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Morgan Tsvangirai’s contradictory statements on LGBTI rights, Madagascar’s elections and various interpretations of Africa by western visitors are among the topics featured in Sokari Ekine’s roundup of the blogosphere.

Two weeks ago the Zimbabwean Prime Minister and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai announced his support of President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to include LGBTI rights in the new Zimbabwean constitution. However Tsvangirai’s statement contradicts the official position of the MDC party, which states:

‘Under the Bill of Rights section, the MDC position paper states that: “In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.”

It is unbelievable that a party leader would speak out against his own party’s position paper particularly on a constitutional and human rights matter.

African Activist publishes a conversation by UK Guardian reporter and a Zimbabwean friend about how ‘publicly supporting gay rights could be electoral suicide in this socially conservative country’ – a view which turns out to be based on the person’s Christian beliefs:

‘He said: “There's no way I would vote MDC if they supported gay rights.”
Why not, I asked.
“You cannot be doing that. I don't know about other cultures, but this is African culture. I give you a 100% guarantee, 120% guarantee, nobody in my clan is doing that.”
My friend is a kind and gentle man. I didn't want to argue. But I didn't want to let it go either. I kept cutting away with questions until I got to the roots of his beliefs.
He said: “I take my knowledge and morals from the Bible. If something is not in the Bible, I don't believe it. I don't know about the dinosaurs.”’

Kubatana posts a joint press release by Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe, a Human Rights NGO forum, on Tsvangirai’s statement which again is contradictory with a further statement. In other words, the message the MDC leader is giving is unclear and will only increase tensions. The press release stated:

‘The statements, which make reference to attempts to include gay rights in the Constitution undermine public tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Issues of sexuality impact on the dignity, privacy, identity and freedom of people. We urge you not to undermine the dignity of these individuals by making such homophobic statements.

‘We call on the principals to desist from making statements likely to promote hate and prejudice. Zimbabwe is going through a transition from a period characterised by hate, violence and economic suffering and moving towards national healing.’

Can We Save Africa by Wanjiru, comments on the tagline of Afroline, an Italian based African online news site. The tagline is a quote by Ryszard Kapuscinski which reads: ‘Africa is dying in silence for no one listens to its voice’.

I had also written to Afroline complaining about the quote but it still remained. The fact is that Africa is not dying and this kind of statement speaks to western notions of a continent in need of saving, invariably by white folks. Wanjiru comments:

‘While I didn’t find it all that strange that a Polish journalist’s quote would show up on an Italian website seeking to give voice to people on the African continent, I did find the whole thing somewhat troubling. First of all, I find Mr Kapuscinski’s quote to be a bit alarmist, and I question anyone who puts Africa and dying in the same sentence – how many times and to what end must we hear about the myriad ways the continent and its peoples are suffering, enduring, and fading away into diseased, war-racked nothingness? I’m nowhere close to being African and I find the whole picture dismal, reeking entirely of prejudice and self-fulfilling prophesied doom.’

I have to admit knowing nothing about Malagasy politics and have never included a blog from Madagascar. Time to change. The Malagasy Dwarf Hippo writes a post on the election process and the challenges to improve participation and minimise fraud. There has been an ongoing discussion amongst a number of Malagasy bloggers and this is Dwarf Hippo’s latest contribution. The recommendations could be applied to any number of countries and I hope some Nigerian election monitors can learn something from the discussion and suggestions:

‘-Elections are measurements, therefore we all should expect measurements errors and be transparent about them.
-Elections are not only about determining the choice of the constituents but also about providing trust to the same constituents that their votes are accounted for properly.

‘About preventing voting errors or fraud:
- A consensus was reached that combining a paper trail of voting record and a stable digital streamlining of the process.
Paper trail provides the critical physical evidence of a casted vote. Digital streamlining helps limit the intermediary steps in vote count so that the probability of fraud is reduced.
- Search for statistical hints that suggest that polls might have been fabricated.
- Spreading the voting period over three days instead of one to make sure everyone has a chance to vote, unclog voting poll and prevent wearing out of poll volunteers.
- The importance of exit polls as a mean of verification of the official count.
In fact, holding opinion polls in between election cycle helps make sure that there are no sudden outrageous difference between ratings and voting poll.’

