Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Zim: A postscript

The Tanzanian Daily Post (24 May) ran a feature on Zimbabwe written by an IRIN correspondent. Oddly, the Zim gets a lot of press in all the neighbouring countries. Maybe I've got it wrong, I sense 'the people' don't agree with what goes on there but their leaders don't do much.

The alarming stand outs of the story were: a school teacher who was earning Zim$300,000(US$7.50) per month quits and now, as a prostitute, earns Zim$500,000 (US$12.50) per night, at least. A woman police sergeant (Zim$400,000 - US$10 per month) quit to become a house domestic - laundry and cleaning for young professionals and ex pats for Zim$3 million (US$75) per month: more than 5000 teachers failed to report for duty when school opened two weeks ago: the government has said 15,000 public servants have resigned in the last 12 months and over half of all government posts were vacant: an average public servant earns about Zim$300,000 a month, while the cost of living for a family of six for the most basic requirements, such as rent, food, and school fees, is estimated at about Zim$2 million (US$50) a month.

What is the problem in The Zim? Not a dead easy question to answer. But here lies some of the issues, as I understand.

It's based on history. Two presentations of the background as I have come across them are: firstly, in 1931 half the land was assigned to whites - not 2,500 of them (Meredith) and secondly by 1980s over 50% of land was owned by less than 2% of population - whites, ex-Brits (Kinyajui). Have no doubt, this was the result of 'land grabs'. But it's the putting things right, that matters.

Land is an economic asset, a tool of political and economic power. Universally, it has always been a flash point between the subdued and the subduing.

Independence came with a promise to repatriate land ownership. Mugabe promised war veterans land for their part in the independence fight. The Brit government paid out for both buying available land and to pay out farmers (white Zims) prepared to give up land. But, Mugabe's cronies took most of the land and British payments to the government vanished into the ether. So disgruntled vets started walking onto farms and taking over violently. Once fertile, productive, agricultural enterprises were quickly reduced to shambles of small subsistence farming plots of maize and not much else. Zim (Rhodesia), once considered one of Africa's success stories, lost huge export revenues, infrastructure collapsed, foreign investment withdrew under the threat of robbery, forced takeover or nationalisation. This happened in terrifyingly quick time. And now of course, there are imposed sanctions intended to set right the wrongs, but adding to economic distress.

Glibly, we can say the Zim needs democracy. If only. Democracy has taken hundreds of years to evolve in the western world. And there's democracy and democracy. It's only in the past 100 years, or a tad more, that women have voted. I recall my first voting elections and the gerrymander that existed in Queensland. Was it only the 1978 election in New Zealand that saw the party with the most votes not win power?

Voting at elections is almost the last stage of a democratic process. There has to be education; communication; free thought; free speech; free press; organised, encouraged, flourishing opposition parties; open electoral process; and robust legislation. And it doesn't happen overnight.

However, I was alarmed, almost distressed, by a full page feature in Tanzania's The Guardian (reproduced from the East African) titled 'Mugabe: Despot or martyr?' It was written by a Harrison Kinyajui, and advocate of the High Court of Kenya. While he does infer Mugabe has probably overstepped the mark with his clampdown on the oppposition, in a piece of the most kak-eyed logic I've come across, he claims it's all the US and Britain's fault. He suggests Mugabe is only considered a dictator because his land reform programme (?) is unfavourable to western thinking. Infuriates me too much to pull the whole article apart but I cannot let one piece go. He suggests that if opposition leader Tsvanigirai believes Mugabe is a dictator and the electoral system rigged, the whole system tainted, he should do the honourable thing and get out of politics altogether - have nothing to do with it. What are opposition parties for?

But African support for Mugabe is not isolated. The African reported the 'hearty applause' Mugabe received at the 12 day Common Market for East and South Africa (COMESA) summit under the heading 'Mugabe intensifies hatred for Britain, US'. '"Hands off Africa," Mugabe said, to clapping from heads of state. "We say no to imperialism, keep away. Britain, Europe you have your territory. US you have your territory."' COMESA is made up of Burundi, Comoros, DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagasca, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Can you truely imagine any of this lot, with all the skeletons that must rattle in their closets, pointing the finger at someone else? Applauding a lunatic amongst a crowd will help keep away any focus upon yourself.

But I feel inadequate. I don't have answers. Could you imagine the stink at home if John Howard started telling Helen Clarke how to run her country. How does Mugabe get influenced to change his course? (and wouldn't his cronies just step into the breech?) International detente? Prayers? Or a stroke of good fortune?

But one thing is for sure. Enough of Mugabe. His cliched rhetoric of freeing his country from the grips of imperialism, from neo-colonial conspiracies, has worn thin. He has no action plan - appears to have no strategies. In super quick time he has ruined a country.

This is all getting too big for me. The end.

Meredith, M. (2005) The State of Africa: A history of fifty years of independence. Jonathan Ball: Jeppestown.
The African (May 25, 2007) Africa News: Mugabe intensifies hatred of Britain, US. p.6. HCL: Dar Es Salaam.
The Guardian (Friday, May 25, 2007) Features: Kinyajui, H. Mugabe: Despot or Martyr. p.10. The Guardian Ltd.: Dar Es Salaam.
The Tanzanian Daily Post (24 May 2007) Africa Features: Teacher yesterday, sex worker today p.11. Tanzania Standard Ltd: Dar Es Salaam.

Tanzania: Getting close to a boyhood dream

Controversy broke out in Malawi just as we were leaving. I have mentioned ample produce after a good rain season, which includes plentiful maize. Now the president, Bingu wa Mutharika, has done a personal deal acting outside central bank regulations to sell excess to Zimbabwe. What of storage for the imminent tough times? Mutharika is not one of the liberation comrades of southern Africa, but his wife is Zimbabwean, a fact the opposition are making mileage from.

A Chiluba (corruption-charged ex-President of Zambia) update for you. I know you're interested. According to Tanzania's The Guardian poor old Frederick collapsed at home three days prior to his trial. Doctors at Lusaka's University Teaching Hospital were conducting tests to ascertain cause of collapse. Oddly Chiluba "fell ill" May last year before corruption case hearings began also.

Have been able to keep up with sports comings and goings while away. Was able to keep up with the Super14 and World Cup cricket. DSTV (Digital Sports TV) is throughout all southern African states. Saw Arsenal-Chelsea game that gave league to ManU in Zambia, listened to FA cup final on BBC shortwave on ferry in middle of Lake Malawi. The European Champions League final was a fun experience. An overland truck full of kids was staying where we camped at Chitimba Beach Camp where we camped (on the lake, northern tip of Malawi) and we jumped onto a tray-truck one of them had negotiated with a local to take us 24km to a bigger village that had a TV, in a dirt floor "pub" - well, one room shack. But a storm broke just into second half and played havoc with satellite coverage. Also meant we rode home in the rain on the back of the truck. A lot of fun. We'll remember that one.

