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February 05 2014

8 Irrresistable Food Blogs From Sub-Saharan Africa

A display of foodstuff. Public domain image from  National Institutes of Health (USA).

A display of different types of food. Public domain image from the United States National Institutes of Health.

Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Scrumptious South Africa

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.


Scrumptious South Africa is a food blog run by Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who is a cook, food writer, recipe developer and professional freelance journalist:

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa almost seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

2. Dobby's Signature

This is a Nigerian food blog by Nigerian blogger Dobby:

I'm dobby, a culinary enthusiast with a flair for Local Cuisines in Nigeria and around the globe. Welcome to my online recipe diary where I explore and showcase dishes from my Nigerian kitchen to inspire meals in yours. Let me confess, i'm not a professional chef…..Yeah! i'm not. But Cooking is one of my major hobbies and i do it well. Whenever i'm not cooking, i do illustrations/graphic designs too as shown on the blog. So, Stick around and explore Nigerian food from my own point of view.

Dobby's signature is a Nigerian Food Blog focused on Showcasing Nigerian dishes, Exploring Traditional food recipes and Flavors with strong emphasis on Photography, Diversity, Vibrant colors and Health benefits… Just the way Mama makes it ;)

3. Kadi African Recipes

Oumou Bah from Guinea shares her passion for food on her blog. The blog also uses YouTube videos:

I love the fact that in Africa, mealtimes are moments of great gatherings for big families. In most African countries such as Mali, Somalia, through Guinea, Nigeria and Eritrea, people use their fingers instead of a spoon, fork and knife to eat which make the meals more special and taste so unique.

The dishes are mostly made of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables all usually accompanied by the staple such as rice,FouFou, Tô, ugali and many more . Peppers and spices are widely used, which gives the taste especially African cuisine. Also without forgetting the vegetable leaves such as sweet potatoes leaves, Ukazi, bitter leaves and so on . Yams, corn, okra, and tomatoes and many other vegetables are also heavily used varies according to the region.

The YouTube video below from Kadi African Recipes show how to make Attiéké, the main dish of the Ivory Cost:

4. Taste of Tanzania

After sharing recipes online on various sites since 2004, Miriam Rose Kinunda now runs the Taste of Tanzania blog:

Tanzania is located in East Africa (Indian Ocean is on the East). Since Persians visited the coast of East Africa dated as early as 17th century, they introduced many things including spices and some recipes; example, Pilau, Haluwa, samosa, Bagia, etc. Our diet is a mainly African, and a little bit of Indian and Arabic. I hope you will enjoy these simple recipes from Tanzania and a few of my favorate from other countries.

Miriam Rose Kinunda started to post Tanzanian recipes just for fun in June 2004 with the domain name miriammalaquias.com; In 2006 I changed to mirecipe.com and started to blog, In July 2009, I decided to give this site a name that fits, A taste of Tanzania

5. Chef Afrik

Adhis, the owner of Chef Afrik, plans on “cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”:

First started in November 2011, Chef Afrik is my African food and travel lovechild. The site's motto, “Cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”, indicates my pursuit as a Kenyan diasporan to discover the continent of Africa through its food. As well as showcasing food from all over the continent “In the Kitchen”, I also enjoy interviewing people who work with African food, whether as food writers, bloggers or chefs in my “Get to know” series.

6. Foodie in the Desert 

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Wangeci Wandere believes that anyone can cook no matter where they live. She started her food blog in a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya:

Thanx for stopping by Foodie in the desert, my online home for recipes I try out and my culinary journeys from all around the place. Here, I share recipes that I have tried and loved anything from a simple stew to a complicated dessert, a few kitchen disasters and I will give you a few tips and tricks here and There.

I am a big believer that ANYBODY can cook whether you live in a bedsitter (studio apartment) or a lavish duplex, whether your a bachelor who just moved out of home or a wife with 4 kids. I started this blog in Kakuma refugee Camp, I live in a tiny studio apartment and I barely get any supplies so if I can do it so can you. So join me in discovering how to spice up your meals using supplies that you can find in your local supermarkets.

7. A Hungry African

This is a blog written by Brandi Phiri, a graduate student in Botswana, who despised cooking until recently:

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana,  in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana, in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

I’ve never really been a fan of the kitchen or any chores involving it. Until very recently I despised the Kitchen, I mostly especially despised cooking, anyone in my family will attest to that!

But after finally moving into a campus flat equipped with a kitchen I realised I didn’t want to eat boring food. If I was forced to feed myself everyday it would be with good food!

Traditional African cooking (at least in southern Africa) doesn’t allow for much experimenting or variety. We don’t play fast and loose with spices like the west Africans or Indians, our baking is mostly limited to plain cakes,breads and buns, our staple food is nsima/pap/sadza/ugali/posho/fufu/bugari/phaletshe and we tend to favour meat stews. Of course there is slight variation from country to country. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional African food, nothing at all however I yearn for something different at times, something to surprise my taste buds and that is how my culinary adventures began.

8. Mzanzi Style Cuisine

South African blogger Thuli started Mzansi Style Cuisine in 2011 to encourage young people to cook and provide them with an online platform to access traditional and indigenous dishes:

Indigenous dishes are not widely documented reason being that the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation by training young women. Nowadays things have changed, young women move to the city to get education and jobs before they could have that entire food heritage passed down to them by the older generation. Well, I hope to bridge that gap through this blog. In addition to that, I urge young people, both women and men, to spend more time with the older generation. By that I mean our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Let us embrace them, listen and learn from their experiences. Knowing where one comes from makes for a grounded individual and there is nothing cooler than that.

There are many more African food blogs than those listed above. Do you have a favorite African food blog? Please share it in the comments section below.

December 30 2013

Mandela's lesson for Hong Kong

Sa Law from left21 wrote a piece on Nelson Mandela and his lesson for Hong Kong, a city where migrant workers are living in apartheid.

Due to their long working hours for six days a week, they lack the chance to socialize and mingle with the rest of Hong Kong society as others; they also generally lack ability to speak, read and write Chinese. Thus, they end up spatially and linguistically separated from the majority of Hong Kong people; and despite forming a large community of 320,000 workers, they are never considered part of the greater Hong Kong community, and their demands for equality or better rights are often greeted with deep outrage, as if they do not know their place.

December 15 2013

The Art of Fake Sign-Language Interpretation at Mandela's Memorial Service

Firstly, the event, Nelson Mandela's memorial service, was one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders. Then there was the booing of South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, and Obama, Cameron, Schmidt ‘selfie’ at the service. And finally, the fake deaf sign-language interpreter!

Yes, Thamsanqa Jantjie, the Mandela memorial interpreter was fake. He was not using any recognizable sign language. Writing on Limping Chicken, a deaf news blog, Professor Graham Turner, Chair of Translation & Interpreting Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh pointed out that:

He didn’t use South African Sign Language. In fact, he didn’t use any language. What he produced there was 100% authentic gibberish.

Thamsanqa Jantjie has claimed to have suffered from a schizophrenic episode that made him see angels and hear voices.

And then allegations surfaced that the ‘interpreter’ who stood a few meters away from world's leaders faced a murder charge in 2003.

The South African government has apologised for any offense caused by the sign-language interpreter.

Blogging on Thought Leader, South Africa writer Sarah Bitten pointed out that the fake interpreter showed the world that in South Africa you do not have to have any ability whatsoever to get a job:

In South Africa, the signing man told the world, you don’t actually have to know what you are doing in order to get a job. You don’t have to have any ability whatsoever, as long as it looks, to most, as though you can go through the motions — whether you are a teacher, a police officer, a bureaucrat, a government official or (as some have suggested) a state president.

There are those who see through you and complain, but they are ignored. Ours is not a culture of accountability. So one gig leads to the next. You’ve done it before so you get to do it again, because everyone in a position of power agrees that the emperor’s new threads are stylish. You stand there and tell us that the appearance of something becomes more important than the substance of it.

Many people wonder what he was saying. Several interpreters have emerged online to interpret him. YouTube user This is Genius posted humorous video below to show what the fake interpreter actually said:

Professor Graham listed 10 lessons from the fake interpreter saga.

1. Using a sign language fluently is not something one can do just by waving one’s hands around. Sign languages are grammatically-structured, rule-governed systems like all other natural human languages. You can’t produce meaningful signing off the cuff and – equally importantly – you can’t understand it spontaneously just by looking.

2. If you can’t sign, but require interpreting, you need reliable processes to help you identify effective provision. Interpreting isn’t a game: it should be run on a professional basis. This time, we saw a spectacular insult to the world’s Deaf people: but no-one died. Worldwide, every day, the result of inadequate interpreting leads to poor schooling, imprisonment, unemployment and health disparities. This must stop.

