. If you are a member of the ANC you will be chosen for this and that position[CB2]. But the ANC is now split into different factions. With a new faction comes new administrative people and new management. That leads to inconsistency of policy. Not surprisingly, Dr Isaacs strongly believed in the idea of a politically neutral civil service, which would lead to more policy consistency and the impartial management of departments. Even in death, the words and thoughts of Dr Isaacs still resonate strongly. BHM
58 New African October 2013
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Special Report Zimbabwe
The former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, says the time has come for Africans, and especially African intellectuals, to demand with one voice that the West’s contempt for the African people and African thought must end! In a landmark lecture at the University of South Africa (UNISA) on 23 August 2013, which he based on Zimbabwe’s recent elections and the country’s indigenisation programme, Mbeki said the West’s offensive against Zimbabwe was an offensive against the rest of Africa. “We have a common responsibility as Africans to determine our destiny … we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future, and that includes our resources. And therefore indigenisation is correct.” Below is much of the text of his lecture.
e had agreed that I would
speak at the opening of your symposium, because I had to go to Zimbabwe yesterday to participate at the ceremony of the inauguration of President [Robert] Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, and I am told this was [his] seventh as president and more if you include his prime ministership. The Zimbabweans insisted that I should come, and I agreed with them because they were saying that the inauguration marked the end of the Global Political Agreement which they signed in 2008, in whose evolution we had played a part. So, I am saying all of this to apologise for speaking to you
The West’s contempt for Africa must end! in the evening rather than in the morning. But I [would] really like to say thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this symposium to look at this very important issue, the issue about solutions to Africa’s development. It is indeed very important that as Africans we must focus on all of this and mobilise the intellectual capital that exists among ourselves to answer this question. What the principal [who introduced him] was saying about the Nelson Mandela Lecture here by Mo Ibrahim, raising questions of leadership on the continent, those remarks were correct. I think this is an important part of our challenge as Africans ourselves to find the solutions to Africa’s development.
So we meet at this symposium to look at what we do, [and what] we say as African thought leaders asking about where should we be tomorrow. It is important. There is nobody else to do this for us. The people who have done it for us in the past, and they are many, have said, who are these Africans? What are they? What is their past? Where should they be tomorrow? Other people have said that about us. And what has it produced? Disaster! A disaster from which we should rescue ourselves. I was saying that yesterday I was in Zimbabwe for the inauguration of President Mugabe. I don’t know who among us here, what opinions we have about Zimbabwe, but there are certain things which worry.
60 New African October 2013
L-r: South African president Thabo Mbeki, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and President Robert Mugabe after signing the Zimbabwean power accord agreement in September 2008
In Zimbabwe With regard to the [31 July 2013] Zimbabwe elections, one of the things that worried me was a very intense and sustained campaign to discredit the elections before they took place. So I was saying to myself, “why?” And I could see clearly that the intention was in the event that the elections resulted in a victory for President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, they would obviously be unfair. In the event that they resulted in the election of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC, then they would be free and fair. That was the intention. Although it didn’t surprise me, what disturbed me was that many among us Africans seemed to buy into the story that was being told. And so I was saying to myself that this is very worrying because what it means is that we, as Africans, don’t know enough about ourselves and continue to be enslaved by a narrative about ourselves told by other people. Any African, anybody following events in Zimbabwe for some time, would not have been surprised at the election results, not in the least. And indeed some of the people who were communicating these negative messages about the elections before they took place, actually predicted what would happen: That a particular politics of Zimbabwe meant we would have a particular outcome. There is an old friend of mine in Zimbabwe, another intellectual like yourselves, I won’t mention his name. Shortly before the elections, he said, publicly, that the MDC was going to sweep in its major victory in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. So I read this thing and I said: “But what’s wrong with him?” I haven’t spoken to him for some time, but I [was] going to ask him that question. I said: “What’s wrong with him?” You could never make a prediction like that if you knew what had been happening in the Zimbabwean rural areas in the last 10 years. Many years ago, and as part of the leadership in this region [the Southern African region], we engaged the Zimbabwean leadership – President Mugabe and [the] others – in a very sustained process to discourage them from the manner in which they were handling the issue of land reform. We were saying to them: “Yes, indeed we agree [that] land reform is necessary, but the way in which you are handling it is wrong.” We tried very hard. “No, no, you see all of these things about the occupation of the
farms by the war veterans, this and that and the other, all of this is wrong.” That’s what we were saying. But fortunately the Zimbabweans didn’t listen to us, they went ahead. The consequence of it is that, I have looked at at least four books that have been written about the land reform in Zimbabwe, all of which say in fact the process of land reform has given land to at least 300,000 [to] 400,000 new land owners; the peasants of Zimbabwe at last own the land! The programme succeeded and has this direct benefit on these huge numbers of Zimbabweans. And so I found it very strange that this
“The Zimbabweans are now talking about indigenisation and I can see that there is a big storm brewing about this. But what is wrong with indigenisation?” intellectual friend of mine could say the MDC would win the elections in the rural areas. They couldn’t, essentially because they were identified by the rural population to have opposed land reform, rightly or wrongly, we can discuss that.
The African reality The point I am making is that we still have a challenge to understand our own reality, and I am using the example of Zimbabwe to say that I have a sense that even with regards to this issue, which for some reason for years has been a major issue in the international media and politics and so on, that even we as Africans still have not quite understood Zimbabwe. I think it is your task to change that, so that we understand ourselves better. I think we should also ask ourselves the question: Why is Zimbabwe such a major issue for some people? Zimbabwe is a small country by any standard; there is no particular reason why Zimbabwe should be a matter to which The New York Times, the London Guardian and whoever else … why are they paying so much attention to Zimbabwe? Why? I know why they pay particular attention to us [here in South Africa], because they explained it. They said: “You have too many white people in South Africa. We are concerned about their future. They are our kith and kin. We are worried about what you
would do to them, so we keep a very close eye on what happens [in South Africa].” So we understand [their attitude about South Africa], we may not agree with the thinking, but we understand. But I am saying, why this focus on Zimbabwe? Towards the end of last year, they asked me to speak at a conference on Zimbabwe diamonds. So I went, and what surprised me about the conference held at Victoria Falls was that everybody and anybody who has anything to do with diamonds in the world was there. From America, from Israel, from India, from Brussels, everybody! It was not about diamonds in the world, it was about Zimbabwe diamonds! So I was puzzled, saying, but why have they all come? Maybe two hours before we left the conference to come back, we sat in a session which was addressed by one of the Indian diamond people. In the course of his presentation, he explained why [they had all come to the conference]. He gave an answer to this query in my head. He said in a few years’ time, Zimbabwe would account for 25 per cent of world production of diamonds. So I said, “I now understand. I understand why everybody is here.” But I think the reason there has been this kind of focus on Zimbabwe is that for many years now the political leadership in Zimbabwe have been communicating a message which many among the powerful players in the world find unacceptable. I was saying earlier we opposed, [that] we tried to discourage the Zimbabweans from taking the particular steps they took with regard to land reform, acknowledging that it was indeed necessary to have land reform, and I was saying they ignored us. It is, I think, exactly the manner in which they came at that question of land reform that offended other forces in the world who said: “This is wrong, we don’t like it.” And unlike us who said: “Well, they are not listening. They have done what they want to do about their country, we have to accept that”, these others [the powerful players in the world] said: “They have set a bad example which we don’t want anybody else in Africa and the rest of the world to follow. So they must pay a price for setting a bad example.” Bad example. Bad in the instance of the interests of these other people; not bad in terms of the interests of the people of Zimbabwe! So I think this is part of the reason that there is so much attention, globally, on a country in a continent which actually in itself – never mind the diamonds – is not particularly important, but is important because [Zimbabwe] is setting in the minds of some a bad example which must be defeated. But principally, are we as intellectuals telling that story? Are we explaining that in the first New African October 2013 61
Special Report Zimbabwe
instance to ourselves so that we know what is the correct position to take in our own interests, in our own defence? My sense is that we are not doing it, we are not explaining why. What is this enormous interest in a small African country here in Southern Africa which really … basically I can’t think of any particular reason why [Zimbabwe] would have such enormous, global, [and] geo-strategic importance, but it has. Why?
The 31 July elections You know, all of us know, that the African Union and SADC, among others, deployed large numbers of observers for these recent elections. The African Union had even placed its observers there at least a month ahead of the elections. This was to ensure … I don’t think, at least I know of no deployment of African observers of this size; because between the AU and SADC, just those two, I think they had at least 1,000 observers. I know of no [other] instance when the continent has deployed that kind of number. Both observer teams have essentially said the elections were peaceful and everybody agrees with that. And they have said the elections were free, representing the opinion of the people of Zimbabwe. SADC have said they need a bit of time to look at the matter of the fairness of the elections [following their initial appraisal when they said:] “Yes indeed the elections are credible, they represent the views of the people of Zimbabwe.” The reason the SADC observers said they want to look at this is because they want to look at it in detail and say, for instance, was the media coverage of the contending parties fair and balanced? Was the location of voting stations done in such a way that it would ensure equal access, [and] relatively [was] the access between rural and urban areas [equal]? They are not questioning the credibility of the elections, but want to look at this matter about what is meant by “fair” in order to ensure that as a continent when we do indeed conduct elections in the future, we have some standards to follow in terms of what will constitute this element of “fair”. So they decided to leave a residual group in Zimbabwe to look at that question, and the AU agreed to join them [and also] left another group there to do that, which is fine. I was talking three-four days ago to a member of the executive of the SADC Lawyers Association which includes all the lawyers in this region and their lawyer societies and this and that and the other. They decided to send an observer team to Zimbabwe, which they did. They have done their report and I have asked for a copy, but they said they would send it.
“You have the entire continent of Africa saying ‘the Zimbabwean elections represent the will of the people’. Why this contempt for the African view?”
But what they are telling me is that one of the things that surprised them was that as soon as they made the announcement that they would be deploying an observer team in Zimbabwe, out of the blue, completely unsolicited, they got huge offers of money from the United States to say: “Look, we want to pay for your observer mission.” And they said that we never asked for this money. We had never ever been in contact with these people. We don’t know how they got to know that we were going to do this, but they were very, very happy to support us with huge sums of money. But we said no. We refused. We said no, “we will finance ourselves”. The reason we did it was because we knew that if we accepted that money, then we would have to produce a report consistent with the views of the paymaster. So we said no. Now, the very strange thing at the end of this story which I am telling you … well, let me say what the Zimbabwe government did was of course to refuse the organisations like the EU which have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe, countries like the US which have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, [to] have election observers [in Zimbabwe] for the natural, and I think logical, reason that: “You declared yourselves as an enemy, in what way would you then send observers who are going to be objective in terms of observing these elections; please don’t come.”
I think they were right. Nevertheless, they said all the countries that had embassies in Zimbabwe, the embassies [were] free to observe the elections, which they did. African, European, Asian – all of them. But I am saying one of the strange things is that you have the entire continent [of Africa] in terms of its credible and legitimate institutions say, “Yes indeed there were problems, and we are going to detail those problems, but these elections represent the will of the people of Zimbabwe”. Then you have an alternative voice in Washington, London and Brussels which says, “No, you Africans are wrong”. How does that happen? Why this absolute contempt for the view of the Africans themselves? I was saying just these two organisations – the AU and SADC – had at least 1,000 observers in Zimbabwe. Even the ACP community had an observer team there. When the chair of the AU Commission was in Harare and talked to all the political leaders, she said none of them raised any issues about serious problems with the elections. They hadn’t. And yet when all of these Africans say: “Yes problems, we will tell you what these problems were, but the [election] result presents a credible view of the Zimbabweans”, you have people in America and Europe who say the Africans are wrong. Why? Maybe because the Africans are stupid. The Africans can’t count or something.
62 New African October 2013
L-r: President Mugabe, Thabo Mbeki and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the run-up to the power-sharing agreement of 2008, which was aimed at finding solutions to Zimbabwe’s political and economic woes
British pressure The latest SADC summit has just taken place in Malawi, in Lilongwe. In the days before the summit [and] during the summit, the British government was putting pressure on the government of Malawi to persuade the summit that there should be an audit done of the Zimbabwean elections. The MDC decided to go to court in Zimbabwe to contest, as you know, the elections, and then suddenly withdrew the petition. Personally I was very pleased that they submitted the petition, because it would give a possibility actually to look in detail at all the allegations that had been made about what went wrong with the elections. So, I was quite upset when they said they were withdrawing the petition, because it denied us the possibility to do this thing. But later I understood why they withdrew, because even in the petition they made various allegations and did not submit to the court any document to substantiate any of the allegations. At some point during this electoral process, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe spoke to one of the British television channels, and said in one constituency 17,000 people voted of whom 10,000 were assisted to vote. Now, this is allowed in terms of Zimbabwean processes: If you are illiterate, you might be old, you might be blind – whatever – that the people at the voting station can assist you [to vote]. You come and say: “Look, I can’t read but I like Morgan Tsvangirai, please tick for me where it says Morgan Tsvangirai.” That is assisted voting which is allowed. So the British ambassador says there was this one constituency, 17,000 voters, 10,000 of whom were assisted, so many, but she doesn’t identify the constituency, up to today. Morgan Tsvangirai, in his affidavit to
the Constitutional Court, includes this. “There was a constituency where 17,000 people voted, 10,000 of whom were assisted voters.” He doesn’t identify the constituency like the British ambassador. In the end, I can say [Mr So and So] is a very ugly fellow, but if I accuse him of that in court I should prove it. And that became a problem. So, we still don’t know what was the substance, what is the substance of all the allegations made, which Washington and London and Brussels have used to say the elections were not credible. We don’t know. In reality, the only reason they were not credible is because Robert Mugabe got elected. That’s all.
The African question I am using this talk about Zimbabwe, as an example about our continent because all of these things I am saying relating to Zimbabwe you can find the same [or] similar examples [of] on the continent, but we are not challenging it as intellectuals. We are not challenging a narrative, a perspective about our continent which is wrong and self-serving in terms of our people’s interests. The Zimbabweans are now talking about indigenisation and I can see that there is a big storm brewing about indigenisation. But what is wrong about indigenisation? What is wrong with saying: “Here we are, as Africans, with all our resources, sure we are ready and very willing to interact with the rest of the world about the exploitation of all these resources, but what is the indigenous benefit from the exploitation of this, and even the control?” You have seen examples of this, all of us have, when Chinese companies in terms of all this theory about free markets, have sought to acquire US firms [and] they got prohibited. “No, [it is] indigenisation of US
intellectual property. We can’t allow it to be owned by the Chinese, so no!” So when the Africans say “indigenisation”, why is this a strange notion? And yet when we talk about solutions to Africa’s development, one of the issues that we have to address is exactly this indigenisation. How are we utilising our resources to impact positively on African development? I am saying that because I can see that there is a cloud that is building up somewhere on the horizon when Zimbabweans say “indigenisation”. But we have to, as intellectuals and thought leaders, address that and say: “Yes, indeed as Africans we are concerned about our own renaissance, our own development, and we must as indigenous people make sure that we have control of our development, our future, and that includes our resources. And therefore indigenisation is correct.” We must demonstrate it even intellectually, which I am quite sure we can. I wasn’t intending to speak for so long, but as you can see I get very, very agitated about Zimbabwe, because it’s very, very clear that the offensive against Zimbabwe is an offensive against the rest of the continent, and what has facilitated that offensive is indeed [the] wrong things that the Zimbabweans have done. They have done wrong things. They have acted in ways that have been incorrect. So it has been possible for some people to stand up and say: “Look, look, look, there is a violation of democracy and human rights”, and all of us say: “Yes, yes, yes, what they did there was not quite right.” But all of us make mistakes. We have made mistakes here [in South Africa], but they have used those mistakes to mount a particular offensive against Zimbabwe. [Of course] that offensive is not in the first instance about Zimbabwe, it’s about the future of our continent. So the Zimbabweans have been in the frontline in terms of defending our right as Africans to determine our future, and they are paying a price for that. I think it is our responsibility as African intellectuals to join them, the Zimbabweans, to say No! We have a common responsibility as Africans to determine our destiny and are quite ready to stand up against anybody else who thinks that, “never mind what the thousand African observers say about the elections in Zimbabwe, we sitting in Washington and London are wiser than they are. They say the elections are credible, we say that they are very foolish, those elections were not. We stand up as Africans to say [there must be] an end, and really an end, to that contempt for African thought! We have to. If we don’t, this development we are talking about will not happen. New African October 2013 63
Special Report Zimbabwe
The much-awaited final report of the SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) to Zimbabwe’s 31 July 2013 elections, was finally released in Harare on 2 September. Below is the summary statement released at a crowded press conference by SEOM’s leader, Bernard Membe, Tanzania’s foreign minister, followed by a report of the question and answer session that took place.
