Sunday, 27 May 2012

ABOMINATION! President Jacob Zuma Ultimately Dishonoured

There has been something that has been bugging me this past week. It all began when I was flipping channels hoping to find something worth watching on the tele. In this attempt I stumbled onto CNN, on the screen appeared some very angry chaps. They were raising fists in the air, slicing their throats with their fingers, screaming into the camera and promising to kill the white man who so happened to have done something to President Jacob Zuma. So there I was at my curious best trying to find out what was the genesis of this entire drama. Then like always I eventually went to my trusted friend Google. And what I found, ABOMINATION!

The fuss was being created out of a painting called The Spear.  It is a painting of South African President Jacob Zuma which has a striking resemblance to Victor Ivanov’s Lenin lived, Lenin is alive, Lenin will live. The difference is that the head is Zuma’s and it also despicably shows his private parts. This gesture is what has led to the painter, Brett Murray to instant notoriety among the black community in South Africa. This painting has added another dent into South Africa’s polarised society even if the country desperately tries to sell itself to the rest of the world as a Rainbow Nation. Many have accused this painting which was eventually defaced and vandalised as a racist act. The ANC has even taken the matter to court for defamation of character against Jacob Zuma.
The painter Brett Murray has defended his painting as freedom of expression. He was stretching his imagination to show the many flaws in the government that was supposed to make a difference. According to his interpretation the painting had nothing to do with race rather he was trying to show corruption, greed and patriarchy in society. However, Zuma’s private part’s show this I still wonder. The instant I saw this disturbing picture the first thought to come to my mind was that the painter will definitely plead freedom of expression. To some degree Murray may have a case for freedom of expression but the question then is was it culturally right and does Zuma bear part of the blame?
President Jacob Zuma has not been known to command high esteem in the manner that his predecessors have done, namely Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela. The latter has almost reached god-like status revered all around the world. Zuma’s bedroom dirty laundry has definitely been exposed for everyone to see. He is polygamous, infamous for a statement he made during a rape trial that after having unprotected sex he took a shower to prevent the risk of contracting HIV, he impregnated his friend’s daughter and he only recently married another wife. Clearly this is not the kind of headlines you would expect a president to be famous for. People want to read headlines of how the president has tackled poverty, dealt with corruption, and created more jobs not who the president is taking to bed. Hence, if I choose to play devil’s advocate maybe I can understand an inch of Murray’s frame of mind at the time of conceiving the painting.
Nonetheless, I still believe that he stretched the elastic of freedom of expression too far and it snapped. I am sure that there are many ways in which he could have used his creativity to get his message across without being disrespectful. In our African culture it is clearly the utmost insult and dishonour to portray our elders in such a manner. It is almost unthinkable. Regardless of what your elder’s action it is still culturally incorrect to disrespect them. The painting cleared stripped Zuma of his dignity and laid it paid for the world to see. I can therefore understand the anger that the black community in South Africa has.
Zambia is definitely miles away from being as bold as Brett Murray was in their freedom of expression. I am certain Mr. Murray would have been locked up in Chimbokaila, where he would be screaming his freedom of expression from. In Zambia, I reckon that we are not as courageous or we are simply self-censoring that is why we will not see such a painting anytime soon. However, I have recently seen that this freedom of expression is slowly being abused on social media and other internet related sites. This usually comes in play when people are given an opportunity to comment after an article or status. It is difficult to have a constructive discussion because the comments are laced with insults, political insinuations, or tribalist rants. In as much as I am in full support of freedom of expression people should be mindful about the way they choose to exercise this right. When issues of tribe, colour or political affiliation begin to be the mainstay of our daily conversations it is only likely to breed hate.
My overall verdict on Brett Murray’s painting is that even though I do appreciate the fact that he has the right to freedom of expression, it does have its limitations. Murray is not living in a vacuum and should have been mindful of the society in which he was displaying that painting. It is a traditional African society which culturally demands respect for elders. Showing President Jacob Zuma’s private parts in a painting was an absolute abomination which I hope that the uproar it has raised will cause other artists to critically rethink some of their creations.

