Archive for the 'Africa' Category

All Africa within us

There is all Africa and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of Nature which he that studies wisely learns in a compendium what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume  . . . There is no man alone, because every man is a microcosm and carries the whole world about him.”

Thomas Browne [1928]: The Works of Sir Thomas Browne (Editor: G. Keynes), Volume 2. London.




Transitions 2013

People who have passed on during 2013 whose life or works have influenced me:

  • Joan Child (1921-2013), Australian politician, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Commonwealth of Australia
  • Molly Clutton-Brock (1912-2013), British/Zimbabwean community organizer and anti-racism campaigner
  • Peter Geach (1916-2013), British philosopher and logician
  • Norman Geras (1943-2013), Zimbabwean/British political philosopher and blogger
  • Natalia Gorbanevskaya (1936-2013), Russian/Polish poet and political activist
  • Michael Heath (1956-2013), American USNavy SEAL and businessman
  • Fr Stan Hosie (1922-2013), Australian/American priest, teacher, swimming coach, life member of the Far North Coast Amateur Swimming Association, and co-founder of the third-world development charity Counterpart International
  • Doris Lessing (1919-2013), Zimbabwean/British writer and political activist
  • John Makumbe (1949-2013), Zimbabwean political scientist and democracy activist
  • Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African freedom fighter and political leader
  • Teresa Toranska (1944-2013), Polish journalist and writer.

Last year’s post is here.




Courage and luck

A dialog from Nadine Gordimer’s novel, A Guest of Honour (page 222):

‘Why does playing safe always seem to turn out to be so dangerous?’

‘It’s unlucky . . .

. . . because you’re too scared to take a chance.’

‘It’s unlucky to lack courage?’

‘That’s it.  You have to go ahead into what’s coming, trust to luck.  Because if you play safe you don’t have any, anyway.’

‘It’s forfeited?’

‘Yes.’




The death of Enos Nkala

The death has occurred of Enos Nkala (1932-2013), co-founder of ZANU, former Zimbabwean Senator, and ZANU-PF Minister in the government of Robert Mugabe (1980-1989).  As Minister for Home Affairs, he was chief prosecutor of the Gukurahundi, the brutal genocidal campaign waged by ZANU-PF against supporters of PF-Zapu and the people of Matabeleland.    This prosecution was undertaken despite Nkala being Ndebele himself.   In a more just world, he would have died in prison.

The Telegraph obituary of Nkala is here.  The writer says:

Nkala became Mugabe’s most feared enforcer after the collapse of an uneasy coalition between the ruling Zanu-PF party and Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zapu party. This was essentially a truce between Zimbabwe’s two largest tribes: Mugabe’s majority Shona people and Nkomo’s Ndebele. The deal fell apart in 1982 when Nkomo was ejected from the cabinet and accused of planning armed rebellion.

This supposed plot was almost certainly an invention, but Mugabe retaliated in January 1983 by sending a special army unit to Matabeleland, the home of the Ndebele in western Zimbabwe. The Fifth Brigade’s task was to wage war on the population, eradicating Zapu and enforcing support for Mugabe by terror and violence.”

Well, either Joshua Nkomo was plotting against the government of Robert Mugabe while he was a Minister in that government or he was not.  At the press conference he gave in Salisbury (as it still then was) in February 1982 upon his dismissal, Nkomo was reported by Newsweek (February 1982) to have  admitted that he had indeed sought the assistance of the apartheid Government of South Africa to stage a coup and to overthrow Mugabe.   South Africa had, apparently, refused his request.

The crimes of the Mugabe regime against the people of Matabeland were genocidal and deserve to be punished as crimes against humanity.   It does not diminish these crimes in any way to say the truth – that Mugabe’s government was also right to be suspicious of plots by PF-Zapu and Nkomo to overthrow by illegal, unparliamentary means the legitimately-elected, majority government of Zimbabwe.   Later in 1982, somebody – and this was no paranoid invention of a crazed megalomaniac – blew up most of the planes of the Zimbabwean Air Force while they were parked on an airforce base at Gweru.  The plots and enemies of ZANU-PF were real.

 




Influential Books

This is a list of non-fiction books which have greatly influenced me – making me see the world differently or act in it differently.  They are listed chronologically according to when I first encountered them.