It actually rained all next day as we headed to the Malawi-Tanzania border and onto Mbeya. I mention this because rain has not been part of our story. Early, on day four in Durban, a huge thunderstorm broke and six people in settlement townships were killed. One night in Cintsa it drizzled. And on a Windhoek, Namibia, afternoon there was a 15 minute deluge. And that was it. Until Malawi-Tanzania border. We've caught the tail end of the East Africa rainy season. It had finished a few months earlier in Southern Africa.

Although people here wear jumpers and beanies and tell us winter is coming, we've not noticed. It was 39 degrees celsius when we arrived in Durban. I've worn trousers twice - out to dinner, and only for comfort, shorts were acceptable. And only ever short sleeved shirts. We just slow down between midday and two. I've only slept under a blanket once, the first night in Mbeya - it was raining and we were at 1800 metres. In the morning a BBC report told of the cold snap (sub zero temps and snow) hitting South Africa, killing people. For us, it's just been perfect. In fact weeks and weeks of not a cloud.

Our first morning in Mbeya, and heading uptown just past 8:00 when we encountered a very long queue outside the National Microfinance Bank (NMB), it opens at 8:30. Over breakfast I read front page of The Guardian and a lead story heading reads "Govt to sell NMB shares". I use shonky logic to put two and two together. I ask the waiter "is there trouble at NMB Bank today?". "Yes," replies the waiter, "the government sell all people's money. They hurry to try to get back." So, there you have it. The truth: The government is selling 21% of its 51% share to the public.

Mind you, with all that I see and experience around me in Africa, let alone in Tanzania, observing people eking out an existence, I'm surprised by another heading in the same The Guardian. 'Entrepreneurship seminar for the visually impaired.' No comment - mainly because I'm lost for words.

Another great trip commences: Mbeya to Dar es Salaam by train, 24 hours. We quicky drop off the Southern Highland, leaving behind mist and showers, and onto the plains of the Rift Valley. Deb and I grab a window seat in the bar (we have a sleeping compartment), lift it open, let warm tropical breeze swamp over us, watch yet another fantastic sunset and toast our position with a Safari Lager. Tanzania has authentic beer names: Safari Lager, Kilimanjaro Lager, Serengeti Lager amongst them.

The Safari label reads:

As the red sun sets like a glowing tribute to our work, our pride, our tomorrows, one reward is in order. Full bodied, full flavoured, a beer for a people of purpose.
Safari Lager - more than just a beer.

God, how beautiful is that - just about makes you weep.

Which reminds me, I don't mean to be painting a completely romantic picture, as much as there have been wonderful experiences. I feel sometimes I am on the verge of a sensory explosion. But this is called the Dark Continent. The press here reports stories with a brutal frankness, sparing no details. To the extent can be near distressing. More information than we have needed sometimes in reports on child gang rape, tribal skirmishes resulting in beheadings, witchcraft stories in poverty stricken areas, male and female circumcision stories - both unnecessarily brutal. The full details of an incident of a pregnant teenager gored by an elephant tested our limits. There's AIDS, corruption (which I believe most Africans just accept as everyday life), and political skulduggery. Not pretty.

And I should also say the trip requires a bit more patience now. There's more people on the make, on the take. Although English is still an official language, it's a version we find a little difficult to communicate in. Food has become a lot plainer in Tanzania, and few supermarkets to self-cater.

We briefly met an Englishman, Carl, in Nkhata Bay, Malawi. He pops up again in Mbeya and we go for dinner together. He is a writer, with currently three books on the go. He has been in Africa, this time, for two years, basing himself in Namibia taking off every three months for trips through Africa so he can renew his visa. He is the proverbial wealth of information and tells us and points out on our map a number of off-the-beaten-track routes to take, ones you won't find in the Roads Less Travelled section of the Lonely Braincell travel guide. He gives us the names of a couple of village headmen to make contact with. He's also on the train, but gets off at Kisaki to go bush in a national park for a couple of weeks. An interesting guy. We say our farewells, excited with prospects he has created.

Dar with its population of Arabs, Indians and Asians, means a treat in the food area. There's a big Moslem community so there's no getting away from the muezzin and the call to prayer. We had better get used to it. There will be a lot more later this trip. As a result, getting a beer with your meal gets harder. Alcohol is banned in most hotels.

Getting to Dar means one thing, we can jump over to Zanzibar. What a name. Since a kid, it has had the most romantic of connotations. Zanzibar. You just want to repeat it. An almost onomatapaeic quality.

Tanganyika gained independence in 1962 under President Nyere, and Zanzibar in 1963. The government in Zanzibar lasted but a month when a Ugandan named Okello topped it, massacring many and trying to rid the island of Arabs. He set up a Zanzibar Revolutionary Council headed by a joker called Karume. He in turn, in 1964, signed a deal with the Tanganyika president to form a union, and that's how Tanzania got its name. The Tanzania union was ratified in 1977. Zanzibar's leader, Karume, was assassinated in 1972. Julius Nyere established a one party state to quell Zanzibarian unrest, under a socialist system. He lasted five terms until 1985. In 1992, the constitution was amended to allow opposition parties. Africa, it's its own worst enemy.

Anyway. There's fast and slow ferries to Zanzibar. We'll take the slow boat. Hope we mix the voyage with a few dhows.

You just don't know how lucky you are.

aka Mad.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Malawi and the burning question

I'm Mad.
She's Mad-onna.
Do you think I should also adopt a little black Malawian baby?

Last evening in Zambia was gorgeous. The hue of the red dirt road and red mud brick houses on the hillside blended and went soft in the late afternoon sun. The dust cloud hanging over the road was like a loom illuminated by soft rays, sihouetting cyclists and pedestrians streaming home to villages.

Since heading east from Lusaka, the countryside has got greener. Malawi is lots greener still. More trees. And lots more people than we've been used to. and, there's hills and mountains. from the border to nation's capital, Lilongwe, set a new record I believe: 35 in a Hi-Ace van. The stabbing discomfort of a knee cap of the person opposite jammed into my shin receded to a numbing pins and needles, dead leg. For once I was pleased we came aqcross a police road check, where we alight and they check papers. Of course mzungu get special ums-and-ahs as they exaggeratedly inspect our passports. At least I had the chance to re-position my poor legs.

