22 September 2008

Just one photograph

Sometimes things go right. Well, often they do, but I cannot stop looking at this photograph I took. It just came out so nice. I pride myself of taking decent photos in general, but this one is somehow very special. Everything is just quite strong here, lighting is nice and the moment is right. I guess I am giving myself props here publicly, but why not. It is a good one.

Thabo's out

So much has happened again. Zimbabwe got its agreement which of course wasn’t important because of the economic crisis. Thabo Mbeki received super props from Zimbabweans but got sacked on the home front and now South Africa has no president. I am not Mbeki’s biggest fan but I am not his hater either. He has done good and not so good things in power, been a statesman and represented at least some part of the nation really well. But his presidency was almost over anyway so I am not really writing about him, but rather, what I think would be the best for the country in my humble opinion; the new kind of opposition.

The main opposition party in South Africa DA (Democratic Alliance) is very white and quite Cape Town. Now I know I live in Cape Town and “being Cape Town” can mean good or bad, but lets just clarify that when it comes to political transformation, this city isn’t exactly the front runner, but somewhere far back still very much denying that there ever was any problems. Possibly because white Capetonians, it seems, fancy themselves as more liberal than rest of the country. This in my books mainly means that they are washing their hands and not taking responsibility as they supposedly didn’t even vote for the apartheid people. I haven’t met one white South African yet who would say they did, yet the Nationalist Party won the elections decade after decade in the whites only elections. This leaves me no option, but as a side note, to assume that dealing with the past, as it goes for the PDI’s (this is an actual acronym for Previously Disadvantaged Individuals), does not concern the previously (and let’s face it still) super privileged people of the same nation.

Of course DA isn’t all Cape Town and surely has some voters elsewhere as well, but I would rather have Mugabe coming to rule South Africa than them because I find DA unfortunately to be very traditional opposition for life party. Its policy is to oppose the government and disagree as dramatically and visibly as possible. Also, I can never see them getting enough support to be anything but a barking dog in a relatively short chain. The truth is that such a white led party cannot at this time lead South Africa purely because the race scars are so deep, not much time has yet passed from the previous white government and that didn’t go too well, and since ethnicity is such a big consideration in the country, the whites, while economically and seemingly generally in their own opinion at least are powerful, in numbers they really aren’t. The rest of the parties in the country’s politics are pushing the agenda that they do, but are smaller.

The official reason ANC NEC (National Executive Committee) gave for Mbeki’s sacking (officially of course asking him to step down) was to unite the party. I think that in order to have a little bit clearer idea of what this may mean, one must try to understand what is ANC. Originally SANNC (South African Native National Congress) was formed 1912 and according to Francis E Meli (This Country Belongs To Us: The History Of ANC, 1989) it was merely a discussion group for academics. Decades later when it was called, as it now is, African National Congress, it went on to be transformed into more direct action by its Youth League lead by Anton Lembede (membership included Mandela, Tambo, Sisulu and Sobukwe). This change was given blessing by Chief Albert Luthuli, then the top man of the party. Fast forward into more recent times. The party negotiated the democracy for the nation and Mandela became the first democratically elected president. This extremely short history doesn’t do justice to the movement that has done so much, but what’s important is that it was a liberation movement. It was a home for all kinds of people who opposed apartheid from communist to church leaders and goers and from academics to peasants. All of its members were brought together by their common enemy. While South Africa has been going through the delicate process of transformation so has the ANC; from liberation movement to a governing party.

In South Africa the ordinary voters get to vote only for the party and after the election the winners have the mandate to do as they see fit. ANC’s Secretary General Gwede Mantasha said in a TV interview (Interface, SABC 3, 21.09.08) that it is a great system because then the party will always be responsible, but I can’t see it that way. I try, but I can’t. Because a party is not a person. It’s no one in specific. It is group of people who may change as has happened since the ANC actually was given the mandate last time by the voters. It baffles me really. I guess the party has such a great history that no one wants to leave, but a voter in South Africa is still, fourteen years after the first elections, asked to give their vote to a group that consists of communist and business tycoons and everyone in between. From Billionaire to shack dweller quite literally. Seems a bit broad to me, and when they say that the decision to ask Mbeki to step down was to unite the party, then I am not sure if that many kinds of people should even be in one party. Not at least if the electoral system is as it is here. You know, just for the poor voters sake. So now, what was it that I was thinking could happen.

Well, if the approximately 40 % of the party members that stood behind Mbeki (or possibly just against Zuma) in Polokwane meeting would do the unthinkable and break away. I feel that it would make the democratic process a little bit more functional as the parties would have their own characteristics and one maybe would be more left and other right and so on and so forth. Voter would have an idea what they are voting for. There’s been distinct quietness and mysterious air around some of these matters and if something happens soon, it wouldn’t be all that shocking surprise to me. Of course anything can happen, but I doubt this party would win the elections; I only hope they would create a respectable and intelligent opposition that represent the nation and drives the government to their best effort. Keeps them on their toes so to speak. Right now the problem of the country seems to be that the leading party can do what it wishes because the opposition is nothing much to be feared.

