Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bottled water... farm invasions... ANTM...

Where to start? There is so little happening in my world right now that it's hard to know where to to start rambling.

I've worked out that I actually blog more when I'm busy. I know for a fact that when I'm in Africa, researching and writing my books, I consciously try and blog each day as a means of getting my brain into gear (and convincing Mrs Blog that I've actually started working, as opposed to... well, blogging).

But in the here and now, with a few weeks more of being in between books with little to do, I've faffed my way into a blogging standstill. Except for now, of course, because I'm feeling so guilty that I decided I must write something for you, all four of you remaining Legion of Fans (LOF) (and I fear that includes the relatives).

The only two things I can think to write about are bottle water and farm invasions - both of which have left me feeling thoroughly pissed off this week.

The important one first.... this week Mrs B and I received grim news that friends of ours in Zimbabwe have just had their farm invaded - again. They've been lucky (after a fashion) these last few years in that they have actually been allowed to keep farming, after being kicked off their land for a while in the early days of the invasions.

It's a complicated situation, and I don't want to into details for fear of identifying them and upsetting someone, but the upshot is that they've been able to hang in there on their property while others all over the country were evicted.

I'm not starry-eyed about the power sharing deal brokered between ZANU-PF and the MDC, and I don't think I even dared hope that with Mugabe still in total power in all but name only that there would be any sense injected into the land debate. What's happening, I guess, is that across the country there is a rash of last-minute land grabs (as in what's happened to our friend).

At least I hope it is a last minute grab. If it is, and our friends can hold out without bowing to this particular invader's threats of violence (threats of death to their African employees, so far), that they might be able to survive until some semblance of order does actually return to the country.

I remain, or at least I try to remain, optimistic for Zimbabwe. Africa's a roller-coaster and today's basket case country is tomorrrow's powerhouse. Mozambique was coming out of a long and bloody civil war when I first went to Africa in 1995 and today it's peaceful, welcoming, and, in its own way, forging ahead. It's still poor, but it's on the up. By contrast, Zimbabwe was peaceful and relatively prosperous when I first visited it in 1995. Now the country is gasping on its death bed.

But I am optimistic. In the years since Mugabe gave into demands for compensation by the veterans of the liberation war and allowed/encouraged/facillitated the farm invasions and subsequent land grab, Zimbabweans have flocked to the polls in a series of ill-fated elections.

Despite being beaten (literally) and bowed, opposition politicans have seen their votes increase and steadily added to their tally of seats. Voters have risked and suffered intimidation to exercise thier democratic right.

No matter whose figures you believe from the last election, the indisputable fact is that voting in Zimbabwe now cuts across racial, tribal and socio economic lines, and people who were once steadfast supporters of Mugabe's government have fallen in with the opposition.

Once there is real change at the top in Zimbabwe (that's a euphemism for someone departing, one way or another), I believe Zimbabwe has the potential to emerge as one of the continent's strongest democracies - perhaps its strongest.

Too many African countries have become one-party states in the post colonial era. Zimbabwe was one for many, many years following independence in 1980. South Africa is still one.

People sometimes ask me, "why hasn't someone just killed that man (in Zimabbwe)?". My answer is that no matter what you think of the man at the top, the very fact that no one has killed him speaks volumes about the decency, honesty and faith of the people of Zimbabwe.

Many people believe that if they continue to do the right thing, peacefully turning out to elections and exercising their democratic right to vote, that one day the incumbent government might live up to its end of the bargain and allow free and fair elections, free of violence, and accept the result.

Real change will come to Zimbabwe. Real peace and real democracy will come to Zimbabwe. I'm sure of it. I just hope our friends can hold out until it does.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, in my home state of New South Wales, we have a Premier who has decided to ban the sale of bottled water in plastic bottles. This ground-breaking initiative is because one tiny village, Bundanoon, got some favourable press for voting to ban the sale of bottled water in its town in protest against a drink company wanting to tap into their ground water to extract spring water.

There was also a hoo-hah about reducing the number of plastic bottles going into land fill. Our fearless Premier jumped on the bandwagon and decided that an announcement about banning the sale of a legal product (I think water is legal to sell and if people want to pay for it, I believe they have the right to, and bottlers and shops have the right to make money out of them) was a wise decision for the future betteremnt of the State. Talk about a case of too many politicians and too few issues... (that's Australia for you).

The Premier used the bottled water issue much in the same way that Robert Mugabe used the land issue - that is, to distract the general public's attention from a screwed-up economy and a poor-performing government.

Sure, we're talking about different degrees here, but the strategy's the same. Give me a f-ing break.

In South Australia there is legislation which provides for a refundable deposit on bottles. In parts of Europe, according to a show I saw on TV recently, plastic bottles are washed and re-used. Now there's an ida.

In poverty-stricken Zimbabwe you can't buy a bottle of beer or soft drink without returning an empty. Why can't our politicians learn as much about recycling from Zimbabwe as they can about political strategy?

(Oh, yes,,, ANTM? What does that stand for? Why, America's Next Top Model, of course. Not as good as the Aussie version, as the contestants tend to be strippers and crack-hos, rather than fresh-faced teenagers, but I do worship the ground Tyra Banks walks on, so we will persist with the next season of the American version, starting this Tuesday on Fox8).


dozycow said...

I'm sure your LOF are all quietly awaiting Ivory's release on Aug 1st - I know I am (as well as being totally submerged with FYE & all its' associated crap)
Sadly I don't have a trip to Africa to look forward to.......heavy sigh

dozycow said...

PS: Hopefully it will all turn out well for your friends & they don't lose their property

Heidihi said...

Yes, rock on 1st August! We will all be commenting after reading Ivory I'm sure.

grandmaberyl said...

And in another African nation, the battle to survive continues in Somalia. Desperate people are taking to the seas and holding the world's seafarers and cargo to ransom for US$ millions. (We look forward to the soon-to-be-released book Ivory to shed some light on the subject for us).

There are people making serious money out of this new "business" yet the nation continues to struggle. The first seafarer died last week from being shot by pirates after their vessel was hijacked.

On the up-side, Somalia has formed a coast guard and will hopefully receive aid from other nations to finally put a stop to the nonsense. Go get 'em!

Katherine Howell said...

Hi Tony,
thanks for the insight into Zimbabwe.

Re reality tv, forget ANTM, I want your thoughts on MC! Poh, for sure, innit?

Anonymous said...

Surely this rant about bottled water isnt a shameless plug for a certain beverage company?
This leaves me pondering the heavy question..."Can a leopard change its spots?"

tonypark said...

Katherine, I can't do Master Chef.

Verdict's out on America's Next Top Model - contestants, as I predicted, were skanky in the main.

Tyra, of course, was sublime, dressed as the Goddess of Fierce. Still good cause for me to worship her.

Thanks for your comments Heidi and Dozy and granny. Got a sneak preview of IVORY the other day and the cover looks fantastic in colour, if I do say so myself.

ali g said...

half way through "Frantic" Katherine. Had to put it down tonight to watch NSW whack Qld in the State of Origin but now going to bed with a cuppa to resume reading. Great it.

Tony, hope Tonka wasn't staying at your friends place when they were invaded?