Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sad and Shocking News: Professor Haroub Othman Has Moved On (1942 - 2009)

Dear Colleagues/Comrades,

I have just received very sad and shocking news from Zanzibar. Our beloved Professor, Haroub Othman, passed away in his sleep. The last time I saw him was three weeks ago when we travelled together to the the third European Conference on African Studies, as usual he looked healthy and composed. I am at lost for words. I will keep you posted as soon as I get more information on the plans for the funeral among other plans.



Friday, June 26, 2009

Remember The Time: Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson aka Wacko Jacko, has passed away. He is remembered as a young startlet from Gary, Indiana who rose from a starlet of the then Jackson Five in the heydays of Motown Records to the star of pop music in the world with hits such as Remember the Time, Heal the World and Black and White. His passing marks the end of his social and personal struggles that were aptly captured by that liner 'But they told me a man must faithful and walk when not able and fight till the end but I am only human' in one of his famous songs. He was one of the most misunderstood music characters and was thus on record for confessing that the only person who really understood him was Elizabeth 'Liz' Taylor.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do You Remember The Freedom Charter?

When the 'Wind of Change' was starting to further blow through Africa, the Congress of the People met in Kliptown, South Africa. People from all shades and walks of life assembled hoping in that prophetic motto: 'Freedom in Our Lifetime.' They came from the East and West, from the South and North of South Africa. Theirs was a dream that it is possible for people to live in 'Unity in Diversity.'

The outcome of that Congress of the People was The Freedom Charter. This became a banner for mobilizing the struggle for Uhuru from Apartheid. Thus it became the cornerstone of one of the most progressive Constitutions in the World.

Adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, on 26 June 1955


We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:

that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;

that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;

that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;

that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;

And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter;

And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.

The People Shall Govern!

Every man and woman shall have the right to vote for and to stand as a candidate for all bodies which make laws;

All people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country;

The rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex;

All bodies of minority rule, advisory boards, councils and authorities shall be replaced by democratic organs of self-government .

All National Groups Shall have Equal Rights!

There shall be equal status in the bodies of state, in the courts and in the schools for all national groups and races;

All people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs;

All national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride;

The preaching and practice of national, race or colour discrimination and contempt shall be a punishable crime;

All apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside.

The People Shall Share in the Country's Wealth!

The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;

The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;

All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;

All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.

The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work It!

Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger;

The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;

Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land;

All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose;

People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished.

All Shall be Equal Before the Law!

No-one shall be imprisoned, deported or restricted without a fair trial; No-one shall be condemned by the order of any Government official;

The courts shall be representative of all the people;

Imprisonment shall be only for serious crimes against the people, and shall aim at re-education, not vengeance;

The police force and army shall be open to all on an equal basis and shall be the helpers and protectors of the people;

All laws which discriminate on grounds of race, colour or belief shall be repealed.

All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights!

The law shall guarantee to all their right to speak, to organise, to meet together, to publish, to preach, to worship and to educate their children;

The privacy of the house from police raids shall be protected by law;

All shall be free to travel without restriction from countryside to town, from province to province, and from South Africa abroad;

Pass Laws, permits and all other laws restricting these freedoms shall be abolished.

There Shall be Work and Security!

All who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers;

The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work, and to draw full unemployment benefits;

Men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work;

There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers;

Miners, domestic workers, farm workers and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work;

Child labour, compound labour, the tot system and contract labour shall be abolished.

The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!

The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life;

All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands;

The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;

Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit;

Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan;

Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens;

The colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished.

There Shall be Houses, Security and Comfort!

All people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security;

Unused housing space to be made available to the people;

Rent and prices shall be lowered, food plentiful and no-one shall go hungry;

A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state;

Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children;

Slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, creches and social centres;

The aged, the orphans, the disabled and the sick shall be cared for by the state;

Rest, leisure and recreation shall be the right of all:

Fenced locations and ghettoes shall be abolished, and laws which break up families shall be repealed.

There Shall be Peace and Friendship!

South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations;

South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war;

Peace and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all;

The people of the protectorates Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland shall be free to decide for themselves their own future;

The right of all peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognised, and shall be the basis of close co-operation.

Let all people who love their people and their country now say, as we say here:


Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I love-hate Euro-America

When and why did I 'cynically' encounter the West/Euro-America? In fact I didn't spend a lot of time in Euro-America unless South Africa is also regarded as a part of it. My great dissapointment in 'America the Beautiful' was to see a lot of Tanzanians there who had given up what might have been a bright future back home in search of the 'American Dream'.