Should Freedom of Expression be monitored?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lessons from the Dangerous Football Obsession

This has been a great year for me as a football fan. First Chipolopolo wins the African Cup of Nations for the very first time in Gabon. Then this past weekend Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League for the very first time too. Chelsea had won everything there was to win the Premier League, Carling cup and the FA Cup. The only trophy missing in their cabinet before Saturday’s final was the UEFA Champions League cup which was been considered as the holy grail. It is a trophy that had eluded the club for close to a decade since it was bought by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. On Saturday against Bayern Munich coincidentally in Munich they were to rectify that error in the history books. While Chelsea and Bayern were locked in battle on the pitch, fans around the world were religiously glued to their TV screens. It is this football obsession that has me bothered somewhat.
I am certain that any bar with a TV screen was filled to the last space available, Chelsea fans and none fans were all watching the game in anticipation. Then there were those who were waiting to see if the rumoured prophesy by TB Joshua would come to fruition. I will not dwell on this because it is a topic for another blog. Chelsea fans, I included were clad in our replica jersey our symbol of devotion to the club we have come to love. As the match progressed, I was there screaming at the television on the errors I spotted, shouting at the referee for not calling a foul, which players were underperforming and which player should be substituted. When Bayern Munich scored the first goal my heart sunk and a sudden cloud of sadness covered me. The hope of grabbing the elusive title was slowly vanishing. Then within a space of five minutes it was quickly erased by Drogba’s equaliser which sent me into jubilation and brought back the sense of belief once again. I continued to cling on to every pass, held my breath when the penalty was struck and clapped by hands when it was saved. The penalty shootout brought back a wave of emotions that were reminiscent of Zambia’s penalty shootout against Ivory Coast in February. My pulse raced as blood and adrenaline rushed through my veins, heart furiously pounding against my chest restraining itself from exploding and stomach tied in a nervous knot. It all culminated into a fantastic release of sheer joy and excitement as I was hitting up my friends on their mobile that we had finally won. After all the drama it left me wondering what would happen if this passion was channeled elsewhere too.
It is indisputable that football is the number one sport in Zambia. I only started watching football in my teens simply because I tended to be left out of conversations. Unlike me there are people who have been football fans from the time Leeds once ruled the Premier League and Zambia famously defeated Italy at the Olympics in 1988. I wonder the strides that this country would make with the same commitment shown by football fans, if only it would be transferred to the different spheres of our lives.
No More Zambian Time Nonsense
People would always be on time. I can guarantee you that almost every football fan was on time when the game began. I am certain that they were conscious of time prior to the match. We called and texted to make sure of the kickoff time. We texted again just for clarity and constantly looking at the watch. We wanted to see the first strike of the ball. I long for the day when this time consciousness would be translated into everyday life instead of explaining our tardiness with the default phrase of Zambian Time. When someone says that you should meet at 3 pm it will be 3 pm and not an hour later.
You Will Know Your Trade
I would not classify myself as a diehard fan but out there in this country there are diehard fans. Even when they are not professional football players in their own right they have studied the beautiful game from years of watching it. They know the players from way back to the 90s, the classic goals they scored and all that nitty gritty. You do not dare start a football argument with them because you will only expose your ignorance. In the same manner that the game is studied we need it to be replicated in the fields of engineering, business, education, art and many other fields.  The advancements and experts that we would have in all these fields would be miles ahead from where it is currently.
Thou Shall Be Loyal
You definitely have to admire the loyalty of football fans. It is a literal through thick and thin, through victories and losses, through trophies and tears. A Liverpool fan will not change allegiances just because they have lost; there is absolute commitment that is unshaken. It is something that some of our politicians can definitely take a leaf out of. There is too much hopping from one political party to the next scavenging for opportunities and all of a sudden realising that the policies you once believed in were lies. Maybe when that day comes we will find true men and women of integrity who stand firm to their beliefs and defend to the death their conviction to believe it. Zambia needs such men and women who will not be afraid to take a stance for what is right. Loyal to the core.
Dare To Dream
                If there is one thing that football tends to teach us time and time again, is to dare to dream. So often the football gods will throw up a David and Goliath story. A team with all its gladiators and trophies against one with no history to write about. This was the storyline of Zambia’s AFCON and Chelsea’s wins. Few would have predicted they would be standing at the pinnacle lifting the trophy. However, they dared to dream and the dream obliged. Sometimes I feel that some Zambians are afraid to dream because when they wake up they are faced with their reality. At times it is important to throw caution to the wind no matter how ridiculous, outrageous or impossible we should still not stop to dream and work towards achieving them. It will only take an ounce of courage to dare to dream and maybe like for many others the dream will oblige to turn into reality.
                Football will continue to have a loyal following worldwide. It is the beautiful game of drama, wins, losses, reminders of dreams do come true and almost universal topic for conversation. My only wish is that the same passion and vigour that Zambians support football could somehow squeeze its way into different arenas of our lives. Even if it is just an ounce it will be worth the difference. For now I will bask in the joy of Chelsea’s maiden win.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Oh Crap! Big Brother Is Back

I must immediately admit that I am a sucker for reality TV. I am glued to most of the shows on the tele- Survivor, The Amazing Race, Deal or No Deal? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The Weakest Link, Hell’s Kitchen, American Idol, The Apprentice, Fear Factor and the list goes on. However, the one show that I have absolutely failed to wrap my mind around even nearly a decade later is Big Brother. What on earth is fascinating about Big Brother?