3. Without proper training, screening and regulation, people can and will take advantage. Even in countries like the UK, where sign language interpreting has become increasingly professionalised since the 1980s, smooth operators (who can talk the talk but not sign the sign) are legion. If you can’t sign, they may appear wholly plausible and be wholly bogus. Don’t guess and you won’t be fooled.

On Twitter, shocked users used the hashtag #fakeinterpreter to share their reactions to the revelation:

Apparently, it was not his first time as this YouTube video from 2012 shows:

December 12 2013

Nelson Mandela's Death: ‘Left Us in Body, But His Spirit Is Eternal’

Since former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death on December 5, 2013, people throughout the world have reflected on the beloved leader's life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Here are 6 reactions from around the world :

United Kingdom

Musa Okwonga, a poet and author based in London, noted on his blog that Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary who went to war against injustice in his country before he was a symbol of peace and reconciliation:

Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. [..] You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” [..] Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

Madagascar

Mialisoa, a blogger in Antananarivo, Madagascar, expressed her deep respect and gratitude for the life lessons she's taken from Mandela in a post titled Bonne Route, Monsieur [fr] (Safe Travels, Sir):  

Un jour, Monsieur, je m’assoirais près de mes enfants et je leur lirais votre histoire. Un jour, mes enfants s’assoiront près de leurs enfants et ils leur liront votre histoire. Grâce à vous, je sais et grâce à vous, je continuerais à apprendre:
Je sais de qui parler, lorsque viendra le temps d’expliquer à mes enfants ce qu’est un homme de courage et de conviction.
Je sais de quels principes s’inspirer lorsque viendra le temps d’élever les miens.
Je sais l’importance de la réconciliation. Avec soi-même et avec son prochain.
Je sais la valeur du pardon.
Je sais le précieux de l’égalité.
Je sais qu’il est possible de rendre les hommes et soi-même, meilleurs.
Je sais le bien que créent l’humilité, l’humour et l’audace. [..] 
Je sais, Monsieur, que je n’en sais pas assez. Je sais bien que je suis loin de savoir. Aussi, la meilleure manière de vous rendre hommage, Monsieur, est de continuer à apprendre et apprendre à agir. Et que Dieu nous vienne en aide, car le temps d’agir est maintenant venu.
Monsieur, merci. Je vous souhaite une bonne route.

One day, sir, I will sit with my children and read them your story. One day, my children will sit with their children and read them your story. Thanks to you, I know and thanks to you, I will keep learning:
I know of whom to speak, when the time comes to explain to my children what makes a man of courage and conviction.
I know what principles to draw on when the time comes to raise mine.
I know the importance of reconciliation. With ourselves and with our fellow people.
I know the value of forgiveness.
I know the value of equality.
I know it is possible to make humankind and ourselves better.
I know the good that humility, humor, and boldness can do. [...] 
I know, sir, that I do not know enough. I know very well that I am far from knowing. So the best way to pay tribute to you, sir, is to continue to learn and learn to act. God help us, for the time to act has now come.
Thank you, sir. I wish you a safe journey. 

Toavina, a political analyst from Antananarivo,  recalled on his Facebook page Madagascar's role [fr] in supporting Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), the  resistance movement against apartheid and now South Africa's governing political party: 

N'oubliez pas chers Malgaches, que MADAGASCAR a aidé le peuple Noir Sud-Africain ! Nous avons hébergé sous la Deuxième Rep la Radio de l'ANC. Piet Botha, Ministre des affaires étrangères de l'Afrique du Sud est venu à Madagascar pour discuter du cas de l'afrique du Sud avec l'ancien président Ratsiraka. De Klerk est aussi venu à Mada dans les années 90.

Do not forget, dear Madagascans, that MADAGASCAR helped the back people of South Africa! We broadcasted ANC's radio station during our Second Republic. Pik Botha, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, came to Madagascar to discuss the South African situation with former President Ratsiraka. De Klerk also came to Madagascar in the '90s. 

Mali

While it was hard for him to find the words, Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices contributor in Bamako wanted to commemorate the man [fr]:

« repose en paix », car je n’ai pas de mots. Je n’ai pas de mots car tous les mots sont insignifiants pour exprimer ce que je veux dire. Alors, je me tais, je me tais dans mes murmures internes

“Rest in peace,” for I have no words. I have no words because no words are sufficient to express what I want to say. So, I'll stay silent, I'll keep quiet with my inner thoughts.

He added [fr]: 

Je suis fier qu'il y ait une Rue Mandela et une Ecole Mandela à Bamako au Mali. Je vais toute de suite pour une interview avec le Directeur de l'Ecole Mandela.

I am proud that there is a Mandela Street and a Mandela School in Bamako, Mali. I'm going to have an interview right away with the Mandela School's principal.

Here is the school in question:

This teacher at the #Mandela school began the morning by talking about the man with his first-grade students #Mali pic.twitter.com/0gwSg5lrPg
— Boukary Konaté (@Fasokan) December 6, 2013

Niger

Aminatou, a women's right activist in Niamey, Niger shared this thoughts [fr] about Mandela and education:

Mandela est une source inépuisable d’inspiration. Sa phrase sur l’éducation résonne fortement aux oreilles de tous :
« L’Éducation : l’arme la plus puissante que l’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde. »

Mandela is an endless source of inspiration. What he said about education resonates strongly with everyone:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

France

Archippe, a French-based Cameroonian blogger and president of Internet sans frontières, pointed out a lesson for African countries to take away on his Facebook page [fr]:

Nelson Mandela nous aura enseigné une chose essentielle à nous africains, à nous humains: on peut vraincre par les armes, le nombre, la rhétorique, mais la vraie victoire, celle qui marque les siècles, est celle de l'esprit enchanté. Le corps de mandela n'est plus, son esprit est éternel.

Nelson Mandela will have taught us, us Africans, us humans, one essential thing: We can conquer with weapons, with numbers, and with rhetoric, but the real victory, what leaves its mark for centuries, is that of the soul. Mandela has left us in body, but his spirit is eternal.

An Algerian leader, through Alexandre Adler, a well-known french political blogger, commented on the impact the “Mandela approach” [fr] of inter-ethnic reconciliation could have had in Algeria:

Il y a quelques années, un dirigeant algérien nous confia que la «ligne Mandela» de réconciliation inter-ethnique aurait évidemment mieux convenu à l’Algérie de 1962 que le départ précipité des Européens et des juifs qui fut consommé en moins d’un an. Mais, ajoutait-il, «à cette époque, nous n’avions pas les idées de Mandela, et celles-ci nous serviraient bien aujourd’hui».

A few years ago, an Algerian leader confided that the “Mandela approach” of interethnic reconciliation would have evidently been better for Algeria in 1962 than the sudden departure of Europeans and Jews that came to pass in less than a year. “But,” he added, “At the time, we didn't have Mandela's ideas, and today they would serve us well.”

Mandela and Mao, Not Much in Common

Jeremiah from Jotting in the Granite Studio comments on the China's state broadcaster CCTV's attempt to draw the link between Mandela and Mao Zedong:

Mandela didn’t really have much in common with Mao. Mao was an idealist in the strictest sense of the word, a man who believed that how you did something mattered more than the results, often with disastrous consequences. During his long career, Mandela always kept his eyes on the prize. He repeatedly showed a willingness to compromise tactics to realize his dream of equality in South Africa.

December 06 2013

On Twitter, Peruvians Remember Song Dedicated to Mandela

When South African leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison in the 90s, Spanish-Peruvian musician Miki Gonzáles [es] wrote the song “Liberaron a Mandela” [Mandela was released]. Peruvian Twitter users remembered the song when they learned about Mandela's passing:

What a hit by Miki Gonzales when Mandela was released, back in the 90s. I remembered the melody but not the lyrics.

Tribute by a Peruvian musician to a liberty icon: Miki González, “Mandela was released”

17 Pieces of Wisdom from Nelson Mandela that Everyone Needs to Read

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Photo released by South Africa The Good News under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Photo released by South Africa The Good News under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa and a Noble Peace Prize laureate, died on December 5, 2013 aged 95. Mandela spent 27 years in jail for his struggle against South Africa's system of racial segregation known as apartheid. Freed from prison in 1990, he became president four years later, and left office after serving only one term, a rare gesture in African politics.

The internationally beloved statesman had an impressive way with words. One of his most famous quotes comes from a defiant speech he made in court during his Rivonia treason trial in 1964, in which he said

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Apart from his Rivonia trial speech, Mandela leaves behind many memorable and wise quotes made throughout his life. Despite his passing, he continues to speak to the world through Twitter users, who have reacted to news of his death by sharing his words.

On judgement:

On hate:

On forgiveness:

On sports:

On leadership:

On racism:

On determination:

On freedom:

On education:

On imprisonment:

On duty:

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Chairman Mao Is Greater Than Nelson Mandela, Chinese Leftists Say

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) declared ideological war on online public opinion leaders on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo in August, many liberal bloggers have withdrawn from the platform while leftists and fans of China's red culture are more vocal than ever.

