|Masters of the universe|
|Wednesday, 30 May 2012 21:52|
Much as this election is a referendum on the Arab Spring, there are some issues that need clarification. One of them is a photograph published last week, showing former United States president Jimmy Carter assisting an Egyptian voter.
The caption read, “EGYPT: Former US president Jimmy Carter helps an Egyptian voter to cast his ballot at a polling station in Cairo on May 24, 2012 during the country’s second day of landmark presidential election. International monitors with the Carter centre monitored the country’s first free presidential election.”
The importance of election monitors in ensuring free and fair elections cannot be over-emphasised. The question that begs is whether the assistance of voters is part of their terms of reference.
If this had been done by someone other than president Carter, how would it have been perceived?
When history is read in future, will it be obvious that it was not president Carter who cast the ballot, when it looks like he actually is the one who is being assisted? Why did the voter also need assistance?
The Spear vs public interest
Fathers and daughters make interesting partnerships. Last week, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla stood by her father, South African President Jacob Zuma.
Acting on behalf of her siblings, she applied to enter a court case over Brett Murray’s controversial portrait - The Spear. This is not the first time she has supported him. She stood by her father during the 2006 rape charge.
Reports say Dudu, whose mother committed suicide in 2000, is very close to President Zuma, and in an interview with True Love magazine last year, she described her husband Lonwabo thus: “I love the way he respects his parents. He is humble, reserved and sweet and reminds me so much of my dad.”
I felt for Dudu. She was point on when she argued that the most demeaning thing that a child could tolerate is to see someone denigrating their parents’ private parts.
In her presentation, Dudu said The Spear is “vulgar and conveys no meaningful or constitutional protectable political speech . . . As a family we have learnt to appreciate the ‘arrows of outrageous fortune’ that come with being a public family . . . I am advised that the portrait of my father with his sexual organs exposed is deeply offensive and constitutes hate speech because it displays disdain for our cultural attitudes towards the public display of sexual organs . . . In fact in our culture, when you wish to insult an opponent, you insult them by referring to the sexual organs of parents. Such an insult often leads to violent conflict between the parties involved.” Dudu’s feelings reminded me of a number of issues, chief among them, an obsession by some men to disparage through vulgarity. So, has Murray crossed the line in his artistic expression? My argument is based on childhood experiences when I witnessed vicious fights among boys over mounds of soil representing their mothers’ breasts.
Challenging each other, they would build two mounds of soil and say, “This is your mother’s breast; and, this is my mother’s.”
What sparked the fight was when the other boy kicked the mound representing the other mother’s breast. It spoke volumes about relationships between these boys and their mothers.
Thus we can argue that Murray failed to appreciate and understand that which differentiates him from black South Africans. This is why Dudu’s appeal resonates to observers like me.
Defending the indefensible
Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor was yesterday given a 50-year jail term by The Hague-based International Criminal Court. At 64, all we can say is that this is a death sentence.
But last week, I read with awe the ICC’s new chief prosecutor Ms Fatou Bensouda’s defence of the crimes court towards Africa. She wants Africa to be silent about the selective manner in which the ICC executes justice. We are not condoning criminal acts, but all we want is a justice delivery system that we can be confident with. She argued, “Of course there are voices that are anti-ICC, not only from within the continent . . . What offends me most about these criticisms of bias is how quick we are to focus on the words and propaganda of a few powerful, influential individuals and forget the millions of anonymous people that suffer.”
Her narrative would have been incomplete without Zimbabwe as she congratulated the Southern African Litigation Centre, which won a high court order, already dismissed by Zimbabwean authorities, compelling South African prosecutors to investigate senior politicians accused of systemic torture.
“The ICC in this instance is not able to act directly because Zimbabwe is not a state Party to the Rome Statute . . . But that another country can use its own legislation to make attempts to address these crimes is amazing,” she said.
We wondered whether she understood the Zimbabwean issue, especially the land question.
As she takes over from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the first case she will preside over is that of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo accused of being the “indirect co-author” of crimes against humanity committed during post-election violence in 2010 to 2011.
However, last Friday, Gbagbo’s defence asked the court “to declare that the ICC is not competent regarding the period and the facts in the arrest warrant issued against Laurent Gbagbo on November 23 2011.”
“Indirect co-author” is also a noteworthy term. Bensouda should understand that those Africans who accuse the ICC of bias do so because they have evidence of past and present Western leaders also indirectly and brutally co-authoring war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and many parts of Africa, but the ICC has not acted on them. Why did she not address that aspect? If Africans are the only perpetrators, why try them at The Hague?