Saturday, October 08, 2016

Southern African Development Community (with Guests)

I believe in the free movement of People, Ideas, Goods and Capital. This is disruptive, and emotionally difficult when we start to define ourselves by our way of life - and then it is challenged by outside forces. There has to be a balance somewhere. Something that protects the things that are holy to us, allows us space to be with those that make us feel comfortable, but still creates bridges to prevent us from living in a bubble. The various international institutions that find a language, religion, historical, cultural, interest, professional, vocational, sporting or other way to connect people from multiple directions give me hope. 

One of those groups is the Southern African Development Community, which in turn complements the African Union, which in turn complements the United Nations. SADC has 15 member states - including Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


I have been wiki-walking around, and collecting guest posts on, different places in the world. It is difficult for other people to mean anything to us if we have no path to their world. We can create paths through curiosity.



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My father was a chaplain for the South African Army during his military service in Angola. I haven't visited yet. The Carnation Revolution led to the fall of the Portuguese government in a military coup in 1974. Angola got independence the following year, and civil war followed until 2002. Angola was a front in the Cold War with involvement from the Soviet Union, Cuba, the United States and South Africa. That is how my Dad got involved. Military conscription for able-bodied men. Fortunately for him, his role was to look after people rather than to fire a gun. The war resulted in more than 500,000 deaths and one million people displaced. Angola, for me, triggers a sense of enormous gratefulness that I have never had to be involved in a war. Enormous gratefulness that general direction of the world is towards peace.


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Home of the Batswana. A close history with South Africa intended for inclusion in grand federal plans in 1910. Never happened as SA turned from Union to Republic and Apartheid. The Government moved from Mafikeng (in SA) to Gaborone in 1965. Stable democracy with uninterrupted elections. Growing culture of learning. My first taste of Mopane Worms (Biltongy. Ish.) and the local beer, St Louis.  A good record of Government and Industry working together to benefit the population. 40% of Government revenues come from diamonds (discovered fortuitously after independence). Wildlife. Wide open spaces. The legendary Okavango Delta. A calmer pace of life.


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(Guest Post)



I was conceived in the Belgian Congo. It was my home for the first nine years of my life. From a child’s viewpoint it was full of butterfly clouds, electric storms, skies full of starlight, strangled rain forest jungles and a great brown-river full of crocodiles. But my reality was never actuality. 

The size of Europe, the Congo was well-coined ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Its vast mineral and agricultural wealth it has been plundered and exploited by many, from King Leopold II of Belgium personally, as well as slave-traders, multi-national corporations, missionaries and powerful internal and foreign governments. Since 1880 it is estimated that in excess of 20 million people have lost their lives simply because they were Congolese. So many violent deaths have occurred due to corruption, prejudice, repression, looting and rape, all of which have become endemic in its political maelstrom. 


La Sape
The Society of Ambience-Makers and Elegant People

Yet a spark of hope now shines once a week on the streets of Kinshasa. Groups of Congolese, calling themselves Les Sapeurs, don designer clothes to parade and strut the poverty stricken streets in all their fancy finery, ignoring their harrowing past and legacy. Perhaps their reality is an actuality and, even if it only lasts for a day, just maybe butterflies can triumph over crocodiles.
My Aunt from Melbourne 
- mother of James, Charles and Jackie


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(Guest Post)


Aubrey Thomas is a friend of mine from school. We grew up together in WestvilleSouth Africa. Earlier this year we caught up and part of our conversation touched on mission work and poverty. In our desire to help other people, sometimes we can mistakenly think we know the answer and position ourselves above people. The driving forces behind colonisation included, confusingly, liberal principles of spreading 'a better way'. Even if we believe strongly we have something to offer, any engagement worth its salt starts with listening. Any engagement should be a relationship of partners looking to see each other. Aubrey has spent time working in Lesotho and shares some of his experience of this type of relationship building.

Being Poor doesn’t mean living in poverty.

Lesotho is one of last monarchies that is still governed and ruled by a king. It is also a country accredited as being the country with highest average altitude of any country in the world. The topography and weather of this small and land locked country create some unique challenges with regards to farming and industry however it is rich in Diamonds and due to summer rains and winter snow it also has good amount of water. Two heavily exploited aspects of this country by foreign exports.

I take regular mission trips to Lesotho, particularly the south eastern side, which is a lot like going back 150 years in time. These are the observations and things I have noted and discussed with my friends that I go visit up there. As such it is country close to my heart.

Subsistence farming, small isolated villages whose buildings are thatched stone single roomed “rondavels” or round huts with often zero contact to the “modern way of life” and where “wealth” is still measured by amount of live stock and the size of your arable land, often leads people to believe they are stuck in the poverty cycle when taken at face value because in general their clothing usually tattered and they mostly wear what appears to be a humble blanket at all times over old clothing. This is where western culture goes wrong when dealing with aid and the "ah shame but they have nothing" mentality by basing aid relief in monetary terms. New clothes are no good in the fields and that amazing blanket is warm in the wind and keeps the sun off skin. New clothes are kept for going to town or for special occasions. The Basotho people have a pride in themselves that is enviable by any culture but function comes before form and necessity before want. Mostly anyway.