Lilongwe to Monkey Bay, next Day, was another traveling test. Again Theroux's words rang in my brain (ie. Africa is whwre people come to wait). After three hours farting around we set off in the most decrepit bus I have ever traveled in anywhere in the world - and that's starting to say something. The last 45km was a most corrugated and dusty of roads, and seemed more like 550km. Mind you, the tar road prior wasn't the flashest. The 200km trip took six hours. I now have absolutely no idea what the term 'Express Bus' means anymore.

Shouldn't complain. Deb and I had the two-person seat to ourselves which makes a difference not sharing with another two. The roof flexed the whole way, buckling under the load roped above. Reading travel stories of chickens etc on buses seems so cliche (we had turkeys tied to our packs on the roof in Guatemala). Yeah, of course, there's livestock, as well as a stack of produce. On this bus there were tomatoes for, well ... Africa. (there, I had to use it!). And a joker had a tray on the back seat with fifty day old chickens. Up front, a woman had the obligatory rooster tucked onto her lap, and baby strapped to her back. That's another thing; how placid kids are. Bubs strapped to their mum's back by scarves, swung hither-thither without a sign of a grumble.

A read of the local papers is quite refreshing. There's the usual muggings, robberies, jealous wives in polygamous marriages, and road carnage. But the corruption takes on new excitement. Over a lovely capuccino in Lilongwe, I savoured The Guardian and this charming story:

'The country's corruption busting body, the Anti Corruption Body (ACB) [what does the Australian Cricket Board make of that one?], has commenced indiscreet (sic) inquiries at Mzuzu City Assembly following an anonymous letter and other forged documents the bureau got regarding the siphoning of K48,000 from the Assembly's coffers last month.' [There's 100 Milawian Kwacha to NZ$1. That's 480 bucks the ACB is investigating. Deb and I had just withdrawn more from the ATM.]

Next day, and The Daily Times reported ' Republican Party Leader in Parliament, David Faiti, yesterday appeared in Court on allegations that last year he stole bricks worth K40,000 (NZ$400)' '... the minister is alleged to have used the bricks for building a bathroom, a tiolet, and a chicken kraal.' He's alleged to have stolen 20,000 bricks - thats two cents kiwi a brick! Don't laugh. This was a page one newsbreaker.

The Daily Times continued the Zambia story of the corrupt ex-president. 'Zambia will seize funds and properties belonging to ex-president Chiluba and his associates if they fail to pay back funds siphoned from the Treasury, a minister said.' ' There are properties which were frozen in London and other countries. '[his] wife is scheduled to be tried for corruption in July for allegedly buying properties with stolen stste funds.

I'm fascinated by the flotilla of white Land Rovers driven around by NGOs and charities, and can't help but wonder if the projects are outcomes driven. It seems these bodies confront socio-economic problems of the regions and address them as welfare problems. It's bigger. There's an abundance of news stories and roadside billboards advertising the billions of euro pumped in by the EU, in a piece of conscience cleansing. Thabo Mbeki writes: 'we expect that those who are a thousand times wealthier than we are will not seek to help us Africans by rendering us less capable of standing on on our own feet.'

Lake Malawi travel, departing Monkey Bay, on the good ship Ilila, was gorgeous. Nothing flash (understatement), but charming. It felt very colonial. A cabin; drinking Kuche Kuche beers (The pride of Malawi. You might say Koochie Koochie Koo, but I just say Kuche Kuche yah-yah, yah-yah. And it's only 70cNZ a 500ml bottle!) on the shaded top deck, at an enjoyably sloww rate of knots. Yeah, tired but ship-shape, as they say around boats. On a lake a quarter the size of Malawi, on water without a ripple, on windless sun-drenched days, and dotted with just the most picturesque islands. And best sunsets yet, and that is saying something. It's Africa, but could well as have been heaven.

We spend as much time along the eastern, Mozambique, coast as Malawi, pulling into ports on both sides. We've been close to the Nozambique borders on a number of occassions, but many have been near 'wasteland' areas: ones still being cleared of landmines and where there is nothing to see and travel is near impossible. yet there are Indian ocean coastal areas that other travelers have raved about. Ah well, another time. The lake ports will have to suffice.

There was 7-8 mzungu aboard Ilila (numerous locals down below, as is the way). as time passes introductions are made as we share the same deck space. A woman sits alone for some time. I say hello and next thing she is as happy as ... she has a couple of people to speak Spanish with for a change. Not for the first time, we explain the rules of Yahtzee in Spanish.

It is just enthralling pulling into port and watching African life in a snapshot. Not far from jetties, or anchor spots, clothes are washed in the lake and in seperate areas men and women wash themselves. Kids rark around just anywhere, everywhere. And the activity that awaits the ferry. These stops are but villages; the Ilila's arrival an event. It's a big lake. Fourth biggest in Africa. Should you turn your back on the near shore, looking away and it seems like you are at sea. The far shore is a distant horizon.

At the moment Malawians appear happy enough, all things considered. It's warm after the rain season. Produce is everywhere. But they have no tradition of preserving, or so it seems. In months to come, they will again face famine.

Malawi, like a long line of other African states, has a history of an independance leader taking over power and then applying stringent controls and protection of self interests. Hastings Kamuzu banda declared himself 'president for life'. He made significant changes, but ruled with an iron fist: no long hair for men, no trousers for women. Political prisons were a growth industry as human rights abuse flourished, and freedom of speech and print forgotten. when voted out Banda was acquited of several murder charges.

Once off the ferry I feel displaced. Things have accumulated and appear now as one. We spend days at a series of lakeside villages: Nkahta bay, Chitheche, Chiluhba, and upon the escarpment at Livingstonia. We are well into the tropics. Beautiful small bays with mango trees to the water; palm trees line the white sand beaches (yes!) and we snorkel amongst freshwater tropical fish. And we're in a landlocked African country. Odd.

With shutter windows flung open during the night (and sleeping beneath mosquito nets), the morning sun streams into our little bungalow on stilts over the water. The suns rays reflect way, way across the lake, shining as it edges across the tops of far off mountains. That's Tanzania.

And it's where we will cross into in a couple of days. And then, another train adventure.

Know when is enough.

aka Mad.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Trouble with The Zim

Before leaving for Africa we had made the decision to not visit Zimbabwe (The Zim). In South Africa we met a couple of Zimbabwians who had now left the country. Without fail thay all said 'It's a beautiful country. But, please, don't go.' They spoke for reasons of safety, constant hassling by police, and the non-endorsement of Robert Mugabe.

The trouble with The Zim is Robert Mugabe. And here are just a few thoughts, gleaned while traveling nearby.

But '[The Zim] needs a transformation. \not just a change of leader, but a strengthening of its democratic institutions' says outspoken, and constantly at risk, RC Archbishop Pius Neube (The Namibian).

