Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Rwandan Charade

RWANDA held elections on Monday with an outcome which was known well before the polls even closed. Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President and his government made it all but academic through their widely reported stifling of political opposition in that country. The opposition that did run against Mr Kagame and his party were largely thought to be aligned to his thinking in their political philosophy, bringing into question the validity of their challenge at the polls.

This East African country has been in a weird place politically since the 1994 genocide. The country has held one election prior to Monday’s vote. On that occasion Kagame won overwhelmingly. Rwanda is a widely praised country among Western countries but according to reports the political situation is less than laudable.

This election brings to question whether Rwanda can be legitimately acknowledged as a democracy or a dictatorship that flirts with democratic elements every so often to keep up its international image. Kagame has done a lot of economic good for his country and has tripled the country’s GDP since he came into office. He has attracted foreign investment which has assisted in rebuilding the country since the tragedy of 1994.

He has overseen the redevelopment of Rwanda and has led its wider acknowledgement on the world stage, but all this has been achieved at greater cost to civil liberties in the country. Recently a former military chief, General Kayumba, who criticized Kagame and subsequently sought exile in South Africa, was shot outside his home in Johannesburg, bringing into play questions over whether Kigali had ordered the attempt on the military chief’s life.

Talk or discussion of the 1994 genocide is taboo in Rwanda and is a sore subject for citizens and expatriates of that country alike. Some have referred to Rwanda as nothing more than a minority ethnic autocracy that is led by an uncompromising man who will not tolerate opposition of any kind. Talk along ethnic lines has largely been muted since the 1994 genocide but reports indicate that it may yet rear its ugly head yet again. This coupled with unresolved reconciliation issues may lead to greater problems for Rwanda in the future.

Kagame is also accused of formerly backing rebels in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo and adding further problems to the attainment of peace in that region through his backing of those rebels. In his own country, Kagame has sidelined NGO’s and limited their role in Rwanda’s civil society. He and his government are accused of having had a hand in the assassination of some of his more vocal critics and political opponents. This once again brings into question whether Rwanda qualifies as a democracy or a well run dictatorship.

History has shown that when issues are repressed and debate is muffled, things eventually boil over and things get out of control. One way or another the essential question posed by this article will one day be answered by the people of Rwanda, for while they may be content today the unresolved issues of the past and present my bubble over in the near future.

Written by Tatenda Goredema Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Ides of November

NOVEMBER ACOMETH and an informal referendum on the Obama presidency is imminent. In the past few weeks poll numbers from various sources have suggested that the man who promised to change Washington has lost some of his popularity among the voters. The Congressional elections due to take place this November are set to see President Obama lose his majority in Congress.

President Obama’s Democratic Party still holds a majority in both the House and the Senate but with heated contests in Senatorial and House seats now in full swing, the Democrats could lose their majority in one or both houses. A loss of majority in either house would be severely detrimental to the Obama administration and its legislative agenda with two more years left before the 2012 Presidential election.

Throughout his stay at the White House, President Obama has faced staunch opposition from the Republicans who have voted against most of the President’s big legislative issues such as Healthcare and Financial Reform. Obama has relied heavily on his majority to pass bills and has sometimes had to fight members of his own party to get legislation passed, thus holding on to his party’s majority is an imperative though seemingly impossible task. The Gulf Oil Spill has been used by Republicans to portray Obama as a weak leader and his inarticulate Oval Office speech addressing the issue further emphasized that point.

Away from the US, Obama’s foreign policy has been widely criticized for being ineffective. He came into office promising to move away from the policies of former President George W Bush who divided the world into friends and enemies in a simplistic manner. Despite Obama’s attempts, Iran and North Korea remain major problems with their continued recalcitrant attitudes with regard to their respective nuclear programs. The Middle East situation remains tenuous with Israel offering few concessions to its Palestinian neighbours whilst persisting with its construction of settlements in the West Bank and tight controlling of the Gaza strip. Obama has even failed to live up to his promise of closing Guantanamo Bay and increasingly faces charges of being similar to George W Bush in the conducting of some of his foreign policy.

