Friday, July 29, 2011

The African Dream - tin-pot status

Dear Politicians everywhere,
          Yippee we’ve finally arrived.
        It’s been on the cards for some time, but South Africa has now joined the ranks of all the other insult-the-President-at-your-peril tin-pot African states. But we’ve spiced things up by adding a racial mix to it.
          And to make things even better the Black Magistrate, Gugu Mphikeleli didn’t let the evidence cloud her judgment when she found White businessman Daryl Peense had committed an unbelievably serious offence. The case was brought to the notice of the court by the President’s eagle eyed, bodyguards.
          His crime: spilling his drink from a balcony onto the ground below not far from where President Jacob Zuma (pictured in his leopard’s skin regardless of the animal’s dwindling numbers) was standing. The incident happened a year ago at the Durban July, one of the country’s premier horse racing events.
          Peense told the Durban court that he had been drunk at the time and what happen was quite unintentional.
          None of it landed on the Black President who did not complaint. In spite of this our learned Gugu decided that the Whitey had done it on purpose and was guilty of assault. She added, It involves the dignity and integrity of the President which is protected by the Constitution, so it’s not a trivial matter at all.         
          According to her brilliant legal brain the definition of assault included the application of indirect force which could be as serious as the case before her even if the victim had been unaware of it.
          Who was that who said the law’s an ass?
          So what it actually boiled down in this tin-pot country was that Peense had insulted the President, but as they had forgotten to outlaw this, they had to make do with the one governing assault. As he was White I’m surprised that they didn’t upgrade the charge to assault with a deadly whisky and soda.
          Full of her own self importance Gugu turned the proceedings into a typical Africa kangaroo court. The drink had fallen right on top of the President’s head she decided, when there was not a shred of evidence to support this.
          As the prosecution no doubt intended, poor old Peense has been financial ruined by the case that involved numerous adjournments. To mess him around even further he has to return to court in two months time for sentencing.
          Will he get a heavy jail sentence everybody is wondering? Or will he just have to pour the President’s drinks for an indeterminate period?
          African Presidents are not renowned for being broad minded. And laughing at themselves or allowing anybody else to do it is a crime against the state.
          Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, who came to power in 2004, complained that he was the most insulted President in his nation’s history. He made this comment after four security guards were charged with insulting him under the Protected Names and Emblems Act.
          Here’s one more from me for your collection Bingu. You deserved every one.
          In Zimbabwe being arrested for insulting President ‘Mad’ Bob Mugabe is almost a daily occurrence. Even Jameson Timba, the shadow Foreign Minister in the Movement for Democratic Change, the rival to Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, got the usual treatment when he called Mugabe a liar.
          Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had 20 people arrested for booing him at a campaign rally. In Zambia, where defaming the head of state carries a jail term of up to three years, President Levy Mwanawasa was not amused by what a young South African had to say about him. So he too was arrested and a British journalist also got into trouble for what he said about the President in one of his articles.
          The funniest - not for those arrested - act in this African comedy was provided by Cameroon author Bertraud Teyou. He brilliantly took the piss out of the wife of President Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982. In a book entitled, The belle of the banana republic: Chantal Biya, from the streets to the Palace. It actually had a French title but this is the English translation.
          You can’t get much more daring than that in humourless Africa. To add insult to injury Teyou had planned a public reading of the most controversial parts of his book. You can imagine how far he got with that.   
          In this impoverish country which ranked 138 out of 163 on the world’s corruption index Cameroon’s first lady evidently leads the life of a film star (see pics), while for his bravery in the face of Presidential wrath the author was jailed for two years.
       So I think you will agree with me, African is no joke, in more ways than one.
          Depressingly yours,

P.S. I hope I don’t get arrested for assaulting any of these Presidents by autosuggestion. You never know in Africa where the ridiculous is accepted as normal.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on  It's a thriller with and underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.

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