Dictators, Democracy and Free Press: A Commentary on Black Tuesday.

“The homage we can pay to truth is to use it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

Imagine Robert Mugabe decides to sue Nandos and the creatives behind this ad for defamation. I’m almost sure that in addition to disputing whether or not the Nandos ad is defamatory of the Zimbabwean President, the legal team for Nandos would also rely on the right to freedom of expression which is a basic political right found in almost all the Constitutions of the world.

Freedom of expression is closely linked with freedom of the press and other media as one of the essential ingredients of democracy. The press, especially for countries committed to the path of democratisation, is meant to serve as the medium of delivery and transmitting ideas to and from the People. There is however a danger of unnecessarily and irresponsibly hiding behind democracy to justify every action of the press. It is within the context of these two extremes that the following comments are made on South Africa’s latest Bill to be tabled before Parliament: The Protection of Information Bill aka ‘Secrecy Bill’

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Nelson Mandela Lives!

Dear Kenyans,

To honour Mandela on this Nelson Mandela International Day, the UN asks everyone to devote 67 minutes to public service. In the Tata Madiba spirit, DR suggests the following good deeds for the day:-

1. Read a story-book to small children eg. Mike Sonko & Co.

2. Help the blind e.g. the GOK. by printing out the entire Constitution in braille so that they can finally SEE what Kenyans are making such a big fuss about.

3. Help the deaf e.g. Kenya Power, by coming up with your own pictoral ads to tell them how you really feel about their services.

4. Help the needy e.g the Nyachae-led Commissioners who have apparently been working pro-bono for over six months.

5. Be kind to animals e.g Parliamentarians. by dangling the “carrot” of your 2012 re-election vote, only on condition they shape up.

But on a serious note, this time last year I wrote a post “When Mandela Dies” to coincide with Madiba’s 92nd birthday but more so as a reaction to the surprising news that the UN had officially made July 18th Nelson Mandela International Day. It seemed a liiittle premature to me, but hey, these things happen right? Anyways, based on the comments we recieved, the general consensus seems to be that Mandela is no god and the world must simply tone-down on the hero-worshipping. Even South Africans themselves amidst the Mandela-mania also admit that Mandela was/is not perfect. But the difference between them and the rest of us is that while we are quick to start comparing Mandela to Obama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and others, South Africans simply look at the man that is Nelson Mandela. South Africans have watched him go from man to myth and now more than ever want to emulate him.

As one SA journalist puts it:

“His transformation from a world renowned prisoner to a global icon has been phenomenal. The secret must lie in his proven ability to reinvent himself and the astuteness of those who worked on his image when he could not do it for himself. Perhaps we should not be altogether surprised. Mandela has been meticulous and deliberate about the building his own image for a long time – an exercise fanatic, a snappy and a strategic dresser for nearly fifty years. If one adds to all these a deliberate campaign of defiance – inside and outside the country – designed to make his name known, the result could only be an icon and a myth of global proportions.”

All in all, Mandela will forever be a global icon in his own right. Although there’s always a tendency to compare him with other historical figures of the world, we should never forget the role he has played and continues to play in putting the African continent on the map.

Happy Birthday Madiba!

June 16th: The Day of The African Child…..

I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to be a Black parent during the Apartheid.

I can’t imagine what I’d tell my kids every morning to make them want to go to school, or every evening to remind them to have hope. I can’t fathom the sheer strength it would take to look into their faces when they ask ‘Why?’ and lie; just so that they don’t have to deal with the brass knuckle truth of being victims of circumstance. Worse still is the blow that truth delivered; that by default they were destined to be lesser people in their own land.

Clearly parents tried to keep the peace and keep their children protected, but I suspect they didn’t lie to their kids. I suspect they told their children the truth, and told them that a change was coming. So they yearned that change. As Bobby Seale once said “You cannot silence injustice with anything but revolution.”

Soweto Uprising

That fateful morning, 45 years ago, the spirit of revolt was with the youth. 20,000 school kids – mere foundlings and soon to be young adults – said enough was enough and walked out of school. A new act had just been passed that forced them to be taught in Afrikaans. They demonstrated peacefully for their right to be taught in their own language or English. When police came to disperse the rightfully disgruntled Africans, they immediately resorted to opening fire.

A 15 year old Hastings Ndlovu was the first to die. Shortly thereafter, a 12 year old Hector Pieterson got shot and fell to the ground. Continue reading

When Mandela Dies…

Two months ago, my biggest fear was that Mr. Nelson Mandela would meet his tragic demise before getting a chance to witness the first World Cup ever on African soil only a bus trip away from his palatial home in Bishopscourt, Cape Town. You may not agree with me on this but I truly believe it was Mandela that brought the World Cup to Africa, through his name, his symbolic status and the country he helped liberate from apartheid. And for that, we should all be grateful.

Yesterday, Mr. Nelson Mandela (as children of the soil we’re allowed to call him ‘Tata Madiba’) celebrated his 92nd birthday. It goes without question that South Africa and indeed the world at large adore and revere Madiba and have deified him to the point where the United Nations has declared July 18th “International Nelson Mandela Day”.
Understand this, the only International Days the UN has declared so far have to do with Children, Human Rights, Women, the Environment and such. So, yes, it’s a big deal for *a person*, *any person* let alone Mandela to have such an honour bestowed upon them. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and a few others (may their souls rest in peace) must be literally turning multiple shades of green envious of Madiba.

All that being said, Mandela will one day die. Don’t shoot the messenger. Just hear me out.

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