Despite positive forecasts by the president and his administration on economic growth and job increases, the situation on the ground for Middle America has not seemed as shiny. The President faces a loss in support from traditional Democrats who think he is not liberal enough and independent voters who feel he has failed to live up to the promises of his soaring 2008 campaign for the Oval Office.

There have been claims that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina attempted to offer a job to a Democratic primary candidate who opposed one of the administration’s more favoured candidates. The White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel has faced his fare share of negative media coverage and rumours have circulated that he may leave his post next year. All this coupled with the emergence of the Tea Party have worked to add more grey hair to the youthful president.

The real test of his presidency will come should he lose his majority in November; the anti-bipartisan winds which have seen representatives and senators voting along party lines will have to shift considerably should the Democrats lose their majority if Obama wants to get things done. The Republican strategy of just saying ‘no’ will damage the president if he fails to maintain his majority in Congress and his skills as a leader will be fully tested.

President Obama will have to work hard to prevent a roll back to a Republican resurgence in either the House or the Senate otherwise he will face the threat of becoming a lame duck president taking his lines from Congress rather than dictating them. the threat of becoming another Jimmy Carter is real and 2010 could be a precursor to 2012.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Protest Within Reason

OVER the past few weeks there have been endless protests from Taxi drivers and unions over the proposed Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system and the Integrated Public Transport system brought in to compensate for commuters during the world cup. Taxi operators have taken umbrage at the low prices being offered by the new systems and the competition they offer through routes which have been monopolised by taxi operators for years.

First off I must say that the nature of the protests by taxi operators is completely unacceptable and deserves to be dealt with in the harshest manner possible under the law. To take issue with the system is fine as long as the protest is within reason and peaceful and respectful. The violence and disruption caused by the protesters was unnecessary and only served to further turn ordinary people against their cause and harden the resolve of the authorities.

I am strongly in favour of police firing rubber bullets where people fail to respect peaceful protest and firmly believe that stricter laws must be put in place to deal with transgressors. Extended prison terms and harsh fines are one of the means that must be installed in order to discourage the notion that waving sticks around and terrorising innocent people who are trying to go about their daily business is the best manner to change the minds of administrators who have taken time to put in place measures which improve the lives of ordinary people.

Despite the power of the many unions in this country, administrators and politicians should not be held hostage by those who believe that South Africa should follow left of centre communist economic policies. If this country were indeed communist then the state of the economy would be worse and the country’s standing in the world would probably be diminished. Evidence of this would be the RDP economic policy which fell flat in the early nineties when the ANC first came to power when redistribution of wealth was placed above productivity and encouraging foreign investment.

There is something within the South African psyche that creates the impression that violent protest is the only way to achieve change. This assumption is terribly wrong and where people transgress they must be punished within the ambit of the law. Tolerating protests that turn violent makes authorities look weak and portrays a poor image for the rest of the world. Despite what many unions think, this is not a communist state and competition exists and should be encouraged, equality will not be reached through allowing monopolies on certain market areas to grow.

It is unacceptable that taxi operators fired shots at a BRT bus carrying ordinary citizens last week and such actions deserve to be severely punished. Some of the tough talk emanating from the Police Ministry on crime needs to be directed at citizens who commit crimes whilst using justified protest as a cover for their irresponsible and unnecessary hoodlum behaviour.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Proudly Conservative

WE LIVE in interesting times, whether it’s discussing climate change, Julius Malema rants, the AWB and Mr Visagie there is no doubting that life in South Africa is not dull. I recently bore witness to a conversation in which one individual was verbally abused and berated for having conservative ideas about marriage and the certain liberal practices evident throughout this city, I was astonished at the ferocity of the attack on this individual and started wondering why being conservative is considered a bad thing.

To be tagged as a conservative in today’s world is to be associated with being anti-gay, anti-abortion, to have arcane biblical inspired ideas about wrong and right and to have morals and standards which you judge others by. I must admit that I find this dim and narrow view of conservatism silly. I am a proud conservative who believes in some of the principles that conservatism advocates but I cannot say that I have any of the aforementioned beliefs.

