The International Writers Magazine: Comment
Men and Women Do Nothing
Bulldozing factories in Zimbabwe: Reuters
in Zimbabwe bulldozes the homes of his own people (but mostly people
he doesnt think voted for him) and leaves hundreds of thousands
homeless and starving in winter. We do nothing. There are no soldiers
massing on the borders, no UN mandates, no condemnation. Mugabe
destroys a whole country systematically (as only someone trained
by Marxists can) and nothing happens. Heaven sends no bolts to destroy
him. His neighbours support him and the entire African organisation
says nothing. Worse the UK government tries to deport refugees from
Zimbabwe back there to a certain death. How does it make you feel?
Aung San Suu Kyi celebrates her 60th birthday in Myanmar (Burma) still
under house arrest since the day she was elected President of that country
16 years ago. The fascist government of Burma is ethnically cleansing
the people of the east (source: Daily Telegraph UK June 24th 2005) up
to 750,000 people may have already been killed, raped, women forced
to breed with government soldiers. Your friendly local oil company may
be trading there right now. We do nothing. Burma is not only economically
moribund but it has also destroyed most of its forests for short term
profit. Its a country that has sold its birthright and will kill
anyone who objects. What is your local MP or Congressmen doing about
that? What are you doing? Do you care?
Last weekend Bob Geldorf is holding Live8 to raise money for Africa
to Make Poverty History. They reckon a billion people watched
concerts in London, Philidelphia, Barre, Canda, Eden, Cornwall, Jo'Burg,
Tokyo, and more. We listen, we buy the wristbands, we are sending a
message to the G8 summit. But why?
Where will the money go? How much poverty is there in Switzerland anyhow?
You think I am being cynical, but without the rule of law, democracy,
honesty in politics and the civil service, pouring money into Africa
will do nothing but make Swiss bankers richer. It has always been thus.
The G8 Summit will postulate but will it achieve anything. Forgive Africas
debts perhaps, but how do you ensure that Africa invests in itself?
In South Africa the vice-president has just been dismissed for corruption.
One would like to think South Africa isnt going the way of the
rest of Africa, but it might be. Already it isnt safe to be a
farmer in the Eastern Transvaal as squatters assume land
rights and in the former South West the new government is already
planning to remove white farmers taking their cue from Mugabe. Its
no use being a white liberal and stating that this is just
and Africa should only be for Africans. Without the rule of law, the
Africa they inherit will turn to dust. Quite literally.
The Daily Telegraph June 25th published a report from the anti-corruption
commission of Nigeria that stated that Nigeria rulers have looted that
country of 220 billion pounds sterling in the last 40 years. (Squandered
between 1960 and 1999 according to commission chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu).
Coincidentally this amount exactly equalled the amount of aid given
to Africa (as a whole) between 1960 and 1997. Gen San Abacha personally
looted up to three billion pounds from Nigeria when he was ruler. The
present ruler Olusegun Obasanjo has launched an anti-corruption crackdown
and we wish him luck. But making sure everyone is honest in a country
so used to corruption is a hard task. Ask President Lula de Silva in
Brazil whose government has been rocked by accusations of bribing opposition
members to vote with the government.
Its not money these countries need it is integrity, honesty, trust
and then the schools will be built, clean water provided, crime reduced,
in Africa, as in Brazil, everyone deserves
the right to be able to sleep safe at night. (Not something possible
July 3rd the Sunday Times in the Uk published a corruption league. Nigeria
is worst quickly followed by Congo(DRC), Angola, Kenya, Cameroon, Sudan,
Niger, Zimbabwe....the list goes on. Each Africa country owes billions
to the west, money that has not been invested in schools or water projects
or infrastructure but squandered on weapons, methods of extreme control
to protect the rich tyrants who live it up at the expense of their people.
Nigeria owes 19.2 billion, Liberia 1.41 billion (this is Sterling not
dollars) South Africa 15.26 billion (though this is a country with the
ability to repay at least). Forgive the debts of at least 55 billion
of them, that's what people ask for and naturally sensible leaders reply,
yes, but on condition the Africa leaders spend the money they don't
have to pay back on their own people, not guns.
I recall a novel
I read when I was just seven. I dont remember who wrote it but
it was set in Africa before I had ever lived there and fallen in love
with it. It was about the last man who knew how to fix an elevator in
Africa. It seemed fantastic then, the whole of Africa had run down to
nothing, not a factory working, not a road without holes, whole nations
starving and killing
Probably now it would be deemed politically unacceptable, but it must
have been written by someone who had been there, seen just how self-destructive
Africa can be when given its head. See Bend in the River
by V S Naipaul for a portrait of a country in turmoil.
