- Journalist threatened, film confiscated
The Media Institute of Southern Africa
July 10, 2000
Windhoek - On Thursday July 6, journalist Pushpa Jamieson was threatened by
about five heavily armed Police Mobile Force (PMF) members while covering the
aftermath of Malawi's 36th independence anniversary at the Civil Service Stadium
Jamieson had photographed the aftermath of clashes between riot police and
hundreds of people who could not be accommodated in the stadium when she was
accosted by the PMF members. While training their guns on her, they confiscated
her camera and threatened to shoot her if she resisted. They claimed she was not
allowed to take pictures of riots, but Jamieson had only photographed the debris in
the main road and not the actual riots.
After the incident Jamieson returned to the "Chronicle" offices, where she reported
the matter to her colleagues. A while later, the same policemen who had
confiscated her camera stopped near the paper's office, prompting newspaper staff
to approach them about the camera. One of the officers then used a wooden baton
to beat journalist Don Kulapani, while other officers threatened to arrest the other
journalists. Kulapani was saved from serious injury by the intervention of other
staff. A short while later about twenty other officers arrived on the scene and
threatened to shoot the journalists if they did not leave the place.
"Who do you think you are? We are doing our job. You can go and sue if you
want. We are PMF, so watch yourself," one of the policemen were quoted as
Later that same day, Jamieson's camera was returned to her, but without the film.
Africa is not a basket case
Why does the Western media goes out of its way to trash the image of the
JOHN MATSHIKIZA asks
To paraphrase from a character in one of Toni Morrison's great novels:
"The trouble with these people is that they just don't know when to stop."
OK, I admit it, I'm still smarting. Sitting in the centre of the African continent,
staring out at its myriad wonders, I find myself still smouldering like the
magnificently mysterious Mount Cameroon, ready to explode. For why?
A recent edition of The Economist magazine led with a cover story entitled
"Hopeless Africa". It was another example of the Western media going out of its
way to trash the image of the continent, to seek to sustain the notion that Africa
will remain the basket case that it has always been in the Western imagination.
Yes, there is hideous civil war raging in Sierra Leone; the Democratic Republic of
Congo remains an intractable mire of war, political intrigue and financial
corruption; Ethiopia and Eritrea are involved in a mortal combat of twin brothers;
Aids casts its lethal and unexplainable shadow from north to south; illiteracy is
growing, children face a bleak future.
And yet, this is not the only story out of Africa. There are other, equally important
stories, stories that are seldom told, about the sheer exuberance and variety of the
place. How can there be one image of Africa?
And yet, in spite of the schoolyard chant that says "Sticks and stones may break
my bones, but names can never hurt me", a bad image, when carefully placed, is
hard to shake off. Thus readers of The Economist, sitting thousands of miles away
from the continent in question, would have swallowed the whole thing, hook line
and sinker, when that noble rag made so bold as to say:
"Africa was weak before the Europeans touched its coasts. Nature is not kind to
it. This may be the birthplace of mankind, but it is hardly surprising that humans
sought other continents to live in ..."
Three quick lies in three quick
sentences. But their message hits home,
nevertheless. Potential foreign investors
are told what they want to hear, and
decide on the basis of nothing more than hearsay to stay away.
A chain reaction follows. Continually destabilised economically, Africa finds it
hard to stabilise politically. Huge numbers of its best-qualified citizens choose to
join the brain-and-body drain and leave "hopeless Africa" forever - joining the
rest of those (supposedly "sensible") "humans [who] sought other continents to
live on". The lie becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But what does one actually perceive on the ground?
Take the Congo. On the surface, and all too terribly, a basket case living through
an endless and meaningless series of civil wars, with no infrastructure worth
speaking of 40 years after independence from the Belgians, and so on. And yet,
people are living there. The land is wide, rich and fertile. The marketplace culture
is alive and kicking. If the ordinary people were allowed to live in peace, they
would be able to demonstrate their political sophistication and their ability to uplift
and govern themselves.
Far from The Economist's view that "nature is not kind to it", the Congo is
testimony to the fact that Africa's natural riches are part of its fatal problem.