I am a conservative who detests the decline of readers over television watchers and thinkers over generic young people who are preoccupied with fashion and the latest trends. I am against the flagrant promotion of violence and sex on television along with the promulgation of some American television programs that encourage the idea that it’s okay to be dimwitted. I am against soft treatment of people who break laws and expect human rights in exchange, I am against ill-equipped people getting jobs in high positions simply because they have connections and mostly I am against the people on campus who walk around without shoes on.

That may upset some people but it is what I am strongly against, for if the environmentalists can protest for trees and if prisoners get to vote, then I have surely done no harm in stating these views.

Conservatives at this university probably feel threatened or scared because of their supposedly narrow views, but as Robert Kennedy said, “you must speak out,” and state what you believe without fear.

Detractors and critics argue that to be conservative or to believe in some of the things associated with conservatism is to be narrow-minded and ignorant, but I respectfully disagree. Conservatism is the only pragmatic approach to a world that has become overrun by generic thinking and standardized foolishness. To be conservative does not mean that one is ignorant or daft, tags which liberals are happy to throw around, it just means that their views are different.

With the British election scheduled for the 6th of May and the polls showing David Cameron’s Tory party ahead of Gordon Brown’s Labour, I for one will be thankful for the return to power of a conservative government in a powerful Western nation.

In this fast paced and interconnected world conservatism is too quickly branded as being representative of prejudicial thinking yet the self same liberals who are quick to make these charges are quick to also state that they are open-minded and tolerant of views different from their own. If someone is against abortion, homosexuality and disagrees with feminism then that is their right and they should not be adversely judged or treated for believing it. The world, indeed liberals need more people who adhere to the bible saying that says “let those who are without sin cast the first stone”.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Birth Pains of Bureaucracy

IN RECENT months I have had the privilege of attending some parliamentary committee meetings and if there is one thing that is prominent throughout these meetings, it is the occasionally irritating and pedantic nature of these meetings.

It is often said that parliament is merely the rubber stamp of government and approves of all or most of the legislation proposed by the body. From what I have witnessed in my time at parliament sittings, that does not seem to be true. Members are genuinely interested in interrogating policies and proposed legislation before it is approved. Most committees are interested in carrying out their oversight role and ensuring that the taxpayer’s money is spent wisely and used for realistically helpful projects.

The processes and machinations of committee meetings are however painfully slow and often raise the ire of ordinary citizens who cannot understand why good policies and proposals take so long to implement or be approved. Members of parliament are sometimes prone to talking simply for the sake of talking and endangering the climate and ozone with the amount of hot air that emanates from their mouths.

Time is wasted on asking sometimes repetitive and unnecessary questions and nitpicking on small issues of little consequence. Legislative bodies and their regulatory rules across the world are frustrating and annoying but when committee meetings drag on simply for the sake of people wishing to hear the sounds of their own voices it becomes necessary to ask whether these meetings are necessary. In a country such as this with great socio-economic challenges, slow delivery is unacceptable and has in recent times been widely decried.

Showing an interest in legislation and policy proposals is commendable and should be widely encouraged among Members but the slow pace and bluster shown in some sessions should be done away with and replaced with a sense of urgency. Social justice demands immediate action in this country and the bad reputation parliament has for being slow and boring needs to change if it is to live up to the billing of the highest law making body in the country as opposed to being a rubber stamp for the ANC government.

Parliamentarians need to move away from the perception that they are superior and removed from ordinary people and their problems. One of the best ways to do this is to take parliament to the people, an initiative already being undertaken by the body, and increase member visits to their constituencies in order to gauge what the problems affecting them are. In my view this would assist in improving the overall imagery and outlook people have of the body.