Big Brother is simply a show where a group of young men and women are kept in a large house and have no contact with the rest of the world for three months. However, their every move is closely watched by cameras all around the house. The Big Brother phenomenon began in the Netherlands in 1999, when the first show was televised. Since its inception, the show has been replicated all around the world from Brazil to Australia, the United Kingdom to India. Africa as well would not be left out of the fan fare with the first show on the continent in South Africa. There has also been Big Brother, Nigeria. However, by far the most popular on the continent has been Big Brother Africa. In the Africa version contestants from different countries across Africa are in the same confined space for 91 days.
              In Zambia, Big Brother still has a rather nostalgic feeling with our very own Cherise Makubale taking home the grand prize as Big Brother Africa winner and with it, a hefty pay cheque of $100, 000 in 2003. This win catapulted her to meteoric stardom. This was because at the time Zambia had not won anything of continental and international significance. Therefore, her win was at the time the closest we would have gotten to know what winning the Africa Cup of Nations felt like. Immediately, Cherise was being showered with gifts, plots, diplomatic passport, lunch with the President, free hotel accommodation and the list continued.
              Since Cherise’s win Zambia has been almost dismal in subsequent editions of the show. Maxwell, Takondwa, Kimberly, Mumba, Paloma, have all fallen short. It was only the other weekend that the 7th edition of Big Brother Africa was launched. Why? What is so interesting about watching men and women talk a whole lot of nothing?
               I could understand why people were so interested in Big Brother in the early days because of the infamous Shower Hour’. Since it was scrapped off, I am still trying to understand what it is that has people glued to Big Brother. I have tried my best to sit down in an attempt to understand what so many of its devoted fans see. However, that understanding has still eluded me. I have given it up all together. Perhaps I will never know or my brain simply refuses to comprehend it.
            The only time that I watch the show iwhen they enter the house and when someone ibeing evicted, that awell iif there inothing else appealing on the other channels. From mpoint of view what iinteresting about seeing people who pretend to act natural ifront othe camera. They have shallow conversations that do not make sense aall. They make foolish and pointless squabbles that are poor attempts at grabbing attention. The characters are uninteresting and one is left to wonder what the selection criterion was used. A cheap excuse at entertainment, in fact I can hardly call it that. It is even more puzzling when I hear disturbing comments that some diehard fans even watch Big Brother when the chaps are sleeping. Seriously, what entertainment is there in watching someone sleep?
 In all of Big Brother’s attempts to shake up the format from Revolution, to Allstars, Amplified to the current Stargame it has still remained a boring act of theatre. The inclusion of Rapunzel Mampi has not made any difference this year. The only time that I could remotely be engrossed in Big Brother is if interesting characters such as Julius Malema, Mario Balotelli, Rihanna, Mike Tyson, Angelina Jolie were invited into the house. Alternatively, even better throw in some hard-core ex-convicts into the mix to see how they would relate with the pretenders. Now that is one Big Brother, I would be glued to.
Until then Big Brother will continue to be one meaningless show on the airwaves for me. I will have to stick to more interesting shows such as Survivor and The Apprentice. All I can hope is that the 90 days pass by quickly so that we can all return to talabout more entertaining stuff.

Who would you like to see in the Big Brother house as a contestant?

Monday, 7 May 2012

Applauses, Disappointments and So-Sos' of the Draft Constitution

The draft constitution is finally here even though it is some 120+ days later than earlier promised.  Nonetheless, it is here and it is ready to be devoured. The government has made efforts to make the constitution readily available. It is easily downloadable online and it was printed in its entirety in the three daily newspapers- The Post, Times of Zambia and Daily Mail. However, despite government’s attempt to make the draft constitution accessible to the masses, the number of people who will actually sit down and read it will be very small. Sadly, the rest will depend on the hear-say, the columnists, opposition parties and anyone who is willing to share what they have read as the basis for their debates.
Typically I would not have bothered with the constitution because I would have considered it as a boring exercise when I would have been reading one of the novels that are waiting for me. However, as a blogger I thought I owe it to my readers to give them my opinion on the draft constitution and more information for their debates. Therefore, I picked out some interesting highlights that I was able to note. The views are strictly my interpretation of what I read.