‘Zimbabwe elections were free, fair and credible’ … says SADC’s final report
600 observers from SADC member countries monitored Zimbabwe’s 31 July 2013 harmonised elections. They had a huge network that managed to cover all 210 constituencies from 15 July to the Election Day. The main message of the SADC preliminary report released [in Harare] on 2 August was that the elections in Zimbabwe were free and peaceful. However, we had reserved the two issues of “fairness” and “credibility” deliberately, waiting for the compilation of the reports from our observlose to
ers in the covered constituencies. Therefore, that is what I am going to do today. Despite the shortcomings that have been annotated in the grand report, we said and we want to reiterate that the elections that took place on 31 July 2013 were free. Free in the sense that our observers noted that the candidates were free to campaign, free to associate, free to express their views, and the voters were free to cast their votes. Because of that, we therefore concluded without hesitation that the elections were free and expressed the will of the people. SEOM also in the preliminary report observed that the elections were
peaceful. It was so said because the electoral process in the majority of polling stations and constituencies were characterised by an atmosphere of peace and political tolerance. When compared to the 2008 electoral process, this year’s election has neither bloodshed nor massive arrests. Political parties and candidates were able to freely undertake their political activities unhindered and without noticeable intimidation. That is why we were quick to say it was peaceful. In trying to gauge [the] fairness of this election, SEOM focused its attention among other [areas] on the state media, pirate radio
64 New African October 2013
stations, and voters’ roll. SEOM recommends that ZEC [the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] implements the letter and spirit of Chapter 12 part 5, section 248 of the Constitution on media reform to be read together with the Electoral Act section 160(E) to 160(H) which states inter alia that: “… Public broadcasters shall afford all political parties and independent candidates contesting an election such free access to their broadcasting service as may be prescribed…” SEOM [also] recommends that pirate media should end their operation forthwith. The provision of the voters’ roll on time goes to the very heart of fairness in the election process. If the voters’ roll is not made available on time, the fairness of the election is brought into question. This is because voters’ rolls are public documents and it is the duty of the Electoral Commission to abide by Section 21, sub-section 1 to 6 of the Electoral Act. We are saying so because our observers on the ground reported complaints related to the delay in issuing the voters’ roll on time. And even in those areas where the voters’ roll was issued a few days before, people had no access to it until the day of voting. SEOM urges the government to make funds available so that the printing of the voters’ roll is done on time and made available in a timely manner for people to inspect it in making the election fair. On the credibility of the election process, a lot has been said to the negative. SEOM, however, while agreeing that there were issues such as the delay of the voters’ roll and media polarisation, [concludes] there were so many other elements that when put together elevated the elections to a credible status: the free election environment, the peaceful environment in which the election took place unhindered, and non-intimidation of candidates and voters, free expression and [free] campaigns, transparency, and free voting constitute the credibility under the prevailing circumstances, particularly when compared to the 2008 elections. Therefore, this election was generally credible. On behalf of the outgoing chairperson of the [SADC] Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, and on behalf of the entire Sadc family, SEOM congratulates ZEC and the people of Zimbabwe for holding a free, peaceful, and generally credible harmonised elections in July 2013 in which the will of the people was expressed.
Q&As from the press conference Following the statement above, Membe made the following remarks during question time. First, he dismissed claims that the
“Candidates were able to freely undertake their political activities unhindered and without noticeable intimidation...”
failure by the Registrar General of Voters to give the contesting parties the electronic (or soft) copy of the voters’ roll marred the elections. He said all over the world, including Tanzania where he is foreign minister, the electronic version of the voters’ roll was not an issue, which was why it was not a requirement under the SADC rules and guidelines governing democratic elections. Turning to the economic and personal sanctions imposed since 2000 on the Zimbabwe government, its officials, companies, and the ruling party by Western countries, Membe said it was now a challenge for the SADC Troika and Summit to engage the West to remove the sanctions, and that the two opposition MDC parties should participate in the effort to remove the sanctions. “Let me tell you passionately from my heart,” Membe said. “This question of sanctions must be fought by all the parties [which contested] the elections. “Once the voters are told that they are suffering because of sanctions and there are agents playing in favour of these sanctions in the country, then you are putting yourself in a very awkward position of winning the election. “Sanctions cannot be a tool of winning an election, and it should never be a tool of winning an election. You will never win. “The question of appealing to the world to remove the sanctions in Zimbabwe is fundamental, not only to the people of Zim-
Opposite: Tanzania's Foreign Minister delivers the SADC's final report on the Zimbabwean elections. Above: An election that reflected the will of the people
babwe, but also it gives a chance to the opposition to come to power in 2018. As long as sanctions are there, the Zanu-PF will prevail for 100 years to come.” Regarding the non-provision of the soft copy of the voters’ roll to contesting parties, Membe further explained that SEOM saw it as a non-issue because even in Tanzania or anywhere else, “you don’t see people demanding an electronic voters’ roll. It is none of their business”. What mattered more, he said, was the provision of the general voters’ roll which is always in printed form. He said SADC would engage the West to accept the election results. “We are still impressing upon them to accept the reality on the ground,” he told journalists. “We [SADC observers, including himself] were on the ground, 600 of us, spread out in a spider’s web across Zimbabwe, getting every detail. What we stated was true. “Here was a peaceful environment, an attractive environment, a free environment in which candidates were allowed to campaign freely. President Mugabe won the elections with flying colours and I urge the opposition parties to accept the results. Zanu-PF did its homework in the past five years, and it won a resounding victory.” New African October 2013 65
The Niger Delta’s nefarious air and water pollution, a sad legacy of the area’s oil exploration, has always exacerbated the region’s health needs. And despite authorities building a technically “free” health service, notorious money extortion at the hands of corrupt healthcare workers and officials who run parallel systems of private healthcare using some of the resources intended for the public system, leads to many unnecessary deaths. Rosemary Nwaebuni went to the region to investigate.
Who is sabotaging free healthcare in Delta State?
enson Okomika, a commercial
motorcycle rider, took his wife to hospital when she suddenly went into labour. According to government policy she should have received free treatment for the caesarean section she needed. But a nurse, apparently acting on the doctor’s directive, saw yet another opportunity for extortion in an endemically corrupt healthcare system, and demanded money for blood needed to be transfused in the course of the surgery. Okomika was quick to tell her that the service ought to be free. But the nurse replied sarcastically, “Ok, go and meet Governor Uduaghan to donate his blood for your wife” and then insisted she would not prepare his wife for surgery until Okomika paid. He had no choice but to rush to a friend’s place to borrow the money, but now recounts, in tears: “My wife was already dead by the time I returned with the money.” Sylvester Okolie was luckier than Okomika. He rushed his wife to hospital when she went into labour. The doctor told him that the baby was too big and that his wife would need a caesarean section, and then a nurse emerged to inform him that it would cost them N30,000 and also a list of drugs to be purchased. He made a deposit of N10,000 to enable them to carry out the caesarean section. He then spent more than N9,000 to buy the drugs from a chemist’s shop which was recommended by the doctor. On the day his wife was to
People living with HIV/Aids are internationally recognised as being the most vulnerable healthcare users
be discharged they insisted on collecting the balance of N20,000 before his wife and baby were released to him. When asked by this reporter whether he knew that the caesarean section was supposed to be free, Okolie said he did not know, adding, “they cashed in on my ignorance”. But his wife is, at least, alive. These are not isolated cases. In research carried out for this feature, many people told of the extortion and unnecessary deaths at the hands of corrupt healthcare workers in a system purportedly built on four vital values: free maternal healthcare, free rural health, free under-five healthcare and free healthcare for people living with HIV/ Aids. In fact, the evidence shows that in Delta state, doctors and pharmacists are running a parallel system of private healthcare using some of the resources intended for the public system. Through a permanently open “revolving door”, they tell persons attending the public clinics, and eligible for free treatment and medicines, that they are unavailable due to fictional “stock outs”. They then refer them to their private clinics where the drugs are available, but now need
“In theory, the health system is built on four vital values: free maternal healthcare, free rural health, free under-five healthcare and free healthcare for people living with HIV/ Aids.”
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to be paid for, but these drugs are often directly or indirectly stolen from the very public hospitals where they hold positions. This system of extortion works alongside, or as an alternative, to the direct demand for payment in the public hospitals, where people are either ignorant of the fact that the service should be free, or know that the health workers will let their relative go without treatment, and sometimes die, if they donâ€™t pay up.
The Delta health system and policy So why is this happening? Delta state is in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, home to over 4 million mostly rural inhabitants, and a despicable air and water polluting oil industry which in turn generates large health service demands for the local inhabitants. Thus, apart from the paradox of poverty in the midst of abundant natural wealth, health issues have been a major challenge for successive governments in Delta state
since its creation by military fiat in August 1991. After the end of military rule, Chief James Ibori made considerable efforts to reinvigorate the health sector in the region. Then Emmanuel Uduaghan, himself a medical doctor, was appointed Delta State Governor in May 2007, and sought to consolidate and improve services further, with the provision of qualitative and affordable healthcare that is accessible to all Deltans. As part of the overall health plan, the administration designated free treatment for rural persons, the under-fives, pregnant women, including post-natal drugs, and for people living with HIV/Aids areas, all groups who are internationally recognised as being the most vulnerable health users and those most likely to have insufficient funds to pay for treatment. These policies have caused improvements to occur. In particular, the free maternal healthcare which was launched in 2007,
and which covers antenatal and delivery services, laboratory, pharmacy and surgical services (including caesarean section), from conception to six weeks after delivery (postnatal care) has helped to reduce maternal deaths from 456 per 100,000 live births in 2005 (UNFPA Survey, 2005), before the programme, to 206 per 100,000 deliveries in 2012, with over 200,000 pregnant women benefitting overall. Meanwhile, the free rural health scheme begun in 2005 has been extended to include some free surgical services including eye surgeries. The scheme functions like a mobile hospital, where medical doctors and health personnel periodically visit rural communities to screen, diagnose and distribute free treatments, while referring some cases to hospital, reaching over 180,000 persons since 2008. The free under-five healthcare programme, launched in 2010, is intended to reduce infant and under-five mortality by providing free medical treatment to every child. Before the commencement of the scheme three years ago, the under-five mortality rate in the state stood at 111 per 1,000 deliveries. Available records as at May 2012 (two years after commencement of the programme) show that child mortality has reduced to 18 per 1,000 deliveries, with an average of 15,000 children benefitting monthly. Delta state government also operates a free healthcare programme for people living with HIV/AIDS, with bespoke services in several antiretroviral treatment (ART) centres and Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centres (VCT) for advice on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT). However, these benefits have to be considered against the hidden costs to beneficiaries of widespread extortion, which is sabotaging the free, at the point of delivery, initiative. Those unwilling or unable to pay often fail to access services, leaving a chasm between the formal entitlement to free care, and the sabotage of those policies in practise by doctors, pharmacists, nurses, card issuing clerks, and laboratory attendants. This writer investigated 9 local government areas randomly chosen across the state, in Delta Central (Sapele, Ethiope West and Warri South); Delta North (Oshimili South, Aniocha North and Aniocha South); and Delta South (Patani, Warri North and Bomadi). In Delta, 80 per cent of private hospitals in the state are owned by doctors working at government-owned hospitals. We found evidence of doctors diverting patients to their private clinics, sometimes by devious means, but mostly by simply failing to be on duty at the government hospital. The artificial scarcity in their availability proNew African October 2013â€ƒ 67
duces no alternative but for sick persons to pay privately. Doctors are also colluding with pharmacists to divert high-priced drugs from the government hospitals to their private clinics, with patients forced to follow. Michael Aghotor revealed how a hospital doctor insisted on being paid the sum of N15,000 before he would carry out a caesarean section on his wife, who could not have normal delivery. He said he had to pay the money to save the life of his dying wife, even when he knew that it ought to be free. Similarly, Godsday Akporuno said he rushed his pregnant wife, who was haemorrhaging, to hospital in February this year, but with no doctor on duty, and after waiting endlessly for a doctor to show up, he had to take his wife to a private clinic. Others were not so lucky, and either the delay or lack of funds caused the unborn to be lost, or loss of life, as in the tragic death of Benson Okomika’s wife and child (above). Many others, including Faith Okuse and Stella Tuedo, were forced to attend private hospitals to save their babies when no doctor was on duty. In fact, a cross-section of patients interviewed complained that the free healthcare services of government are not free in most government hospitals as doctors and nurses, even when present, extort them. For example, a young mother, Blessing Efe, narrated how she and her baby were detained for more than 6 hours in the labour room by the nurses after her baby was delivered, because she could not readily pay the sum of N2,000 demanded for a bed space in the maternity ward. The nurses on duty abandoned her and the baby on the wooden delivery table in a pitch-dark room from 12.35am to 6.40am. She was only allocated a bed after her aged mother put a call across to the matron of the unit who happened to be an old friend. Efe was also made to pay N1,800 for laboratory tests, N100 for hand gloves for every check carried out on her, N500 for fuel, N500 for detergent, N500 for disinfectant, N500 for Jik (steriliser) and N100 to have the baby bathed. Patients interviewed, including pregnant and newly delivered women, complained about both ill-treatment from nurses, particularly at night, and extortion, with many forced to contribute money for fuel to power the hospitals’ alternative power sources (generators), pay for soap, hand gloves, bathing of baby, disinfectant and so forth, which nurses claimed were out of stock. There is also irksome petty corruption by other hospital workers, with clerks demanding fees to obtain the government hospitals’ out-patient cards, and laboratory attendants forcing pregnant women to pay for
“In fact, a crosssection of patients interviewed complained that the free healthcare services of government are not free in most government hospitals."
medical examinations and charging illegal fees for children under five years. Clerks make registration deliberately cumbersome, chatting and leaving their posts at will and for long periods, in order to extort bribes, with the additional problem that many pregnant women and young mothers, out of frustration, patronise quacks, traditional medicine practitioners, or self-medicate with attendant adverse consequences. Preg-
nant women who are booked for operations are also made to buy post-caesarean drugs which are mostly ‘out of stock’ from the hospital pharmacy. When confronted with these allegations, some of the doctors alleged that it was the fault of the Drug Revolving Fund, which was failing to deliver the free drugs. The doctors claimed that they were personally buying them to ensure their availability, and
68 New African October 2013
Receiving adequate and effective healthcare is too often a lottery for Nigerian patients and their children. Below: Poor maternity services lead expectant mothers to resort to quacks, endangering their lives
supply to State Government owned hospitals and monitor their usage. The allegation of certain drugs being out of stock is untrue,” she said.