Everyone greedily wants a share.
Far from all intelligent life forms choosing to leave it (although there are hundreds
of thousands of refugees and political and economic exiles), Africa, on the
contrary, as well as being abundantly populated in the most fertile of its regions, is
also still being endlessly invaded from other continents. This invasion - from
Britain, from Lithuania, from the Americas, from China, from Israel, from New
Zealand or wherever else there is a class of buccaneer missionaries to sample
from - comes, as it has always come, for the twin purposes of rape and pillage.
Cobalt, wood, gold, aluminium, copper, oil, rubber, platinum, diamonds - you
name it, Africa's got it, and someone else wants it. Wildlife (both for viewing and
hunting) exists in unparalleled abundance. And then there is the endless variety of
its people, with their incomprehensible, fascinating, age-old, yet adaptable,
cultures. Africa is still, in Western eyes, and in spite of all the deliberate
disinformation, "God's own country".
"Hopeless Africa" is rather an image of hopelessly passionate romance. If Africa
was really a hopeless case, if it was really nothing more than Heart of Darkness
and "The White Man's Grave", would there still be so many of the latter species,
in all shapes and genders, moving so tenaciously through its heartland? From King
Solomon's Mines to The Snows of Kilimanjaro, from Out of Africa, the film
Chocolat, and whatever is coming out next, the West's romance with Africa is a
gripping and eternal part of its secret personality. And like a secret lover, it has to
be denounced to its very face to keep the secret safe.
What else does one perceive from down here on the ground?
That Africa is not an entity divorced from the history of the rest of the world. Nor
is it remote from any aspect of what the world is today. Not only is the African
image deeply embedded in many of the accepted symbols of world culture: vast
arrays of the cultures of the world are part of the African image - while not
contradicting the existence of a distinct African identity.
Africa, like the rest of the world, is capable of being both ancient and modern at
the same time.
Africa is like the rest of the world. Except that it is Africa.
We must not avoid being critical of our own continent. But we must also try to
keep a clear eye on what the continent is really like, and be clear that it is not, by
a long stretch of the imagination, a hopeless case.
- But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out hope...How's the home solar project??KCOn Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 9:26 AM, Christine Chumbler <wartpiggy@...> wrote:
Nothing to be proud of here, I'm afraid.
Malawi's child tobacco pickers 'poisoned by nicotine'Aug 24 2009 07:05Children in Malawi who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, an investigation has found.
Child labourers as young as five are suffering severe health problems from a daily skin absorption of up to 54mg of dissolved nicotine, according to the international children's organisation Plan.
Malawian tobacco is found in the blend of almost every cigarette smoked in the West. The low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco is often used as a filler by manufacturers, reflecting a long-term global shift in production.
Tobacco farms in America declined by 89% between 1954 and 2002. Three-quarters of production has migrated to developing countries, with Malawi the world's fifth biggest producer.
Seventy percent of its export income comes from tobacco and the country is economically dependent on it.
Plan cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in Southern Africa, with 88,9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that more than 78 000 children work on tobacco estates -- some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than 1p an hour and without protective clothing.
Plan's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in a series of workshops. They revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.
The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness (GTS), or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.
"Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen," one child said. "You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache."
GTS is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting. It is made worse by humid and wet conditions, which are prevalent in Malawi, as residual moisture on the leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed quicker.
Everyday symptoms of GTS are more severe in children than adults as they have not built up a tolerance to nicotine through smoking and because of their physical size. There is a lack of research into the long-term effects of GTS in children, but experts believe that it could seriously impair their development.
Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences at California University in San Francisco, said: "Numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during infancy and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults.
"The brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to adverse neurobehavioural effects of nicotine exposure."
Plan called on Malawi's government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work. It demanded that multinational tobacco companies scrutinise their suppliers far more closely and follow their own corporate responsibility guidelines.
Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi's child rights adviser, said: "This research shows that tobacco estates are exploiting and abusing children who have a right to a safe working environment.
"Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them. These children are risking their health for 11p a day." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
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"...for f*ck’s sake, the only thing that privilege is good for is to try to help other people." –Junot Diaz