With the death of Nelson Mandela, the internationally beloved former president of South Africa, on December 5, 2013, that political tilt was on full display as Maoist and nationalistic left-wing Weibo users took the opportunity to praise Chinese communist revolutionary and Mandela inspiration Mao Zedong and, surprisingly, criticize state-controlled media outlets for giving too many compliments to Mandela. 

Screen capture from the CCTV news feature on the life of Nelson Mandela

Screen capture from Chinese Central Television's news feature on the life of Nelson Mandela

During its review of Mandela's life, Chinese Central Television (CCTV) highlighted [zh] that Mandela had cited first generation leaders of the Chinese Communist PartyChairman Mao, Zhou Enlai and Zhu Deas sources of inspiration for his struggle in South Africa. According to the broadcast, Mandela even celebrated China's October 1 National Day with his prisonmates while incarcerated.

On Weibo, Maoists and left-wing nationalists, who are critical of capitalistic China and are in favor of more Maoist-style socialism, knocked CCTV's gracious treatment of Mandela and praised Chairman Mao instead.

“Mr Ouyang”, a microblogger upholding Marxist and Maoist thought, wrote:

曼德拉是一位民族主义者,他长期为种族平等自由而努力。他的逝世,值得悼念。但是,中国媒体过度拔高炒作他,让人不屑。曼的影响力很少,他没有思想,更无号召力。而中国的毛泽东,无论是在世界的影响力还是对世界人民的贡献,都是无与伦比的。曼自称是毛主席的学生。有些人处处想拿外人比下毛泽东,结果无效!

Mandela was a nationalist and had fought for equality and freedom for his race. We should mourn for his death. However, the Chinese media has given him too many compliments. Mandela's impact is limited and did not not develop any coherent thought. He was not even charismatic. The impact of China's Mao Zedong on the world and contribution to people of the world are outstanding. Mandela called himself a student of Chairman Mao. Some people want to downgrade Mao Zedong by comparing him with others, they are wasting their time.

Comments like this are more common thanks to the revival of Mao‘s legacy as a communist leader under current President Xi Jinping. Members of China's New Left are now taking every opportunity to reestablish the “greatness” of Mao, and Mandela's death is the latest excuse. 

“Windy Valley”, who used Mao's selected writings as his profile picture, also criticized CCTV for giving too much credit to Mandela, writing:

说实话,至今我都弄不明白,印度甘地,南非曼德拉他们所受到的赞誉怎么会那么高?当然他们都很了不起,也很伟大,但也仅此而已。毛主席远超于此。在毛泽东的名字前添加的不仅是伟大,更是神圣和唯一。曼德拉只能看到种族歧视和隔离,毛泽东更是看到了种族问题背后的阶级矛盾和斗争。这就是差距。

To be frank, I don't understand why India's Gandhi and South Africa's Mandela receive so much praise. Of course they were great, that's all. But Chairman Mao surpassed them all. We should place words like “divine” and “unprecedented” in front of Mao Zedong's name. While Mandela saw racial discrimination and segregation, Mao Zedong saw the class conflict and struggle behind the racial problem. This is the difference [between the two].

A portrait combining Xi Jinping and Chairman Mao to capture the revival of Mao. Image uploaded to Twitter by @feng37

A portrait combining the images of current President Xi Jinping and Chairman Mao to capture the revival of Mao. Image uploaded to Twitter by @feng37

“Red River”, also a self-proclaimed Maoist, recited CCTV's report and added his own comment:

曼德拉:毛泽东、周恩来、朱德等老一辈革命家和中国人民对南非人民争取独立、反对种族隔离制度的斗争给予了很大的支持,长征和中国革命一直鼓舞着南非人民。曼德拉在南非人民心中的崇高地位就像毛泽东在中国人民心中的崇高地位一样,高山仰止,世代永尊!

Mandela: Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, the old generation's revolutionists and the Chinese people lent support to the South African people's struggle against racial segregation and for independence. The Long March and Chinese Revolution gave the South African people inspiration. How the South African people hold Mandela in their hearts is like how Chinese people hold Mao Zedong in their hearts, their images are loftier than the highest mountain and will last forever.

In response to why Mao does not enjoy the same praise both within China and worldwide, @risingfromash, who is a self-described patriot youth, said:

全世界只有毛主席领导人民砸烂了一切束缚中国人民的枷锁,使人民真正地站了起来。而曼德拉,如同甘地一样并没能使人民真正地赢得一切。所以西方极为痛恨和惧怕毛泽东思想,却大力吹捧甘地和曼德拉

Mao Zedong is the only one in the whole world to have broken all the chains that enslaved the Chinese people and helped them to stand up. Mandela and Gandhi did not help their people to win all that they deserved. That's why the west hates and fears Maoist thought, but keeps flattering Gandhi and Mandela.

@guojizhuanjia, who used the Maoist slogan “anti-Soviet, prevent a capitalist revival” in his profile description, highlighted Mandela's view on the Tibetan independence movement:

曼德拉应该是一个向种族主低头。他对世界的看法完全是白人的立场和观点。虽然他被白人关入监狱,但是也放弃了向种族主义斗争到底的决心。他把藏独分子看成民权运动,这就是大错特错了。是一个黑皮香蕉

Mandela had bowed to racism. His views on world politics resemble white people's. Although he was put in prison by white people, he gave up his determination to struggle against racism. His consideration of the Tibetan independence movement as a human rights movement was a big, big mistake. He is a banana with dark skin.

Some stuck up for Mandela in the face of racially charged taunts. Huang Yen, a IT worker, was angry at the Maoist comments:

不要拿毛泽东来羞辱曼德拉。虽然同样是治国无方,但曼德拉上台没有搞文革,没有集体化弄出饥荒。曼德拉更是不恋栈退休而从事防治爱之病等公益事业,把政权民主和平的交给年轻一代。

Please don't insult Mandela using Mao Zedong. Both did not have antidotes for solving their countries’ fundamental problems. Mandela never launched the Cultural Revolution and never implemented collectives which resulted in famine. Mandela did not indulge in power, he chose to retire and contributed to charity works against the spread of AIDS. He passed on the government to the next generation in peace with a democratic system.

Writer Meng Qingde commented:

曼德拉或许研究过毛泽东,但他没有成为毛泽东,这是南非的大幸,否则,南非会上演一幕幕阶级仇民族恨的惨剧,曼德拉也就不会为世界所敬重和怀念了。

Mandela probably had studied Mao Zedong. But he did not become Mao Zedong. South Africa is lucky, or it would have gone through a series of tragedies related to class struggle and national resentment. If that happened, Mandela would not be respected and missed by the world.

Nigerians Celebrate Nelson Mandela, ‘A Source of Inspiration for People’ Everywhere

Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa who played a crucial role in that country's dismantling of apartheid, died on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. The beloved statesman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is often referred to as Madiba, spent 27 years in prison for his political activities during the country's white minority rule before becoming president.

Since the news of his death broke, Nigerians have been celebrating the life and times of the man some call Africa's greatest gift to humanity. Within the African world view, the departure of a sage is no time for mourning, but a time of reflection on and appreciation of a worthy legacy. Eulogies have continued to stream in on Nigerian social media since the announcement of his death. 

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Photo released by South Africa The Good News under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Oluwatosin Olaseinde, an accountant and auditor, captured this succinctly:

Oby Ezekwesili, formerly vice president of the World Bank's Africa division, wrote:

Twitter user @ba55ey celebrated Mandela: 

Journalist Abang Mercy-Asu shared a video of Madiba's “Freedom Speech”:

Writer and blogger Nze Sylva Ifedigbo shared a post from his blog: 

User @KwamiAdadevoh called for personal introspection: 

User @WilDeji, a dog trainer, tried to capture the historic date of Madiba's release from prison: 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a politician and prominent member of Nigeria's opposition, asserted that: 

Nnayelugo called for “Mandelaness”:

Literary critique Lord of the Gourds’ tweet was sarcastic:

User @nnamdiarea did not spare African leaders:

Social commentator Jason Kayode thought that it's not as much about leadership as it is about good citizenship:

RamblersINC, a blogger and literati, summed up Mandiba's legacy thus:

Mojisola Sodeinde wrote: 

Molara Wood (@molarawood), a writer, journalist and editor, summed up the sentiments of Nigerians in this poetic tweet:

Madiba will dance to the cadence of this dirge, written by Nigerian poet, Tosin Gbogi, as he approaches “heaven's gate”: 

Nelson, neon lights cast upon the night
Eons heavy with caste of memories,
Language bares to its final sole.