The tribal systems and chieftains that govern the culture are rich in structure. What one village lacks or cannot grow or provide for themselves is available from another village in exchange for something the other village requires. Disputes are settled in ways we may not agree with or understand but they are fair in dealing with transgressions.

Sadly AIDS has taken its toll on the population and most of the middle aged (25 -50) population is either dead or dying of AIDS related illness. Life expectancy is not high and those men and women that are able to are working away from home. This leaves a massive hole in their society where one finds 12 year old heads of households and grannies bringing up large families of orphaned children. Once again the tenacity and culture has stepped in to find ways to deal with this. Food and clothing is shared in the villages amongst everyone, nothing is wasted. The village brings up kids as a village family. These kids are happy most of the time. The people of Lesotho are a warm inviting culture. Show respect for how things are done in the Lesotho way and doors open into a beautiful culture full of life. Begging is shunned by the adults and it is discouraged that tourist hand out sweets and things from vehicles to the kids and young people. It leads to a lazy culture of open handed youths unwilling to work for their survival…. Donations and gifts should always be given to the chief of the village and they will distribute it as seen fit. It is just how the culture works….and work it does.


Learning to deal with African problems in an African way and live in 3rd world Africa with a 1st world view is quite a strange concept, and one that I grapple with on a daily basis. Africa is a complex place that cannot be fixed with Western or Eastern cultural influences or ideals.


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Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island after Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo. Once, 300 million years ago, Madagascar connected the Indian subcontinent with Africa in the supercontinent of Pangaea. Given it's relative isolation from the Afro-Eurasian landmass of the old world, 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth. Although close to Africa, the first significant migrations came from the Austronesian people of Borneo. In around 1000 AD, they were joined by Bantu migrations from across the Mozambique channel. The island was united and ruled for the first time in the early 19th century which later lost its independence to the French, then regained it in 1960. 90% of the population of 22 million people live on less than $2 a day. 




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(Guest Post) 


Malawi is a country that heavily depends on agriculture for its economy. Its major export is tobacco and it generates about 60% of the country's foreign exchange. Tobacco growers toil throughout the season in order to produce a high quality crop yield. However these farmers don't enjoy the rewards of their hard work at the end of each season because of the lower prices that are "imposed" on them by the buyers. They feel marginalised since they're always told exactly how much money they should charge for their own harvest. As a result tobacco growers in Malawi continue to suffer.

Julius Bright Phiri
- a friend of friend (who I know from Westville (South Africa), but now lives in Metchosin (Canada))


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The first visit to Mauritius we know of for sure, was by Arab sailors during the Middle Ages. It was named Dina Arobi. The closest big island (Madagascar) had migrants from Borneo in around 1000 AD. Mauritius may have been visited by wandering Abyssinians, Phoenicians or Greeks. Like the civilisations of Egypt which were forgotten until rediscovered by Napoleon's scientists, our memories are shorter than the things we learn. The Dutch colonised the island in 1638 then abandoned it. In 1715, the French took over and used the island as a base in the power struggle with Britain over the trade routes to the East. The Brits won control after 1810. Independence eventually came in 1968. 

Battle of Grand Port
between French & British in 1810

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(Guest Post)


Sunny beaches and blue Ocean.
Don’t forget the factor 50 lotion.
Dolphins swimming, fish and chips
Holidays and great road trips
Scuba diving, coral reefs
Sailing boats with bright motifs
Friendly people, the odd road block
Local time... who needs a clock.

Portuguese history, and civil war
Potholed streets, and a broken door
Rampant poverty. Raw Materials
Are the Chinese their new Imperials?

Piri piri cashew nuts
Soccer fields, and tidy huts
Smiling selfies, Awesome tweets
Children running shouting “Sweets!”

Relax your bod, calm that brain
I can’t wait, to go back again.

Rob Grave
We lived and studied together at Smuts Hall, University of Cape Town
'Smile & Go Seek' by Rob 

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In a light two seater plane, I saw thousands of flamingos take flight. Untouched by, and now protected by and from man, seeing Sandwich Bay is a spiritual experience. With the expansive deserts right along side the cold Atlantic, the Skeleton Coast redefines beauty. Curves. Contrasts. Light. A dance of hot and cold. I got to fly down those dunes on a piece of wood. Jump over them on a Quad bike. Swakopmund with its salt roads. The city of Windhoek. Dry heat. The San. Nama. Ovambo. Afrikaans. German. A shared complicated history with South Africa. Shared love of Biltong. A place apart.