since it was their own money, they were then forced to recover it from patients or their spouse/relatives. They argued that it was their only way of reducing the incidence of deaths during childbirth. Indeed, the Chief Medical Director of Sapele Central Hospital, Dr Omo-Aghoja, said that while the government did provide hospitals with caesarean packs, routine drugs for antenatal and drugs for normal delivery, the caesarean packs supplied by government were insufficient in that they didn’t contain enough post-delivery drugs, to accommodate the influx of women accessing the free maternal healthcare. This problem was exacerbated by some patients presenting from neighbouring states. However, the Fund Manager of the state Drug Revolving Fund (DRF), Ndobu Evelyn, refuted these claims, stating that the DRF always ensured adequate supplies of drugs required during ante-natal, delivery (including by caesarean section) and postnatal care in accordance with government guidelines: “The sole responsibility of the Drug Revolving Fund is to procure drugs; carry out quality control laboratory analysis of the drugs, to ascertain their quality and safety,
Pharmacists Like the medical doctors, most of the pharmacists working in government hospitals have their own pharmacy shops and divert patients to these by claiming that a drug is ‘out of stock’, or by misplacing it so that it is indeed out of stock. During investigations at two hospitals, the author found, from insider sources, that most drugs which the pharmacists declared ‘out of stock’ were actually in stock. Some pharmacists in government hospitals fraudulently tick off the drugs in the prescription leaflet that the patient presents to them as having been issued. They retain the ticked prescriptions in their file and use a clean sheet of paper to list the same prescribed drugs as out of stock and to be purchased elsewhere, which they then hand to the patient. It has also been alleged that pharmacists in government hospitals collude with the doctors to share and divert to their private pharmacies and clinics respectively, a chunk of every new stock of drugs supplied. Of course, the pharmacists deny these allegations and, like the doctors, blame the DRF for non-supply. Nurses were also found to be undermining the free healthcare programmes of the state government, not just by their role in extortion, but by unprofessional practices, including a nonchalant attitude towards patients and truancy. For example, Vicky Anazia, a widow, narrated how her HIV-positive daughter died due to negligence after she was transfused with blood which had not been properly screened by nurses. When her daughter started reacting negatively to the infused blood, the doctor on duty was called and confirmed that the blood did not match her daughter’s blood group, and that immediate flushing out of the transfused blood was needed. Vicky Anazia said the doctor left after giving instructions to the nurses, but none of them carried them out, as they thought they could be infected. “Out of frustration, I hired a taxi and took my daughter to a private hospital where the flushing of the bad blood and transfusion of the right one took place.” She said amidst
sobs, “I lost the child a few days later.” Similarly, Preye Tamunor spoke of the death of her niece, who was healthy despite her positive HIV/AIDS status, shortly after being transfused with the wrong blood type. Shortly after the transfusion commenced, she began to convulse violently. Nurses were nonchalant and refused to check why she was reacting negatively, and before the doctor was called, she died. HIV patients are most vulnerable to abuse, and many confirmed this. A young lady who simply gave her name as Abigail said: “If an HIV patient’s body dare touch that of any nurse or care giver in the course of administering treatment, he or she was sure of receiving verbal assault from the nurses. They throw drugs into our palms so that our hands do not come in contact with theirs”. Sadly typical is the case of is Tosan Atie Ahon, who registered at hospital early in her pregnancy, knowing her treatment was supposed to be free. However, she was made to pay for laboratory tests and routine drugs. Then, when she went into labour, she was taken to the same hospital for delivery where there was not a single doctor on duty. She said the maternity ward was very hot and only illuminated by a lit candle. When she complained, the nurses told her she was not the only one on admission. They told her if she needed light, she should provide N1,000 for fuel (gasoline) to power the generator. Because she was feeling very uncomfortable, she had to give them the money. She said several minutes later, a nurse brought her a lantern, although the generator was never put on. She even had to pay for her own file as part of “stationeries needed”. Ahon was then left alone in spite of her cries for assistance as the pains were becoming unbearable. When the nurses eventually came to check on her, they discovered that her baby’s heartbeat was already failing, at which point the senior nurse advised her relative to take her to another hospital as there was no doctor to carry out the caesarean section she needed. Of all the sabotage listed above, however, there is arguably none morally more abhorrent than doctors collecting money, usually negotiated for them by nurses, before carrying out caesarean sections on pregnant women, who mostly acquiesce, or their relatives do, in order to save their lives and those of their babies. The terrible risk involved is being paid for in lives. Rosemary Nwaebuni is a a member of the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). New African October 2013 69
On 29 August, Ghana’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition brought before it by the losing presidential candidate in last December’s election, Nana Akufo-Addo, and ruled that President John Mahama was duly elected. But Cameron Duodu is not too pleased about the way the court conducted itself.
Ghana: The court case that left the nation dazed
50 day s of cou rt sittings spread over five months, the Ghana Supreme Court has rejected the election petition filed by the losing presidential candidate in the December 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. Two other members of Akufo Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Mahamadu Bawumia (the vice-presidential candidate) and Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey (chairman of the NPP) joined Nana Addo in filing the petition. The “judgement”, as announced publicly on 29 August 2013, by the president of the nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges, Justice William Atuguba, can best be described as “the judgement that – on the day – wasn’t what was expected” by NPP supporters. fter
Nana Akufo Addo, leader of the New Patriotic Party
The Court had been fully packed long before the usual opening time of 10 am by many people anxious to hear what the final verdict was going to be. There were also crowds waiting for the judgement at the headquarters of the two main parties, the NPP and the NDC. Public interest in the case had been built up to fever point over a period of five months by live telecasting of the proceedings. So most people had an opinion about whether the December 2012 presidential election had been free and fair (as the Election Commission had proclaimed), or a farcical exercise permeated with lapses of
both an administrative and legal nature (as the NPP was alleging). According to the petition, irregularities by the Electoral Commission had robbed the people of Ghana of their right to choose the president who should rule them. The petition claimed that John Dramani Mahama had been wrongly declared as the winner by an incompetent Electoral Commission. A most weighty issue. But the packed court and the media audience not only in Ghana but around the world (the live TV coverage of “The Verdict” was streamed online and could be picked up on the Internet anywhere in the world) had to sit and wait for three solid hours before the judges made their appearance on the bench! As this vast audience fidgeted all over the place, the suspense in the air – wherever Ghanaians were gathered – was palpable. What was holding up the judges? They had had several weeks, after the hearings had ended, to write their judgements. Yet here they were, unable to face the world with what they had decided. It was during the waiting that Ghana became awash with rumours. I make so bold as to say that never since 1948 (when the British arrested “The Big Six” politicians fighting for Ghana’s independence) had speculation about the direction of Ghana’s ship of state reached the heights it climbed to on 29 August 2013, the day of the judgement. Some Ghanaians claimed that the judges had “found” [that is, decided] in favour of the petitioners but could not bring themselves to order what would necessarily be an “earth-shattering” measure, namely, to turn the status quo on its head and declare the sitting president, John Mahama, “unelected”, and either hand the presidency to his opponent, Akufo Addo, or order a rerun of the election. “There is connie-connie [things that are not straight-forward] going on, even as we speak!” was the refrain most often heard in bars and street corners. For Radio Trottoir [“Pavement Radio” or Street Talk] was at its analytical best, vividly describing “eyewitness events” allegedly captured, not by the speaker, but by people who had related these events to him: “someone else” who could not be named but who was much “closer to events”. “It is true one judge has left for America with 7 million dollars!” I personally heard someone say. When I expressed disbelief, he dismissed me as someone who lived abroad and was therefore not privy to “the real news in town”. I insisted: “You can’t even carry more than 10,000 dollars to America. How much more easily $7 million? Even if you fly in your own executive jet, the Feds or US
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Customs have the right to search your aircraft, and if you’ve got $7 million on it, they will not only take the money away and confiscate it, but also charge you with money-laundering!” But such arguments were cutting no ice on this day. People believed what they wanted to believe and in the absence of any news from the Supreme Court regarding what was happening, speculation became accepted as potential fact! Why are our courts so pompous? Couldn’t the Supreme Court have asked its Registrar – or its Public Relations Officer – to make an announcement that there had been “a slight delay” and that things would go on as expected, soon? But it was more mystery that was to come. It was whispered that only one judge was causing the delay: he was “flipflopping”! He had allegedly told some “insiders” close to him that he knew what the decision was going to be – four in favour of the petitioners and four against them – and that he would be the one to vote to “neutralise” matters with a “casting” vote of “solid gold”! “Ok, so where will his casting vote push the verdict?” “Our side, of course,” was the reply. “Otherwise, how would we know what he had said? You wait and see!” It was, however, not until about 5 minutes to 1 o’clock in the afternoon – or thereabouts – that the judges entered the court room at last. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. But the tension, instead of easing, mounted. The counsel could have been murdered for engaging in such “frivolities” as presenting their team members individually once again to the panel of judges – as if the many past months of the hearings had not existed. After these formalities had been dispensed with, the president of the panel, Justice Atuguba, started reading. He delivered a damp squib that made the normal dawn of day on the predicted “Armageddon Day” favoured by “prophets” of nut-churches, appear like a pre-ordained anti-climax of the minor kind. It was not so much the verdict itself that shocked a lot of people (after all, we all knew that it would go in one direction or another!) as the unbelievable terseness of it: Justice Atuguba’s halting declamation lasted all of five and a half minutes, give or take 30/40 seconds! It almost reminded one of James Alexander Gordon (without the specially modulated intonation) delivering the English Premier League football results on a Saturday afternoon: Biometric Voting: For x; Against y; Over-voting: For h; Against g; Invalidation through Unsigned “Pink
Ghanaian president John Mahama
“Justice Atuguba’s diction left me completely in noman’s land, until he finally said, ‘We therefore dismiss the petition.’ ” Sheets” (the forms on which voting results are recorded): For a; Against b; and so on – you get the picture. Speaking for myself, Justice Atuguba’s diction left me completely in no-man’s land, until he finally said, “We therefore dismiss the petition”. There could not have been more much-ado-about-not-very much anywhere else in the world! The judges rose. They gave no reasons for, nor elaborations of, the verdict [“results”] they had announced. Goodbye, James Alexander Gordon. Bring on the football pundits. Worse, even though Justice Atuguba said the full written judgements would be at the court registry, it took five whole days before the judgements actually appeared there. So, for 5 days, the most important event in Ghana’s judicial/political calendar, was open to interpretation by all and sundry. Most of what actually occurred was an enthronement of legal illiteracy. I urge the judiciary to review its processes and adopt a method of dealing with the public that will not be so disastrous, in future. What if each judge had read his or her judgement in summary? Say four or five pages, summing up his or her reasons for coming to the conclusion they had arrived at? And saying, “the full judgement
will be made available later?” I believe that is what happens in some of the countries whose constitutional governance we are trying to emulate. Our judges get all spruced up in their colourful robes and wigs. Fine. But they should also adopt some of the new methods by which courts elsewhere are making themselves more relevant to the people they are supposed to serve. I remember that when the Judicial Committee of the British House of Lords was giving judgement in the famous Pinochet extradition case in March 1999, special arrangements were made by that “stuffy” institution to make the judgement immediately accessible to the public, both in the UK and elsewhere. The British judiciary covered itself in glory at that time. Ours in Ghana, I am sorry to say, showed a particular lack of imagination on 29 August 2013. Once again, I refer the Ghana chief justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, to how the Kenyan judiciary handled its own election petition case not so long ago. The judges delivered their judgement – suitably trimmed for public consumption – in a few hours, and the country breathed a sigh of relief. Ours was, with the greatest respect, a complete letdown, and yet our chief justice is one of the influential figures from outside Kenya who helped to make the Kenyan judiciary what it is today. Anyway, it would probably have been better, as far as journalists are concerned, if the full judgement had stayed under wraps! For not many people have had access to the judges’ opinions, despite their having been made public. For the opinions amount to 588 pages! And on the crucial issues, the differences between them – judge versus judge – were sometimes as vast as that between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. What does one report and what does one not report? Some of the local Ghanaian media are trying to serialise segments of the judgement, but the process is unsatisfactory. Everyone wants to see those segments that they think make their case, so whatever is published causes annoyance! I must add that whatever one is able to read, contains, in the time-honoured tradition, a great deal of verbosity. Many of the judgements are liberally sprinkled with quotations from judgements elsewhere – ranging from Australia, Canada, Lesotho and of course, the UK. Some of these citations (I am reliably informed by a learned lawyer) have no immediate relevance to, or even relationship with, the issues canvassed in the election petition.
72 New African October 2013
African Media Leaders Forum
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
â€œMedia and the African Renaissanceâ€?
As Somalia’s first permanent government in over two decades clocks one year in office, the country seems to be making some marked progress, but lasting success remains largely elusive, writes Abdi Adan from the capital Mogadishu.
One year on: Is Somalia smiling or crawling?
S omali politician to have a nickname, but with just a year in office, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has acquired a number of nicknames. Some call him the “smiling president” for his ever-present smile at every major event he attends, while critics call him the “crawling president”, something that has stuck after he took a long time to appoint a prime minister. Mohamud’s election in September 2012, was in itself historic. Not only was he considered an underdog, his triumph made him the first president to be elected in Somalia since the fall of Major General Mohamed Siad Barre over 20 years ago in 1991. His evident eagerness to bring democracy to his long-suffering country may be noble, but taking charge of a country that has been embroiled in more than two decades of civil war is not an easy task. It has also proved a danger to his life. Barely in office a week, President Muhamud survived an assassination attempt by the radical Islamist group Al Shabaab, a situation that emphasised the dire security need, which Somalia has to grapple with under the new administration. For many Somalis, reeling from decades of conflict, the election itself was a sign of great things to come. Indeed, although the t is not unusual for a
past 12 months have largely been tumultuous amid a plethora of controversies, the birth of the Federal Government of Somalia is widely seen as a leap forward. It is however, palpable that while hopes for a better Somalia are high, the population is also desperate to see some tangible difference on the ground following the first anniversary of the new government. Unsurprisingly, there are those who are rather impatient and want to see change and tangible results on the ground pretty quickly. “The expectations were too high and the government is yet to achieve much. The election of Somalia’s first permanent government brought some kind of euphoria. Many thought it was a chance for Somalia to reclaim its lost glory. It was a great feeling that day but one year down the line, there is too little to be proud of inside Somalia,” says Abdiwahab Abdisamad, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi. He adds: “The president has however made great progress on the international front. He invested personal commitment in ensuring that Somalia receives international attention. But he has failed to put a lot of energy into how to get things right at home.” In President Mohamud’s first year in office, Somalia has seen key international bodies such as the World Bank and the
IMF and other players including the US, recognise the new government. “I think it is a commendable job on the international scene but [there is] little to show on the ground. It is amazing how the president and his government have managed to sustain international support,” Abdisamad believes. But, presidential spokesman and senior advisor, Abdirahma Yarrisow, asserts that the new government is on the right track and is making progress on many different fronts, despite the fact that in recent months, Somali authorities have had to deal with serious situations including a string of attacks by the insurgent Al Shabaab, accusations of rape against its own army and the peace-keeping African Union forces, and a pull-out by aid workers because of a wave of kidnappings and killings. “I do not for a moment deny the deep capacity limitations in our institutions nor the frustrating and fractious manner in which we attend to our business. These are the natural growing pains that we must all recognise and accept. Not everything will go right all the time. There will be disagreements and occasionally conflict. There are very deep social wounds all across our country. Trust and unity must be given time to return. Decades of social hurt must have time to heal,” proffers Yarrisow, emphasis-
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Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, following the re-opening of the British Embassy in Mogadishu. Below: Jubaland leader Ahmed Madobe
“There is a growing awareness of the need to protect and encourage Marrakech’s garden heritage. King Mohammed VI has instigated initiatives.”