·         Dual Citizenship- This is one of the inclusions in the constitution that I was looking forward to and I am so glad that is has been included. It is not that I am planning to export myself, proudly Zambian. However, it finally allows those individuals who have Zambian heritage but have lived abroad for a long time to still feel that they are part of this country. Zambia will only stand to benefit from this gesture.
·         50%+1- The previous elections have been won by simple majority. This simply means that the person with the highest percentage becomes president. The problem that this has caused is that the votes have been rather divided into bits and pieces. The 50%+ 1 will allow for a runoff between the top two and the president will be the one who gets more than 50% of the votes. This I think will allow political parties to have more concrete policies and avoid this character assassination that arises during elections, because they may need each other to attain the 50%+ 1.
·         Election Date- It is about time the date of the election is enshrined in our constitution. General elections will be held on the last Thursday of September after the last general election. This prevents hoping and guessing games when the incumbent president will declare the date of the election. This will enable political parties to plan their campaigns around the date.
·         Swearing In of the President- This is a very welcome clause. There has been a tendency of swiftly swearing in the President once the election results have been announced. This therefore makes petitions void and useless. However, the inclusion that  the President-elect shall be sworn into office on the Tuesday following, the fourteenth day after the date of the declaration of the elections results, if no  petition has been filed under Article 101 (2)… will ensure that all grievance are addressed.
·         Paternity Leave- I know this may sound like a trivial issue to some, but as women are pushing for gender equality paternity leave needs to be considered. The woman did not father the child on her own therefore she should not be the only one to take care of the child alone. The father must be involved in caring of the child once the baby is born, hence the reason for adequate paternity leave.
·         Capital Punishment- Zambia has not executed anyone for the past 15 years. This form of punishment is being considered as barbaric around the world and some nations have already scrapped it off. Personally I feel that Zambia should also scrap the capital punishment and instead give life sentences without parole or pardon. It is a greater punishment to be imprisoned for life in our prisons than executed.
·         Gender Based Violence- It is no longer news or surprising that someone has been battered to a pulp or has been killed at the hands of a lover. The trend has been that women withdraw cases with the police if they are reported at all. I would have wanted the constitution to take more affirmative action towards gender based violence. For example investigation to be taken once a report is made.
·         Death during Riots- This was my interpretation the moment I read this clause. The clause says, “A person shall not be regarded as having intentionally deprived another person of that person’s life if the other person dies as a result of the application of force to such extent as is reasonably justifiable- (c ) For the purpose of suppressing a riot….” This simply means that if someone is trigger happy they can get loose during a riot and have a defence. Beware UNZA and CBU students.
·         President’s Power- The president is still bestowed with so much power. The president has his/her hands in the legislature, executive and judiciary. This begs the question whether these organs can really act independently without the influence of the president. Even though there are proposals that the national assembly needs to approve some of the appointments and decisions the fact that the ruling party mostly has more seats in the house means that agendas can be easily pushed along.
·         Christian Nation- I have no problem with maintaining Zambia as a Christian nation. However, my belief is that if we declare ourselves to be a Christian nation we should not be selective in which Christian tenets we will choose to follow and which we will give a blind eye to. The most ironic one of all in this constitution is the maintaining of capital punishment in the constitution. Who are we to take someone’s life?
·         Vice- President As Running Mate- I am on the fence on the Vice-President being a running mate to the President. On one account it is good because it will provide some stability in the event that the President dies or when the Vice-President has to take up the president’s duty. The dilemma is for the President to select a vice president who will appeal to the masses as much as he/she does.
·         Resignation of MPs- The resignation of MPs so that they stand on another political party has cost the country dearly. Money is being spent on by-elections. A clause has been included in this regard but it is not clear. The clause states “Where the seat of a Member of Parliament, who is not an independent member is vacated in terms of clause (2), the Electoral Commission shall submit to the Speaker the name of the next preferred candidate of the party that holds the seat in the National Assembly, from the ballot paper used in the previous election.” Based on my understanding, is if a seat is vacated for whatever reason the party that holds the seat will then choose someone to take up that seat. The part that is unclear is where the ballot paper used in the previous election comes in. I would have hoped to see a clause that states that if a person who is duly elected chooses to resign as MP they cannot stand again until the next general elections.
·         Grade 12 certificate- The minimum qualification a President or MP is supposed to have is a grade 12 certificate. A grade 12 certificate? Seriously. I know that there are few good leaders who only have a grade 12 certificate and they are doing a tremendous job. However, I do not think a grade 12 certificate will give someone a perspective of national affairs. There is a risk that the person might be narrow-minded. I would have suggested a tertiary qualification. This is because a tertiary qualification provides someone a different point of view and also encourages logical thought.
A clause in the constitution says, “A citizen shall endeavour to acquire basic understanding of this Constitution and promote its ideals and objectives.” I believe that I have done my duty by reading the draft constitution and every Zambian should do the same. There is a whole lot of information in the draft constitution and I have only highlighted a minute fraction of it. The constitution is not for your neighbour, politicians or lawyers, it is for every citizen. The sad part is that many people will continue to debate the constitution aggressively and with vigour and yet they have not even read a single clause. I would therefore, urge you that if you have not read the constitution take time to do so, it is worth it.