Soweto remembers the penal boundaries of up-rising
On a night like this, Nelson, a night like this when
Neon lights cast upon the world a cast of

Memories: a massacre so sharp
And vile: A Botha bold to a brainless core
Night on his lips, pronounces his race into the hate of
Dawn that brings Robben Island to its knees.

En route, Nelson is finally en route to Free(dom)Town
Let him have eternal peace, oh
Angels Biko and Brutus, quicken his pace to heavensgate

November 26 2013

South Africa Doesn't Want You to See the President's Lavish House

South African netizens have expressed shock and anger following revelations that the 20 million US dollars of taxpayers’ money was used to upgrade the country's president Jacob Zuma's private house in Nkandla, a town in KwaZulu Natal. The house has, among other facilities, a bunker, a swimming pool, a helipad, an amphitheater, a tuckshop [ a small, food-selling retailer], a tennis court, and a football pitch.

Cabinet ministers on 21 November, 2013 said anyone who published images or footage of the estate would face arrest because they will be breaching the National Key Points Act. However, South Africa's media defied the ban, with Times newspaper publishing the photos with the headline “So, arrest us.”

Apart from media houses publishing the photos and Twitter users sharing them widely, some Facebook users such as Jocelyn Newmarch are using them as a Facebook cover photo.

Zuma's house displayed as a cover photo on ...Facebook page.

Zuma's house displayed as a cover photo on Jocelyn Newmarch Facebook page.

Constitutional law expert and blogger Pierre de Vos pointed out on the blog Constitutionally Speaking that there are no laws making it unlawful to publish photos of Zuma's residence:

Minister of state security Siyabonga Cwele today warned that the publication of pictures of Nkandla is unlawful. This is rubbish. There is absolutely nothing in the (unconstitutional) National Key Points Act that prohibits the publication of pictures of a building declared a National Key Point. Otherwise the publication of all pictures of the SABC building would also be unlawful.

Commenting on Pierre's post, one reader, Jablet, wrote:

It [the photo] is now my FB cover image. [...] If Min Cwele's [Minister of State Security is Siyabonga Cwele] genius security measures are exposed by an aerial photograph of the grounds, there are probably bigger issues he should be worrying about.

Another reader, Bikoko, expressed his “disappointment” and urged Facebook users to use panoramic view of the house as Facebook background:

I'm disappointed that the above graphic does not show the following:

- The cattle culvert;

- The tuck shop [Zuma's first wife runs a tuck shop at the residence];

- And (leaving the best 'til last) the Chicken Roosting Area. Apparently, it's like an amphitheatre, and I imagine it will double up as such when there is a Chicken Roasting Event – this could be quite soon, since the elections are coming up and the locals need to be bribed to vote for their Overlord (I've heard they're not all that keen on him)…

Like Janet, I will be using a panoramic view of nSkandla as my Facebook background (more…)

November 24 2013

Czech Crime Boss Claims South African Police “Tortured” Him

Radovan Krejcir, an alleged Czech crime boss living in South Africa, was arrested on Friday, November 22, 2013, in Johannesburg on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder, although there are rumors on social media that other charges, such as money laundering and conspiracy, will be added to the list.

Krejcir, who has been a hot topic on social networks since his arrest on Friday, was already charged by Czech authorities, where he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in absentia for money laundering. He fled to South Africa before trial and is still wanted in the Czech Republic for several crimes, including tax fraud. South African authorities have been planning to have him extradited to the Czech Republic.

Krejcir is now claiming that he was tortured and treated cruelly by South African police since he has been in their custody. Many on social media are calling the case a disgrace and Krejcir “an embarrassment” to the country, asking that he be deported immediately. Twitter user Nqaba Ndlovu living in Nelspruit, South Africa, says:

October 18 2013

South Africa's Ruling Party #ProudlyBroughtByANC Campaign Flops

The main opposition party in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance (DA), erected a billboard last week in Johannesburg, South Africa to poke fun at ruling African National Congress’ electronic tolling system. The billboard reads: “E-tolls. Proudly brought to you by the ANC [African National Congress].”

Electronic Toll (e-toll) is a cashless payment system for road operators to pay toll fees. The ruling party pushed for it earlier this year despite public outcry, legal challenges and protests. It is the first open road tolling system in South Africa.

Jacob Zuma, the head of ANC and South Africa's president. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Dewet/GCIS.

Jacob Zuma, the head of ANC and South Africa's president. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Dewet/GCIS.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu (@JacksonMthembu_) reacted to the advert by starting a campaign against the DA on Twitter using the hashtag #ProudlyBroughtByANC. He wrote:

But the ANC campaign backfired as Twitter users used the same hashtag to show corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement on part of the ANC government.

SDH (@Coach_Hearn) pointed out to corruption in government procurement:

Sentletse (@Sentletse) used the the Traditional Courts Bill to show what is wrong with the ruling party:

The Traditional Courts Bill , which was first introduced in 2008, has been rejected by most provinces in South Africa. Legal experts and rural activists argue that the proposed law creates a separate, second-class justice system for rural communities, where women have fewer rights

Jessinsight (@Jessinsight) shared a photo showing members of the South African parliament, which is dominated by the ANC, sleeping while the House in session:

Marketing technologist Rafiq Phillips (@rafiq) complained about the banning of open-source software in government schools. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has announced that it will phase out the use of open-source software for information technology curriculum:

Pieter van Dalen MP (@PietervanDalen), a member of parliament for the opposition Democratic Alliance, used a photo of a dilapidated building with an ANC flag to represent the extent of rot in the party:

Sentletse (@Sentletse) reported:

Flower Child♡ (@Miss_Tshiff) posted a photo of council workers erecting a street sign and jokingly asked:

By the time of writing this post, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu (@JacksonMthembu_) had not responded to any of the tweets under the hashtag #ProudlyBroughtByANC.

September 18 2013

Will Madagascar's Upcoming Elections Solve the Island's Crisis?

After multiple delays, the proposed organization for the presidential elections towards the end of October 2013 is suggesting a solution for the political stalemate in Madagascar. The four-year-long crisis that started with the military-driven takeover in 2009 has plunged the country into a deep political and financial crisis.

But the country has a history of repeated post-electoral crises, so is optimism for an exit to this latest crisis premature?

Even if many observers see a glimpse of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the economic reconstruction efforts are still in tatters. In fact, the endemic poverty from which the Malagasy people suffer is not solely due to the current crisis, even if the economic indicators reveal that it has dramatically gotten worse in the last four years.

This two-parts series will present the causes and potential solutions to the downward spiral that is currently draining the country. In this first part, we will discuss the political crisis and the conditions for getting out of it. The second part will address the economic component and the possible solutions.

Elections and equitable access to information

The 2009 power struggle (Global Voices special coverage of the crisis can be found here) saw the country spiral into spurts of violence and protests, resulting in about 130 deaths since the start of the crisis.  A coup d'état followed in March 21, putting the country on hold while citizens wondered wearily about the fate of country. A military group put Andry Rajoelina in power during the transition period to govern the country until the next elections. The roots of the crisis are numerous but a combination of a growing inequality and the meddling of foreign power resulted in the removal of then-president Marc Ravalomanana who flew with his family to South Africa.

The 2013 elections will be the beginning of a crisis recovery, but not a cure-all. Many people find it hard to believe that elections will change the periodic crisis cycle, but they still hold the hope that the crisis will eventually end, like Sahondra Rabenarivo [fr], a lawyer and expert in international law based in Antananarivo, Madagascar:

Je rentre de la campagne où les élections n’ont aucune, alors aucune, résonance. Quand on n’évite pas de parler des affaires nationales, on s’en remet à Dieu pour résoudre les problèmes, tellement le sentiment d’impuissance face à l’énormité du problème met le citoyen à l’écart de tout pouvoir d’agir [..] Les élections de sortie de crise étaient censées être différentes : la liste électorale allait être revue en long et en large, mais qu’en est-il ? Où était la société civile ? [..] Il n’est pas encore trop tard mais il le sera bientôt. Les médias doivent ne pas laisser les uns et les autres occuper la place médiatique. Car pour y croire, il faut avoir confiance, et pour avoir confiance, il faut une démonstration crédible de progrès (carte d’électeur, bulletin final orienté vers la compréhension des électeurs et pas les préférences des politiques, accès égalitaire aux antennes nationales, abandon de prérogatives ministérielles)

I'm from the countryside where elections have no resonance. When we can't avoid talking about national affairs, we rely on God to solve problems. The sense of helplessness facing the enormity of the problem dismisses the citizen from any power to act [...] The end-of-crisis elections were supposed to be different: the voters list would be reviewed extensively, but what about it? Where was the civil society? [...] It's not too late but it will be soon. The media must not let one or the other occupy the media space. Because to believe in it, we must have trust, and to have trust, we need a credible demonstration of progress (voter card, final bulletin oriented toward understanding voters, not political preferences, equal access to national branches and abandonment of ministerial rights)
Vote d'un citoyen malgache via Andrimaso avec leur permission

A Malagasy citizen's vote. By Andrimaso, used with permission

Tsilavina Ralaindimby, the former Minister of Culture, agrees [fr] and advocates for equal access to media for all candidates:

Si le suffrage universel est sacré c’est parce que l’opinion exprimée par le choix du citoyen est sacrée. Mais comment avoir un véritable choix si on ne dispose pas de l’intégralité des informations ? Comment sera assuré l’accès équitable des candidats aux médias publics en particulier ? Sachant aujourd’ hui que les médias privés dominants sont ancrés à des candidats, les prix du temps d’antenne risquent d’y être prohibitifs.
Ne rêvons toutefois pas de conditions idéales et respectées. Nous avons empilé tellement de couches de complexités dans nos façons de penser et de faire qu’appliquer des idées justes et simples est devenu compliqué. Mais si ces diverses conditions sont remplies dans la majorité des lieux de vote et qu’au travers de leurs représentants dans les différentes régions, les candidats en compétition l’admettent, sont-ils d’accord pour signer un document commun où ils s’engagent à respecter les résultats et à donner une nouvelle chance à la démocratie à Madagascar ?