I am saying 'might have been' because the 'Biblicanism' in me says I cannot afford to play God who sees the end from the beginning. Yet the testimonies of some of those I have met here in Tanzania after at least five years of their search for 'makaratasi', that is, the 'papers' such as green cards that can guarantee their return home without the possibility of being denied VISA to go back to the land of the 'American Pie in the Sky' have made me sense their shock at how their 'Tanzania' has left them behind.

In my second visit to 'The Land of the Brave' what came as a revelation to me was a graduate class discussion on a book that I used to see in our home library here in Tanzania even though I never bothered to read it in spite of its tantalizing title, that is, HABITS OF THE HEART. It was that discussion that made me understand what the subtitle of that book - i.e. Individualism and Commitment in American Life - really mean. It also made me understand why the 'famous' Euro-American sociologist who visited the 'Home of the Statue of Liberty' at a time when the lynching of African Americans was a common thing and their right to vote was denied could claim that 'America is the Best Model of Democracy in the World' in his 'influential' book entitled Democracy in America.

Of course that was a time before a Ben Carson, whom I admire a lot and who is on record for saying that he never saw a 'white' person in the US until he was a teenager, could make it from a ghetto boy with D grades to arguably the best neurosurgeon in the world and thus preach that you can also make it 'anywhere' if you THINK BIG . Yes it was a time before the skinny kid with a funny name could become the President of the United States (of America) by reclaiming, nay, rehabilitating the seemingly elusive American Dream as 'Change We Can Believe In' through The Audacity of Hope embodied in that motto: 'Yes We Can!'

Well now it is a long time since I have been in 'The Land of Opportunity' so I don't really know what is going on the ground there. Thats why I keep asking rhetorical (cynical) questions so that I (and interested others) can get updates of what is going on from those who are sojourning there. However, when I read the critiques of 'Obamamania' such as the ones by Nawal El Saadawi on Obama in Cairo: Playing the Political Game, Marieme Helie Lucas on Obama Speech Omits Women and Secularists as well as Paul Tiyambe Zeleza on Obama in Cairo: Equivalences and Silences and yet hear some of my compatriots talk about the possibilities the US offers them and can offer all of 'us' especially in the so-called 'Age/Era of Obama' if we just 'work hard' I cant help but wonder if maybe that 'blind spot' which made the author of Democracy in America gloss over the then 'Negro Question' is the same myopia that make us overlook the 'Muslim Question' among other very hard questions.

So, do I hate 'America' or Euro-America for that matter? Am I one of those who were supposed to answer George W. Bush question 'WHY DO THEY HATE US?' No. I actually love America a lot. In fact I am one of those who believe it could be a model for deracializing the continents since as the de facto North America it is probably the only habitable continent for humans that is not really seen as a continent that belongs to a particular 'race' the strereotypical way Africa is seen as belonging to the 'Blacks', Europe to the 'Whites' and Asia to the 'Yellows'. As a melting pot it has the potential of being the model of a cosmopolitan society that is not racialized.

Unfortunately it is this same America that is haunted by what the 'new orator on the bloc' refers to as the 'original sin of slavery' and racism epitomized by the Atlantic Slave Trade and the Genocide of Native Americans. Yes, unfortunately it is this America that is still leading a 'crusade' renamed 'War on Terror' that end up terrorizing many innocent and peaceful people from Kismayu to Kabul.

For a long time I have tried to understand why I still love such a Euro-American country. Luckily one renowned historian helped me to understand that what I feel is actually a disappointed love - his description of how I, and probably many others out there, feel about Euro-America is a fitting 'curtain closer' for my conclusion of this 'American Memoir' of mine; here it is:

"Nevertheless, attitudes to the West are strongly ambivalent, expressing both admiration of the Western achievements and hatred of its hypocrisies and Eurocentric relations; this ambivalence is matched by Western attitudes and feeling toward Africa and Black people in general. The Indian poet [Rabindranath] Tagore traced the source of this ambivalence to the civilization of the West - the upholding of dignity and of human relationship had no place in the administration of its colonies. Tagore's explanation was reduced to a brilliant single Shavian sentence by [Jawaharlal] Nehru when asked what he thought of Western civilization. 'It would,' he replied, 'be a good idea.' To understand contemporary attitudes in postcolonial Africa and the West it is useful, indeed necessary, to keep in mind this love-hate relationship between the formerly colonized people and the colonizers; the former believe there has been no proper recognition of, nor retribution for, the injury of colonialism; while the latter feel let down because Africa has not lived up to the expectations of European liberal values; and, of course, Western racialists - an ancient and self-perpetuating breed - see all their own prejudices about Black people justified by the selective headlines provided for them by the myopia of a media society which traps them in non-thinking stereotypes such as presenting Africa as 'a basket-case continent.'" - Colin Legum on 'Africa Since Independence' published in 1999.

