March 2005
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Recent Entries

free hit counter

RSS Feeds

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0

March 31, 2004

How Low Can it Go?

I saw the headline--"Zimbabe's economy hits new lows"--and wondered just how much lower its economy could possibly go.

Zimbabwe's economic output has fallen by a third in the past five years, the International Monetary Fund has found.

An IMF expert panel has also found that poverty doubled during the period and school enrolment fell to 65%.

The panel also found that inflation has doubled during each of the last three years to reach 600%, while unemployment stands at about 70%.

And we all know that it hasn't truly reached rock bottom yet.


Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

Spreading the Disease

I've been asked why I believe that Zimbabwe's problems are also the problems of her neighbors--or, specifically, why should the neighbors try to help solve the problems when they already have problems of their own.

I think this answers that question.

Zimbabwe's crisis is affecting all of southern Africa, and neighbouring Botswana is on the frontline.

Botswana has a small population- less than 2 million - and it is a tightly-knit, conservative society.

Now it is feeling overwhelmed by the influx of Zimbabweans.

"There are now more Zimbabweans in Botswana than there are Botswanans", one government official told me.

She is wrong, of course, but the sentiment that Botswana is being swamped is a common one.

The problem will only grow as the government in Zimbabwe edges closer to economic and political collapse. The flood of people looking for food, work, and shelter will be overwhelming to the countries around Zimbabwe. If the situation does grow into an open civil war (not, by any means, an impossibility), then the fighting will accelerate the exodus, and the war will likely spill over borders.

Zimbabwe's collapse won't happen in isolation. It will have an effect on all of Southern Africa.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2004

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life...

Anyone who has watched the Monty Python classic, Life of Brian, will immediately recognize the title of this post. Near the end of the movie, when Brian is on the cross and being crucified, one of the characters starts singing an impossibly happy song reminding the hapless Brian to "always look on the bright side of life."

Well, this story put me in mind of that hilarious bit of gallows humor.

It may be a dim silver lining to a particularly dark cloud, but one apparent result of the AIDS pandemic in Swaziland is that fewer people in the country are smoking.

”When people learn they are HIV-positive, they are counseled to live a healthy lifestyle to prolong their lives. The shock that they may die prematurely of AIDS is just the type of trauma that gets people to stop smoking,” John Kunene, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, told IPS.

Or, as the Python troupe might sing:

If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten,
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps.
Just purse your lips and whistle.
That's the thing.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Of course, I felt guilty about whistling the song in my head...

Read the rest.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2004

Politicians Say the Darndest Things

Something about this story made me grin.

South Africa's president has provoked anger after saying he would beat his sister if she told him she had fallen in love with an opposition leader.

Thabo Mbeki made the comment during an election rally when he was criticising African Christian Democratic Party leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe.

NGOs and opposition parties seized on the gaffe saying he should apologise or at least clarify matters.

The ruling African National Congress said the remark was made "in jest".

Don't get me wrong: if I really thought that he was going to beat his sister, there wouldn't be anything funny about it at all. As it is, it was a joke made in very bad taste.

What is funny is that the furor over a few misplaced words by any politician seems to grow every year. I just find myself glad that my words aren't put under such scrutiny--after some of the stupid things that I've said, I feel sure I would never be "electable."

Read about Mbeki's gaffe.

March 22, 2004

Realpolitik Zambian Style?

The government says that there is no official policy to help and encourage white farmers relocating from Zimbabwe, but a Zambian bank is giving out loans that seem to be achieving that precise result.

A Zambian bank has given more than $30-million (about R210-million) to white Zimbabwean farmers resettling in Zambia, state media reported on Monday.

Peter Mclean, managing director of Standard Chartered Bank (Stanchart), said the money was disbursed between January and December last year. However, he could not state how many Zimbabwean farmers had received the loans, the Zambia Daily Mail reported.