If universal suffrage is sacred, it's because the opinion expressed by the citizen's choice is sacred. But how can we make a real choice if we don't have all the information? How can we be assured that candidates have equal access to public media? Knowing today that the dominant private media are tied to candidates, the cost of air time is likely to be prohibitive there.
However, we're not dreaming about ideal and respected conditions. We have many layers of complexity in our ways of thinking and doing so that applying fair and simple ideas has become complicated. But if various conditions are met in most polling stations and through their representatives in the various regions, the competing candidates admit it—are they willing to sign a joint accord where they agree to respect the results and give Madagascar a new chance for democracy?

Hidden causes of the 2009 crisis

The frequency of political crises in Madagascar has increased at an alarming rate: 1975, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2009. In the 2009 crisis, many experts studied the reasons that led to the country's irreversible spiral in the current impasse. A recent study published in the magazine, Les Afriques, explains “the deep secrets from the [last] Malagasy crisis.” The study argues that the big island's competing geo-political interests stirred up the coup d'état [fr] that overthrew Marc Ravaomanana. The authors detail the reasons why they assert that France supported the removal of Ravalomanana, the main reason being that Ravalomanana threatened French financial interests in the country, especially the exploitation of the already-established French oil concessions in the southern part of Madagascar.

Le coup d’Etat d’Andry Rajoelina, le 18 mars 2009 à été qualifié comme étant un «french Coup», un coup-d’état orchestré par la France, selon les propos d’un diplomate européen à l’issue de la réunion du groupe international de contact sur Madagascar du 6 au 7 octobre 2009 à Antananarivo [..] La crise politique malgache depuis 2009 a donc été le résultat d’une mésentente entre la France et les U.S.A et les intérêts pétroliers sont au centre de cette querelle. Le plan énergétique américain et français, qui consiste à s’immiscer dans les affaires politiques, économiques et militaires des Etats pourvoyeurs de pétrole pour faire main basse sur cette dernière, n’est pas d’invention récente…

Andry Rajoelina's coup d'état on March 18, 2009 was characterized as a “French coup”, a coup d'état orchestrated by France, in the words of a European diplomat at the end of the International Contact Group on Madagascar's meeting on October 6 and 7, 2009 meeting in Antananarivo. [...] Since 2009, the Malagasy political crisis has been the result of a disagreement between France and the United States; oil interests were at the core of this dispute. The U.S. and French energy plan (i.e., getting involved in the political, economic and military affairs of the states supplying oil, in order to get its hands on it) has been a well-known fact for a while [...]

This argument was confirmed recently by former Malagasy president Didier Ratsiraka who stated during an interview [fr] on public television:

La France [m'] a demandé d'aider Andry Rajoelina à évincer Marc Ravalomanana [..]J'ai répondu, je ne suis pas en faveur des coups d’État” (….) On s'est mis d'accord que Marc Ravalomanana quitterait le pouvoir sans bain de sang.

France asked me to help Andry Rajoelina to push Marc Ravalomanana out [..] I said that I was not in favor of coup d'état [..] We agreed that evincing Marc Ravalomanana will have to happen without any violence.

Les Afriques magazine's statements on France's role are mainly based on Thomas Deltombe's March 2012 article in Le Monde Diplomatique to support his arguments. In this article, Deltombe explains that the French industrial holding group Bolloré, known for its aggressive acquisition policy in developing countries, and French oil Company Total were upset with  Ravalomanana's decisions to reallocate some preferential markets. Deltombe states [fr] that:

Les sujets de crispation franco-malgaches se multiplièrent tout au long de la présidence Ravalomanana. Le groupe Bolloré fut, dit-on, fort marri de se voir souffler la concession du port de Toamasina, privatisé en 2005, par un concurrent philippin. Quant à Total, il fallut une très forte pression de l’Elysée pour que le gouvernement malgache signe, en septembre 2008, une licence permettant à la multinationale française d’explorer les sables bitumineux de Bemolanga, à l’ouest de Madagascar [..] Si l’hypothèse d’un soutien français au coup d’Etat a la vie dure, c’est aussi que la France n’a jamais masqué sa proximité avec le président de la HAT Andry Rajoelina.

The Franco-Malagasy controversial topics have multiplied throughout Ravalomanana's presidency. The Bolloré group was, they say, very grieved to see the loss of the concession of the port of Toamasina, which was privatized in 2005 by a Filipino competitor. As for Total, the Elysée [The French presidency offices] placed a lot of pressure on the Malagasy government to sign, in September 2008, a license allowing the French multinational to explore Bemolanga's oil sands, located west of Madagascar. [...] If the assumption of French support to the coup remains, it's also that France has never covered its proximity to the HAT [High Authority of the Transition] President, Andry Rajoelina.

Why does Madagascar attract so many conflicting financial interests that irreparably plunges it in repetitive crises? Les Afriques magazine notes that Madagascar is a country that has plenty of resources [fr] to get its population out of endemic poverty:

Madagascar est riche en ressources forestières et halieutiques. Ses 5000 km de littoral, composés des mangroves et récifs coralliens qui produisent chaque année un excédent biologique (des poissons, des crabes, des crevettes, des concombres de mer et des huîtres) supérieur à 300 000 tonnes. Les mangroves du Canal du Mozambique servent à la reproduction de crevette de qualité appelées «L’or rose de Madagascar ». son sous-sol regorge du pétrole lourd et léger, de quartz, de diamant, d’or, d’ilménite etc. [..] Madagascar dispose donc de tout pour décoller. Pourtant cette île est l’un des 12 pays les plus pauvres du monde, 80% de la population vit en deçà du seuil de pauvreté [..]  L’insécurité des biens et des personnes et maximale aussi bien dans les grandes villes que dans les zones reculés.

Madagascar is rich in forest and fishery resources. Its 5,000 km coastline, consisting of mangroves and coral reefs that produce an annual biological surplus (fish, crabs, shrimp, sea cucumbers and oysters) of over 300,000 tonnes. The mangroves in the Mozambique Canal that are used for breeding quality shrimp are called “the gold roses of Madagascar.” Its subsoil is full of light and heavy oil, quartz, diamond, gold, ilmenite, etc. [...] Therefore, everything can be removed from Madagascar. But this island is one of the 12 poorest countries in the world—80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. [...] The insecurity of goods and people is higher in big cities than in remote areas.

The crisis recovery process will have to go through many obstacles and competing interests in order to form the foundation for a strong recovery. But time is also against the big island. The next leaders will have to find solutions in a very short period in respect of the country's fragile economic situation.

The second part of this analysis by observers of the Malagasy crisis will focus on the economic and social aspects.

August 10 2013

Does a Malawian Herb Cure HIV? ‘Africa Check’ Knows the Answer

Are Afrikaners being killed like flies in South Africa? Do 80 percent of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? How many countries are on the African continent?

These are some of claims that new website Africa Check tries to answer in an effort to sort fact from fiction and promote accuracy in public debates around the continent.

According to the website, Africa Check is:

…a non-profit organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate. We test claims made by public figures around the continent, starting in South Africa, using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting out fact from fiction. We publish our findings on this site.

Africa Check logo. Image source: africacheck.org

Africa Check logo. Image source: africacheck.org

The sites invites public members to suggest claims to be investigated. The site explains why fact-checking matters:

Fact-checking is not an abstract interest. It affects real lives.

In mid-2003, a group of religious and political leaders in northern Nigeria advised their followers against having their children vaccinated against polio on a claim that the vaccine would make them infertile.