“There are very deep social wounds all across our country. Decades of social hurt must have time to heal.”
ing how the issue of peace and stability has not only been the priority, but that with the support of African Union peacekeepers, the new government has been able to oust the terror group Al Shabaab from most key cities in Somalia. “The stabilisation process is under way in most of the cities under the control of the government. Even though there have been a few incidents in Mogadishu, patrols and property searches are progressing very well and our security forces have helped stop or prevent suicide and roadside bomb attacks,” says Yarrisow. Apart from the security process, he also believes the government has started to record some positive results on the economic front. “As a government we have raised our revenue from $1m dollars a month to $3m a month. This has ensured the timely disbursement of salaries to civil servants. You can see business people are coming to Somalia, and you can see foreign investment in Somalia,” he states. However, one other big headache the government has had to confront in its first year has been the dispute over the administration of the semi-autonomous state of Jubaland. To the relief of many Somalis as well as its international backers, on 28 August, Jubaland, which borders Kenya in the south of the country, agreed to ally itself with the current federal government, after a week of negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between Somalia’s state minister, Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir, and the self-appointed leader of Jubaland, Ahmed Madobe. “The Federal Government of Somalia and the Jubaland delegations have agreed to an Interim Administration [for the region],” the agreement stated. The deal will still see Madobe remain in charge of Jubaland for a two-year transitional period, but he did agree to hand over control of the port and airport in the strategic coastal city of Kismayu, according to a report by the French News Agency (AFP). Madobe also promised to integrate “all security elements”, including his own private militia, into the national army, which is backed by the 17,700-strong African Union force. The news agency reports that Madobe, who pronounced himself president of Jubaland last May, said he was committed to implementing the accord: “I want to assure you I have not stood up here to say something and then we don’t implement… I
hope this will be something that will be implemented practically and will be good... for the rest of Somalia,” he said after the talks. The AFP quotes a Somalia representative hailing the deal: “We agreed that we are not two parties in building the state of Somalia, we are only one party in building the federal state of Somalia.” The UN special representative to Somalia, Nick Kay, welcomed the deal, but was quick to sound a note of caution too: “We have to have high hopes, but we also have to keep our eyes wide open. Somalia is complex and has a chequered history, so we’ll follow this through,” he told the news agency. But Jubaland is not the only breakaway region the government has to contend with. There is Puntland in the northeastern tip of the country, which wants autonomy, while Somaliland in the northwest declared total independence in 1991. As a result of a long-running dispute over the interpretation of Somalia’s Provincial Constitution, which is supposed to lay down the frameworks for relations between the Federal Government and the regional states, Puntland suspended its ties with Somalia in August. The relationship between Mogadishu, and Garowe (Puntland’s administrative seat) are at an alltime low, to such an extent that Puntland recently sent back a ship carrying food aid from Mogadishu, saying the food was ‘politicised’, and it was meant to support the opposition in Puntland. But, the relationship between Somalia, and the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, which seceded in 1991, has been improving, thanks to talks sponsored by the Turkish government. While talks have not yet delved in to the million-dollar question, which is Somaliland independence, the two sides have been able to agree to things that are of common interest to both countries. The talks are scheduled to resume this month. Mogadishu-based veteran Somali journalist Abdirahman Warsame believes the government’s biggest achievement is the fact that there has been less conflict and infighting within the top leadership, which affected the transitional government that preceded the current administration. “The previous government was beset by personality conflicts among the top brass. Now there is nothing of that sort. They all now have to deal with the challenges facing the nation. The government will need to build on the gains it has made on the international front and convert it into an opportunity to build institutions, and the key to this will be a strong security force that will be able to take control of bringing law and order to the country,” Abdirahman advises. New African October 2013 75
10 years after the civil war A decade ago, on 18 August 2003, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement brought Liberia’s horrific 14-year civil war to an end. As this small West African country faded from the international headlines, a new era of hope began. Deeply entrenched networks of corruption were a central cause of violence, and Liberians sought to move away from the past and towards a clean, accountable government that put the rights of its citizens before the self-interest of its power-holders. Ten years later, this vision is under threat – and with it the stability of a country that is central to global interests in the region, writes Blair Glencorse.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the first female head of state in Africa and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 – the Liberian government has made a series of reforms to address the country’s corruption problems. These have ranged from dismissing tainted civil servants, to pushing through new strategies for reform, to passing legislation to address graft. The budget has been opened up, business rules have been streamlined, and the nder
management of natural resources has been a central focus. Liberia was the first African state to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) rules governing extractive industries, for example, and the first West African country to pass a Freedom of Information Act to support more transparent government. Recently, the government signed up to the Open Government Partnership and committed to a series of ambitious goals to help make
itself more accountable. However, Liberia is still far from a wellfunctioning society with secure peace and sustainable development. Nearly 7,500 UN troops remain stationed around the country to prevent violence; the population has no public provision of clean water, sewerage or electricity; and over 76% of the population still lives on less than $1 a day. Late last year at the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, President Johnson-Sirleaf herself stated that corruption in Liberia has become “systemic and endemic”, and Liberia was ranked towards the very bottom of Transparency International’s recent Global Corruption Barometer. At the root of Liberia’s problems is a deep lack of accountability. Since 1822 when repatriated American blacks arrived in Liberia, the legitimacy of political actors in the country has been derived not from the delivery of services to the public or responsiveness to constituents – but from participation in deeply entrenched patronage networks. This system has perpetuated itself because the objectives of both the ruling elite and ordinary citizens converge in
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the pursuit of relationships that provide security, thus placing personal obligations over private or public duties. The problem is not that the legal framework for accountability does not exist. A host of institutional changes have caused the creation of bodies to fight corruption – ranging from the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), to the General Auditing Commission (GAC), to the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC). However, the formal structures set up to build integrity largely lack the mandate, powers and resources to combat graft. Public sector salaries are low (de-
“To give Liberia a better chance at cementing peace, those who care about the country’s future should focus more directly on accountability.”
Liberia’s worst days may be behind it, but corruption, recognised as 'systemic and endemic' by President JohnsonSirleaf (pictured above left and above, when campaigning for the presidency) must be tackled
spite significant increases in recent years); the civil service is not subject to regulations to prevent nepotism, cronyism, and patronage; and at the local level, institutions do not provide sufficient incentives for participation in decision-making. Within public bodies, information and opportunity are often jealously guarded, which can make collaboration and cooperation very difficult. As a result, it can be tremendously timeconsuming and exhausting for citizens to navigate formal governance systems according to the written rules. Necessity dictates – for both citizens and civil servants who want to facilitate reform – that bribes are paid or favours given in order to reduce processes to even a vaguely manageable amount of time and effort. Moreover, the formal legal system is largely inaccessible, unaffordable and overly time-consuming for the average person; and customary channels of justice are largely geared towards promoting reconciliation rather than accountability. This issue goes beyond the role of government to the Liberian people themselves. Politicians, civil servants and businessmen may abuse their positions, mistaking their wealth for legitimacy. Yet, at the same time, citizens who often complain about officials “eating money” are also willing to accept patronage from these power-holders when it suits their own interests. A syndrome has developed whereby those with access to resources through any kind of position of power are seen as “stupid” if they do not use this access to maximise their own wealth. In this way, public and private morality have become divorced and the corrupt status-quo continues. A final element that stymies the struggle for accountability in Liberia is the state’s orientation towards international organisations and businesses. Though democratically elected, Liberia’s government arguably answers more to outsiders than to its people. Over $340 million in aid per annum is delivered through a myriad of government agencies, NGOs and contractors, which reinforces dependency, leads to uncoordinated activities and generates sub-optimal outcomes. Well-qualified Liberians are drawn away from government or civil society positions by higher wages at donor organisations, which undermines domestic capacity. Meanwhile, huge contracts between the government and natural resource extraction companies have been far from transparent – recently, Global Witness reported that “a quarter of Liberia’s total landmass has been granted to logging companies in just two years, following an outbreak in the use of secretive and often illegal logging permits.” All of this is important because it is at
the heart of Liberia’s security and West African stability. The Liberian people are angry about their lot and frustrated that the channels for upward social mobility are largely closed to them. Unemployment and underemployment levels remain dangerously high – particularly among young men – and the region is awash with weapons. A recent UN Panel of Experts Report revealed a government “deeply concerned about mercenary and militia activity” and reported a “hyperpolitical and polarised environment” in Liberia. This is a combustible combination. To give Liberia a better chance at cementing peace, those who care about the country’s future should redefine their thinking to focus more directly on the core elements of accountability. First, we must match our view of accountability with local realities. Corruption may be easy to condemn in the Western context, but in a system like Liberia’s, censure may do more harm than good. Prosecuting high-level transgressions may make sense in selective cases, but in others it may make it harder to attract relatively decent and competent people into public service. Instead, the focus must also be on changing the incentives and relationships that give rise to endemic graft as part of a campaign to build a contextualised system of values and ethics. Second, we must support the creation of accountability institutions not just on paper, but in practice. This means bolstering the capacity and scope of anti-corruption bodies; encouraging collaboration among and between relevant agencies; and building constructive bridges between civil society organisations that work on these issues and key government ministries such as the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Public Works. Finally, we must use different tools and timeframes to build peace and accountability. Large conferences and lengthy reports may have their uses, but they are far from sufficient. Instead, international organisations should carefully support alternative approaches (using religious leaders, cultural networks or new technologies, for example) to drive anti-corruption messaging in ways consistent with Liberia’s oral traditions. There has now been ten years of peace in Liberia, and the country’s worst days may be behind it. But in order to ensure this remains the case, it is critical that the Liberian government, its people, and its partners across the international community focus more directly on accountability issues. Blair Glencorse is Executive Director of the Accountability Lab, based in Liberia. You can follow the Lab on Twitter @accountabilitylab New African October 2013 77
by Cameron Duodu
U n d e r t h e N e e m Tr e e
Tales of a taxi-driver’s mate A shared journey into literature with a friend leads the author on unexpected travels as the 12-year-old driver of a one-and-a-half-ton truck.
y love for cars created a serious conflict in me when I was attending elementary school. Although I was doing extremely well in my studies, aspects of schooling were so boring to me that I devoted much of my schooling time to satisfying my lust – and no other word will do! – for motor cars. I should say motor vehicles, for anything that moved would do for me at that time. I was only 12 when a rich cocoa farmer, the father of friends of mine, bought a Bedford one-and-a-half ton truck. Brand new! Now, this rich man bore the same surname as me, and so his children used to call me “Father”, even though they were much older than me. In other words, as far as they were concerned, I owned the Bedford truck with registration number AR 3460! “My” eldest son, Kwame ‘To (for Ettoh), whose praises I have sung before and will sing again, became my first true friend in life. We shared a love for driving, as well as – reading novels! One day, noticing that I was a voracious reader, he asked me: “Have you read She?” Who? I asked, incredulous that any book would have such a short title. Then it was that Kwame introduced me to one of the most fascinating novels in the Rider Haggard canon, She. He had to spell the word out to me to help me comprehend the unusually short title: “ess—aich—ee—SHE!” he said. The strange title made the novel even more mysterious to
me, and when Kwame lent me his copy, I devoured it in a few sittings. I would have done this just to impress him, anyway, but I did find it difficult to put the novel down, once I had started it. She is the sort of story that would captivate any growing boy with imagination: a wondrously beautiful heroine with a dark secret – namely, that she was “condemned” to live an interminable life, waiting for her only true love, who had been slain, to be reincarnated! For the curse on her, unfairly bestowed by fate, was that unless they completed their lives together, one of them would find it impossible to die! Can you imagine the fervent nature of a love that could intertwine the lives of two people together in such a way that one lover was destined to wait through the ages for the dead one to return? Can souls really return into human form? If so, how long would it take? And if a departed one did return, how would he/she be recognised by the one waiting for him/her? In this vast and extremely wide world, where and how could the two of them be reunited, even if the rebirth occurred? These were the threads around which H. Rider Haggard hung one of his most romantic novels, She. It was a totally unrealistic tale, of course, but at twelve years of age, who wanted to read about reality? The challenges of real life were bad enough at that age, weren’t they? The strains and stresses of attending school, especially, being forced, at the point of a whip (so to speak!) to mow the grass on the school park with a cutlass; also, providing unpaid labour on the school farm, whose produce went into the teachers’ kitchens; having to get up early each morning to get to school before the church bell tolled the “quarter”-to-the-hour (8 am) school-assembly-“knell”. Next, at general assembly, getting whipped if one had arrived at school a few minutes late and had had one’s name written down by some officious prefect; getting whipped for not ironing one’s shorts and/or shirt properly; whipped if one had some unwashed dirt showing behind the ears, or inside the bend of one’s forearm; whipped for neglecting to bring one’s hymn book; whipped for failing to recite correctly, set passages from the self-same hymn book and/or the church catechism! Kwame ‘Toh loved the idea that I loved a book he also loved. He was so pleased by my interest in the book and others he introduced me to that I think, psychologically, he adopted me as the younger brother he did not have, because the true occupant of that position had interests that lay far away from romantic novels in particular, and books in general. If only the poor younger brother had realised that being the younger sibling of a bookworm with a bent for passing on knowledge also bought one a privilege to enjoy the sweet things of life – such as being allowed to drive a one-and-a-half-ton Bedford truck at the tender age of twelve! Me? I just refused to believe that there could be anyone who would not love the novel, She, as much as Kwame and I did. I
78 New African Magazine October 2013
As the driver of a Bedford truck as a child, the author was able to move around more than most on his Sunday mornings
“Both Kwame and I lived in a matriarchal society in which women held most of the power, albeit in a disguised, almost hidden manner. They directed our lives to the ends they considered desirable!” buried my head in the stunning beauty of the heroine; admired the power her beauty gave her over men and the envy it aroused in other women; I shuddered at the thought of appearing before her in the mysterious cave in which she dwelt to be inspected closely, along with hordes of other men, to see whether we would be accepted by her as the “Only One” she was waiting for! The thought of her interminable life, as inspection after inspection after inspection failed to yield the right result. Year after year after year, for centuries and probably millennia! She sat on a throne, yes, but her fruitless search evoked a pity of gargantuan proportions inside me, for her. Would she die fulfilled by the arrival of love? Rider Haggard dared one’s imagination to speculate about this, and he then gave one an amazingly climatic denouement. I now believe that it wasn’t just the physical beauty of the heroine that fascinated me, but also, that her name carried a notion that carried a resonance that bought into my own young life. Her real name was “Ayesha”, and according to Rider Haggard, this was interpreted by her subjects to mean “She-who-must-be-obeyed”. Now, both Kwame and I lived in a matriarchal society in which women held most of the power, albeit, in a disguised, almost hidden, manner. Our grandmothers (from both our paternal and maternal sides); the sisters and cousins of our actual grandmothers; our mother and her sisters and cousins; plus a host of other women in our “extended families” – all took it upon themselves, in turn, as the opportunity arose, to direct our lives to the ends
they considered desirable! So we each accepted that a “She-who-must-be-obeyed” could have existed, just as Rider Haggard had constructed her. It was our shared love for She that no doubt persuaded Kwame that I was “mature” enough to be allowed to drive a one-and-a-half ton truck, at the tender age of 12. So after he had been taught to drive the truck himself, he took me and another of his friends, a classmate of his who was much older than me, as his first pupils. He was so determined to get me to master driving that even though there was not enough power in my left leg to fully depress the clutch pedal when I needed to change gears, he taught me to hold on firmly to the stem of the steering wheel before depressing the clutch pedal – and truly, this technique enabled me to summon enough power into my left leg to depress the clutch. How did he know this? He was just a clever chap. Needless to say, Kwame and I became soulmates, despite the difference in our ages. By the time I was 13, I had outgrown the Bedford truck. Or maybe it had gone away from Asiakwa. As “the commercial operations” of the vehicle slackened, the business was transferred to Kumase. So I targeted a new setup that had sprung up at Asiakwa. It was operated by the “Cocoa Rehabilitation” section of the Department of Agriculture. And it ran a fleet of cars consisting mainly of a model that turned out to be one of the most delightful cars I’ve ever driven, the Ford V8 Pilot. This model was a “pick-up” with a cabin identical to the saloon version. Not only was the engine powerful but it “sang” when one drove it at speed. But the most unusual feature of it was its “steering gear” – a gear shift that was attached to the stem of the steering wheel. This made gear changes extremely easy. The clutch was also easy for me – the pedal was not as far from the driver’s seat as that of the Bedford, and my left foot could easily reach it. An additional attraction to it was that its horn blared out a nice “PAAAH!” sound as distinct from the curt “BI-BIM” hoot of the Bedford. (To be contd.)