Ultimately however South Africa must move away from a Proportional Representation electoral system to a more direct system in order to ensure that MP’s exist to serve their constituents as opposed to serving their respective parties. If people are the main intended beneficiaries of legislation then surely the people who work on legislation should serve them directly. Changing the electoral system would improve service and hold members more accountable to the people. Only after this shift shall parliament truly be for the people.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Party in Opposition

For years the Democratic Alliance has been the official opposition. With impressive showings in the 2004 and 2009 elections the party has made numerous strides in the South African political sphere. Helen Zille has managed to appeal to a base of voters who were uninterested under Tony Leon’s leadership, most poignantly illustrated by the party’s victory in the Western Cape. There is a lot to be proud of for DA followers and party members but there are many issues which still need to be addressed.

I have never liked the DA and there are several reasons for this beyond the tag of being a party that represents white interests. DA election manifestos and mottos of past years are comparable to those of political parties in Europe. The DA has a complex which prevents it from appealing to the people most numerous in the electorate: black voters. The party is often slated as promoting white interests because there seem to be no areas where tangible policy promises aimed at black people exist.

This is not to say that the sole responsibility of a political party in South Africa is to cater to the concerns of the black majority alone. It just seems surprising that the main opposition party in a country with such alarming socio-economic disparities and an overwhelming black majority does not see it fit to come up with policies specifically addressing the problems created by a racially divisive past.

The center-right ideology of the DA only serves to alienate it from black voters and has proven to be unpopular outside of the Western Cape. They speak of open opportunities for all and cutting business tax and bringing more investment to the country, but nowhere in that discourse is a promise to assist those who cannot assist themselves due to the heritage of the apartheid system.

The party and its leader are especially obsessed with ANC bashing, and simply opposing for the sake of opposing. This comes off publicly at times as being unnecessary and overly bellicose especially from a party that preaches fairness and equality at every turn. The party of “open opportunities” has a love of using “cronyism” and “cadre-deployment” at every chance they get when talking about the ANC. Last year Hellen Zille addressed a UCT crowd and said that she couldn’t work out why people still voted for the ANC. All I could think was what is the alternative – a party that seems to be more for white and coloured people than black people; a party that has policies which are comparable to those of a conservative European party; a party that has a leadership that is predominantly white and a party that doesn’t seem to take unions or workers seriously?

Such a party deserves little if any support from the millions of people who have more serious concerns than mimicking fancy party slogans and symbols. Perhaps if the DA concerned itself with everyday workers and unions and stopped pandering to the media and trying to be right on every issue it would attract more black voters. If they do not reform they will continue to be nothing more than a party in opposition, merely opposing for no reason other than to oppose.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fourth Estate

OVER the past few decades there has been a decline in the quality of media and perceptions around the media’s primary task. A large portion of the formerly prestigious fourth estate has perpetually degraded itself through its love and pursuit of controversy. The key tenet of the media, in my understanding, is to provide the public with information to which it would otherwise not be privy. The media was never established to pass judgment on people, it was not founded to take political positions and throw its support behind one person or another and it certainly was not founded to hound people and harass until a story was obtained.

Something horrible happened somewhere along the line that changed the media from an institution that served the people to becoming a self-righteous institution that passes judgment and selects who to sanctify and who to castigate and bring down. I have never been a fan of the ugly side of the media, the inherent need to sell newspapers, magazines or raise viewership by pursuing angles which were controversial or “spicy”.

There have been nasty examples of the media’s appetite for the ugly both locally and internationally. Michael Jackson was a criminal in the eyes of large sects of the media until he died; Edward Kennedy was often castigated for his “unsavoury” habits before he died; Tiger Woods has recently felt the wrath of the supposedly objective observers – the list goes on. Here at home, Jacob Zuma has had to face a media which is not in favour of his presidency and continues to sensationalise any wrong move he makes. Despite the fact that he has not been convicted of any crime the media in this country persists in hounding him and attacking him personally through op-eds and stories which lack substance but come attached with screaming headlines.