The immunisation drive was part of a Western-led plot to reduce the population in the Muslim world, they alleged. Tests on the vaccines showed the claims were baseless, and those who spread the claim unchallenged would later withdraw it. But by then, the damage had already been done.

Polio, which was on the retreat worldwide in 2002 , surged in northern Nigeria and spread from there to a swathe of countries around West Africa and the world. And almost a decade on, the disease is still crippling people in Africa and elsewhere today.

False claims affect lives

And fact-checking is what they do. In a blog post titled “My tribe is dying” [afr], popular South African actor, writer and musician Steve Hofmeyer claimed that the number of white South Africans killed by blacks would fill a soccer stadium, that white Afrikaners are being killed “like flies” and that a white farmer is murdered every five days.

African Check investigated Hofmeyer's data and concluded that Hofmeyr was wrong:

But the claims are incorrect and grossly exaggerated. In fact, whites are less likely to be murdered than any other race group.

An update of the post on July 2, 2013, read:

On 1 July Steve Hofmeyr issued a written response to both this report and an article confirming Africa Check's findings which was published by the Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport.

The numerous claims Hofmeyr made and the “statistics” he presented do not add up. Since it was published, his post has had to be updated several times, removing, among other things, data that he claimed related to South Africa which actually came from another continent (and was also misconstrued).

Hofmeyr’s strongest argument boiled down to this: “Far more than facts, it is people’s emotions and experiences that matter … So ‘our people die like flies’ is still applicable, emotionally – and does not need to be supported by facts.”

Africa Check understands that perceptions do of course matter. As stated in our report, South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world and all murders are to be abhorred. Crime data, like all data everywhere, could and should be improved. This is something Africa Check is campaigning for. However, this is not a reason to dismiss inconvenient facts as Mr Hofmeyr does.

Another claim the site has debunked: Do 80 percent of South Africans regularly visit traditional healers as is always claimed by many media sources including the BBC and the South African Medical Journal?:

A South African traditional healer popularly known as Sangoma in Zulu. Photo courtesy of africacheck.org

A South African traditional healer popularly known as Sangoma in Zulu. Photo used with permission from africacheck.org

Here are the facts:

A 2011 General Household Survey found that while 70.7% of South African households favoured public clinics and hospitals, almost a quarter (24.3%) of households said they would first consult a private doctor. The least favoured options were traditional healers (0.1%) and pharmacies (0.3%).

Further analysis showed that 81.3% of black South African households first consulted public sector health facilities, 17.2% first consulted private sector health facilities and only 1.5% first consulted “other” health facilities, which include spiritual healers and traditional healers. Interestingly, 1.5% of white South African households reported that they consulted “other” health facilities first.

These statistics disprove the claim that 80% of black South Africans will first seek the assistance of a sangoma for health care. Contrary to this claim, surveys show that most black South Africans will first seek care from a public health facility.

The website also dug into a mystery drug from Malawi discovered by an employee of the Malawian Ministry of Health called “Garani-MW1″ has been promoted by Malawian newspapers and websites as a cure for HIV and AIDS. There is no evidence to support the claim:

A mystery “wonder herb” that has never been subjected to independent clinical trials or reputable studies is being touted unquestioningly by a number of leading Malawian newspapers and websites as a “cure” for HIV and Aids.

Named Garani-MW1 by the Malawi health department bureaucrat who says she discovered it, the “HIV and Aids herb” is described on the official product website as “a herbal preparation that is being used to treat people that have HIV and Aids”.

There is no evidence that Garani-MW1 is a cure for anything, let alone HIV and Aids. The substance has not been subject to any independent clinical trials, no data has been published and none of the claimed “success stories” appear to have been independently documented.

The conclusion:

There is no evidence that Garani-MW1 is a cure for anything, let alone HIV and Aids. The substance has not been subject to any independent clinical trials, no data has been published and none of the claimed “success stories” appear to have been independently documented.

The fact remains that there is no cure for HIV or Aids. Anti-retrovirals are the only reliable means of managing the virus that we know of. If a cure is ever discovered, you can be certain that international pharmaceutical giants will be falling over one other in their eagerness to license it and the story will be the subject of an international media frenzy, the likes of which we have rarely seen before.

Like so many other quack cures, the story of Garani-MW1 preys on the desperation of people diagnosed with HIV and Aids.

The fact that supposedly reputable newspapers in Malawi have chosen to give the claims credence with sycophantic and sensationalist reporting is particularly appalling. It is the kind of reporting that causes real damage and costs lives. It should be condemned.

And how many countries does Africa really have? 54 or 55 or 57?:

How many countries does the continent have in its entirety?” asked a message sent to us last week by a group of information security advocates.

The sender, @Infosecafrica, noted that Africa’s regional political organisation the African Union has 54 members but had seen a report claiming the continent is home to 57 countries.

So how many countries does Africa have? The AU claims to represent all African countries. So are there 54 or 57? How hard – we thought – can the question be

Disagreement over number of countries is not a unique African problem:

While it might seem a quirk not to be able to say, for sure, how many countries there are on the continent, the disagreement over numbers is not limited to Africa.

In Asia, there is disagreement about whether Taiwan, which split off from China in 1949, is an independent nation, or not. Worried by threats of retaliation from Beijing if it were to declare formal independence, it has not done so. But from its capital, Taipei, it maintains its own, democratically-elected, government and currency and runs itself independently of China; a country in all but name.

And in Europe, while most powers recognise Kosovo as an independent state, Serbia, its neighbour, does not. So in Europe too, there is uncertainty about how many countries there are.

The answer is:

The best answer to @Infosecafrica’s question that we have come up with is to say there are 55 states that are internationally recognised and members of either the AU or the UN or both. Fifty-three of these belong to both the AU and UN lists. Morocco is not part of the AU but is a member of the UN. The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic is part of the AU.

In addition, while there are various other territories that claim independence, there is also one de facto state, as described under the normal definitions of what makes a country, which is Somaliland. It is not, however, a recognised state.

The main partners for Africa Check are the AFP Foundation and the Journalism Department of the University of the Witwatersrand. Financial support comes from the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and the African News Innovation Challenge.

You can follow the project on Twitter and Facebook.

July 28 2013

Three Days to Go: Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards 2013

Three days are remaining for submmiting entries for the 13th edition of the Highway Africa New Media Awards. Sponsored by Telkom, these are unique and prestigious awards on the continent that reward innovative use of Information Communication technologies (ICTs) in journalism that serves Africa and its citizens.

July 14 2013

Africa Check: Sorting Fact From Fiction

Africa Check uses journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting out fact from fiction regarding claims made by public figures around the continent.

July 09 2013

Why Can't Madagascar Settle on an Election Date?

Four years since a military takeover plunged the country into political crisis in 2009, Madagascar cannot seem to find a way out.

One of the critical steps in the consensus road map [fr], an agreement signed by the head of the transitional government and three of the country's four opposition parties that outlines an exit to the crisis, is to organize free and transparent elections. Yet the date of the presidential elections have been delayed and pushed back more often than flights between Newark and Cincinnati airports.

The country has been bogged in crisis for so long that a recurring question among observers is whether the current transitional regime will outlast how long Madagascar's previously elected administrations held office. To boot, the political constitution is in such disarray that the prime minister has stated that in his opinion, there is currently no acting head of state in Madagascar.

What is the hold up anyway ? 

At the deadline for submitting their candidacies to the election, there were 49 declared presidential candidates. With the election date pushed back from May to July to a date to be determined later in 2013, a few candidates have already dropped out of the race while three others have been asked by the international mediation group (GIC-M) to withdraw their names in order to comply with the spirit of the road map.

The three politicians whose candidacies are deemed unacceptable by GIC-M are the current president of the transition, Andry Rajoelina; Madagascar's former two-time President Didier Rastiraka, who served from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002; and Lalao Ravalomanana, the wife of booted President Marc Ravalomanana.

African Union representative Ouedraogo explains the mediation group's viewpoint with respect to the Malagasy elections [fr]:

C’est vrai que ces candidatures ne respectent pas toute la légalité, mais la situation des Malgaches est telle que, après quatre ans de crise, il vaut mieux chercher la solution. Et la solution, nous, nous disons qu’avec une pléthore de candidatures – une pléthore parce qu’il y a 41 candidatures – il suffit de responsabiliser les Malgaches, de leur faire confiance, et ils feront le bon choix pour eux-mêmes

While it is true that these three candidacies do not comply to the agreed legal framework, the situation of Madagascar is such that after four years of crisis, we need to find a solution. And the solution might be, considering the plethora of candidacies (41) to trust the Malagasy citizens, let them take charge of their destiny and they will make the right choice for themselves.

