17 July 2014

City of Cape Town: "All (wo)men are equal... except of course when they aren't."

In a landmark finding, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) found that the City of Cape Town's "sanitation policy" violated the rights of informal settlers on several accounts. 

The City, having skimmed through the report has stated that it has "serious reservations" about the findings & intends to appeal, with no further comment. Am I surprised that Helen of the Cape & Pat "I see nothing wrong with bucket toilets" de Lille have not directly responded to the SAHRC's findings? No.

Am I surprised that in their original submissions, the City had the gall & nerve to suggest that for "those people" a toilet per FIVE HOUSEHOLDS is sufficient? No. It is after all the same city that put spikes and rocks in areas where homeless people seek shelter so they wouldn't be an eyesore to the touring haves. The very same city that sided with exploitative farmers when the farm workers went on strike demanding fair and equitable recompense for their toil.

I wonder what the City of Cape Town has reservations to:
1. That sanitation is a basic right?
2. Their policy being called racist & biased?
3. Doing their job?

I'm also curious as to whether the lovely people at the City use temporary and bucket toilets etc or is that reserved for "those people"?

It would seem that some of us are in 2014, but many, sadly, are in 1989 or thereabouts. #NotYetUhuru
Read the SAHRC report here:

Bienvenue en Afrique du Sud. Nous sommes tous egaux, sauf les pauvres qui sont (pour la plupart) les noirs. Prenez un siege.

12 July 2014

An African Court with criminal jurisdiction... but not for senior government officials

The DrafProtocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights was adopted at the recently concluded 23rd AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea. The Protocol, in expanding the jurisdiction of the Court (now the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights), provides, inter alia, for the prosecution of international crimes, unconstitutional changes in government, terrorism and a variety of transnational crimes. A step forward. 

In terms of this Protocol African heads of state and government, and senior government officials will be immune from prosecution while in office. Two steps back. 

The issues of immunities remains a contentious one. On the one hand, there are those who believe that immunity from prosecution is necessary (at least for heads of state). On the other, there are those who are of the view that no one should be above the law, irrespective of what office they hold. The latter also equate immunity to the promotion of impunity.  

I ascribe to the latter thinking. The inclusion of broad immunity provisions (Article 46 A bis must be read with Article 46 B (2)) in the new court's protocol suggests one thing... at least in respect of criminal prosecution at regional level, all men are equal, but some more equal than others. 

The Protocol is now open for ratification. Once the requisite 15 countries have ratified the Protocol, it will enter into force. 

(I intend to reflect later, amongst other things, on the inclusion of unconstitutional changes in government as a category of crimes in the Protocol. Life allowing!)

08 July 2014

(Not-so-) Fleeting thoughts on South Africa's new immigration regulations

When the new South African immigration regulations were presented for comment (earlier this year), I lambasted what I viewed then (and still do) as an attempt by SA to move towards immigration laws that can only be compared to those of beacons of inclusiveness like Australia (where lower-income South East Asians are treated as unwanted trash that must be 'processed' on neighbouring islands, where aborigines are marginalised within their own country, neglecting Australia's history and location and to whom Australia belonged before the queen's ships arrived) and Israel (whose policies today mirror those of SA prior to 'freedom'). The regulations were signed into law, despite concerns raised about the content and the lack of clarity in parts. It has been over a month since promulgation and my views have not changed especially in light of conversations I have had over the past few weeks with government officials from other countries.

Whatever SA's concerns about "contamination" fuelled by what I can only regard as institutionalised xenophobia (which manifests almost exclusively as afrophobia), there are several demerits to such strict regulations for a country that relies significantly on foreign trade, foreign direct investment and tourism. Two are most glaring:

1. In the longterm, the laws will affect SA's economy more than they will affect everyone else. Notwithstanding that these regulations won't necessarily lead to reduced inflows of foreigners. In fact, the stricter regulation of legal migration has been known to increase "illegal" migration (I put illegal in quotes because I have a problem with such terminology).

2. Some have heralded the provisions related to the movement of children, BUT the reality is trafficking in SA is largely INTRA-country, not inter. Furthermore, people who traffic children are unlikely to use legitimate channels to "export" if sodoing will involve greater risk.

Time will tell.

02 July 2014

Africa: Until the lion learns to speak, tales of hunting will be weak

As I reflect on how the African story has been told - mostly by non-Africans through a largely negative lens riddled with bias - I wonder whether we would view our history and ourselves differently if our continent's stories had been told by others, by our own.

And so I thought, imagine a tale of hunting told by a lion… then by the hunted gazelle… then by the zebra that looked on… then by the trampled grass… and last by a gun-toting, thrill-seeking photojournalist. Imagine.

Our stories have been told largely through a colonial gaze - so we are viewed as a continent divided, of different people. Yes, society is variegated. Yes, we are different peoples. Yet, we are one people. United in ways not clearly enunciated in history books, but that can be seen in our culture(s), our traditions, our beliefs, our looks… Today, a Tswana from South Africa will argue (with the greatest conviction) that his are not the Motswana of Botswana. How unfortunate. You will hear Tanzanians say that theirs is *the* Swahili, that the people of Kenya and especially Uganda speak it all wrong.

Today, we forget that our present societies were carved out for us - built on DIFFERENCES, on seeking to isolate rather than unite, to "divide and conquer." So, today, we tend to focus on that which divides us, not the many that unites. We have become they.

Our stories have been told through the eyes of "explorers" who write of "discovering" Victoria Falls, as if Mosi oa Tunya did not thunder and splash millennia before David Livingstone heard it then saw it.

Our tales are told by journeying financiers who speak of "civilisation" based on the price of commodities they place value on. What we once shared, we now buy, borrow, beg or steal from our neighbours.

Our tales are told by warmongers who see our children through the barrel of an AK-47. Faces reflecting on the blades of machetes. Who view victory through conquests, not (necessarily) as peace.

Yet we know our stories, we know what lies beneath the facade of misinformation. We could tell these stories, but do we?

Know your story. Know your history. Only then can you begin to understand your present & what your future needs.

Know that the original Shona dictionary was written by a Dutchman & an Englishman. "Are you Shona or Ndebele?" I am always asked immediately after saying I am from Zimbabwe. "I am neither," I always reply. For I am a combination of many cultures, but owing to patrilineage I identify as Karanga, child of the roaring Lion (Shumba Charumbira). I am not a caricature created by some to simplify the intricacies of my people... Yet, I am one with the other peoples in what is now my country. What is my continent. I am, as from the day I was ushered into this world, until the day the earth will swallow me: African.

For those who do not know, Africa is a beautiful place filled with amazing people with intriguing and complex tales. Explore it (through literature, travel, engagement). Africa is more than a quickly hashed up article on the BBC "Africa" website.

Africa is Africa.