  • 2009 – J. Scott Turner [2007]:  The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself. (Harvard UP) (Mentioned here.)
  • 2008 – Pierre Delattre [1993]:  Episodes. (St. Paul, MN, USA:  Graywolf Press)
  • 2006 – Mark Evan Bonds [2006]: Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven. (Princeton UP)
  • 2006 – Kyle Gann [2006]: Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice. (UCal Press)
  • 2001 – George Leonard [2000]: The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei.
  • 2000 – Stephen E. Toulmin [1990]:  Cosmopolis:  The Hidden Agenda of Modernity.  (University of Chicago Press)
  • 1999 – Michel de Montaigne [1580-1595]:  Essays.
  • 1997 – James Pritchett [1993]:  The Music of John Cage.  (Cambridge UP, UK)
  • 1996 – George Fowler [1995]:  Dance of a Fallen Monk: A Journey to Spiritual Enlightenment. (New York:  Doubleday)
  • 1995 – Chungliang Al Huang and Jerry Lynch [1992]:  Thinking Body, Dancing Mind.   (New York: Bantam Books)
  • 1995 – Jon Kabat-Zinn [1994]: Wherever You Go, There You Are.
  • 1995 – Charlotte Joko Beck [1993]: Nothing Special: Living Zen.
  • 1993 - George Leonard [1992]: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment.
  • 1990 – Trevor Leggett [1987]:  Zen and the Ways.  (Tuttle)
  • 1989 – Grant McCracken [1988]:  Culture and Consumption.
  • 1989 – Teresa Toranska [1988]:  Them:  Stalin’s Polish Puppets.  Translated by Agnieszka Kolakowska.(HarperCollins) (Mentioned here.)
  • 1988 – Henry David Thoreau [1865]:  Cape Cod.
  • 1988 – Rupert Sheldrake [1988]: The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature.
  • 1988 - Dan Rose [1987]:  Black American Street Life: South Philadelphia, 1969-1971. (U Penn Press)
  • 1987 – Jay Neugeboren [1968]:  Reflections at Thirty.
  • 1982 – John Miller Chernoff [1979]: African Rhythm and African Sensibility: Aesthetics and Social Action in African Musical Idioms. (University of Chicago Press)
  • 1981 – Walter Rodney [1972]: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.  (London: Bogle-L’Overture Publications)
  • 1980 – Andre Gunder Frank [1966]:  The Development of Underdevelopment.  (Monthly Review Press)
  • 1980 – Paul Feyerabend [1975]: Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge.
  • 1979 – Aldous Huxley [1945]:  The Perennial Philosophy.
  • 1978 – Christmas Humphreys [1949 ]:  Zen Buddhism.
  • 1977 – Raymond Smullyan [1977]:  The Tao is Silent.
  • 1976 – Bertrand Russell [1951-1969]:  The Autobiography.  (London: George Allen & Unwin)
  • 1975 – Jean-Francois Revel [1972]:  Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun.
  • 1974 – Charles Reich [1970]: The Greening of America.
  • 1973 – Selvarajan Yesudian and Elisabeth Haich [1953]:  Yoga and Health. (NY:  Harper)



Traffic safety for Zimbabweans

The Mail and Guardian newspaper of South Africa has compiled a list of prominent Zimbabwean politicians who have died in car accidents, here.   Of course, there are other ways to die, as Rex Nhongo found.




Jenny Biggar RIP

This is a belated tribute to long-time acquaintance, Jenny Biggar (1946-2008), for many years the Treasurer of the Budiriro Trust, a British-Zimbabwean educational charity.  I found the following obituary, written by Ann Young and published in the Loddon Reach Parish Magazine (July/August 2008, 1 (4): 16).

Jenny Biggar died on May 8th [2008] after a valiant fight against Lymphoma. All those who packed into St. Mary’s church for her funeral on May 19th bore witness to a life that had been well lived and truly Christian. It was a wonderfully uplifting service and a tribute to someone who had touched the lives of others, not only here, but across the world, and whose dying had been an example for us all.