But none of the three candidates seem ready to drop out of the race. Rajoelina is seen campaigning in the west of Madagascar in the picture below under the cover of some official event to attend (the presidential campaign is not officially underway since the election date is not yet set):

Rajoelina campaigning in the Mahajanga, Madagascar,  July 2013. Image posted on Facebook by Patrick Raharimanana with permission.

Rajoelina campaigning in Mahajanga, Madagascar, July 2013. Image posted on Facebook by Patrick Raharimanana with permission.

Lalao Ravalomanana has declared in the Wall Street Journal that:

I am running for President, nothing has happened recently to make me change my mind. I am prepared to suffer personal sanctions for my beliefs [..] The outcome all Malagasy citizens want is for an election date to be agreed; nothing more, nothing less. After that it is for the people to decide who they want as their next President.  All forty-one candidates should be allowed to present their manifestoes.

The rest of the candidates urge the Malagasy civil society to take action and do everything in their power to get an election date set once and for all. For that, a petition was launched [fr] and signed by 21 of the 41 candidates left.

The United States has also stated that they are in favor of election that would include all 41 candidates this year [fr].

Who is benefiting from the delays? And who is suffering?

As stated earlier, many observers wonder how long will the transitional regime last and how the country can bring closure to the crisis. The underlying issue is that the current administration is not ready to let go of their power, as illustrated by Rajoelina's campaigning effort.  The longer the status quo is maintained, the longer they can hold onto their positions.

Zafy Albert, an ex-president, stated that one of the main road blocks is the army [fr], the entity that helped put the current administration in power in the first place :

Zafy confirme que le blocage c'est l'Armée mais que des négociations sont en cours

Zafy confirms that the main blocking agent is the Army but negociations are ongoing.

The reasons for holding on a while longer are made quite apparent by a recent infographic published by the OMNIS agency, a state-owned agency that been commissioned to manage, develop, and promote the national petroleum and mineral resources in Madagascar:

natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

Natural resources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by OMNIS Agency on Facebook, with permission

The map lists all the mining sites in Madagascar and the international corporations that have signed contracts to exploit the available mineral resources on the territory. The lack of transparency on the content of these contracts prevent Malagasy citizens from knowing the exact terms of the deal and who benefited from them. Another reason for hanging on to power a while longer is the ongoing lucrative rosewood trafficking.

While the prolonged transition benefits a few privileged ones, it has taken an important toll on the general public. A recent study shows that the political crisis has overshadowed a more pernicious social and economic crisis: while Madagascar was already one of the most impoverished nations, now nine out of ten Malagasy live with less than two US dollars a day. The data shows than there are four million more poor citizens in the country since 2009 [fr].

The following video by Eric Rabemanoro details the impact of the crisis on unemployment, purchasing power and crimes [fr] :

An exit to the crisis at this point is not merely a question of politics anymore, it has become a question of survival for the majority of the population. A glaring question mark on where exactly does the priority of the political elite and the international community stand.

July 04 2013

Did Obama's African Tour Help or Hurt?

US President Barack Obama finished his six-day tour of three African countries, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, on July 2, 2013. The global public opinion about the importance and impact of his tour is sharply divided.

During his visit, Obama announced a new initiative, “Power Africa”, to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through this initiative, the US is committing seven billion US dollars while private sector companies have committed more than nine billion.

According to the White House blog, nearly 70 percent of Africans lack access to electricity.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Sandy Temu.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard welcoming him in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Instagrammer Sandy Temu.

Commenting about the initiative, Bright Simmons at African Argument commended this new idea for strategic engagement with Africa:

As one of the people who have in the past complained about the seeming lack of new ideas for a “strategic engagement with Africa” from the Obama White House, I welcome renewed energy towards that direction.

The issue selected – Africa’s electricity challenge – is clearly a vital one. The World Bank for instance says that all sub-Saharan African countries, minus South Africa, combined do not generate more electricity than Argentina. Including South Africa, they produce only as much as Spain.

It is commendable that the White House is pledging up to $7 billion in additional funding from two of its overseas-focussed agencies – EXIM and OPIC – for this cause.

I am sure that the White House is already aware that even if this whole amount was provided in a single year, and it is more likely that it will be provided over a 3 to 5 year timeframe, it will not be able to dent the $23 billion YEARLY deficit in energy investment on the continent.

Daniel McLaughling reacted to his post arguing that abolishing national monopolies on electrical utilities is the only solution capable of producing results:

If people are serious about solving Africa’s electricity problem, they should be promoting the only solution capable of producing real results: abolish national monopolies on electric utilities. It amazes me that, with all of the talk about increasing electricity production, nobody wants to admit into the discussion the possibility that government monopolies and corruption are the problem, and that billions more in money transferred to governments will only entrench the corruption further, with little benefit for the people. Open up the markets to competition and profits and you will see large-scale investments and significantly improved access.

Joel B. Pollak was of the view that “Power Africa” will likely not produce as much energy as promised:

[...] “Power Africa” will likely not produce as much energy as promised, while lining the pockets of politically-connected individuals in both the U.S. and Africa. Meanwhile, China, which does not mind if Africans are driving cars and living in large houses with air conditioning, will continue to invest in Africa in ways that generate actual economic growth, relegating the U.S. to the sidelines in Africa's economic future.

Siddhartha Mitter noted that “all infrastructure investment should be considered a good thing unless proven otherwise—especially in Africa”:

At present, continent-wide installed capacity and power generation are roughly equivalent to those of Germany or Canada. Remove South Africa and Egypt, and you are left with about 63 GW supplying 260 billion kWh, scarcely more than Australia or Iran. In this context, if the first phase of Power Africa succeeds in its stated goal of adding 10 GW of generation capacity and connecting 20 million new residential and commercial customers, it will represent a major expansion—albeit not near the doubling of access that, according to the White House fact sheet on Power Africa, is the program’s ultimate aim. Indeed, the same fact sheet soberly estimates that it would cost $300bn to secure universal access to power on the continent by 2030.

Despite the excitement shown by citizens of the three countries, Shadow Government showed that there was a low point to the trip:

But there has been a low point to the trip: namely, his comments in South Africa during the press conference with President Jacob Zuma. The president made what I consider ill-thought-out comments, probably meant to be humorous, regarding the press. He referred to the American press corps as “my press,” and he chided them for asking too many questions. Normally, perhaps, this wouldn't be a big deal. But in that he was visiting three African countries whose press is judged by Freedom House to be “partially free,” I think it is not just bad form but harmful for his administration's support for democracy. Of course I would not expect the president to use his trip as an occasion to criticize his hosts directly. But I would expect that while he, himself, is under scrutiny for his administration's treatment of the press (the AP phone records and Fox News's James Rosen), he would not make light of such matters.

Kumekucha called Obama “snubbish Obama” for not visiting Kenya, the land of his father:

Now that Obama has finally landed in Dar es Salaam dancing to Bongo ‘Ohangla’ Flava [Bongo Flava is the name for Tanzanian Hip Hop and R&B music], we can finally bid him bye from without and mend our punctued national pride.

What a snubbish man to have him camp at next door neighbour with no regard to the hurt he is causing his own people who adore him so much. SHAME.

Forget all the bitterness spewed that we do not need Obama's visit. True, the economic side of such a visit would be realisedmuch later but boy, isn't Nairobi missing the buzz!

Obama's ICC-laced whip smacks of utmost contempt after Kibaki declared a holiday in his honour after winning the elections in 2008. What is more, the Tanzanians could afford to shame him with a street name for recognition.

The YouTube video below posted by the White House shows a young South African showing Obama his rap skills at the Desmond Tutu HIV Center:

Looking at Obama's overall contribution to Africa's development, Tolu considered Obama “positively neglectful” when comparing him to the Bush administration. He explained:

The Bush government left footprints across the continent beyond the aid arena. It played a role in the signing of the peace agreement that brought an end to decades of civil war in Sudan, showed a lot of interest in bringing an end to the wars in the Congo region, and helped bring about an end to the civil war in Liberia, helping ensure Charles Taylor’s resignation, and eventual arrest and prosecution. (Taylor has of course since wondered aloud why Bush is himself not facing prosecution for his own “crimes”).

Against this background of US, Obama comes across as positively neglectful. His only activity of note has been to ramp up US military activity in Africa, adding drone bases and deploying significant numbers of troops. When he was first elected there were celebrations across the continent, and perhaps unrealistic expectations that he would champion African interests on the world stage. Indeed on his first visit to Ghana, he declared that he had “the blood of Africa within me”. Since then his absence has been keenly felt, sparking accusations that he has betrayed his roots.

But is this fair? Does Obama have a special responsibility to the continent, because of his ancestry? Perhaps not. Perhaps the emphasis on Obama as a black president is missing the point. Because it’s not just for reasons of solidarity that the US president should attend to Africa. There are more selfish reasons, both , economic and political, as well.