October 2013 New African Magazine 79
In May 2011 Kaye Whiteman wrote an article in these pages called “Saving the Africa Centre”. The title was taken from a campaign being waged at the time supported by those who feared that the historic venue in London’s King Street, Covent Garden was going to close, with the loss of an important part of the African experience in the British capital. As a Trustee of the Centre, he argued that although its heritage was vital, the Trustees felt that the King Street building was no longer fit for purpose, and that the Centre needed a new vision for the 21st century. Here, as it is about to embark on the adventure of leaving its home behind, he looks at the Centre’s future.
Still saving the Africa Centre
he Piazza in Covent Garden
is one of London’s atmospheric open-air venues, with the ghosts of the old fruit and vegetable market ever present, and the shadow of the Royal Opera House looming large. The Africa Centre used to make much of the fact that it was once a banana warehouse. It was thus appropriate that, as it bows out of this particular locality, the present owners of much of the area’s real estate (CapCo) should have made it possible for the Centre, for the first time in its history of nearly 50 years, to have its own Africa Day in the Piazza. This took the form of an Africa Centre Summer Festival on 3 August, which is planned to be an annual feature, even when the King Street building has closed its doors. It was an innovative way of demonstrating that the Centre did not need to be confined within the walls of a particular structure, and was thus a deeply symbolic day. The event had a number of side attractions in the Centre itself (an exhibition of art works alongside the opening of Zoë’s Ghana kitchen in the Centre’s shop-front) as well as African stalls in the east piazza. There were also film screenings and photography (the latter on a screen in Covent Garden station), but the central attraction was a stage outside the portico of St Paul’s church, where there was continuous performance from early afternoon to well into the evening. Beginning with Tunde
Jegede’s Griot’s Tale (“stories of memory, loss, sacrifice and redemption” by way of mixed performance arts), the show continued through a number of musical turns including the punchy Wale Ojo and the Kalakuta Express and the excellent “masters of Soukous” from Congo – Kasai Masai. The performance was interspersed with catwalk shows from the 2013 collections of London Fashion Week that had had good publicity during the preceding week. By evening the piazza was packed with more than 5,000 people for the performance by two stars from Nigeria – Nneka and DJ Edu, as well as the unusual Middle Eastern fusion band, Celloman. The whole festival was warmly received by those attending. As the celebrated artist/sculptor Yinka Shonibare (he of the ship in a bottle on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square) who curated the Piazza event said later: “never be afraid to do the things you believe in”, adding that he felt the young people in the Piazza were relating to the Centre. This “Piazza bounce”, an atmosphere of rare enthusiasm generated around this event, was the starting point for several weeks of heightened, indeed almost frenetic, activity in the run-up to the historic mid-September closing of the Africa Centre doors. In the last days of August and the first 10 days of September the Centre saw an intensive programme including several more showings of The Griot’s Tale, and shows and talks linked to the 26 August Notting
Hill Carnival, which each year has a larger and larger African participation, especially from Nigeria where there are a number of partner carnivals, as in the Rivers State. Among many other events, the Centre drew on its much-publicised musical legacy with concerts involving artistes such as Soweto Kinch, Yomi Bashiru, Naija Grooves and many others, as well as a Karaoke Africa evening featuring rappers and poets. There were also discussion sessions, for example involving Chris Spring, curator of the African collection at the British Museum, and photographer and designer Hassan Hajjaj on textiles fashion and art from Africa, as well as the writer Hannah Pool on “If African fashion is cool at present, what does this really mean for African creators and designers?” One evening lingers particularly in the mind – the seventh Africa Centre quiz night, which has become institutionalised over the past five years, with the help of Richard Morgan, a talented quiz-master from the corporate world. The excitement and interaction generated by the special exercise of brain-power involved in quizzes (combined with African food from Zoë’s Ghana kitchen) has helped maintain the Centre’s image as a social hub and unifying force in the community of the African diaspora and all those interested in Africa. It also helped sustain the Centre in some of its recent periods of difficulty, reinforced by an increasingly diverse and buoyant pro-
80 New African October 2013
Left: Nigerian star Nneka sings for the people. Below: Catwalk stars applaud the crowd packed into the Covent Garden Piazza
“The event had a number of side-attractions in the Centre itself, such as an exhibition of artworks alongside the opening of Zoë’s Ghana kitchen in the Centre’s shop-front.”
gramme. The atmosphere was cordial to the point of poignancy, a kind of prequel for the emotional last evening of different musical and spoken word performances on 10 September. My own feelings have been a strange combination of sadness at leaving a building where so much history has happened, from the drinks with the liberation movements in the Soweto bar in the basement, to the parade of celebrated writers, artists, musicians, thinkers and politicians who have passed through its portals. One of the merits of the 2011 campaign to ensure that the Centre was saved was that it reminded many people of the rich history of the place, and its importance in the development of multiculturalism in Britain. The day after this last celebration of the glories of the past 49 years, removal men began to move in. The thoughts of those that have believed in the Centre began to move to the absorbing challenges of the future in reformulating its aims and objectives and developing a governance that accords with present cultural trends and social and political thinking, and adapted to present and new technologies. At the memorial mass (also in Covent Garden) for Margaret Feeny, the Centre’s first Director (1964-78), I talked to Baroness Shirley Williams, who had been involved with the Centre in its early years. She offered the unsolicited view that what was important for the Centre was to “sustain its spirit”. This is a deep and abiding truth that has to animate and guide the trustees who now have the difficult task of finding a new Centre that meets all present aspirations. Although in some ways these involve very different needs from the early 1960s (not least arising from an African diaspora in the UK that numbers several million), the mission of the Centre remains fundamentally the same. This derives from the extreme importance of having a focal point somewhere in the centre of London to talk of Africa, and to promote the continent in all its ramifications, as well as building on the rich historic legacy. Now that the Centre is achieving greater financial stability and looking for a sustainable future, it will be important that the 50th birthday which falls in October next year should happen in a new home and promote a clear vision of what the Centre wants to do and be. As Trustees’ Chair Oliver Andrews has said, “we are on the brink of a new era, with the Centre as a rallying point in London for a continent that is on the brink of new achievements in this century”. New African October 2013 81
by Joseph Ochieno
Out of Africa
The battle for an African dream
Racial and economic injustice can be viewed as two sides of the same coin, and much can be learnt from the case of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean smallholders produced a record tobacco harvest
his is another 50th anniversary year for African history; 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made the now famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington DC. I was recently gifted to listen to his daughter, Bernice Albertine King say, “my father saw racial injustice and economic injustice as twins…” This statement of wisdom got me really thinking. Whereas so much has changed for the better for African-Americans since then, there remains a lot to do. A recent unemployment study suggests that AfricanAmericans remain consistently, over the years, twice as likely to be unemployed compared to their white counterparts – a figure of 13.7 per cent for blacks versus 6.7 per cent for whites. Furthermore, Africans suffer from both unemployment and underemployment. The former is, of course, made worse by an equally apparent educational disparity. Obviously, levels of education and the likelihood of employment and skills-build-up correlate, anywhere in the world. Even on this, the AfricanAmerican fares at a similar level on the graph.
And while African-Americans constitute about 14 per cent of the US population, they constitute over 40 per cent of the prison population. That is six times the national average. Young African-American men without high school diplomas are more likely to go jail than find a job and, with it, the circle of poverty and family break-ups continues. Effectively, there are more African-American men in prison than in higher education. Is it caused by a blame game, a defeatist attitude, denial or all three? That is not the focus of this piece. Noting Lord Paul Boateng became the first cabinet minister of African descent in Britain as recently as 2002, serving as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Tony Blair, tells us a lot about Africa’s chief colonial master, her interests and relations with the continent. Africans are these days, “freely” scattered around the world, in some cases by force, others by design, destiny or choice. Yet in almost all cases, whereas they might be free, they are certainly not equal. Is it any wonder that in thinking deep, despite the usual reactions from the West, Robert Mugabe might have freely and fairly won the last elections in Zimbabwe after all? Leading to those elections, Zimbabweans had two apparent choices: Either go with the neoliberal Western-backed Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T, or stick with Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF and his revolutionary path. Impatient with the stagnation in the “willing-buyer, willing seller” land redistribution process in the country, Mugabe opted for the “fast track” approach. It worked. Arguing from the premise that African economies are predominantly agricultural, Mugabe stated, quite rightly, that an agricultural economy without access to land is not sustainable. Land is the economy and the economy is land. It makes sense and, with African “land” hosting oil, grains, gas, water, timber, diamonds, gold, uranium, the argument is without doubt both morally and factually correct. The landscape in Zimbabwe has been significantly changed from one of 4,000 white farmers to 245,000 previously landless African smallholders. But the most encouraging of the figures suggests that these resettled African farmers – who were, until recently, said to “not know how to farm”, now produce 40 per cent of the national tobacco stock and 49 per cent of the country’s maize. Threatened with continued sanctions from the West, the new government can almost certainly boast, “no hunger any more these days”: there is Brazil and there is India. And of course, they “discovered” China, well before most African countries woke up to the reality that these days, it is possible to bargain over resources on the economic high table. For the West might soon need those resources even more – and if Africans play their cards right, that spells an economic transformation.
82 New African October 2013
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Interview: Jane Karuku Finance, policy and treating smallholders as businesses are key to sustainable agricultural growth in Africa, according to the President of AGRA.
African countries produced 157,096,146 tonnes, imported 66,373,532 tonnes and exported just 3,620,576 tonnes of cereals in 2010
Profile Jane Karuku joined AGRA in April 2012. An expert on agriculture, she has spent two decades in the public and private sectors, working for global companies, including Farmers’ Choice and Cadbury’s, where she headed the Central and East African business. She was most recently the deputy chief executive of Telkom Kenya. In June 2013 she was appointed to the board of the UK government-led Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, a global initiative that will advise policymakers on how to invest in agriculture to alleviate hunger and malnutrition.
mall-scale agriculture needs to be seen as a viable business, says Jane Karuku, the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, with smallholders treated as though they are entrepreneurs in any other sector. This means stepping away from the narrative of need and assistance and understanding the vital economic role that farmers play, and the huge growth potential that they offer for the region’s economies. “It has to start with the smallholders seeing themselves as a business. They are looking
for how to get better access for their products, how to get sustainable markets and structured market systems.” Across much of sub-Saharan Africa it is typical for as much as 70 per cent of national populations to be employed in agriculture, supplying upwards of 80 per cent of their country’s food and between 25-40 per cent of the gross domestic product. Agriculture is already the engine of the region’s economies and societies, but it attracts a fraction of its bank lending, and investment in the sector is in many cases still skewed towards
228,205,500 hectares Africa has some of the world’s largest tracts of arable land available for agriculture [Source: AGRA]
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We think it’s very positive that African countries have recognised that GDP curve is going to move along the agricultural GROWTH curve
ship, because working together they will have more. It doesn’t come to CSR, it’s a partnership where the smallholder says: ‘I am in business. The difference between me and you is that you have thousands of acres, and me as a smallholder farmer I have two acres or ten acres.’ It’s everybody in their own right seeing [farming] as a commercial venture.” The key, she says, is to make sure that all parties understand the roles they have to play. “These models do work,” she explains. “In the horticulture sector in Kenya you can see that work, where the majority of the smallholder farmers producing French beans, for example, link with the large-scale farmers and they export together. So the models do exist. You have to be very clear of the role that each person is playing.” Finance, too, is becoming available. Working with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and other partners, including the Kenyan financial institution Equity Bank, as well as Standard Bank of South Africa, AGRA has helped to de-risk farmers for commercial banks, offering them better training in financial management as well as technical skills and access to markets, breaking the cycle in which a lack of collateral and financial literacy had prevented smallholders from accessing capital to invest in their businesses. Commercial banks, which had been legally obliged to finance the sector before liberalisation in the 1980s and ’90s, had all but given up on agriculture. The transaction costs of working with the sector were high, in part due to the remoteness of many potential clients; profits were slim and the risks, due to the farmers’ vulnerability to weather changes and crop diseases, were too high. “It has changed. The private sector had thought that these guys are not bankable,” Karuku says. “We are seeing a lot of interest in private sector banks
A G R A A chi e v e m e nts
commercial funds unlocked from banks in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana AND Mozambique for agriculture
Farmer organisations mobilised to give smallholders market access and bargaining power
586,000 Source: AGRA
large-scale projects. Foreign direct investment into African agriculture has expanded dramatically, from less than $10 billion in 2000 to more than $45 billion a decade later. As interest in African agricultural land grows and large amounts of capital are mobilised by companies looking to operate large farms growing cash and staple crops, it is important that smallholders are included in developments. There are, Karuku says, existing models that have been shown to work, where central farms provide expertise and market access for smallholders, and act as aggregators for production. Sometimes these deals are still couched in terms of corporate social responsibility, while in some cases investors have been accused of using their size and market position to exert control over the local market and over policy. “There are models that work, as long as the terms of engagement are very clear up front,” Karuku says. “It’s not about it coming from the large-scale farmer, it’s about a partner-
Farmers trained through the market access programme
lending to smallholder farmers. We have had a lot of success in Mozambique, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda. Private sector banks who only used to lend to corporates now lend to farmers.” State funds, however, are harder to come by. Despite considerable rhetoric in the continent in support of major agricultural initiatives, many countries have stalled in their support of farmers. At the 2003 African Union summit, all of the member states committed to increasing their budget allocation to agriculture to 10 percent in recognition of the importance of the sector to their future economic growth. A decade on, only seven countries have reached that target, with several others barely showing any increases at all. Competing priorities and restricted resources have held back governments from following through on their promises. “We think it’s very positive that these countries have recognised that GDP curve is going to move along the agricultural GDP curve, because the contribution of agriculture in these countries is between 25 and 40 percent. If you don’t do much about agriculture then your economic growth rate is going to be stunted,” Karuku says. Across all sources and sizes of farmer, the total amount of financing needed if African agriculture is going to scale up to feed the continent’s expanding population is estimated at $11 billion per year between now and 2050. As much as $450 billion could be needed to finance market-oriented smallholder farming. At the moment, that seems like an inconceivable sum. “There is a will, there is all the right talk,” Karuku says, “but we are far from being where we would like to be, because very few countries have reached the 10 per cent.” Research and development, and focus on breeding and distributing new seed varieties 3
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to farmers has suffered as part is respected. This has already private sector. The government of the long neglect of the sector. borne fruit in Ghana, Tanzania has a policy role,” Karuku says. This has become ever more and Malawi, Karuku says: “It’s For-profit enterprise, from important as climate change actually very encouraging. seeds to finance, spans the causes further pressures on We’re seeing that policy can entire value chain, “and that in farmers. Growing seasons change to support smallholder my view makes it sustainable”. have shortened, rains are less farmers.” Karuku believes that frequent and less reliable, and Although so much of the AGRA’s view, that smallholdsmallholders find themselves discussion around agriculture ers are businesses crucial to in need of access to hardier, happens in high level public the economic future of the varieties. forums, most of the value chain continent, is becoming the “The farmers know things is already in the private sector. consensus one. have changed,” Karuku says. “The distribution is private “In these countries, 80 per “The planting season has sector. The farming is private cent of the food is grown by changed. Some will tell you ‘I sector, the marketing is private these people,” she says. “It has used to grow this crop for four sector... Access to finance is to be profitable.” n months, but now the rain is only available for three months, so I need a breed that grows in three months. People will tell you the rain used to start in May and now it starts in June, and it finishes in July instead of August.” Seed research remains the domain of the national governments, but Karuku and her colleagues have been trying to push them to release varieties more effectively. “The laws and the policy that we have been working at in AGRA is how do you get the research off the government’s shelf and hand it over to the private players so that they can accelerate the adoption, accelerate the usage by the farmer,” she says. “Over the last seven years, AGRA has worked with over 1.3 million smallholder farmers and hundreds of small- and medium-scale seed and fertilizer businesses,” she says. “Through AGRA’s support, African scientists and plant breeders have released over 400 improved crop varieties.” The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa Individually and collectively smallholders have often strugFounded in 2006 by two of chaired by former Secretarygled to make their voices heard the world’s most influential General of the United Nations, in the corridors of power on philanthropic bodies, the Bill & Kofi Annan, is funded by a wide the continent, with policy often Melinda Gates Foundation and range of development bodies, made on their behalf by distant the Rockefeller Foundation, the including the UK’s DFID and organisations and central Alliance for a Green Revolution the US Agency for International government. in Africa aims to provide Development. AGRA focuses AGRA has established polsupport for African agriculture, its interventions on policies, icy hubs in several countries improving the ability of the technologies and investments helping to represent smallholdcontinent’s economies to that benefit smallholders, who ers in policy dialogues so that become self-sufficient in food. make up the vast majority of their role as major stakeholdThe organisation’s board, farmers in Africa. ers in national development
Jane Karuku with Kofi Humado, Minister for Food and Agriculture of Ghana.
the climate has changed... People will tell you the rain used to start in May and now it starts in June, and it finishes in July instead of August
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The OCP group in Morocco is one of the world’s biggest producers of phosphates, a key ingredient for fertilisers. Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil, vice president for sales and raw materials procurement, tells us the role science can play in changing the agricultural landscape in Africa.