Mugabe doesn't take kindly to criticism. His agents engage in brutality. Pictures of opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai's beaten and re-arranged face must surely have made it to world wide media. ['He must have deserved it.' commented Mugabe.] Arthur Mutambra another opposition member is detained without charges laid.

And the world watches. No oil in The Zim, so the US isn't interested. John Howard has asked Aussie cricketers not to go [heard BBC radio 8 May - haven't caught up with the outcome] - that should solve all! More sports and politics. I know all the arguments on this one but surely this needs some chest to chest, toe to toe action.

Neighbouring countries completely stay out of it. Worse they show unwavering support for the wayward leader. These neighbouring countries are members of the SADC (Southern African Development Community). And what of the 'African Renaissance' mooted by South African President Thabo Mbeki?

Mbeki is quoted at the University of Havana as saying ' Furthermore, the African Recovery Programme (The Millenium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme (MAP), more recently described as the New African Initiative) must have both as an intergral part and condition for its sucess, an end to coup d'etats and imposition of military governments on the peoples of Africa, an end to destructive violent conflicts and the defeat of elites that corruptly enrich themselves at the expense of the people.' Actions speak louder than words. As a consequence, he is under some pressure for his standoff.

Warnings abound. Vekuii Rukoro, CEO, First National bank Namibia Holdings sounded a (metaphoric) warning (The Namibian): 'It is high time that political and business leaders in SADC realise that Zimbabwe is a floating nuclear time bomb unless a timely and meaningful intervention is made. He was speaking on a lack of leadership in Africa. He blamed the discredited rulers of the African old boys club, namely "you stay out of my domestic affairs and I shall see no evil, hear no evil, and see no evil about your country"'.

I'll quote from a full page letter to the editor in Botswana's 'sundaystandard' from a Phillip Bulawa (whose given address raises as many questions: Botswana Congress Party, Townsville, Australia (?)) who analyses SADC support of Mugabe:

'The first real reason [for SADC leaders consistently standing by their man in The Zim]in my view dates back to the strong relationship and ties during the liberation struggles waged against some of the most repressive and brutal white regimes which legislated the most outrageous laws ever passed against humanity in the world. The current leadership in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique are all products of war against illegal white occupation.'
'Some of the 'comrades' in these liberation movements even fought alongside each other. The ZANLA forces of Mugabe ... honed skills and tactics by fighting alongside FRELIMO against Portugese (in Mozambique). ANC's Umkonthowe Sizwe and Joshua Nkomo (ZIPRA, Zambia) also had very close ties.'

'An umbilical cord that ties them together ... is the continued regard as comrades ... of socialist ideologies. And a common unified support from the more socialist Soviet Union, China and Cuba.'

'For anyone therfore to expect Angolan leadership (for example) to critise Mugabe under pressure from America is just unreasonable.'

'Botswana, in particular, which is directly affected by the volitile situatio prevailing in [Zim], finds itself in an awkward position in this whole situation, firstly because it's certainly outside the club of friends or former liberation movements. Botswana doesn't wield any political influence in the SADC. Botswana knows even if Mugabe rescinded to international pressure - which is of course just a dream, a continued ZANU government would punish Botswana economically for previous utterances against its leader and party.'

So Mugabe continues. The problem remains. And a contributing factor is the complete disfunction in the political opposition in the country.

Apart from the brutality, what are the results of the current regime? Well, a destroyed economy.

The Namibian, of 18 April, ran the following story: 'Zim's government, which has indefintely postponed the latest set [March's] of inflation figures, appears increasingly panicked over the losing battle against the country's economic HIV, analysts said. When the Central Stastical Office (CSO) announced a month ago that the Febinflation figure rate had jumped by another 137 points [!!!] to a staggering 1730% [!!!]) it further undermined Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa's prediction it would fall to around 300% [!!!] by end of year.'

But some time later, the Botswana Guardian (May 4) broke the news. The cost of maize, a basic food staple in Zimbabwe, was to rise seven-fold. This was on the back of the eventual announcement of the March inflation figures: 2200%

It gets worse. 'Zimbabwe central bank broke' announces Botswana Guardian. 'The International Monetry Fund (IMF) says ZIM central bank is technically broke and has tarnished its creditability as the regulator of the country's banking system.' 'While central bank loses in most countries are contained within 10% of GDP, [Zim's loses] are estimated at 75% of GDP in 2006.' 'The central bank now has to scrounge on the illegal foreign exchange market for hard cash.'

Then on 9 May 2007 it was announced (Zambia Post) that households in Zim were to be limited to four hours electricity a day, 17:00 - 21:00 hrs.

But brace yourself for this. (Zambia Daily Mail): Western countries are concerned about the expected appointment to head a key UN body, the Commision on Sustainable Development (!!! What the ...)' @ Western diplomats said Zim , whichis in the midst of an economic and political crisis, was hardly a good example of development.'

You don't say!!! You know, I reckon I could do the job of a 'western diplomat' once I have the African travel out of my system!

The answers: buggered if I know (as they say).

Don't ask me. I'm just an observer.

aka mad

Botswana Guardian (May4, 2007) International News: Zim central bank broke. p. 6. CBET (pty) Ltd: Gaborone
Botswana Guardian (May4, 2007) Maize price to rise. p. 4. CBET (pty) Ltd: Gaborone
Mbeki, T. (2002) Africa: define yourself pp. 72-89 Tafelburg-Mafube: Cape Town (The African Renaissance: Africa defining themselves. Address at the University of Havana, Cuba, 27 March 2001)
sundaystandard (April 29-May 5) Opinion/Analysis. Bulawa, P. Why SADC leaders support Robert Mugabe. p.10. Sunday Standard Newspaer Ltd.: Gaborone.
The Namibian (16 April 2007: Vol 22 No 69) Zimbabwe needs change p.1. Free Press: Windhoek
The Namibian (18 April 2007: Vol 22 No 71) Zim freezes inflation figures p.3 Free Press: Windhoek
The Namibian (20 April 2007: Vol 22 No 73) Zimbabwe a time bomb: Rukoro. pp. 1-2. Free Press: Windhoek
The Zambian Post (May 10, 2007) Zim pulls power plug p. 3 Post Newspapers Ltd: Lusaka.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Zambia (2): Corrupt Presidents and lovely animals - what does that tell you?

Our broader experience of Zambia shows a much lower standard of living compared to its neighbours we have visited. There's little wildlife seen outside the Parks, unlike other countries. But that probably reflects the country's position. If you are a little wealthier you can afford to conserve wildlife. But, if you are poor, and if your word myama means wild animal and your word for meat is, funnily enough, myama - it doesn't take Einstein. If animals eat and wreck your maize and rice gardens, you get pissed as well.