Being a feminist South African, Jennifer Thorpe noted that the environment she lives in affects women’s lives most tangibly. She therefore looks at Obama's environmental protection track record:

We know the US has a poor track record environmentally — a perfect example of how legislation protecting the environment is not nearly as good as not polluting it in the first place. Recently Obama has changed his tune, saying he’d stop dangerous and environmentally disastrous projects like the Keystone pipeline if they showed the environmental impact would be negative.

In South Africa, the Constitution provides the right for all of us to live in an environment that is not bad for our health. Yet we see so often that environmental impact assessments just make sure that companies meet the bare minimum rather than actively going out of their way to protect the land and environment that belongs to all of us. I hope that when President Obama evaluates the impact of Keystone on the environment, he does so in broad strokes, not in a narrowly defined minimum norms and standards type of way. I think the question should be simple — will the innately valuable biodiversity, beauty, and sanctity of the land be improved by Keystone? As someone who grew up in Hawaai, I know he knows the answer to this question in his heart.

On Twitter, BBC's Andrew Harding (@BBCAndrewH) observed:

@BBCAndrewH: #obama – Africa cannot just be a source of raw materials for somebody else.

Mr. Mabotja (@MelosoDrop_Line) responded to @BBCAndrewH's tweet by saying:

@MelosoDrop_Line: @BBCAndrewH #Obama never indicated that Africa is a raw materials shop… His indicating the shift away from that mentality

Dayo Olopade (@madayo) wrote:

@madayo: The #ObamaInAfrica trip is as notable for what he's doing as for what he's not. Rule of law fixation leaves out the most relevant countries.

Haru Mutasa (@harumutasa) pointed out what some Africans are asking:

@harumutasa: #obamainafrica. Some Africans are asking, “what has the US president done for Africa that's different from previous US leaders?”

Ashley Koen (@a_koen) was concerned about innocent civilians who were rounded up to “clean up the city” – it is a commons practice in most African countries when a foreign head of state, especially from Europe and USA visits, for street vendors to be removed:

@a_koen: Will all those displaced businesses and innocent civilians who were thrown in jail to clean up the city get their lives back? #ObamainAfrica

Obama in Africa: Catching Up with China

President Obama is currently touring Africa on a visit scheduled from June 26 to July 3, 2013. He was recently in South Africa after having visited Senegal and Tanzania. Many commentators see this trip as a catch-up mission, as an attempt by the United States to respond to the Chinese economic breakthrough [fr] in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2010, China has been the leading commercial partner in Africa [fr], although four years ago, at the time of Obama’s visit to Ghana, the US were in this position. Obama’s speech in Ghana four years ago left many Africans sceptical and there seemed to be little common ground.

In the video below, Global Voices contributor Abel Asrat for Global Voices in Ahmaric gave his point of view on Obama's policy in Africa as of today:

On Twitter, doubts over the reasons for Obama’s visit to Africa were reflected by use of hashtag Wolof  #ObamaTakh which translates just well as “Because of Obama” as “Thanks to Obama” – appeared several days before his arrival in Dakar.

Until his arrival on Senegalese soil this was the first acceptance of the word which took over the social networks. Then the mood changed, as @LebouPrincess, a Senegalese based in DC,  underlined on Twitter:

Plus impressionnant que l'arrivée du Air Force One c'est le revirement des #kebetu (Twittos en Wolof] lol guemoulene dara [vous êtes versatiles] #ObamaTakh

What was more striking than the arrival of Air Force One was the return of hashtags #kebtu, (Tweets in the Wolof language) lol guemoulene dara [you are versatile] #ObamaTakh.

The following day Obama managed to get the Senegalese somewhat on his side by mentioning the Senegalese Fight during his discussions with President Macky Sall and saying some words in the Wolof language: Nio Far (We are partners),Teranga (hospitality) and Jerejef (Thank you).

Central to discussions between the two presidents were the conflict in Mali, drug trafficking and economic issues [fr]:

Le président américain Barack Obama a annoncé, jeudi à Dakar, que son administration était en train de « chercher des modalités de reconduction » de l’AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act], la Loi américaine sur la croissance et les opportunités en Afrique.
S'exprimant au cours d'une conférence de presse conjointe avec son homologue sénégalais Macky Sall, au lendemain de son arrivée au Sénégal pour une visite officielle de trois jours, le chef de l'Etat américain a indiqué avoir demandé à son administration de travailler pour arriver à une reconduction de l'AGOA.
L'AGOA est un programme unilatéral de préférence commerciale signé par le Congrès des États-Unis et permettant l'exemption de taxes et l'accès à un quota libre pour plus de 6 400 produits provenant des pays éligibles de l'Afrique sub-saharienne.
Le président Obama a par ailleurs réaffirmé la volonté de son administration de travailler à développer les relations commerciales entre son pays et le Sénégal.

The American President, Barack Obama, announced on Thursday in Dakar that his administration was currently “researching ways to renew” from the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), the American law covering growth and opportunities in Africa.
During a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, the day after his arrival for a three day visit to Senegal, the American head of state indicated that he had asked his administration to work on renewal of the AGOA. The AGOA is a unilateral programme covering commercial preference signed by the United States congress, allowing tax exemption and access to a free quota for more than 6,400 products coming from eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. What is more, President Obama restated the desire of his administration to work on developing commercial relations between his country and Senegal.

In Senegal and elsewhere, the most commented upon moment of the press conference given by the two presidents, was when Barack Obama, freely and almost certainly with the backing of his Senegalese counterpart, broached the topic of gay rights in Africa. Sabine Cessou on Rue89 explains how questions were selected [fr] during the press conference :

Les questions des quelques 300 journalistes présents ne pouvaient pas être posées librement, mais avaient été sélectionnées à l’avance. Ce processus a permis à seulement deux journalistes sénégalais et deux journalistes américains de poser quelques salves de questions chacun.

The questions from the 300 journalists were screened beforehand. The process allowed for two Senegalese journalists and two american ones to ask the tough questions.

Macky Sall’s response did not disappoint Senegalese traditionalists [fr]:

Fondamentalement, c’est une question de société. Il ne saurait y avoir un modèle fixe dans tous les pays. Les cultures sont différentes, tout comme les religions et les traditions.
Même dans les pays où il y a dépénalisation de l’homosexualité, les avis ne sont pas partagés. Le Sénégal est un pays tolérant : on ne dit pas à quelqu’un qu’il n’aura pas de travail parce qu’il est homosexuel. Mais on n’est pas prêt à dépénaliser l’homosexualité. C’est l’option pour le moment, tout en respectant les droits des homosexuels.
Nous ne sommes pas homophobes au Sénégal. La société doit prendre le temps de traiter ces questions sans pression.

At heart, this is a question of society. It would not be possible to have a fixed model in every country. Cultures are different, just as religions and traditions are.
Even in countries which have decriminalised homosexualisity, opinions are not shared. Senegal is a tolerant country: nobody is ever told that they will not work because they are homosexual. However, we are not ready to decriminalise homosexuality. That is our choice for the present, while at the same time we respect the rights of homosexuals.
We are not homophobes in Senegal. Society must take time to deal with these issues without pressure.

In the US, Kimberly McCarthy had been executed the previous day in Texas, and her cutting remarks about the death penalty had created the same unanimity: the Senegalese president remarked to his interviewer that certain countries still applied the death penalty – without naming the United States – although it is abolished in Senegal (the last capital punishment was in 1967) which, on the other hand, is careful not to preach to others.

As @hpenot_lequipe, a journalist for the french newspaper l'Equipe, remarked on Twitter:

Très intéressant échange entre Obama et Macky Sall. Pour une fois, un président africain ne s'est pas écrasé devant E-U. Respect.

Very interesting exchange between Obama and Macky Sall. For once, an African president who doesn’t fall before the US. Respect.

And from @Toutankhaton, member of the african diaspora in Paris :

Bravo à @macky_sall pour sa réponse cash à @barackobama ! Peine de mort vs mariage gay! #obamatakh

Bravo @macky_sall for his kosher response to @barackobama! Death penalty vs gay marriage! #obamatakh

Below is the video of the press conference by Xalimasn from Senegal:

Photos from Obama’s visit can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Dakar Echo.

In South Africa, his welcome seemed a little less cordial, as the Washington Post's foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher points out:

For much of the 1980s, the United Kingdom and United States were perceived by some South Africans, not wholly without reason, as tolerating the apartheid government. That may help explain why some of Obama’s critics in South Africa criticize him for supporting the “apartheid state” of Israel. The groups also cite U.S. drone strikes and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 

June 16 2013

Square Foot Gardening in South Africa

Learn about Square Foot Gardening in South Africa:

Very simply put, Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is a whole new way of gardening, growing vegetables & fruits and contributing handsomely to the kitchen table even with the smallest of gardens at your disposal.

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