Q&A: Mhamed Ibnabdeljalil, OCP
How important is the role of science in developing Africa’s agricultural sector? Science and innovation are crucial to the agricultural sector and especially for Africa, which suffers from low yields. Science and innovation can help farmers by developing new seed varieties, creating new cropping techniques, and also developing adapted fertilizers to satisfy Africa’s specific soil characteristics and crop needs. OCP has developed and launched new fertilizer products specifically adapted to Africa’s needs. Those new products are the result of extensive research on agronomy, crop characteristics and farmer needs. The OCP has been a strong advocate of South-South partnerships. Is this becoming a reality and what would you like to see happen to enhance cooperation between African companies, governments and institutions? Starting from 2006, OCP developed partnerships with African companies on fertilizer distribution. Africa’s share in OCP’s portfolio grew in a spectacular way to reach in 2012 12% of OCP fertilizer sales. This number is expected to grow even more thanks to our strategy that focuses on working with local partners to develop the market. The theme of this year’s AGRF is scaling up solutions. What do you see is needed to fast track growth and developments in agriculture
Average fertilizer use in Africa is around 10kg/ ha, whereas the minimum to give back to the soil its nutrients, and therefore increase yields sustainably, is 25kg/ha in Africa. Are we on the right path or is there more that can and should be done; if so where and what? Many important efforts exist to develop African agriculture, including the Alliance for a
Green Revolution in Africa. Yet, still more needs to be done. Average fertilizer use in Africa is around 10kg/ha whereas the minimum to give back to the soil its nutrients, and therefore increase yields sustainably, is 25kg/ha. This shows that more should be done to encourage and support farmers. Each country in Africa has its own specificities and needs to be thought of separately. OCP is convinced that we will not be able to increase yields if we don’t develop more extension services for farmers in order to educate them and show the best agricultural practices. As a fertilizer company, it’s our duty also to put in the market adapted formulas for specific soils and specific crops, and to work with our partners to
guaranty that this product would be available for the farmer in the right time and with all training needed to maximize the benefit of using it. What new developments or innovations has the OCP group come up with targeting the African market? OCP has developed and launched new fertilizer products specifically adapted to Africa’s needs, which we call “Performance Phosphate Products”, or PPPs. Those new products are the result of extensive research on agronomy, crop characteristics and farmer needs. We have one product we have developed to satisfy the needs of specific crops such as cotton, maize and cocoa, and which are specific to acidic soils. Other fertilisers of this type are also being developed for saline and sandy soils. We also have developed high value fertilisers enhanced with sulphur and micro-nutrients like boron and zinc to remedy soil deficiencies in many regions of the world, including in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We have also developed soluble fertilizers. Because of the increasing water stress in many regions of the world, many countries are encouraging farmers to move to micro-irrigation systems. OCP is developing high-precision fertilizers, completely water soluble and targeting irrigated crops. Lastly we have developed PPP animal feeds, which are specific formulas to give high quality phosphorus sources for breeding animals. n 87
Big potential in smallholder farmers
Combined, they are the largest contributor to food security and employment in sub-Saharan Africa, but smallholders are often absent from policy debates about agricultural development.
mallholders make up the majority of African participation in agriculture, and as such play a vital economic, social and environmental role across the continent. As much as 90 percent of all agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa is produced on smallholdings, and there are at least 33 million smallholders active in the region. However, as well as being the largest source of produce and employment, smallholdings are among the most fragile of enterprises, vulnerable to changes in price and in weather conditions and least able to absorb environmental or economic shocks. The sheer scale of the smallholder populations makes them economically critical – in many countries in Africa, even those with hard commodity export sectors, agriculture still makes up more than half of the total gross domestic product. And yet, despite being central to economic and development objectives, smallholders have in many cases struggled to obtain financing from commercial sources. Few are seen as genuine entrepreneurs, fewer still have access to collateral, consistent access to markets or the kind of financial training that allows them to approach banks for loans. Banks, even if they have finance available, rarely have bricks-and-mortar branch networks in rural areas.
Transaction costs are far too high, and profits too slim, to allow them to easily access smallholders. According to figures from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, only around 0.25 per cent of total bank lending goes to smallholder farmers. “What we have found in many countries is that there is considerable liquidity,
but that the risk appetite of commercial banks to lend to the agricultural sector is very low,” Samuel Eremie, Officer-in-Charge for the Regional Director of the East and Southern Africa Division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development says. “What we appreciate is that the commercial banks know little or nothing about the agricultural sector. All they see
B a f
Paul Murenghi farms cabbage on the shores of Lake Naivasha, Kenya.
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The Merlion Statue
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Of smallholder farmers are women [source: CSIS]
smallholder farmers are responsible for up to 90% of Africa’s agricultural output and a 1% growth in agriculture increases the income of the poorest by more than
2.5% BUT ONLY
0.25% of bank lending in the COMESA region goes to smallholders
combine financing and infrastructure from a number of development and commercial partners. In the most part, however, these initiatives focus principally on building facilities for large-scale producers. The hope is that there will be a halo effect for smaller farmers too. Large, trunk infrastructure can help to link small producers to markets, and reduce travel time and wastage – farmers routinely lose between 10 and 40 per cent of their crops, according to a number of different estimates by international bodies. “Some of the largescale investments that are happening in the Southern Agricultural corridor in Tanzania, for example, benefit large-scale commercial farming operations but are also quite beneficial for smallholder farmers, in terms of road infrastructure improvements that make it easier to get to major markets or transport your surplus crops,” Stephanie Hanson, director of policy at the One Acre Fund, which specialises in microlending to African smallholders, says. Larger producers of cash crops, which operate warehousing and storage facilities, can also act as intermediaries through ‘outgrower’ models, aggregating local production and providing a guaranteed market for smallholders. Getting national and supranational approaches to smallholders right is vital for a whole range of development and economic gains – and the livelihoods of millions of individuals. As much as 80 per cent of all smallholders are women, meaning that improving access to skills, finance and markets for the sector could potentially have an enormous impact on gender equality and female empowerment in Africa.
Source: World Bank, IFAD
is small, scattered farmers whose credit records they do not have. So they are very reluctant normally to lend to them.” IFAD, along with partners, including AGRA, are working on ways to build business capacity within smallholder communities, and to help the banks themselves to understand the sector. By increasing the financial and business management of individual farmers and cooperative organisations, development partners are able to reduce the risk taken on by commercial banks. Building the technical capacity of smallholders can increase their yields and reduce their vulnerability to shocks, while improving and stabilising market access for smallholders also increases their potential revenues and gives them more commercial predictability. Together, these make smallholders and cooperatives a safer bet for banks. More recently, Eremie says, IFAD and others have been looking at how technological innovation, particularly the spread of mobile financial services and banking, can be harnessed to reduce the transactional costs for banks who are interested in supporting the rural economy. Larger commercial farmers experience fewer of these restrictions, and are often able to access capital markets to expand, build infrastructure and invest in equipment or inputs. The past decade has also seen an increase in the number of large, often international land and farming deals that promise to bring scale to the continent’s agriculture. For several of the governments in the region, improving the competitiveness of soft commodity producers remains a major focus, and in some cases this has translated into major initiatives, such as the agricultural corridor programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa that
Smallholders, Hanson says, need not only to be included in development plans, but within policy dialogues that have historically been dominated by larger scale and international players. While large-scale infrastructure projects and land deals that create megafarms can have broader impacts on national economies that have knock-on effects for rural communities, developments that lift the productivity and market access
of smallholders have direct and immediate outcomes. According to World Bank research, a one per cent per year increase in agricultural growth in developing countries leads to an increase of more than 2.5 per cent in the income of the bottom three income deciles. Investing in agriculture is up to three times more effective in increasing the income of poorer communities than any other investment. In this context, it is vital for policymakers to understand not just the importance of addressing the problems facing smallholders, but also their potential economic impact. “If you’re not making investment decisions in your agricultural development strategy that are not beneficial to those people, you are probably not going to be able to move the needle on agricultural growth,” Hanson says. n
AgraSpecialReportMAGv1013 Creation date 05/17/12
Proof Reader 15/09/2013 16:43 Production Manager
28473sail NA_AB_AfBank 270x210_CNN 06/09/2013 14:49 Page 1
It is not every day that someone starts up a recording company for just one artist, but this is what José Da Silva did in 1980 for the late Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, as Alecia McKenzie explains.
The man behind Lusafrica
he Paris-based Lusafrica label
has become a force in the music industry, credited with bringing Cape Verdean music to a global audience and with promoting talented young African performers. Lusafrica was named “Best independent label of the year” at the last WOMEX (World Music Expo) international world music event, praised for continuing to release quality music in a tough economic climate. The company has produced about 230 albums to date, but the global financial crisis and the changing nature of the music business have forced Da Silva to find ways to stay afloat as the recording industry tries to adapt to a sea change. “We live in hard times because we’ve lost 70 per cent of our business due to music pirating and illegal downloads,” he says. “We’ve had to take tough economic measures, letting some people go, and working with a very pared-down staff. What we do produce is done as economically as possible.” Lusafrica’s artist list is diverse and is not restricted to Portuguese speakers, including performers such as Pierre Akendengue of Gabon, Sally Nyolo of Cameroon and Bonga of Angola. One of the label’s bestselling artists is the Malian singer-guitarist Boubacar Traoré, but Da Silva also keeps his ear open for new talent, and the label has welcomed a host of emerging performers from various countries. All these artists owe something to Cesaria Evora, whom Da Silva met some 25 years ago in a cafe in Portugal. “In 1987, I was on vacation in Lisbon with my wife and there was a woman who sang at a restaurant that we liked to go to. I fell in love with her voice,” Da Silva recalls in an exclusive interview with New African. “We started speaking, and she told me about her life – she didn’t have a manager, a recording contract or anything. She was just singing in bars and was planning to go
José Da Silva with the late Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora. Right: Evora’s success paved the way for the emergence of young singers like Lura
“Cesaria’s joy came in giving to others. People said that her house in Cape Verde was like a doctor’s house, with everyone coming to her and asking for help.” back to Cape Verde the following week.” This was Evora, then 46 years old and going through a difficult patch. Da Silva, 28 years old himself at the time, felt he had to do something although he had no concrete plans. In a moment of inspirational daring, he asked the singer: “Why don’t you come back to France with me?” After some hesitation, the singer said: “Okay, I’ll come.” When they met, Da Silva was
an employee of SNCF, the French railway company, while working as a musician and artist promoter on the side. He did not have his own business but had many contacts in the music industry. Evora moved to France at the end of 1987 and stayed with Da Silva and his family. He organised parties in the Cape Verdean community so that people could hear her sing. “Everyone loved her voice,” he says with a smile. “And the same thing happened when we went to the Netherlands which also has a big Cape Verdean community. So I said, we need to make a record. I didn’t have any money and that meant one had to se debrouiller (improvise).” The first step was to call on various musician friends to play on the record, and Da Silva worked his contact list and managed to pull together a group of enthusiastic instrumentalists. Once the recording was finished, though, a label was needed and that’s how the record company Lusafrica came about. “We created the label for Cesaria,” Da Silva says. “With her, we began. We sold the record to Cape Verdeans, and then we did a second record. Each time, I went to see distributors to get them interested and that happened with the third record. But Lusafrica didn’t exist officially yet because the rules of my civil-service job prevented me from having a company. But we used the name Lusafrica anyway.” Meanwhile, Evora was performing around France and gaining fans at each stop. The real breakthrough came at a fes-
92 New African October 2013
New African October 2013â€ƒ 93
tival in Angoulême, where her performance met with an ecstatic response. “Cesaria sang and the public was totally won over,” Da Silva recalls. “I was in the audience and although I was already a fan, I realised there and then that she could reach the top. Nobody spoke while she sang. People were just in awe. Journalists started asking ‘who is this lady’, and everyone realised they’d seen and heard something and someone very special. Things happened quickly after that.” For many, her voice immediately struck a personal chord, forged as it was by all the difficulties she had experienced in her life, “plus the cigarette and the alcohol” as she herself acknowledged in a 1997 interview. “I used to warm up my voice with liquor, now it’s with coffee,” Evora said then, even as she continued to smoke. In Japan, she made people in the audience cry. The enchanting, melodious voice, unlike any other, also had an impact beyond the first listening. “I heard so many stories from people who said her music had touched them. I received a call once from someone whose husband had just died and she wanted to meet Cesaria to thank her because it was the music that helped him through his ordeal until the end,” Da Silva told New African. “I think Cesaria had an affinity for people who suffered because she didn’t have an easy life herself,” he adds. “Right up to her death [in December 2011], she experienced all kinds of disappointments. Although she liked to laugh and make jokes, she didn’t have success or peace in her family life, even with the material success that came with her singing. Her joy came in giving to others. People said that her house in Cape Verde was like a doctor’s house, with everyone coming to see her and asking for help. That was the good side. As soon as she had money, she helped others.” Da Silva, currently the CEO of Lusafrica, quit his civil-service job back in 1992 when “real” success came and Evora’s music was selling internationally. He could now create an official company, not just a label in name. But even the name was an error, as he admits. It was supposed to be Luso Africain, to reflect the Portuguese aspect of the music, but things got “lost in translation”. With income at the label rising, Da Silva decided to start producing other artists in 1996. This wouldn’t be limited to just one type of music because although Da Silva himself was born in Cape Verde, he’d grown up in Dakar, Senegal, and he was familiar with the “rhythms from other African cultural groups”. “I knew the different kinds of music,” he told New African. “This was in my ears, especially the Cuban rhythms which were the
Gabon’s Pierre Akendengue has released Destinée on Lusafrica, his first hit since Afrika Obota in 1976
“Nearly all the Cape Verdean singers are being compared to Cesaria but it will probably be decades before someone like her comes along.”
main sounds during my childhood. Thanks to Cesaria and what she achieved, we could start producing other artists.” Despite the relatively high number of records released under the Lusafrica label, not many of the musicians are under full contract as Evora was, largely because of financial concerns. Currently only about six artists are under contract, as most of the label’s production is done on a peralbum basis. Compared with others, though, the company is lucky because when it made money, it invested in constructing a good studio, and its clientele is an asset as well. “What also helps us is that we have a niche market. We have always been able to work with small stores and although they’re disappearing, they still support us,” Da Silva says. “We also sell in the community. And we sell well at concerts where people buy the albums when they like an artist. The current business system is geared at big stores with all the marketing, promotion and publicity.