Well, what will happen will happen, and I must admit that all this is an outsider’s speculation. I don’t even have a vote here, and it would be arrogant from me to say how things should go and that really isn’t what I am after. I also understand that I can never understand political struggle on an experiential level. To me, fortunately, it is just a concept. I have understood that the uniting power of such experience should never be underestimated. That may mean that break away is not realistic, and that is understandable. Also, leaving the Mandela party, the one that according to the history books at least (which may have been written by them as the victorious people get to do) gave people their freedom, doesn’t sound like a sensible thing to do. It can go either way. I cannot wait to see how this actually pans out.

Zimbabwe does it

I was watching live the signing of Zimbabwean agreement of Government of National Unity and what a show. I was so impressed. I’ve never felt like living such historic times. Some great speakers there as well on the podium. Funny how I was surprised about Mugabe. He gave an excellent speech, but then again, they found the fifteen second clip for the news where he looks like a wino from the park shouting at kids who are playing ball. He talked very emotionally without notes about the history, recent events and future and made some points that were pretty clever. Not to say he’s the best leader ever, but good speech nonetheless (which is not action… only speech). Professor Mutambara also spoke really well. Great ceremony. Much better than any MTV awards ever and I’ve seen my fair share of those as well.

Well, agreement was reached. Who would have thought. Not any of us westerners anyway. The anti-Mugabe choir was calling for military intervention and what not like those have gone so well in the past. Just ask Iraqis. This was an African solution to an African problem as it was said and that is great.

I have previously written about the future prospects. I was wrong about how this happened, and I am happy that I was. I think national unity is the best way forward and I didn’t see that coming, but then again, who am I to even see these things. The trouble is though the loans that are taken from the IMF to support the new currency (at least based on the plans). Those harsh conditions of the loans are not going to help the people who have long suffered. I hope there will be some solution that comes out of the blue like the agreement did (to me at least). Who knows; even the Americans are nationalising (AIG) now so maybe IMF has to think again the sweeping privatisations. I doubt, but I guess there is hope that Morgan Tsvangirai finds ways of dealing with finances and like the old uncle Bob Mugabe said in his speech, there’s something that can be learned from their successes as much as their failures. That’s pretty big from someone who has demonised to be the like of Mobutu Sese Seko or Idi Amin (both supported and somewhat installed by west by the way).

9 September 2008

Few bits and bobs

There was a time not too long ago, when I had all the chance in the world to update the blog whenever I wanted, but didn’t really do it much. It seems a bit distant now that I barely have online access to update but almost always some posts already written on my laptop and many topics are left unwritten on because getting online isn't that easy. I do check my emails and read whatever I want and need from my phone, but it's not really very convenient to type anything too long with it or to upload photos. So let me just say few quick things here in one convenient all around post.

I already talked about the car we bought. It's pretty cool indeed, but it's not all. We also just moved to a new place. A lot nicer than the old one, which wasn't bad, although it was rather small. We are also joined by a little man called Lwandle. He's been staying at his grandmother for his first year and half. So definitely enough changes. All very good.

Previously I posted some of my panoramic photographs from the top of the Table Mountain here in Cape Town. I got one of them printed professionally for a gift and I was very pleased with the way it came out. It's almost 1 m long and the quality is good all around. I wanted to add the photo of the photo and the subject being a subject again.

(click here to see the original)

Weather. Don't even get me started on that. It's awful here in Cape Town. Rain and more rain, cold heavy winds and then some. I actually saw the stream of water turning upwards in the gutter as the two oceans blew their hardest winds towards it. Good news is of course that the summer should be here soon. I need it already.

That's it really... it wasn't even that many things but at least I got them out. The situation with internet should change rather soon as we're getting broadband hopefully in few weeks to our flat.

New Car

We bought a car. What a weird time to do that. Petrol’s getting more and more expensive and we’re generally told to avoid private cars in the name of global warming or rather the race against it. And I’ve never had a car. I’ve never thought about having one. Never needed one. I don’t even think it would have ever made my life any better. In Helsinki there’s no parking and although I sometimes complain, by any standard absolutely brilliant public transportation system. 600 000 people are served by buses, trams and even few lines of subway and I doubt many other cities of such size have similar systems in place, but now I’ve digressed.

One of the things with Cape Town is that when you’ve got a family and a business not having a car is a real inconvenience. It doesn’t leave us with many options. We were looking into different options. We wanted new a little used one. That means like very recent, possibly even a demo car, which has the smallest possible petrol consumption combined with best safety and bit of edge in the looks department was seen as a great bonus. That excludes colour though; we didn’t want a circus car but classy and the edge was welcome with shape and other such details.

I don’t know anything about cars. Although I’ve actually multiplied my knowledge in the past few months (many many times), but I still don’t know much. I am, however, very pleased with the kind of car, silver or gray depends on your eye, cool looking small one with a small motor, last year’s model with many airbags, that we found. It indeed is a demo car with not too many kilometres behind it. Not too bad. Actually we ended up finding a car that had absolutely everything we had on our wish list and even more, and the price was agreeable as well. So now I have a car of my dreams - good thing I only ever dreamed of small used car.

Pictures: Details details