"The bank has given loans to farmers who were clients of Stanchart Zimbabwe and were identified as they moved to Zambia," he said.

This comes at a time when black Zambian farmers are struggling to obtain agricultural loans and other credit facilities from local banks because of exceedingly high interest rates and other conditions they fail to meet.

With the government's push to move more of Zambia's economy toward agriculture, could this be a hidden policy designed to achieve a necessary result through unpopular methods? Zimbabwe's white farmers were, at one time, responsible for feeding not only Zimbabwe but also for exporting food throughout Africa. With the farm redistribution policies of Mugabe's government, that changed, of course.

From out here, it looks like Zambia would like to capitalize on Zimbabwe's self-destructive policies. While it may be unpopular, it may also be a move that makes Zambian farms--and the overall economic health of the country--far more successful.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2004

The Mother of All Lawsuits

From the Telegraph:

A half forgotten colonial expedition to subjugate a querulous African kingdom more than a century ago could bankrupt Britain if a Ugandan king succeeds in bringing a £3.7 trillion suit against the Crown.

I can't imagine that this lawsuit will amount to much, but what is interesting about it is to recognize the twisted world view that is not all that uncommon in developing nations. The people bringing this lawsuit are not only uncomfortably confused about world events, but about economics and their own place in the world.

Another courtier, Ernest Kizza, speaker of the Bunyoro parliament, appeared shocked that a multi-trillion-pound payout would have such a detrimental effect on the British economy.

"I am sure they can afford it," he said. "I think they spent that much in Iraq. But it is their problem. If the British had not destroyed our kingdom, today we would be a superpower. We would be telling America to shut up."

The world view of these local leaders is so limited that they have no effective understanding of events outside their borders. Victimization (darned, evil British folk), special capacity (we would be more advanced and wealthy than all the other nations of the world), and misplaced resentment (shut up, America, although Americans really have no role in this entire conversation) mix to display a vision of the world that has almost no resemblance to reality.

As I've said before, it passes as humor.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 02:28 PM | Comments (2)

March 11, 2004

AIDs Education Moves Slowly

At least in Botswana, education aimed at helping reduce new HIV infection is still not changing attitudes, superstitions, or behaviors.

A survey of listeners to Botswana's popular HIV/AIDS radio drama, "Makgabaneng", has revealed a lack of specific knowledge about the virus in a country with the world's highest level of HIV infection.

Only 55 percent of respondents rejected the myths that mosquitoes can spread HIV, sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, and healthy looking people cannot have the virus.

Over half the male respondents and about three-quarters of the women aged between 15 and 24 said they would let their children play with HIV-positive friends, but the majority said they would not buy food from people living with the virus.

As AIDs takes a huge portion of the charitable giving every year and exacts a tremendous toll on economies of many African nations, education to help prevent the spread of the virus is of tremendous importance. Statistics like these remain terrifying, even when you consider that the number of infections has been inflated.

Finding a method of teaching the facts, though, remains elusive.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2004

Algeria: Forging Connections With Terror

For those who wonder why the West should concern itself with the well-being and the political stability of African nations, this should answer your question.

An extremist group known for deadly bombings and a brutal campaign to create an Islamic state in Algeria is moving to establish stronger ties with al-Qaeda, raising fears the militants may launch terrorist attacks beyond their North African territory.

The new leader of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), an armed organisation whose decade-long aim has been to overthrow the Algerian government, declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden's network in the fall.

At the time, it received little attention, but now authorities worry the Salafists could become a dangerous affiliate of al-Qaeda, which has shown an ability to work through local groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah in Asia, United States officials in Washington said.

Algeria is likely to be one of a handful of African nations that will welcome terrorists, giving them a new home from which to launch attacks against Western interests and train a new generation of terrorists and Islamic extremists. That, all by itself, is a good reason to pay attention to Africa.

Read the rest of the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Seized American Plane

The unfolding news story of Zimbabwe's seizure of an American cargo plane is sweeping through all the news feeds. Unfortunately, details are severely lacking.