But that is expensive, and we can’t do it. We don’t have the machinery for it. So we stay with the community.” He says that the WOMEX prize gives the label “visibility and credibility” but that it doesn’t change things economically. “What’s important for the buying public is the quality of our records,” he told New African. The label has a branch in Cape Verde called Harmonia that works only with Cape Verdean artists (who include Nancy Veira, Chantre, Mario Lucio and Lura) while Lusafrica works with a variety of nationalities. The company also has recording studios in both Paris and in Cape Verde, but “it’s easy to record now in Africa in contrast to the past when you didn’t have many recording studios”, Da Silva says. Most of the mixing is done in Paris. Da Silva believes that the future of the music business could improve but that it will take a while to regain some kind of balance. He says that countries of the South will have an increasing role to play as people are lifted out of poverty. “Music fans who don’t have the means to buy music now, are finding those means. They will be able to access the global market, but it takes time,” he explains. “People use pirating to get music because sometimes they don’t have the means or can’t even find the music legally. For instance, to find a certain album in Dakar or Abidjan is not easy. There are not the same kinds of distribution systems as in the West, no major record stores except, perhaps, in South Africa, so it’s difficult. But thanks to the Internet, they can download music and so digital sales will increase. But it will take time for things to change,” he adds. In the meantime, the label is using social media and blogs to promote their artists and is pushing ahead with seeking out new talent. Cape Verde, where it all began, has never seen as many singers as now, but many seem average when measured against Evora. “Nearly all the Cape Verdean singers are being compared to Cesaria but people have to realise that it will probably be decades before someone like her comes along again,” Da Silva says. “She wasn’t just an artist, it was her whole persona. Today, the circumstances surrounding the new singers aren’t the same. If you haven’t lived her life, you can’t have that kind of emotion, even when you are a great singer. Everyone knows that there is no one as exceptional as Cesaria.”
94 New African October 2013
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Contemporary African Art
In and out of Africa: A new trajectory
Art mirrors the society from which it emanates, meaning that the contextualisation of African art must be accompanied by an in-depth and politically sensitive commentary urged by Africans. There is a shift from local to national and transnational debates around cultural policy in fast-changing Africa, where cities are in transition and political systems are in flux. But still, many governments continue to undermine the artistic production of their own countries, in many cases, incentivising the need for funding from abroad. African art has undergone a significant transformation of late, with the economic growth of art from the continent becoming an emerging asset class, mirroring that of China, Brazil, India and other rising economies. But the new trajectory of African art tells a complex geopolitical story. If
The ‘Energetic Common Ground’ installation at the Angola Pavilion, 13th Architecture Biennale. Right: The Sculptor’s Shed at Kuona Art Trust in Nairobi, made possible by Robert Devereux’s African Arts Trust
the events of the recent past have acted somewhat as indicators of an emergent phenomenon, the first truly international contemporary African art fair will serve not only as a barometer of the dynamics between art and the market, bringing sustenance to an increasingly international audience of buyers, but as a shift in the nature of engagement in the subject. In this special supplement in association with 1:54, you will find a selection of fresh perspectives defying linearity. Together they represent the catalytic roles of three major “art world” entities – the philanthropist, the agent and the organisation. Organisations based in Africa are harnessing the
validity of art to challenge indifferent governments and political schemes, philanthropists are choosing longterm funding over investing as an asset, while global agents are turning African art’s inimitable magic into a viable commercial venture. As the market for African art reaches new levels, it is time we re-thought the African territory and its conditions of artistic and cultural production.
The 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair is the brainchild of Touria El Glaoui, the daughter of the renowned Moroccan artist Hassan El Glaoui. With the presence of some 20 galleries from across all of Africa, this is the first international contemporary African art fair. The Fair will take place on the sidelines of London's Frieze, from 14-20 October, and will be held in one of London’s most iconic venues, Somerset House. The space where the galleries will be exposing and selling their pieces will be designed by the internationally acclaimed Ghanaian architect, David Adjaye.
96 New African October 2013
in association with 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair THE DEALER
at the time and in the following years, the market for African contemporary art was non-existent. In the early 1990s, access to mobile phones or the internet was scarce. You had to go up to Lagos, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam, Maputo or Abidjan to discover the artists and their work. A situation that discouraged dealers and other art professionals. Following Magiciens de la terre, the Jean Pigozzi Collection gave to a group of about forty African artists an international visibility. This was not a commercial endeavor, but a non-conventional adventure aiming at challenging the cannons and broadening the field of art history through a number of collective and solo shows. It is only at the end of the 1990s that a market for African art started to be thinkable. Artists from the Pigozzi Collection began to sell, consequently their success created a momentum that encouraged a younger generation of African artists. I believe the collection played a vital role in this respect.
André Magnin in Conversation
he art dealer André Magnin (above) has played a pivotal role in the dissemination of African contemporary art outside Africa. In 1989, he co-curated the global art exhibition Magiciens de la terre in Paris, after which he became director of the wellknown Pigozzi Collection for 20 years. In 2009 he founded Magnin-A, his eponymous agency which represents a diverse array of artists including Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Romuald Hazoumè, Chéri Samba, Kura Shomali and Billie Zangewa. He explains to Olivier Coutau how the African art market has evolved from a situation of relative non-existence in the 1990s to a situation of newfound visibility.
OC: In 1999, Sotheby’s auctioned works from the Pigozzi Collection. This was the first major auction sale dedicated to contemporary art from Africa. How was the event organised and what was the outcome? AM: Sotheby’s was the first auction house to ask us for pieces from the Collection. It was an opportunity to contribute to the creation of a market and to raise the attention of collectors to an area they did not know. Twenty-eight artists were selected, including Romuald Hazoumè, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Chéri Samba among others. Estimates ranged from €800 to €9,000. Fifty-six lots out of fifty-seven were sold and, on the whole, the results were higher than the estimates. Some positive results, but prices remained reasonable and could not compare with Western art auctions. It was neither a success nor a failure. For Sotheby’s, the test was not conclusive. The African contemporary art market was still hesitant and the main Western private collectors were absent.
Olivier Coutau: You first gravitated towards Africa while investigating the continent for the exhibition, Magiciens de la terre, which opened at the Pompidou Centre in 1989. How did the art world respond to the exhibition at the time? André Magnin: Magiciens de la terre was innovative in the sense that, for the first time, artists from all over the world were shown on an equal footing. While asking many questions to art history, institutions, galleries and collectors, the exhibition exposed several African artists. But,
OC: Since 2008 and 2009, auction sales of contemporary art from Africa have been more frequent. Specialised African galleries have emerged, some of which participate in international art fairs. You yourself have started a commercial activity with your agency Magnin-A. How do you explain this current market trend? AM: Yes, indeed, during the last few years, auctions dedicated to contemporary African art have proliferated. But, with some exceptions, outstanding works are rare and results for the lesser-known artists are weak.
The above painting by Kura Shomali is an example of an African artist going beyond visual traditions and appealing to a global audience
New African October 2013 97
Contemporary African Art or Gordon Schachat in South Africa, are thinking of creating private museums on the continent.
Paintings like this one by Congolese artist Cheri Samba are now selling for in excess of €100,000
In 2009, noticing with Jean Pigozzi the limited presence in international art fairs of artists living and working in Africa, I decided to devote all my time to the promotion of African artists in the international art market. Other galleries or agencies dedicated to African contemporary art were created in Europe; they have brought a new energy to the market in the UK, in Germany, in Belgium and in Paris. In addition, many in Africa have started to become aware that investing in art matters. I am thinking of the many biennales, private foundations, auction houses, art centres and galleries that contribute to the emergence of a market and stimulate artistic creation. However, it appears that the only African galleries present in major art fairs are from South Africa, where institutions and collectors support creation. OC: From your experience, who buys contemporary African art today? AM: With the growing interest of biennales, fairs, and other Western institutions in contemporary art from Africa, the visibility of artists from the continent has never reached such a level. As a consequence of this proliferation, buyers are very diverse. Most of them are Westerners; they can be private persons who, without being collectors, couldn’t resist the drawings of artists like Bouabré. African artists have also been integrated into public and private collections internationally, such as the Tate Modern and the Smithsonian Museum, not to mention the Charles Saatchi collection, the Sindika Dokolo collection and other major collections. Prominent African collectors are still too rare, but things are moving and some of them, like Alami Lazraq in Morocco
OC: Certain African artists have reached the one million euro mark at auction. On the other hand, most artists living and working on the continent are still very far away from it. How do you explain this disparity? AM: Yes, some African artists have reached important prices, but they are still far from the market records of the Western, Chinese or Indian ‘stars’. There are also numerous well-established Western artists who never reach this level. African artists from the diaspora benefit from the important network of their own countries, where there are often serious markets. With the exception of Nigeria and South Africa, the art market in Africa Sub-Saharan is still in its infancy. But, some African artists, without reaching these records, still do very well in the international market. For example, works by the Congolese artist Chéri Samba, can sell for €50,000 to €100,000, or a big series by the Ivorian artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré can also reach a very high price. OC: You have been visiting Africa for over 20 years. How has it changed as a continent and what kind of impact will this have on the future? AM: With an economic growth of 5% a year, Africa is now a driving force. A new African middle class is emerging and eager to live and consume. In 2050, with 30% more inhabitants than China, Africa will be the biggest market in the world! I believe that the well-off African middle class will make a difference in the development of an African art market. When this sector of society begins to buy national artists, it will undoubtedly help to support the continent’s vast artistic production, reflecting that of China and India. I foresee a real market emerging from Africa's rise, impacting on African artists’ international ratings. I think African institutions can help the public to better know and understand contemporary art. For example, the Foundation Zinsou in Cotonou has been a pioneer in carrying out a tremendous work to advocate cultural democratisation, while the Raw Material Company, in Dakar, aims also at reinforcing artistic creation and dissemination. Major international initiatives such as London’s 1:54 contemporary African art fair, will show all the richness, diversity and dynamism of artistic production from the continent. In my view, the trend is deeply rooted. We can be optimistic in spite of all the difficulties.
Interview with Robert Devereux
From the ground up
n 2010, the businessman, philanthropist and art collector Robert Devereux sold £4m of his prestigious post-war art collection, in order to build the African Arts Trust. Three years on, the trust has funded ambitious projects and bold new artists; from Baudouin Mouanda’s residency at Gasworks Gallery in London, to Nancy Mteki’s residency at Deveron Arts, to supporting Kampala’s first contemporary art festival (KLA ART). Basia Lewanowska Cummings spoke with one of contemporary African art’s biggest supporters about his motivations, and what he feels the future might hold for the networks and institutions he is doing so much to support. Basia Lewanowska Cummings: Your African art collection now includes more than 400 pieces. How did you become interested in contemporary art from Africa? Robert Devereux: I suppose simply because contemporary art and Africa have been two of the great loves and passions of my life. Combining an interest in the two was a very natural thing for me to do. Wherever I go, I always try and find the local artists and take an interest in what they are doing. BLC: Three years ago, you decided to sell your post-war collection to set up the African Art Trust. Why did you feel, as a prominent art collector, that it was an appropriate time to invest in African art? RD: I don’t actually invest in African art. There are people that do, and I leave it up to them to decide whether that’s a valid motivation for collecting art, but it has nothing to do with my motivations. I think it’s a very important distinction to make between investing and funding. I’m not saying that you can’t necessarily invest, and also have a passionate engagement with both the artists and the art, but I think it does change the nature of your
98 New African October 2013
in association with 1:54 engagement. It’s also partly a pragmatic distinction, as an entrepreneur and a businessman; I think that it’s extremely difficult to actually invest in art. It doesn’t behave like other asset categories. BLC: Given your background in humanitarian initiatives, did people question why you didn’t decide to invest in other aspects of infrastructure (building wells and schools)? It seems to be a criticism that is leveled at people who are involved in the arts, as if art is a frivolous pursuit. RD: I find that a very easy critique: the two things I’m most involved in, is conservation and the visual arts. Particularly where I work with artistic projects, people ask me why don’t I support children and the homeless and the poor, which to a lesser extent I do, but it’s a very complex subject. I mean, I am appalled at what people like Maria Miller say – our current culture secretary – that the government should only support arts ventures where it has an economic impact. I think that is a disgraceful thing to say. Having said that, the fact of the matter is obviously that the arts is part of an economic sector, and so supporting the arts is not devoid of wider economic positive impact. But on a more fundamental level, I think that art is as important a part of human life, as food and shelter and clothing are.
Clockwise from top: Robert Devereux in his studio with paintings from various artists; an image by Nancy Mteki, an emerging artist who has benefited from the Arts Trust; this studio in Kampala was funded by the Trust; ‘The container’, as displayed at KLA ART, one of the first arts festivals in Uganda
BLC: It’s historically been the case that colonisers invest heavily in the cultural life of its former colonies; a good example is the French interest in West Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, there are new alliances, for example, there’s a lot of talk about what China is doing in many countries in Africa. Do you see new pockets of arts and culture blooming as a result of these alliances? RD: I don’t really take all this talk about China too seriously, not in the artistic sphere. China’s engagement with Africa is incredibly complex, it’s very easy to be superficially damning of it. Obviously in the West the general comment on it is very negative, and I can understand why. But, I’d be more impressed if these criticisms came from African commentators, rather than from Westerners. I see very little engagement between the Chinese and the African artists and institutions who they might deal with. But of course there is a horrifying exception to that, which is the Kenyan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year. But to me it’s not an issue; the more Chinese collectors who come and buy African art, the better, but I don’t see much sign of that. New African October 2013 99
Contemporary African Art BLC: When you were setting up the African Arts Trust, what were your priorities? RD: They are fairly clear: to support African artists. I’m not interested in art education at secondary level; I support practising artists, who have the ability and the talent, and the determination to make a career and a living out of art. I support them through grassroots organisations, which are operating for the most part in Africa. We won’t support artists directly, for a variety of reasons. But we try to create a sustainable and long-term benefit. I think by supporting organisations that in turn support artists, we can do more with our money. BLC: And where do you feel that has been particularly successful? RD: At the moment we focus on Southern and Eastern Africa, and that’s where I spend most of my time. The Kuona Trust in Nairobi, which we’re one of the funders of, have an incredible rate of activity that they engage in, and the range of support they give to a large number of artists is very impressive. And then look at the creation of 32º East in Kampala, which I don’t think would have been possible without the support of the African Arts Trust. And then look at NAFASI art space in Tanzania. There is, I suppose, quite a theme – which is that we support grassroots organisations that can provide a wide range of support and services, from studios, to the internet, to gallery space, and deliver that to local artists. BLC: Within that matrix of new arts institutions, and the network that this in turn fosters, how do you feel the art fair fits within this? RD: The connection between the commercial side and the creative side is umbilical – artists can’t survive unless they sell their work. Without the income from arts infrastructure, the only major source of income for artists will come from the sale of their work. So, if the artists who we support don’t find a market for their work, then it will all have been in vain. I’m sure that there will be artists we support through our organisations present at 1:54. Perhaps not that many, as our focus is usually at an earlier stage of an artist’s career, and 1:54 will be made up of galleries and artists who are quite established. Which is how it should be. I think the art fair will create a focus for the incredible wealth of creative talent from Africa. And hopefully, it will encourage people to explore more widely and dig more deeply.