But the big news story given many pages coverage, was all about ex-president Frederick Chilbura's being found guilty by judgee Peter Smith of the London High Court of defrauding Zambia of US$41million, an amount he has been fined to pay back. Chilbura is reported to have spent US$1million of tax payer money on suits alone.

But the papers are also excited by the fact that current President, Levy Mwanawasa, is trying to claim glory, but the editors maintain his campaign was financed by Chilbura. All good stuff.

In an open letter to Chilbura, in letters to the editor in The Post, a correspondent Wilson Pondamali captured the feelings of the populace:

[Ex-presidebt Chilbura]:
I want to address you on the subject of your theft, as detirmined by the competent Judge Smith in London. I know the way you are feeling by now, and I sympathise with you. However, at the time you were stealing from the ordinary Zambians like me, the following are just some of the things that happened to most of us.
We completed our grade twelve education and could not be absorbed into tertiary
education institutions due to their being inadequate. There was a lot of leakage of examinations going on because teachers were starving and alll they could get was quick money by leaking examination papers.
We lost a lot of relatives from curable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, because there was no drugs. Money was there but you decided to use it to fulfil your personal desires.

Our taxi driver expressed similiar sentiments, but went one further. He blamed all the HIV/AIDS cases in Zambia on Chiluba as well!!

Some Zambian history for you: Northern Rhodesia gained independance, and became Zambia, in 1964. Kaunda became president, but in 1972 he declared his UNIP party the one and only legal party, and he the only candidate for president. 27 years as president resulted. By 1990 people had has enough. Rioting resulted from extreme unemployment and crime, and full elections called for. Enter Chiluba. A Zambia Daily Mail letter (Barrett, Lusaka):

This is a man who took over presidency from Dr. Kaunda at a time when
majority Zambians were fed up with 'wumuyayaya' (forever) one party
state kind of goverment. I remember very well as everyone does how suffering
Zambians thought a messiah had come in the name of FTJ Chiluba and MMD to
save them from the Kaunda rule and his party UNIP .
From hence corruption and abuse of authority became encompassed in the
government structures and institutes. The thieves were in leadership, and we
were well graced by president Chiluba.'

This is currently the topic on all Zambians lips. It's neat witnessing it.

Some days later, Chiluba calls a press conference to pronounce his innocence. Reported by Zambia Daily Mail, he rejects Judge Peter Smith's judgement, 'describing it as racist and aimed at inciting Zambians to rise against him'. '[Smith's language] was abusive, demeaning and insulting, derogoratory, inflammatory and unbecoming of a High Court Judge.' ' In fact, his view was dangerous and paternalistic going great lengths of inciting Zambians to rise against one an other.' But this is not the mood I've encountered. Zambians want his blood. He admits spending from the 'Zamtrop fund', a slush fund used for 'security requirements'. He would not risk Zambia's position by dwelling on internal security issues, except to say 'the account has been used for a lot of good in Zambia'.

Anyway. Some other good stories from The Post: A government minister, Mwansa Mbulakulana, has called on all chiefs to be at the forefront of discouraging immoral activities i.e. sexual abuse, early marriages, and excessive beer drinking. Draw your own conclusions from Chief Naka's response. "We are ready to listen and learn. We must cease sexual abuse and early marriages." (!!!)

Also, I reckon my good dear GP Dean could learn from the services advertised in the classifieds of The Post (Wednesday May9, 2007): (Mind you I have always found Dean pretty easily.)

Manhood extension, maritial, impotence, fibroids, infertility, employment, court cases, low sperm count, sport, stomach pains, hiccups, prolonged periods or no periods, backaches, swelling of the testacles, miscarriages, swelling stomach or legs, promotions, skin disease, protection of properties, treated lucky jewekery and life protection, no sexual feelings, run-away husbands or wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, stolen or lost properties, cassabraca for women. C5 for men and much many more. CONTACT THE SPECIALIST: Doctor Cholembedwa. Direct No. 097-862575. Take a bus for Chipata Compound drop at Shokazi Corner, walk 100 meters along dusty Kasangala Road to Olympia Extension right at House No. D36 opposite a shop - Marapodi.
Now not even I could make that up! And to think, I will be in Chipata.

I meant to give you a recommendation to read Alan Paton's Cry, the beloved country. I read this in school days, but like most things of that era, I had forgotten. A simple, moving story, and a tad frustrating. Now the cold weather is approaching at home, curl up in front of the fire and you'll knock it off in a Sunday afternoon.

In Rooster circles Tanjewberymud is now legendry. And often recited at breakfast time on trips away. A copy of which, I believe, lies in the Taupo History. But I'll relate an extract from Vic Guhrs' The Trouble with Africa:
'Good evening,' says one. I see that his (a safari camp waitor) trousers are slightly too short; his scuffed shoes are showing, and one sole flapping. He is new, and I know that he is struggling with his English.
'Today we have super, is tomato.'
There are polite smiles from the diners and when they have finished their
soup, he is back, offering his tray to the lady sitting next to me.
'oh, what have we here.' she enquires, ladling a big spoonful of stew onto her plate.
'Snake and kitten pie,' comes the reply. (I remember the same waiter offering banana filters as a dessert yesterday, and this morning at breakfast he announced: "We have punched eggies, scalambala, or flying eggies. With bacon.")
The lady peers down at her plate, then at the waiter, then at me.
'It's OK,' I whisper, 'in fact, it's delicious.'

Lusaka, the capital, is a well worn dusty, infrastructurally streched city: power drops a couple of times a day and water stops/starts. A big town feel really. Easy to navigate. Probably easily forgotten as well. Except, maybe catching up for dinner with Petr, our Botswana ride and his lovely wife Renata (the Renata second for the trip).

Africans use what I term flexible honesty. That is, they tell you what they think you want to hear. Lusaka- Chipata? Six hours. At 10 hours and hitting dark, and now not knowing how much further it becomes disconcerting. But close: 10 and a half hours.

The buses are getting noticeably tirder and more crowded. But you know, we wouldn't want to do it any other way. We meet lovely people. The bus pulls off the highway and drops off/picks up people in the smallest of villages . All stuff we wouldn't experience if we were tucked up in a car by ourselves or belting along in an overland truck.

In the middle of nowhere roadside 'shops' appear. Tiny, mud walled, grass roofed , and all painted gaudy pink or pale blue. They appear to have to be 'branded'. They're outrageous:
'Paradise Bar and Grocery' (read shabeen where they homebrew -probably safer and cleaner to drink gasolene.)
'The [heart] of the Mark' (god knows! But heart is a red heart shape as in famous I[heart]NY)
'Uncle Chelima and Son Enterprise' (they're big on Enterprise)
'Enterprise Supermarket' (!!! The thing han't more than six sq m floor space!)
and not to forget: 'Graced with Blessings Store' (also big on religious conotations)
But I was intrigued by 'In God We Trusted'. Did the past tense indicate the store was their reward, or did they trust in god but ended up having to resort to opening this crappy little shop.

