Wednesday 7 January 2004

Cellophane skinned lion hearts

Historical inferiority complexes
The prominent international news from Zambian concerns the abuse of both opportunity and privilege by all concerned leading to the proffered deportation of a white journalist.
Country Profile: Zambia
The Zambian Bookmark - Zambia by Zambian intellectuals
After 40 years of independence, at least on the surface, independence is supposed to mean no dependence on the colonialists for the governance and destiny of the land and leaders of people who have sought this freedom.
The 1960s heralded the collapse of the original British Empire where the Queen was sovereign over lands that reached over up to 25% of global land mass, typifying an empire on which the sun never set.
However, the collapse of the empire heralded the advent of the Commonwealth of Nations; a grouping of nations who have the common history of having been or still are members of the "British Empire". Mozambique is the only member without this historical tie.
The independence struggles increased in violent intensity as you moved from Sub-Saharan West Africa northwards or southwards.
Northwards it was the French and Italian struggles of Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Southwards the British handled the upheavals in Kenya, Uganda, the Rhodesia and finally South Africa.
Nigeria and Ghana were in comparison very peaceful transitions. Unfortunately, Africa the land of potential and promise of the 1960s is hardly what it offered then.
Most especially the Southern African states which struggled through more uncivilised actions of Western émigrés who introduced positively racist segregation policies very much like the publicised civil rights wrongs of America.
Those years etched indelible marks in the psyche of the majority of racial inequality, superiority, abuse and lack of opportunity.
These colonials had free rein such that they were literally above the law for offences that drew the full force of the law and sanctions in the home country.
How else would the longest served senator in the United States who ran on a segregationist ticket in 1948 have secretly fathered a child from a liaison with a black maid of which we all had no knowledge until after his death?
The censorious press and foreign journalists
Well, so many years after independence that division of black and white still exists, in the South African sub-continent with examples of Zimbabwe with respect to the botched land reform and seizing of farms and Zambia where press criticism by other races is frowned upon.
In fact, it is any criticism, no matter how constructive. This time a journalist had compared the president of Zambia to a foolish elephant and two other ministers to baboons.
Zambia has had a coterie of defamed, insulted, slighted, slandered and libelled leaders.
However, it is a moot point to suggest that the Home, Foreign or Information ministers have any other function than to promote security and international prestige.
They usually are pre-occupied mostly with the sensibilities and biorhythms of the president rather than the country and people they represent.
The use of onomatopoeia, allegory, analogy, and simile or even in this case, animal metaphor exemplifies the richness of language and expression.
However, perception of the metaphorical object and the accompanying adjectives can create adverse reactions.
An elephant typifies size and strength, but a white elephant is something that involves lots of expense yielding little value.
A foolish elephant might in one refer to the President's size [I have no stand against natural obesity] and how his size or prestige has suffered due to some unwise act on his part.
The President had visited a game park, and that presented the opportunity for satire, it is no surprise that the ministers having lost their sense of humour and irony have played the gallery allowing for what was inconsequential to become an international news story.
Now we have expository focus on the presidency, the rule of law and the indolence that characterises their pre-occupation with image over policies that help the Zambian people.
More so, it would appear that the circulation of the besieged "The Post" newspaper is wider than is accepted if so many are going to read the slur on the president and think less of him.
One wonders if the reaction from the ministers would have been salutary if the president were compared to a wise lion, agile tiger or wily snake.
The speed at which African democracies censor, proscribe or ban the press in their countries only highlights weaknesses in legitimacy of the governments and the absence of adherence to the rule of law and process.
Fortunately, the courts are speaking up for the journalist's rights, this time.

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