Roundtable discussion with Beyond Entropy
ounded in 2011, the international organisation Beyond Entropy does not recognise a distinction between art, architecture and politics. Since the civil war ended in 2002, the oil-rich economy of Angola has become the fastest growing in Africa. The Lusophone nation’s influx of wealth has given way to serious urban redevelopment and infrastructural transformation, centered on its capital, Luanda. Acknowledging this, Beyond Entropy put forward a rigorous argument to encourage economic support to invest in creating a cultural point of view, impacting the reconstruction of Angola’s national identity. The product of this was “BE Angola”, a grassroots initiative that would take up the challenge of developing the inaugural participations of Angolan art and architectural pavilions at the Venice Biennale. The journey saw it win the prestigious Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. In advance of their installation at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Osei Bonsu discusses with Paula Nascimento (PN, director of Beyond Entropy Africa) and Stefano Pansera Rabolli (SPR, director of Beyond Entropy Ltd) the inner nature of Africa’s urban paradigm and the vibrancy of the continent’s contemporary art scene at a time of economic growth and political uncertainty.
OB: Stefano and Paula, what drew you to Africa, and particularly to Angola? SRP: Beyond Entropy Africa is a collaboration between Paula Nascimento and myself. Paula and I met in 2004 while studying at the Architectural Association. In every context we operate in, we define a specific territorial condition from the point of view of Beyond Entropy. Any territory is interesting as long as there is something that doesn’t work; when there is a problem my curiosity is triggered. I am interested in the African cities like Luanda, where there are
incredible paradoxes. For example, there are enormous African cities lacking in basic infrastructures, you have high-density yet no high-rise, among other conflicts and contradictions that a normal architectural model wouldn’t fully explain. Africa is a privileged context for Beyond Entropy, because the transformation, the growing population and the speed of development is mind-blowing. PN: This is also an important moment for some African countries and I would dare to say for the continent as a whole. We are in a process of re-structuring, re-construction and re-building not just infrastructure (that has long been destroyed or neglected due to long wars in some places) but also, reconstructing our nation's identity. OB: We have come to know the Biennale as a compendium of ideas and trends in the contemporary art world. From your perspective, what does national participation and visibility at the event mean for Africa? SRP: Participating in the Venice Biennale is significant because it triggers internal debates, conversation and activities within each country. The fact that we are still talking about the work of Edson Chagas, whose 'Found not Taken' series was presented at our exhibition, Luanda - Encyclopedic City, is already a success of the [Angolan] pavilion. The possibility that young Angolan artists might present their works abroad or a young person, inspired by Edson, decides to become an artist – it is part of the chain reaction a national pavilion can trigger. PN: In the last years there has been a grow-
100 New African October 2013
in association with 1:54 L-r: Edson Chagas, Stefano Pansera and Paula Nascimento at the 55th Venice Biennale where ‘Beyond Entropy’ won the Golden Lion for best national pavilion. Below: the ‘Found not Taken’ series, where Edson Chagas is reordering abandoned objects in Luanda to expose the juxtaposition of use and consumption
that the reason why there are so few African pavilions in participation is not because of the lack of artists, but because of some sort of lack of political will to participate. Sometimes the political vision is missing and sometimes it is about financial means. PN: I agree with Stefano. One can add, perhaps, the fact that sometimes governments and institutions fail to understand the benefits of participating in such events.
ing interest in the contemporary arts produced in Africa. However, it is important not to view this as a trend but to understand that there has been a long tradition of art production, not just crafts, and [that it needs to] retrieve its place in the history of the arts. For that to happen, Africans themselves also have to take a standpoint. OB: But there is still a discrepancy between the considerable wealth and the indifference of African states to contemporary creation. There are still only five states hosting national pavilions. What is preventing more African countries from participating? SRP: Last year, when Paula and I decided to develop the project of the arts pavilion, we asked the Angolan Minister of Culture for economic support. It was Beyond Entropy’s initiative to ask the government to participate – we formed a proposal for a pavilion and the minister accepted. I think
OB: It could be said that Angola and other African governments have a primary responsibility to commit to infrastructural developments to support local cultural production. Considering this, and the instability of the global economic situation, why is cultural exportation even important? SRP: The countries should do everything possible to participate, and there has been an incredible initiative by the Venice Biennale to invite as many countries as possible. It is important to participate in the Biennale as it provides an opportunity to activate debate within each country as well as to expose artists to the international audience. The national pavilion may be considered an old-fashioned model, in an era where national states are collapsing. Still, I believe that national participations are important because of the geopolitical encounter where different countries express a position on a shared theme. I think it is healthy for a country to take such an opportunity. OB: But still there is the situation of a dominant Western system through which, it would seem, artists from Africa await an international visibility and legitimacy. How will Beyond Entropy respond to the geopolitical conditions of globalisation? SRP: Firstly, I do not think that the Venice Biennale is a form of Western legitimisation. An artist should not have to go outside of Africa to achieve success, but I think this issue of migration derives from the market and artists go where there is money. Now there is incredible economic movement on the continent, and I’m sure that African artists will have the chance to remain in Africa. The more active the African audience will be in collecting and promoting artworks, the more interesting it will be for artists to show their work in Africa. Soon
the phenomenon will be symmetrical: one of the most interesting migrations will be artists from Europe and America going to work in Africa. This is something we are promoting through an ambitious residency programme, involving the invitation of contemporary African artists to Sardinia, as part of “Beyond Entropy Mediterranean”, to the open-air gallery of Mangiabarche and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Calasetta. From our perspective there is no fixed entity but a constant transformation - every migration is welcomed. One of the consequences of the Biennale has been exposing many Angolan or African artists to new environments, artists desperately need to go away to explore the novelty and the differences of these contexts. OB: Hopefully this work will strengthen cultural exchange and the consistent development of artistic production on the ground and will encourage an internal dialogue. Is Beyond Entropy Africa interested in building transnational bridges? SRP: Our aim is to create an epicentre for cultural exchange. The art world is so frantic today, probably because the audience and the markets are becoming global. I believe that in a few years you will not have the usual group of American and European collectors buying art internationally, but symmetrically, you will have collectors from Africa buying international art. We are going to have a mix of everything everywhere; this will also be reflected in the art collected by the continent’s national museums. Today you may find the most glamorous parties in Luanda or witness one of the fastest growing economies in Ghana. I have the impression that many of the preconceived notions about Africa are totally out of place. The world is developing much faster than we would have expected and today artists from Africa have incredible perspectives to form new discourses and fresh positions. Changes in art are always triggered by social and political transformations. African artists will develop new aesthetics to make sense of the dramatic and radical changes that are happening in African cities. PN: There is a lot to be done (at times from scratch) and there is a chance to avoid certain mistakes that have been made in other regions. It is a challenge to stop and reflect on the models that are being implemented based on either European, American or Asian ones and on the other hand, look without prejudice or preconceptions at what exists, at the potential of what is characteristic of the African cities and acknowledge there is a need for a paradigm shift. New African October 2013 101
Arts Ibrahim El-Salahi
One of the Sudan’s greatest cultural ambassadors, the majestic Ibrahim El-Salahi, is also one of the continent’s greatest contemporary artists, as Beverly Andrews discovered at a recent one-man show.
A visionary modernist
Sudan has a rich history which dates back to antiquity where its fortunes were very much intertwined with that of ancient Egypt. The country was in ancient times the home of the great Nubian and Kush empires but much of the Sudan’s contemporary history has been mired in conflict. Two successive civil wars have plunged the region into armed chaos but with the peaceful succession of South Sudan there are now hopes that the country can once again be celebrated for its rich cultural life, and Ibrahim El-Salahi is at the forefront of this renaissance. London’s prestigious Tate Modern is now playing host to a long overdue retrospective of this great artist’s work. This mammoth show chronicles his exhaustive career and in doing so also charts his turbulent personal life – a life that includes early acclaim as well as subsequent imprisonment. Salahi said in a recent interview: “When people ask me what I do and I say I paint, they ask, do you paint houses? I say no, but if I did I would have a lot more money. What I paint are ideas which come to me in my mind and seem to develop independently, ideas which I am always not aware of but that seem to exist somewhere in my subconscious.” The concept of the subconscious is a powerful one and can be very much seen in El-Salahi’s work, work that is a wonderful fusion of traditional African, Islamic and European art forms. Both his paintings and his drawings on the surface initially appear to take the viewer on one single journey but after closer inspection, the images seem to take on a life of their own, a life filled with multiple meanings, the surface meaning and then the deeper subconscious one. An example of this would be his painting dedicated to the late Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was the first democratically elected prime minister of what was then the Repubhe
Ibrahim El-Salahi is at the forefront of South Sudan’s rich cultural life. Right: “Qatar”, a typically haunting and beautiful work
“What I paint are ideas which come to me in my mind and seem to develop independently, ideas which I am never aware of but that seem to exist somewhere in my subconscious.”
lic of Congo, now DRCongo. He helped win the Congo its independence from Belgium, but subsequently found his socialist government deposed in a military coup, a coup that was backed by the West. Lumumba himself was captured and tortured by the military government and then finally murdered by western assassins. Many African commentators trace the Congo’s current problems to Lumumba’s overthrow and this is very much echoed in the painting. It depicts skeletal mourners carrying the corpse of their dead leader on their heads. It is as if his death drains away their own life force in the same way Lumumba’s assassination propelled the country into a period of instability that it has yet to emerge from. Some of El-Salahi’s paintings are simply labelled “Untitled ”. El-Salahi states: “In many ways they are like children, you give them names and then they grow up and the names no longer suit them. I gave up naming them because to do that in some ways dictates what paintings should mean to people who see. The most important thing I feel is the meaning people bring to them, not one I want to impose.” So much of El-Salahi’s work does seem to fuse the present with the past. It is of Africa now, with all its contradictions with Africa of antiquity. One painting called, “The last sound”, is of a African mask which seems to literally depict not only the death mask itself and its physical essence but also to be reaching for a more mystical meaning, an attempt to trace the very moment at which the soul actually departs from the body. It is both haunting and beautiful and contains an image that appears in many of El-Salahi’s other works, the crescent and the moon. “Another,” appears to be not so much a literal depiction of a tree but rather the female essence of all of creation. One of the most beautiful pieces in this wonderful retrospective is a collection of images simply called “Reborn sounds of childhood dreams II” in which there appear to be depictions of images from our dreams – the fragments that lurk in our subconscious and only emerge in the middle of the night. Now at the age of 80, El-Salahi’s journey to his current status as one of Africa’s most renowned contemporary artists has been a long and torturous one. Born to an Islamic teacher in Sudan’s second city of Omdurman, his first commission was decorating writing slates at his father’s Qura’anic school. He went on to study art at Khartoum’s Goron Memorial College and subsequently won a scholarship to London’s Slade art school in 1954. He says of his experience in London that it was a place where he was able to discover Cezanne, Giotto and various other European artists.
102 New African October 2013
New African October 2013â€ƒ 103
Arts Ibrahim El-Salahi
“For much of the last century African art has struggled for acceptance internationally but that appears to be ending. No-one deserves this more than El-Salahi.”
Top: A work that El-Salahi simply titles Painting. Bottom: Post-Slade. El-Salahi’s style had more figurative elements after studying in London
On his return to the Sudan, however, he found resistance to his new artistic vision. He describes the experience in this way. “I organised an art exhibition in Khartoum of still lifes, portraits and nudes. People came to the show just for the soft drinks. After that no one came.” So he started to look for something that would help the people there to connect to his work. In a recent interview he recalls: “I started to write small Arabic inscriptions in my paintings, almost like postage stamps and people started to come towards me. Then I began to break down the letters and a Pandora’s box opened. Animal forms, human forms and platforms began to emerge. That was when I really started working.” El-Salahi then travelled to Nigeria and met Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka and started to become aware of the cultural renaissance that was underway throughout Africa. He says of this time: “It was exciting, but also frustrating, because there was little response from the rest of the world or even Africa itself. Everything went quiet.” El-Salahi subsequently fell out of favour with the Sudanese government and was imprisoned in appalling conditions: “There were 10 of us in a cell, sharing a bucket that was overflowing. The penalty for being caught with writing instruments was solitary confinement but I kept working, drawing on scraps I buried in the ground.” He simply states of this traumatic time that “I learned a great deal.” El-Salahi now lives in Oxford in a kind of self-imposed exile but his work still transports those who see it back to his homeland, even with the colours he uses – the ochres, browns, black and green are all very much the colours of the Sudanese soil. The abiding impression one gets from seeing El-Salahi’s paintings is that of his ability to paint both spirit and form, to paint not only what he sees but mystically the very essence of what gives it life; be it a tree or the portrait of a person, he treats both with the same reverence and respect. For so much of the last century contemporary African art has struggled to be accepted on the international stage but that struggle appears now to be coming to an end; with an increasing number of contemporary African artists now taking their rightful place. No one deserves this more than El-Salahi, who fought, at times, a solitary battle to have African art taken seriously. Seeing his breathtaking work on display at London’s Tate Modern you feel that his name most certainly can and should be mentioned in the same breath as many of the other European artistic giants of both the 20th and 21st centuries. He is truly a remarkable artist.
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by Onyekachi Wambu
Back to the Future
Turning borders into nations
Most of us in Africa inherited our countries, seeking to turn them into nations. Preindependence negotiations agreed on the structure of the state – or what we kept and what was given up to the centre, including how resources were to be distributed.
Nigerian separatist militants – evidence of deep-seated disaffection over resources
In Nigeria’s case, a decision was made on a weak centre, alongside three strong regions, later expanded to four. The regions, representing the big ethnic groups, took control of their own policing and development needs. They owned all resources above the ground, while the resources below the ground, such as oil, belonged to the centre. The centre also managed foreign affairs, external defence, and guaranteed citizenship, including the security to trade and travel within the free trade area that was designated by the country’s borders. The weak centre in the end proved too weak. Regional instability brought the army to power in 1966. The army then did a contradictory thing which, while maintaining unity, has since bedevilled and arrested development. It massively centralised power, but also pretended to decentralise power through the creation of states. The new states (now 36, plus a
federal capital), ostensibly give a voice to more of the country’s 250 ethnic groups. However, the overwhelming majority are economically unviable, dependent on the centre for survival. The all-powerful centre controls the major resource in the country, the oil money. But the centre, although all-powerful economically, finds its monopoly of violence is always being challenged by groups unhappy with the status quo, whether the Biafran in the 60s, the 90s Niger Delta insurgency or now, Boko Haram. Ahead of the 2015 elections the temperature is rising again, as groups realign to capture the centre and oil resources and others feel threatened. Small incidents provoke bigger crises. The recent internal ‘deportation’ of a few Igbo people from Lagos back to their state of origin has triggered poisonous discussions, with one prominent commentator, a former government minister, implying that Lagos and its resources belong to the Yoruba. This has led groups living in the Niger Delta to revive their old arguments that the oil in their territory belongs to them. While others argue that if Nigerians cannot travel and live freely in any part of the federation, then we should stop pretending that there is such a thing as a Nigerian nation/citizen and simply break up the country. Forty years after the end of the Biafran conflict, such talk demonstrates that the core issues that led to the war have still not been resolved. These issues of centralisation versus decentralisation, resource control, and citizenship, continue to plague us all over Africa. There is a continuum from a highly centralised state to a highly decentralised, almost confederal state and we all need to find the right balance that commands consensus amongst all those within, even as the consensus shifts and evolves. These evolving tensions and arguments are not unique to Africa. The UK, which created the Nigerian nation in 1914, is currently embroiled with these arguments - internally (in relation to Scottish independence) and externally (in relation to its membership of the European Union). Externally, the consensus emerging within the UK is that most people do not want a political union (with one central bank, one currency, one army and one head of state) with the rest of Europe but they would be happy with a common economic and trading area where property rights are respected, and people are free to travel, work and trade. Internally, despite voluntarily joining with the English in 1707, the Scottish will be voting in a referendum next year. A yes vote would mean independence, while probably, maintaining a free trade area and keeping the British pound. The British and the EU are conducting these two negotiations without violence or high drama. As African unity at the continental level beckons, can we peacefully work out at national level the best balance in the continuum between full political union or mere trading areas?
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