Anhow its nice to be rewarded for travel efforts. After arriving in Chipata, we locate Dean's Hill View Lodge, and meet Dean, a pom, who is building his venture from scratch and doing a nice job. Not easy here - it takes time. We are the only guests and feel he is keen to see us. We chat for hours over dinner and drinks, and sleep the sleep of the dead. Nice stop, nice guy.

Then it's off to Mfuwe, and South Luanga National Park. We have looked forward to this, especially having just read Vic Guhrs' book. This will be a fair-dinkum 'wild' experience. But we have to get there first. It's only 125 kms but takes eight and a half hours, which includes the mandatory mucking around to fill up the bus and then six and a half to get there. Above the driver a sign reads: 'This car is protected by the blood of JESUS'. Yeah, well, maybe. But who is protecting my cramped legs, numb bum and squashed genitilia? Man I now know how sardines feel. Behind our heads, Deb and I had half a dozen bicycle tyres and a bag of potatoes under our feet. I retain enough humour to still be astonished by some of the most magnificant baobab tree specimens we've seen so far.

We arrive at Flatdogs Camp, slang for crocodiles. Just unreal. Three elephants greet us, we erect our tent not 30 meters from the river's edge. On the other side two elephants are looking for their river crossing spot, only 50 meters from our tent. We walk to the water's edge for a look - shit ourselves! a big croc turns and splashes back into the river. When I looked for a nice grassy spot to put the tent, the animal guard tells me to move back five meters "The hippos graze that grass" Crikey! I'll shift at least five. Come dark and our tourches light up all the hippos grazing between our tent and the river, and the sets of croc eyes in the water. Hyenas whoop throughout the night. In the morning there's elephant dung not far away, and monkey shit on the tent! At first light, I open the tent fly for a view of the river and draw Deb's attention to the elephant ghosting past. Not 20 meters away! We hadn't been there 12 hours. Again, nicely rewarded for a tough travel day.

We take a night safari and score our leopard. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful creature. Big five. Big tick. Oh, and one day watched the new born giraffe struggle from its placenta and attempt it's first important task: to stand. Nicest park we have been to. Although brief, we enjoy the company of Tanja and Matthias from Frankfurt.

Sitting by the river; jotting blog notes; in the shade of a big tree, while an African sun beats relentlessly; sipping on a Mosi Beer; hippos grunt; birds shrill; an elephant trumpets amongst the trees across the river. Time floats into the ether. But it's Sunday - that's alright then.

I wrote in my first Zambia posting that we had crossed the Zambezi and things felt even more African. I was fascinated with the Chiluba corruption trial. And then I read in the concluding stages of The Trouble with Africa:
'...[or] the politician who must decide whether to put his hand in the till
or use his head and his heart to improve the prospects of his people; we all
have a choice to make.

Cross the Zambezi, and you will see for

Hmmmm. Seems I'm not alone. Oh, and I've now moved onto reading Thabo Mbeki's Africa: define yourself.

Anyway. We have a return email from Mrs. Zulu (I kid you not) confirming our cabin reservation on the famous old Ilila passenger/cargo ferry that will take us up Lake Malawi. Better get to Malawi.

Fight becoming one of the sheep.

aka Mad.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Zambia: My first country starting with Z, I believe.

We have crossed the Zambezi. We are in Zambia.

Africa is becoming more Africa.

There is not a day, without fail, that I don't marvel at this great continent. Its beauty; its people; its animals; its skies; its days; its nights. The blaze of colour of women's clothing. And who else but a black man can wear bright red trousers and a yellow T-shirt and get away with it?

We've met nice people throughout the trip. Which shouldn't surprise you. Have a look, they are all around you. Craig helping develop the irrigation project at Bulungula in the Transkei; Kaspers, a Latvian charming story teller, who had ridden his BMW bike down through West Africa then met his Brazilian girlfriend, Renata, in Windhoek to set off together through Southern Africa; Steve, a bush pilot, a pom who had lived in Liberia but is now flying tourists into US$1000 pp per night game lodges in the Okavango Delta: 'I only do it for the tips!'; Hans and Dagmar, Germans who also have private pilot licences and had chartered a Cessna and were flying all over Southern Africa - way to go. Nice people. Petr, a Czech who lives in Lusaka, Zambia, who gave us a great ride from Nata to the door Thebe Camp, Kasane, with a promise to repay with a beer in Lusaka. I really enjoyed talking for a couple of hours on the bus to Majwa, who ended up with the copy of Affluenza. Mike, our Delta experience guide. And any number of locals, we have met and said goodbye to.

The first pages of Vic Guhrs' The Trouble with Africa reads:

'The trouble with Africa,' says the truck driver with a Cape accent, 'is that it
is so unpredictable. You can never rely on anything going as planned.'

He points down to the water and across the river to the opposite shore
where the Kazungula ferry lies stranded, its wheel house pointing into the
afternoon sky at a crazy angle. Behind him, a long line of eighteen-wheelers
stretches up the track that winds through the trees and up the hill to the main
road. All around us, four-by-fours and trucks are parked in the large rutted
clearing in front of the ferry ramp.

I am just delighted. I read this at Thebe Camp, Kasane, only four kms away from Kazungula where we border cross the next morning. I had bought this book because it just 'looked like a good read'. I find out it is all set where we will travel over coming days. Marvellous.

But for us, nothing went to plan. Mainly because we didn't have one. But things went well. Richard, a local and manager at what we would term Government Property Services, gave us a ride from outside Thebe. Knowing all the local bureaucrats he gained permission to drive us through 'no man's land' between immigration and the Kazungula ferry - right up to the 'large rutted clearing in front of the ferry ramp'. A long line of eighteen-wheelers stretched up the road. 4x4s and Overland Travel Trucks are parked. The ferry has recently broken down again, but goes now. As foot passengers we stroll straight on and are midstreams the Zambezi before you can say "hasta la vista, Botswana!" (why would you say that, anyway?)

A brief dispute with the immigration dude ( I lost, and paid US$25 for a visa.), an hour's trip in a share taxi - I have a young lad on my lap in the front seat, we are in Livingstone. Named after the good Doctor, I presume.