A US-registered cargo plane with 64 suspected mercenaries on board has been impounded in Harare, Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi has said.

The Boeing 727-100 was held on Sunday after it had "made a false declaration of its cargo and crew," Mr Mohadi said.

He said the plane was carrying mercenaries of differing nationalities and "military materiel".

I'll update when more facts are available.

Read the story on BBC.

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the US State Department is denying any knowledge of the plane and cannot answer whether any Americans are being held. The Pentagon is similarly denying any knowledge or connection.

The company that the plane is registered to, Dodson Aviation, claims that the plane was sold "about a week ago to an African company called Logo Ltd."

If the plane did actually contain mercenaries and military equipment, then the question as to who was backing them is still completely open. The likelihood that the US government would back 64 mercenaries in overthrowing Mugabe is tremendously slim, though.

President Bush has spent a lot of time building a rapport with South African President Thabo Mbeki, and in supporting Mbeki's "soft diplomacy" strategy for dealing with Mugabe. As wrong-headed as I think this approach is, it would be unlikely for Bush to make a move like this that would damage his relations with Mbeki.

Another consideration is that it was Rhodesian nationals looking to capitalize on all of the current problems in Zimbabwe and regain political control. I doubt this is the case, but it makes far more sense than a US backed attempt.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:50 AM | Comments (4)

Accountability and Effectiveness

I've often asked some of the same questions that are right now being asked in Zambia.

Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa has had an uneasy relationship with civil society from the beginning of his term in office. However, matters worsened recently when he accused AIDS activists of monopolising the funds provided by donors to fight the pandemic.

Mwanawasa's accusations came hot on the heels of a similarly scathing attack by the Minister of Community and Social welfare, Marina Nsingo. She threatened to deregister the non-governmental organisations (NGO's) which have ”mushroomed” over the past decade, many purporting to work for poverty alleviation and with AIDS-related issues.

”People have gotten into the habit of hatching NGO's everywhere, saying they are doing poverty alleviation, HIV/AIDS. But what have they done? Or what are they doing? Because the problems do not seem to be going away,” said Nsingo.

At present, there are about 600 NGO's in Zambia. Over 450 of these work in rural communities, and 150 focus exclusively on HIV/AIDS.

Mwanawasa told a two-day AIDS conference attended by United Nations officials and cabinet ministers from across Southern Africa that most civil society groups were composed of family members who got donor funding under the guise of AIDS prevention programmes. (The conference took place from Mar. 4-5.)

He also lashed out at the United Nations for favouring civil society in the distribution of AIDS funds. The Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, Peter Piot, acknowledged that this trend ”could create confusion in the distribution of funds”.

Mwanawasa said governments had elected representatives who were subjected to closer scrutiny than civil society groups. ”Government can be called to account for funding. These NGO's just chew the money and carry on (with) business as usual: no-one asks them anything,” he told delegates.

Of course, part of the reason for the questioning of the NGOs is the simple threat of the organizations as activists--as noted later in the article, there is a feeling that the NGOs act as unofficial opposition parties to the governments.

There really is a question, though, about the accountability of the NGOs for their operations and the effectiveness of the remedies that they are using for the problems of AIDs, hunger, and disease. As Marina Nsingo said, the problems do not seem to be going away.

Like hunger and poverty in the United States, I have far less problem with the money being spent on issues that I do with the incredible inefficiency of the relief plans. When millions of dollars are spent every year on solving problems, and those problems never seem to diminish.

In the United States, we prove our commitment to a problem by throwing more and more money at the problem. Instead, we should focus on the efficacy of our solutions--that is, are we spending the money in a way that will actually help solve the problem or are we spending money because it makes us feel better about our on sensitivity to that problem?

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)
Contributors to
Deb Yoder
IB Bill
About AfricaBlog
Submissions Guidelines

Contact Us At