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Praslin - 2nd largest island of the Seychelles

With less than 100,000 people, the Seychelles is the smallest of any independent African state. Like Mauritius, the islands were visited but not inhabited until sea trade opened in full force. On the route between Asia and Africa, the 115 islands which make up the country were sometimes used by pirates until the French took control in 1756, naming the islands after the Minister of Finance. Britain replaced French power during the Napoleonic Wars in 1794. Independence was granted in 1976 as an independent republic within the Commonwealth. In 1979, it was declared a Socialist one-party state. As a player in the cold war, a group of South African mercenaries posing as a touring rugby team attempted a coup in the 80s. Multi-party politics started in 1993 (the year before South Africa's own democracy was born). The Seychelles is a member of various international organisations including the Indian Ocean Commission and the Southern African Development Community




Comoros, Reunion (France), Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles

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South Africa is the place I was born. Where most of my family comes from. Where my parents and grandparents are. Where my longest friendships were forged. It is where I learnt about injustice, passion, fear, community, hatred, loyalty, distrust and forgiveness. It is where I have felt the safest when I was at my lowest. It is where I feel the safest when I need to recharge. Mountains. Beaches. Space. Sun. A buzz of desire to create a better world. Obstacles. Frustration. Anxiety. A place with a raw intensity that can learn from and teach the world.



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(Guest Post)


It is the end of 1966 and I am sitting in the back seat of the family's 1962 Ford Zephyr Mk2 on the journey from Swaziland back to Johannesburg. I am sad and lost in thought. I am leaving a life behind not knowing what lies ahead. It was a good life in Swaziland. A peaceful life. A life lived on the farm, in nature and with all the time in the world.

Evelyn Baring High in Geodgegun has been my home and playground since 1959. It is a place of happy memories. I am leaving my first really serious girlfriend behind not knowing when I will see her again. I am leaving all my teachers behind who had taught me so many things. I think of Mrs.King who drove one of the first Mini's I ever saw and introduced me to the mystery and wonder of Greek Mythology.

An outpost of the British Empire, with soldiers arriving in 1964 to keep the peace as the transition to independence took place. But it was all so peaceful, as Swaziland always was. A peaceful place with tranquil peaceful days and jolly social events at the tennis club with dancing to the strains of Mrs.Hansen playing the piano and Mom and Dad in fancy dress outfits.

There was King Sobuzo the 2nd who had a house not much better than ours on the way to Hlatikulu. I rode past his house on a bicycle once. But now there is a Casino in nHlangano (used to be Goedgegun) and there is King Mswati who has lots of wives and lots of Ferraris and the old school has unpainted walls and broken windows.

Malcolm Black
My Dad also wrote a guest post Time to Retire and we had a conversation about Transitioning Potential

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Most of the history I learned at school about Africa was from a European perspective. I later learnt the Age of European Discovery and the Renaissance wasn't the birth of culture, but the introduction of North West Europe to the rest of the world. The Arabs had their turn before that group of Europeans, discovering the contributions of Persia and Greece, amongst others, before them. Africa's history with Islam stretches well before the European enlightenment. Amongst other flavours, migrations of Bantu  speakers from the West (1700 - 2300 years ago) and Cushtic speakers from the North mixed with influences of the connections to the wider Afroasiatic world in the area that is now Tanzania. Colonial competition between Omani Arabs and the Portuguese saw control of Zanzibar since 1699. Imperial Germany took control of Tanganyika after the late C19th Scramble for Africa and before WWII. Its independence from Britain came in 1961 and then in 1964, Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar merged after a revolution overthrew the Arab dynasty. Power changes. Learning lives on.




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(Guest Post)


Apart from the majestic Victoria Falls and various mountains that offer spectacular views, there is still one more thing I admire about Zambia. The people. Their humbleness and hospitality is just priceless. Wherever you meet them: on the streets, in the hotels, at the markets and bistros they all have a bright smile. Just as in many other African countries, in Zambia, greeting one another accompanied by a handshake is the order of the day and what's more it's something everyone gets absolutely for free. The unspoilt scenery and the hospitality of the people makes you to wish your visit could last forever.

- also wrote 100 words on Malawi

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(Guest Post)



Zimbabwe or Rhodesia, this land is simply a stadium for One Man’s Big Dream. Or is it a Big Man’s One Dream? But who is new oppressed, in this recycled regime? Surely not the Whites (though the few remaining find their houses are crumbling around them and the pools all empty). We cannot compare them, now, to the Blacks of then. So, can we then compare the Blacks of then to the Blacks of now (those not driven in Bentleys)? Furtive, everyone. Like the rhino beetle curios you can buy there for $1; encased in Chinese plastic and staged as dung beetles rolling carefully constructed balls of shit. Nobodies buying it but, beneath his framed countenance, everyone’s a vendor.

Saffron Tyger
a friend from Cape Town
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