An afternoon stroll uptown, an the best coffee in ages (best in Zambia the sign read), and we bump into acquaintances from Ngepi Camp, Namibia - Kaspars and Renata. We have drinks while Arsenal holds Chelsea 1-1. ends Chelsea's run and hands League title to Moan U. Pleasure and pain. My poor bro, BOK. His father-in-law, Derek, a dead keen Man U fan will not let up. I reckon my old Unisys colleague, Gordon, will have to hold a half doz on ice for me for that one.

The morning run takes me back out of town on the highway. Just after the 60km to the border town sign I am joined by three lads on crappy Chinese import bicycles (no Concordes spotted - probably too flash for Zambia). One asks "Are you running to the border?" I gag. "No, I can't. I don't have money for the taxi back." "You could just run back," suggests another. Yeah right, thanks lads. Must have mistaken me for Forrest Gump. There was actually some clouds about when I set out: None when I got back at 7:30. Also spotted a couple of people wearing 'Proud Catholic' T-shirts. Well I never. Suppose someone has to be. (Sorry mum and dad - there goes the will.)

And then there's Victoria Falls: Mosi-oh-tunya - the cloud that roars. Oh, and guess what? It's 'another' adventure capital of Southern Africa. But Deb and I did take a microlight flight over the falls. That's not an 'adventure thing', I'm just a sucker for any 'flying thing'. Spectacular view of the Falls, Batoka Gorge, the 'bezi, the islands in the river from where elephants and hippos waved to us. You can see the effect of the Falls spray. The water falls down, then bounces back ever so high, then rains down as heavy as any tropical downpour. When you walk around the Falls face you get absolutely drenched. All part of the fun.

"The Vic Falls lie in Zambia, but Zimbabwe has done a better marketing job," reckons our shuttle driver. The township of Victoria Falls is in the Zim (the only way Zimbabwe is refered to in Africa) and was once 'the' tourist place to visit. Zambia is, slowly, trying to change that. Deb and I had made a conscious decision to give The Zim the swerve. Bad luck for locals, but I'm not going to have a a cent of my money finding its way into Mugabe's pockets.

A bus Livingstone-Lusaka costs 70,000 kwacha (US$1=4000 ZKA) and takes six hours. The train, a preferred mode, only costs 16,500 ZKA. BUT .... 18 hours!!! Excellent value for money, but ...I don't know about you, US$17.50 doesn't seem extravagent to me ....

Zambia's Sunday Post had a heading that caught my eye: 'Tana supports search for expat coach.' What? On the eve of the World Cup. What has Mr Henry done wrong? But, of course, no. Zambia's football captain, Elijah Tana, feels the country's team needs some new blood. Relax Kiwi friends.

Zambia will mean a visit to Lusaka, and then onto South Luangwe National Park in the East of Zambia - and because of its irregular shape, a stone's throw to the Congo. I'll tell you about it later, I want to get these postings up to date.

The opening sentence of the Introduction to Vic Guhrs' book reads:

The trouble with Africa is it gets in your blood.
Stay cool

aka Mad

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

We've found ourselves in Botswana, bwana!

Pronounced, not Bots - wana, but Bo-tswana: Home of the Twsana people.

From Ngepi Camp we headed towards the Botswana border, after learning a python had taken two of the camp dog's six week old puppies. Lying in our tent was interesting listening to hippos splashing/grunting away in the nearby river (hoping sound travelled a long way in the night quiet).

The border was 15km away, and another 15km to Shakawe. The first bit took rides in the back of a 4x4, a cattle truck, and seven adults in a Corolla sedan 5km through the Mahengo game reserve. Border crossing formalities completed, a short walk earnt us a ride in the back of a bakkie. From Shakawe to Maun it was 390km in a bus. Crowded, of course; slab seats, of course; a sixties model Ford with rear suspension a long distant memory. We were sitting above the rear axle, of course.

A visit to internet cafe in Botswana brought great news. My second longest term Wellington friend, Des Young, has got himself engaged. Bloody great. And wouldn't you know it, in that real Wellington way, to a dear friend of my longest term Wellington friends, John & Lisa. Des and John have met each other through me, but that's about it. Des and Mahany met through other channels. Just wonderful news.


Before arrival in Botswana, I think I only knew two things about the place. The Okavango Delta and the Kalahari Desert are here. And basically, one was on the left and one was on the right as we journed South. To say Botswana is a flat dustbowl with thousands of donkeys may be a bit uncharitable. Well, I can only speak for the northern half; the south might be very different - there may be fewer donkeys there! But it is rather dry and dusty with stunted tree growth. Obviously, the Delta is a watery wilderness.

In Maun we made our way to the Crocodile Camp, 15km and an enjoyable fun piece of bartering taxi ride away in Matlapenang. Where, believe it, we were 'upgraded'. They have just the one reed-sticks walled bungalow with ensuite that they don't book but offer when suits to 'interesting and nice people'. After meeting and enquiring about our day's travel, the manageress deemed us deserving. Wacko the diddle-oh! (my bro will chuckle at use of that expression). Now if only they had TV and we could watch the final of the Cricket World Cup, but no - we resorted to BBC shortwave. I'm only guessing the result surprised no-one. Quite expected really.

My prior lack of knowledge of the Bots came to the fore when reading the sundaystandard Opinion & Analysis. A feature article by one Dr. Mbako Nyepi discussing Botswana's history since independance and the current/future directions reads interestingly. Apparently, 'our beloved Botswana has been an enviable shining star of governance, democracy, law, transparency etc ... we have grown up proudly knowing to be the envy of most African countries.' Impressive. But now the President is trying to pass a Bill under cover-all 'security interests of Botswana', whether these be political, military or economic. Fascinating. Apparently, the definition of 'political security' is very murky, but gives overwhelming power to the President, alone. Dr. Nyepi suggests the bill needs consultation with the ordinary citizens. Hmmmmm. I wonder, like that will happen. Maybe, apparently their democratic record is good so far.

Botswana: With standards of heath, education and a stable economy better than any in the sub-Sahara it should have a life expectancy of 72 years., but HIV/AIDS means a reality of but 39 years.

By the time we had left Swakopmund, Namibia I had re-stocked on books allowing me to fight the Wilbur Smith/Frederick Forsyth syndrome a while longer. When in Rome ... your interests turn to books on Africa. I found a 2nd hand copy of an oldie: Alan Paton's classic 'Cry, the beloved country' (Penguin Books). I also found some interesting ones: Vic Guhrs' 'The Trouble with Africa: stories from a safari camp' (Penguin Books) and Martin Meredith's 'The State of Africa: A history of fifty years of independance' (Jonathan Ball Publishers). And just had to buy Thabo Mbeki's 'Africa: define yourself' (Tafelberg-Mafube). Should keep me going a while.