I suppose an apt question at this point would be, “Aren’t you part of the media?” The answer is yes I am, but I do not have any affection or regard for the ugly part of the media which is obsessed with creating stories where there are none, simply to generate income and interest. There was a time when being a journalist was something to be proud of, something to put at the top of your CV; nowadays the profession is in an embarrassing state. To be called a journalist is as great an insult as to be called a vagabond, for both are unfortunate and shameful dispositions.
The advent of tabloids and the unrestricted filth they publish and call acceptable has hastened the fall from grace of a once vaunted profession. British news outlets in particular seem to have no regard whatsoever for ethics or morals. Some newspapers match the quality of tabloids thereby creating confusion over whether it’s a newspaper or a tabloid.

Freedom of speech has so many different interpretations nowadays that it’s hard to keep up. Some journalists even believe that illegal acts should be protected under that act, as was evident when the Sunday Times illegally acquired Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s health records. Drawing profane political satire cartoon such as Jonathan Shapiro does for a living is rewarded in the media realm and applauded for being “brave” and “wonderfully refreshing”. I do not share those sentiments and believe that these people and their various media houses represent an affront to society.
I am not proposing that the media should be muzzled or regulated but I believe that more should be done to ensure that the media stay within the ambit of its foundational purpose; namely to provide objective information. We cannot advocate for the protection of people who flout laws in the name of freedom of speech such as eTV did a few months ago. The media is not above the law and when it is out of order it should be responsible enough to admit it and deal with the consequences rather than hide behind freedom of speech.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “If we can enlighten the people generally, then evils and the oppression of mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” That statement wonderfully describes what the media should seek to pursue. In his day I’m sure all the media cared about was the truth rather than sensationalism. How lovely it must have been to have lived back then.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back to Basics

Politics is often called “the dirtiest profession in the world”, where corruption and deceit are considered constant characteristics. There have been rare occasions in the recent past when politics brought hope to people across the country and the world; however the successes and positives that emerge from politics are often overshadowed by the disappointments and negatives that have become a mainstay in contemporary politics. Whether it’s politicians caught engaging in extramarital activities or politicians caught taking kickbacks, selfish and corrupt individuals have repeatedly tainted the image of the profession and seemingly lost sight of their main goal of serving their constituents.

The ancient Greeks did not conceive the idea of politics to promote self-gain and self-aggrandizement; nor did they imagine a system in which some could be wealthier and better off than others. The foundation of politics is the idea of creating a better life for all. Whilst corruption and self-promotion have become fixtures of this noble profession over the years, the basic foundation of politics should never take a backseat in the vehicle of human development.

The rush for personal ascendency in the political sphere is paired with intemperate and discourteous language. While we laugh at people like Julius Malema and shake our heads at some of the arguments and the tone of the rhetoric passed between political parties, we should not encourage the notion that this manner of debate is acceptable or tolerable. Uncivil discourse and threats of violence by prominent politicians are not going to help anyone and should have no place in national debates.

Some say that the political system is against change and that nothing can be done to shift bureaucratic policies which have been in place for decades. Red tape and obfuscation have become common fixtures in the lives of the disinherited and disenfranchised who do not enjoy the privilege of an education and access to unlimited resources.

Robert Kennedy once said, “The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas." This is as true today as it was in 1966 when Kennedy said it, for there are many injustices in the world, but the first step to correcting these injustices is to speak out. In my view it is unconscionable and improper to be content or joyous when other people still suffer in this country, across this continent and in other parts of the world.

The disparity in wealth and accessibility to resources in this country is shameful and disgraceful. Whilst it is true that not everyone shares the same skills or is gifted the same opportunities, something must be done to correct social imbalances that allow some to enjoy Blue Flag beaches, five star hotels and luxurious cars whilst others languish in abject poverty, live in structures that barely provide shelter and risk illness with every sip of water from unsafe sources.

It is therefore incumbent upon educated, better off citizens and those in power to do all they can to assist the disadvantaged. This assistance, however, cannot and should not be disguised in grants that promote the idea of a welfare state in a country that admittedly has a small tax base. The government should not promote the idea that idle citizens who are able and capable of working can get paid for sitting at home and doing nothing. Incentives must be provided for those who want to and can work and assessment structures should be put in place to route out those who are capable yet prefer to live off the government without any plan to gain employment.