Egyptian Chronicles blogs about the second anniversary of the April 6th Movement in Egypt, ‘Egypt's Intifada’, started in 2008 by Esraa Rashid and Ahmad Maher to support workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town, who were planning to strike on 6 April. As usual, demonstrators gathered together in Tahrir Square, Cairo. EC then goes on to give regular updates on the movement of the protests and the response by the police, which was to arrest everyone:

‘The protesters tried to gather in front of the Shura council but could do not as usual, they moved to Talaat Harab where the Ghad Party was going to participate in the protest but the security cracked it and the hunting party started. In the end the few that managed to escape to head for the lawyers bar!!

‘A group of activists not less than 90 have been detained, some of them have been released after touring Cairo and some will spent tonight in a cell!! Some of these activists were injured during the clashes with the security forces including a 60 years old man!! Again this is also nothing, it happened before in previous protests. Already all the detainees are currently in Madinat El-Salam area. The Arabic Network for human rights information has latest updates with the detainees names. Updated: Here is the complete list of detainees' names…

‘Now this year the girls and ladies' participation was bigger than previous year and it seems that ministry of interior has known such info and thus it took its precautions to avoid any criticism or accusation of sexually harassing the female protesters; Policewomen or rather women prisoner guards have participated in cracking the protest this year for the first time and strangely they were not less violent as their men counterparts according to eye witnesses and reporters. Nevertheless the plain clothed policemen and agents have sexually harassed women protesters in the same old miserable ways of grabbing and tearing up their clothes!!’

There are quite a few South African blog posts responding to the murder of AWB leader, Eugene Terre’blance last Saturday. Kameraad Mhambi sees the murder as ‘shifting the [South African"> landscape’. I think that is a slight exaggeration but it has raised some simmering-below-the-surface unresolved issues in the country. He has some questions about why the police announcement came so soon after the murder and why the culprits called the police after killing Terreblanche. He comes up with his own theory:

‘I’m not a great conspiracy theorist, but here is one possibility. At least this theory is way more plausible than that that surrounds other famous South African killings, like Chris Hani’s death.

‘The two “killers” are not the killers at all. They found Terreblanche and called the police. The police thought they were sitting on a political time bomb, and arrested the two. Better to tell the world that he had been killed in a domestic dispute than if the killers were strangers. What signal would that send out?

‘Lets see. If my theory is correct the truth will out. Unless the suspects die. But that would be too audacious. What is more certain however is that South Africa for some has become a place of even more fear and uncertainty today.’

Khanya responds to the hype in some media that a race war is now imminent with a some crime reports from his local neighbourhood – nothing. He thinks maybe the criminals were having a holiday like the rest of the country. He goes on to give a roundup of the blogosphere’s response, which ranged from the ‘any murder is horrific and unjustified’ to the ambivalent – does anyone other than AWB really care?

Black Looks posts on a soon to be broadcast documentary on life on the streets of Lagos, commenting on the different interpretations of the city depending on who you are and where you come from. In response to a quote from the producer ‘They are normal people doing what they have to do to survive’ she writes:

‘What is normal – how do we measure normality and why would poor people be less normal than anyone else? Are the rich, the middle classes normal?

‘What does he expect poor people to do? Its disingenuous to imagine because people are poor they are not capable of organising and policing their communities. The Harvard architect Rem Koolhas documentary ‘Lagos/Koolhaas’ which I recently saw in Lagos, is similar in its bewilderment of how the city manages itself and people negotiate their daily lives. A problem with many westerners who visit Africa, is they are so used to their own form of order which is often extremely boring in its predictability, they lack the imagination to see beyond the apparent chaos. Buses parked haphazardly without any obvious sign of where they are headed may appear chaotic as opposed to neatly lined up buses in the bus park with visible signs of the destination. But there is a method its just that they don’t know what it is!’

* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.