Naturally I'm currently a little interested in the Africa topic. Acknowledging our experience so far has been Southern Africa and recognising there are distinct differences in Africa. A couple of lesser items have caught my eye. Dr. Sam Nujoma, Swapo president, and ex - and first - president of Namibia (apparently not such a bad joker, but who did raise some concerns when he changed the new constitution to allow himself an extra term as president, but then retired gracefully) was quoted in the New Era, ' Agriculture is the most important sector in order to supply food to the population [adding] '... there is no way you can talk politics to hungry people. You cannot talk about economic development without healthy people.' Interesting, as generally in Western terms we are always refering to economic development of third world - developing nations.

Also, Paul Theroux with his disdain for 'agents of virtue': the NGOs, aid organisations and charities, would be interested in the Namibian story: 'Red Cross loses N$20 million due to mis-management'. It appears Secretary General Razia Essack-Kauaria kind of lost control there a wee bit. Silly, silly girl. Mind you, what's 20 mill to a not-for-profit?

Back to books for a moment. I mentioned an earlier read, Jan Morris's 'A Writers World: Travels 1950-2000'. Interesting on a couple of accounts. She was a he ... he is now a she. Once James Morris. But that means some of the earlier writings would not have been possible by a woman journalist, or woman for that matter. Reporting in the Middle East or the only reporter on the 1953 Hillary to the top of Everest climb would not have been female.

I still keep thinking about Affluenza (Oliver James) a bit. I became a bit disillusioned. Early on I read with interest the effects of consumerism on people. I was a good lad and diligently got my A+ for Marketing during MBA studies, but spent almost as much time discussing its science of manipulation with my chum, and one time Unisys man, Bill H. It did not surprise me one bit, at dinner two nights before leaving and telling how I had bought this book to find Bill had just completed reading it himself. He is much more erudite than I, with a philosophy major and I'd like to know his comments. But for me, by end it had become a bit of a socialist rant. Too black and white. You are poor - you have the virus, you are rich - you have the virus. But, and a big one, a real let down was he failed to provide thoughts on a vaccine for my demographic: male, heterosexual, and without children by choice. In his two major closing statements he used 'obvious' and 'obviously' when I wouldn't have thought so by a long shot.

To me it is all way more simple. It's about attitude. I have seen people consumed by consumerism. But really, I have this ... you have that: It's not a bloody competition! He (James) is the psychologist, whereas I'm probably just a psychologist's retirement fund, but spare me that 'it's all about our childhood' stuff. Of course it it. But jeepers. I had a feeling a section with a Kiwi 'subject' was actually a nostalgic view of how Kiwis would like to imagine themselves. The fact that they sat back afterwards having a few beers and reminisced about the good old days said as much. When arriving in NZ in the early eighties, it felt a reasonably egalitarian society. There is now much more dedicated push to show status. Don't take me wrong. Exactly the same would be happening in Australia, and elsewhere (exactly James's point), but that's my reference. I think the whole book could have been covered by a quote (I can't produce source, but pretty sure I have it right) of Mahatma Ghandi's: 'the world has enough for everyone's needs, but not for their greed.' That's all.

OK, so I've had some time to think about a few things. Here's another for you. Has anyone else noticed the contradictions that exist in proverbs, those little pearls of wisdom they say grandmothers (Nana in our family's case) like to quote. Consider:
Birds of a feather stick together: opposites attract
Look before you leap: he who hesitates is lost
Don't judge a book by its cover: clothes maketh the man.
I can only guess there are more. Perhaps I have discovered a new law of Physics: For each and every proverb that exists, there is an equal and opposite proverb.

Hey, and how about this story from Botswana's The Midweek Sun:
Botswana is occupying fifth position in Africa and is in the top 30 in the world , according to the recently released cricket rankings.
Botswana Cricket Association (BCA) spokesperson, Sumod Damodar, coud not not hide his happiness with this achievement this week. [You go, Sumod!]
"of course we are happy. This means that BCA has put the country in the world map." [Sumod, the world has stopped in their tracks speaking of Botswana's cricketing breakthrough.] Botswana is fifth after Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Tanzania [all cricketing giants!!]. But wait, aren't South Africa and Zimbabwe in Africa? Perhaps it's that Affiliate, Associate and Full membership thing.

Self-catering allows us to hire a mokoro poler/guide, pack our camping and cooking gear, and food and take off into the Delta for a couple of days. We feed the poler. Seb 'Mike' Kentshitswe is pleasing company and we've done without need for a tour. All very intimate. Discarding the tent, we sleep under the stars.
During the night we hear a lion's roar. There's paw-prints on the track next morning - we are on foot and a tad apprehensive. Didn't see the lion. But the real threat came crossing some grass land towards some trees when out pops three elephants. The large bull spots us. "He wants to get down wind to smell us," says Mike, "It is not good we are in the open." Oh-oh. We scarper towards some trees, beating Jumbo who has scooted along trying to cut us off. He comes to the trees and stares at us, and starts scraping up dirt with his trunk and flings it at us. Walking safaris appear to be coming big over here. But, phew, time for a cup of tea and a wee lie down.
An eventful trip out as well. A guy in another mokoro we come across tells us of a scare by a lion overnight. And a 'bushfire' in the papyrus reeds burns along side us right down to waters edge as we pass.
There's one last sting in the Affluenza tail. On the bus from Maun to Nata a gentleman, Tshekiso Majwa, comes down the back of the bus and stands over me. "Sir, I think I sat next to you on a bus five or six days ago. You were reading a book Affluenza. Excuse my rudeness, but I read over your shoulder. That bit about democracy was very interesting. I asked at the bookshop in Maun - they do not know the book. Can you please tell me the author and the ISBN number to allow me to search." I can do one better. It was Deb that was actually reading it. "I'm sure she will finish reading it by the time we get off this bus. I would like to give it to you." Well, I've never seen a more thrilled, excited person. (OK. Maybe me when John Eales put over the penalty for the last minute Wallabies one-pointer at Wellington Stadium.) I believe the Africans think Westerners are loopy at the best of times. Affluenza will convince him we are absolutely barking. We spoke of many things. Botswana's politics, current affairs (the dodgy sale of Air Botswana), and life and the universe. Conversation was interrupted by him near landing on top of me when the bus slammed on the brakes and a big swerve to miss an elephant that ran out onto the road, then down the road in front of us. It seems it's always about the animals. It's Africa.

The trip to Kasane, and to see the magnificent herds of elephants at Chobe National Park, means a night in the tent behind a service station in Nata on the way. But a great ride next day propels us onwards.

And to think, there's still heaps to go yet. A light evening breeze wafts over the camp. I am sure I can hear the call of Zambia.

aka Mad