There is no doubt that in South Africa one cannot discuss politics without discussing race, for the history of the country that helped shape today’s politicians is dominated by race and racism. Like it or not, race is still a big issue in South African life and will continue to be so for years to come until greater equality between races is achieved.

I do not profess to be an expert on transformation, BEE or Affirmative Action, but there is no doubt that they are necessary policies to level a playing field that for many years was unfairly tipped. There are continued debates to be had about the precise means of implementing these policies and their effectiveness, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are relevant and necessary regardless of the arguments made by some academics.

Some argue that the domination of the ANC has stunted politics and will have a negative effect on the country in the long term. This is probably partly as a result of the electoral system of proportional representation which, in my opinion, does not cater enough to the electorate and does not provide enough accountability controls to the voters. Whatever the ANC’s failings, it remains the only party in the country ready to govern. And if the goal of a better life for all is ever to be achieved, more must be done by those in power to clean up the image of politicians and reignite the idea that government primarily exists for the purpose of improving and assisting its people. There is a Latin saying which best sums up the approach which must be adopted by government and people in positions of power: “u pluribus Unum”, meaning “out of many, one” – one people enjoying equal opportunities and equal wealth.

Written by Tatenda Goredema, the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper at UCT.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Political Take, from a Student's Perspective

As a student interested in politics, I was excited at the prospect of attending a sitting of the provincial legislature a few weeks ago. I had no particular expectations, but merely looked forward to watching the deliberations of the most powerful lawmaking body in the province.

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with what I witnessed that Wednesday. While I acknowledge that one cannot base an informed opinion on the effectiveness of an institution merely by attending a single sitting, the style of the debates on key provincial issues did not leave a positive impression.

Disparaging personal comments were traded between the DA, ANC and ID benches, and intemperate and insulting language seemed to be the order of the day with the sitting becoming rowdy on occasion, detracting from substantive debate on key policy issues and casting doubt on the suitability of some members to call themselves legislators. It was like being at a House of Commons session where uncivil behaviour is condoned and expected.

These local politicians seemed to have no qualms about demeaning the seats they occupied on that day through their uncivil discourse, or their apparent lack of interest in the task they were elected to perform, which is, surely, serving the interests of the people of the Western Cape.

Being a student at the University of Cape Town, I was reminded of Student Assembly sittings; though the setting was different, the theme was much the same. I have, over the years, become accustomed to watching disputes between the DA's youth division (DASO) and SASCO (South African Students Congress) devolve into vitriolic, personal attacks.

It seems that politics in South Africa is about getting into power and then doing your best to show up your political opponents with the maximum exposure in the media.

Campaigning in 2009 revealed traces of this mentality as parties pretended to engage questions of policy usually by attacking their political counterparts' failures. The DA was and is a repeat offender in this department. Want to know DA policy? That would be the opposite of whatever the ANC has done or proposed - and don't forget to mention cadre-deployment and corruption a few hundred times.

It would be hard to discuss politics from a youth perspective without mentioning the incomparable Julius Malema.

He is a character steeped in controversy and often good for a sound bite or ten. He is the darling of the media because he cannot stop himself from saying silly things.
Yet, having attended a rally addressed by him once, I can understand his attraction to a part of the base of the ANC.

While it is true that he plays the race card and probably believes a lot of the nonsense he spews, it is equally true that he expresses what most black people think in this country. This is symptomatic of a people who still feel like outsiders in their own country due to an intolerable disparity in socio-economic rewards.

Like it or not, race is still a big issue in South Africa and will continue to be so for years to come until greater equality between races is achieved. I do not profess to be an expert on transformation, BEE or Affirmative Action but there is no doubt that they are necessary policies to level a playing field that for many years was unfairly tipped. There are continued debates to be had about the precise means of implementing these policies and their effectiveness, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are relevant and necessary.

