Sunday, October 15, 2006


Last week I joined AfricaFiles, a network of people committed to Africa through its promotion of human rights, economic justice, African perspectives and alternative analyses.

AfricaFiles was launched in 2002. My volunteer job with the group is to post current reports on Zimbabwe, particularly those highlighting human rights concerns.

So, why don’t you visit to read all about Africa? It is such a very informative ride, let’s enjoy it together.



Recent events in the South African media may surprise many, not me. I knew a high profile gag on members of the press in a country considered a bastion of democracy in a continent fraught with dictatorships and tyranny was just but a matter of time.

For those slow to catch up with news from south of the Sahara, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has blacklisted a number of South African and Zimbabwean media personalities who had developed a habit of criticizing President Mbeki and his Zimbabwean mentor, President Robert Mugabe.

Among the blacklisted are independent political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi; the author of a book on Mbeki, William Gumede; and Business Day staff members Vukani Mde and Karima Brown. Others are Zimbabwe’s own media magnate Trevor Ncube and Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.

These commentators have been criticizing the Mugabe regime and of late, they have been snipping at Mbeki’s conciliatory policies towards Harare.

This is a very serious matter. South Africa is a respected country in the whole world and so is Mbeki’s administration. It is, therefore, such a let down to hear that the government-controlled SABC is being muzzled like that. What a shame.

Thank God, the judiciary in South Africa still works. This morning Johannesburg High Court Judge Zukiswa Tshiqi dismissed with costs the SABC's application to have the Mail & Guardian Online remove a report on the blacklisting of the analysts and commentators by the broadcaster.

"I don't believe that it is okay to suppress information or to hide information written in the report," the judge told the court.

When I got this latest development, I almost jumped up with joy, but then, I checked myself quickly. In Zimbabwe it started like that. The government muzzling the press and the judiciary intervening until the muzzle was placed on the men with the Victorian wigs. I have a feeling SA is going down the same road.

But, like I said, it is not surprising. This is Africa after all and here is how it works in African politics. “Respect Thy Elders” is a term taken so seriously and then perverted to give a picture of holiness to those elders. There is also, Ziva kwawakabva “remember where you came from”.

So, following this norm, Mugabe must have called Mbeki and say: “Hey Thabo, what is this I hear that you allow some loud mouths to trash me in your backyard?”

Mbeki: “Well Mdala, I am sorry but there is not much I can do. There is what is called democracy and freedom of speech here. I am kinda helpless.”

Mugabe: “Is that the renaissance nonsense you have been preaching? I can tolerate trashing from Madiba because he is my elder. Where is your ubuntu? I am your elder and need I remind you of your time in exile here. How many fires did I extinguish when they were about to consume your corrupt ANC backside?”

Mbeki: “I am on it Mdala.” And within no time, orders are flying all over SABC to ban so and so, from saying anything anti-Mugabe.

It is not the first time this has happened in southern Africa. In Mozambique they do not say anything bad about Mugabe, lest Chissano and his successors will be reminded who propped them when rebel leader Alfonso Dhlakama was on the verge of taking Maputo.

In Tanzania, respected fellow journalist and former president, Benjamin Mkapa has it on record that he will not be seen criticizing Mugabe and following the “Respect Thy Elder” rule, neither will his successor Kikwete and their media.

Other countries are just in awe of Mugabe they would not dare say anything other than sing his praises and we wonder why Mugabe is not leaving his throne?