I, 'the man of color', as Frantz Fanon said in Black Skin White Masks, "want only this: That the tool never possess the man. That the enslavement of man by man cease for ever. That is, of one by another. That it be possible for me to discover and to love man, wherever he may be." Amen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What is Capital-ism to Me?

Folks lets attempt to go back to some basics lest we forget. Here is a modest attempt at that. Any system emerge within a certain context. Capitalism as a system did not emerge in a vacuum. Two differing classical accounts of its origin are still in contention and each appeal to an ideological position.

Marx Weber, who is somehow credited for turning Karl Marx upside down, gave an account that asserts that it is the Spirit of Capitalism or what he called the Protestant Ethic that caused a class of capitalist, and thus capitalism, to emerge in the Euro-American setting. In simple terms that particular Ethic or Spirit simply meant a strong attitude toward saving and entrepreneurship which, he claimed, characterised those so-called pioneers of capitalism. In other words, 'they were simply very hard working and thrifty that is why they generated capital and sustained their then emerging capitalist system.'

Karl Marx, in a sarcastic Biblical tone said, and I paraphrase, that in the beginning 'men' were created equal with equal access to resources but some men were cleverer hence they started accumulating those resources whilst other men were foolish hence they wasted those resources until the only thing they were left with that could sustain them was their labour that they would sell to others. This resulted into a system were some people could use the capital they 'had' to exploit the labour of those who didn't have capital to make profit. Capital-ization of Labour-ers became the means to Profit-eering.

Somehow they were right those who said Weber turned Marx upside down because after the so-called triump of capitalism in the early 1990s it became a lot more easier to use that classical argument that it is all about hardwork and saving that make capitalism work for anyone. But the history of capitalism especially in the colonial African setting was primarily tied with that of exploitation of labour and extraction of capital. The political ideology that was said to drive it i.e. liberalism and the philosophical discourse that was said to sustain it i.e. modernity were applied discriminately to Africa. Surely there are some Africans who became capitalist but Africa as a whole did not get it's societies transformed into capitalist societies in the 'modern' sense of the term.

Interestingly, in an attempt to give a historical account of 'The emergence of African Capitalism', John Illife (1983) notes that in the early colonial period foreign capitalism, that is, the capitalism of the then European colonialists, swamped a part of 19th Century Africa's commerce, which could be considered capitalist as far as entrepreneurship is concerned, and shifted the continent's growth-points to agriculture. It is this swamping, I am convinced, which is the action that led to the African reaction, nay, resistance to international capitalism. It was not simply a reaction to an ideal pure capitalism that operates as if it is in a vacuum. Rather, it was a resistance to a system that was primarily imperial given that it was premised on the mobility of capital which, as Marx aptly asserted using a slightly different phraseology, allowed it to cross the air and sea in search of profit and more profit. But we all know that capital is just a thing that is moved by a being. It is this being that those African who were opposed to the late capitalism of the likes of Karl Peters' Dutch East African Company saw as first and foremost an Imperialist. The Mkwawas and the Abushiris didn't see this being as primarily a capitalist who is simply navigating their land in search of business/trade for profit. They saw him as a Conquistador - the Imperialist who intruded to profiteer from them.

It is this decolonization 'hangover', rather than the socialism one, that we Anti-Capitalist (read Anti-Imperialist) African intellectuals carried over after independence as we attempted to find a 'forward-looking' approach toward African Development. Some thought the leftist way was the best approach to do so. Others, like Mwalimu Nyerere, opted and attempted to come with a third way yet they were accused and are still accused for taking the leftist way simply because they rejected 'rightism'. Some of us believe that the way forward is to pick where the quest for a third way lost its way - in the case of Tanzania I believe we lost it somewhere between the publication of Mwalimu Nyerere's (1966) 'Freedom and Unity' which solidly articulated his preliminary thoughts on - and a call for us to think - a new way and the forceful phase of villagization when he became more pragmatically dogmatic. To me that 'picking of a baton' is what I consider the way forward for a Forwardist. Forward from what? From exactly what we are told we are reacting to!

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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