An indication that race is still a tetchy issue at a student level is the acrimonious debate over UCT's plan to change its mission statement, a plan that rubbed many a student the wrong way and caused a fair amount of controversy on campus.

From a student perspective there is little appeal in becoming more active politically when the nature of debate in the political sphere is so uncivil and tainted by attacks on character.

It is true that compared to other countries, South African politics are clean and relatively cordial but more can be done to encourage participation of the youth. For if the leaders of tomorrow do not feel obliged to get involved with the task of governing and taking up the struggle of the disinherited and disenfranchised, then what hope can we have for the future?

Politics has been classified as one of the “dirtiest professions in the world”, along with law. I disagree. It needn’t be like that. Politics in its original sense is one of the noblest professions and has nothing to do with self interest, greed or point-scoring in the media. Politics is about improving the lives of people - but, somehow, that has been lost in the stampede to achieve personal ascendancy.

As long as the public perception that politics is filled with corrupt, self-obsessed individuals persists, confidence in politicians and politics will remain low and the goal of achieving a better life for all will remain elusive.

Although parties have different philosophies and beliefs, there must be a more congenial, respectful tone to debate to replace the rowdy discord which has become commonplace in South African politics.

For, as Winston Churchill once said, “if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we will be in danger of losing the future.”

Written by Tatenda Goredema

Tatenda Goredema is the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Am My Brother’s Keeper

I WRITE this piece in light of the tragic crisis at the Horn of Africa that has descended into one the most embarrassing and threatening problems in terms of image-damage faced by the African continent. Somalia is one of the most dangerous and lawless places in the world, it is a country that has not had effective government since 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre was over¬thrown in a coup.

The country is in turmoil and is mostly governed by militia and warlords who have no apparent regard for the lives of their fellow Somalis. The most troubling thing about the crisis is not the mass deaths as a result of starvation and war, it is not the state of anarchy, it is not the dangerous domination of seas by warlords and pirates off the coast of the country, it is not the intense suffering that the peo¬ple of that country are subjected to. It is the relative passivity and lack of importance that the crisis and the country has been given on the African and world stage.

While crises in Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan have been given premium focus in the media and at major world leadership conferences, Somalia has only recently been given attention due to the surge in the hijacking of ships off the coast of the country that has seen ships from various countries captured and held to ransom. Thabo Mbeki enjoyed praise across this continent mainly due to his initiation of the African Renaissance, which was founded on the premise of placing more emphasis on Africa helping itself and a broader scope being placed on inter-regional trade and development. Where is that concern with regards to a fellow African state in dire need of assistance? Apart from a failed American humanitarian mission in 1993, there have been no attempts to save Somalia from the tribalism and ethnic factionalism that have torn the country apart and thrown innocent people into the jaws of starvation and chaos.

There is a disease of dependence that plagues this continent: it is a dependence on Western powers to solve our own issues. When Kenya went into crisis last year, the strongest criticism came from the West and initial steps to negotiating a settlement were taken by America before Kofi Annan stepped in and helped to reach a settlement. When Zimbabwe began its land invasions and Mugabe stepped up his vitriolic rhetoric campaign against white landowners and people in general, the strongest condemnations and punitive measures came from the West. There is an arcane belief in Africa that the problems experienced by a fellow African state are the affairs of the people in that state. This is a belief that may have been acceptable and prudent years ago but when children and people are dying of starvation and being subjected to heinous acts we must feel a common obligation to do something. What else is the point of the AU or the African community? Albert Camus once said, “Perhaps this is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children; if you do not do this, who will do this?”

Thus African people and countries must do all they can to rein in the terror and violence that continues to engulf Somalia and neighboring Sudan and live up to the Latin saying that goes e pluribus Unum: “out of many, one.” This saying sums up the attitude that African people and states should take towards their fellow continent-dwellers: after all we are one continent, and by implication, one people.

Written by Tatenda Goredema

Tatenda Goredema is the Deputy Editor of Varsity Newspaper