Jenny was brought up at Manor Farm in Grazeley and attended the Abbey School in Reading. She was the middle child with two older brothers and two younger sisters. Family life was always central to her so it seemed natural that, when her mother died, she returned to the Farm in 1985 to look after her father and make a home for him. She had spent many years working in Africa, had read English as a mature student and was embarking upon a D.Phil at Oxford when she felt called back to her family. She quickly became a very active member of the Parish with jobs ranging from P.C.C. Secretary, to making curtains for the Church hall. She also worked hard for her two favourite charities – The Budiriro Trust (which maintained her links with Zimbabwe) and the B.R.F. She did some counselling work at the Duchess of Kent House and worked in the Estate Office at Englefield Estate.

Jenny was a wonderful cook and will be remembered for her soup at many Church events. She was a skilled needle woman and an accomplished musician, singing with the Farley Singers, the Dever Singers and the Church choir as well as playing the organ. She was also an intellectual with a deep love of literature.  She was honest and forthright in her opinions, but always with grace and good humour.  Throughout her life Jenny had more than her fair share of difficulties; she fought hard battles to overcome them and developed not only a stoical resistance to pain and discomfort, but huge inner strength. She gave so much to us all and will be sorely missed.”




Vale: Molly Clutton-Brock

Only the other day, I was reporting on revolutionary communists in the Rhodesia of the late 1950s.   One of those alleged revolutionaries, a founder of a non-racial co-operative farm and of rural health clinics, Molly Clutton-Brock, has just died aged 101.   Her obituary is here.   Her late husband, Guy, is the only white Zimbabwean buried at Heroes’ Acre national cemetery, outside Harare.




Ineffective imperalism

Rory Stewart Bluebells Bookstore Penrith 2009-12-15

British MP, Rory Stewart, has spoken in Parliament of our failure to deeply understand the cultures of the foreign countries we invade, with the consequence that invasion efforts are doomed not to succeed.   His view relates to an argument he has put before, about the failure of contemporary international aid organizations and personnel to reckon deeply with the cultures of their host countries, in a manner profoundly worse than that of 19th-century colonial administrators.   Colonial administrators may have typically been racist and exploitative, but at least they cared for – and sought to understand – the cultures and languages of the countries they administered, and were prepared to devote their working lives to those countries. 

Video here and Hansard Transcript here.  (Note that in his speech, Stewart refers to Gordon Brown by name, but the Hansard reporter has recorded this as, “the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown)“.)




Distortions of history

Surfing idly, I came across this statement:

In 1958 Arthur Lewis married Gladys and moved to Rhodesia. Their first appointment to St. Faith’s Mission in Rusape proved to be something of a nightmare. While the mission had once been very successful, social work and the attached farm had come to take over and the Gospel work was side-lined. Rev. Lewis soon discovered that the farm was also used as a front for a communist revolutionary movement. After much hard work and a determined struggle, Arthur Lewis was able to re-establish the Church and Mission as a dynamic Christian enterprise. Amidst all the trauma of St. Faith’s Mission, their first child, Margaret Faith was born.”  (Source here.)

Wait a minute!  Communist revolutionaries in Rhodesia in 1958?  The first armed incursion in what became the Second Chimurenga took place in 1967 (and was undertaken by South Africans with the ANC), and the war of liberation only took off from the early 1970s.  In 1958, neither ZANU nor ZAPU had yet been formed.  Of course, Doris Lessing and her then husband and their left-wing RAF friends may have counted as communist revolutionaries in the mid 1940s – although they only ever talked – but they had had little impact and were by then long gone from Rhodesia.

After a moment or two, I realized that there was a clue in the location:  St Faith’s, Rusape.  This was the site of a very famous multi-racial co-operative farm founded by Guy and Molly Clutton-Brock in 1950.   In 1957, the Clutton-Brocks and their colleagues on the farm were instrumental in founding a non-racial political movement, the Southern Rhodesian African National Congress (SRANC), which like its South African counterpart (itself founded as long ago as 1912!) called for majority rule.  The SRANC was successful in convincing the then Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, Garfield Todd, of the justice of their case, but he could not persuade his own party or his (mostly white) parliamentary colleagues.  He was dumped, and the new PM banned the SRANC in 1959.

At no point was anyone a communist revolutionary, unless you happen to believe that running a multi-racial commercial enterprise is communist.  But, of course, many white Rhodesians did!

POSTSCRIPT (2013-07-03):  Molly Clutton-Brock died shortly after this post.