Sure there are glimmers of hope. The war shattered economy of Angola
can easily be rebuilt with oil money, they have enough to do that. Nigeria
could do the same, they have one of the largest reserves in the world,
35 Billion barrels of proven oil reserves, but I suspect that the wealth
will be squandered on armies and weapons and suppression rather than
shopping malls and highways. Thats been an African tradition for
hundreds of years. I sincerely hope I am wrong.
Its not PC to write about Africa as a place without hope. Its
not fair to think of a whole continent being written off- but from the
killing fields of Darfur in the Sudan to the bulldozers in Zimbabwe,
the seeds of destruction are daily sown. Give your money, help people
from starving yes, but make poverty history? I dont think it is
Africa can help itself and there are millions of talented, underused
experienced and educated Africans who would love to be given the chance
to do just that. At the same time, we in the west are 'stealing' their
nurses and Doctors away with promises of good salaries and a stable
life. Hard to deny these people the right to work and fill skills gaps,
but this is creating enormous health problems in Africa for those who
live there and have no Doctors or nurses to help. Perhaps we should
let anyone come to us, but not until we also establish and pay for more
training schools for nurses and Doctors over there first? That would
be a useful investment that would benefit everyone.
Twenty years ago I was in Mozambique, part of a delegation to see what
could be salvaged from the Marxist regime that took over from the Portuguese.
I am not saying that the Portuguese left them much in the way of infrastructure,
but what was left was thoroughly broken. Roads with holes so deep they
were canyons, there was no glass in the windows of most buildings, (save
the five star foreign currency hotel). Twenty years on from the Portuguese
leaving there were still billboards announcing that supermarkets were
coming soon. Happy looking housewives with shopping trolleys laden with
food. A nice irony. The shops that were there had nothing to sell but
were fully staffed with bored sales people. Men gathered in coffee bars
but there was no coffee, the railway had rusted to hell, the economy
was trashed by civil war and mismanagement. It was quite a shock.
Some brave souls are now touting Mozambique and Maputo, in particular,
as a great place to invest in that holiday home. But I still
recall being forced to walk along a yellow line under the watchful eyes
of men with machine guns who could legally shoot me if I stumbled off
it. I still recall a visit to the hospital that had no blood supplies,
no needles, no plasters, no drugs, but the Russian doctor knew where
there was plentiful supplies, in a locked safe house for use of government
ministers only. (Next door to the restaurant for politically acceptable
and foreigners where steaks and wine was flown in from Joburg
for their pleasure.)
The great irony of Africa is that it is full of the happiest, friendliest
and talented people in the world, people, who deserve all the efforts
that Sir Bob Geldorf is making on their behalf, but will it help those
in Zimbabwe, absolutely not. Not whilst Mugabe lives. Will it cure one
African of Aids, no, will it stop the spread of Aids, doubtful, will
it help educate and promote honest African politicians? Not a chance.
Will it help Africans feed themselves? Lets hope so. How can we
cure Africa of Aids when the Pope won't let any Catholics use condoms
over there - in fact the Church tells people that condoms are 'evil'
and thus the disease spreads fast and faster.
It's never just money, politics and religion kill people as much as
At Christmas the world donated almost a billion to help those who had
been swamped by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka and Thailand and other places.
In Sri Lanka they need to build 10,000 homes urgently. People are desperate.
As of June 2005 just 200 had been built (Source BBC Radio 4 News).
Indian bureaucracy is to blame they say. It might take a generation
to fix the problems there. In Africa, you can throw all the money in
the world at it, but it might not result in one life getting better
except that Swiss Banker. How do you safeguard against it? How do we
make a difference without also taking control of how it is spent on
the ground? How do you stop corruption when quite often without it there
would be no money changing hands at all and nothing would get done
Will Suu Kyi die in her home and all hope of Burma finding freedom with
it? Why dont the countries around Burma act? What is Thailand
and other border countries afraid of? The enemy of freedom is for the
great and the good to do nothing. Yes?
Mugabe is old and might die, but might the next dictator be worse? 80
percent of the people of Zimbabwe are unemployed and now he is destroying
their very means of production and distribution. He is a President who
has declared war on his own people. Uganda is a great example of terror
following terror. (Although calm now and taking effective action on
the spread of HIV with good health advice programmes.).
In Africa all this could be so easily solved. South Africa could finally
act and become the policemen southern africa so sorely needs. It could
depose Mugabe in an hour, drive out Zanu-PF in two and restore Morgan
Tsvangirai to his rightful legally elected place as President of Zimbabwe
in the third. It would take a decade or more to restore the economy
however. Once South Africa acted, other African countries would know
that the day of the dictator is over.
Until it acts and demonstrates a willingness for Africa to solve its
own problems, it might be better to keep your money in your pocket and
let Sir Bob spend his cash on the Swiss banker.
find out how to make poverty history here
© Sam North - July '05
author of Diamonds
- The Rush of '72
direct from the publisher from only $12.95
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