We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A brief follow up on Zimbabwe, Channel 4, and Henry Olonga

Just watching the cricket between Zimbabwe and England today, I have a couple of further comments to add to what Brian was saying on Thursday.

The background to all this is that Henry Olonga in the recent World Cup wore a black arm band to mourn the death of democracy in Zimbabwe. (Olonga incidentally was in 1995 the first non-white player to play top level cricket for Zimababwe, although there have been many others since) Although he was a member of the Zimbabwe squad for the rest of the World Cup, he was not selected in any further matches in the tournament. Off the record, the team management admitted that they would have liked him to have played, but they were under pressure from the Mugabe government not to select him. The final stages of the tournament were played in South Africa, and it was revealed at the end of the tournament several members of the Zimababwean security forces had travelled to Zimbabwe to “escort” Olonga back to Zimbabwe after the last game so that he could be charged with treason. The South African government should have screamed in outrage at this violation of its sovereignty but didn’t. Apparently good relations with the Mugabe regime are still important there.

Unsurprisingly, Olonga went into hiding and left South Africa, eventually turning up in England. Many of us thought that this was so outrageous that cricketing ties with Zimbabwe should be ended, at least for now. Over the past ten years, Zimbabwe had gone to some effort to build up a good cricket team, but by this point things had reached something of a sad, depressing joke. (Of course, the situation with the game of cricket was unimportant compared to the indignities being suffered by the people of Zimbabwe in general, but it was sadly symptomatic of it).

However, the Zimbabwe team’s present tour of England went on as scheduled. The England Cricket Board (which isn’t in a great financial state) needed the money. The Australian board, which is in a perfectly good financial state, also confirmed a tour for October, so the English board are not alone. The first game between Zimbabwe and England (which goes for five days) is presently being played.

As Brian said, there have been some protests against the game. Brian reported that Channel 4, the advertising funded but technically state owned television network that covers English cricket, used the rain delays in the match to provide some discussion of Mr Mugabe’s vile regime, and to interview Henry Olonga.

However, turning on the match this morning, I discovered it was even better than this. Henry Olonga is actually working for Channel 4 as a commentator. I don’t know if this is just for this match, or he will be doing it for the whole summer. Like Brian, I was very impressed by him. Olonga is very articulate and knowledgeable, and was doing an excellent job. Many television channels would just cover the sport and pretend that any political controversy was not happening. However, Channel 4, while still providing good cricketing coverage, has not done this at all. Not only have they given the state of Zimbabwe some attention, but they have actually given Henry Olonga some work. This is sporting coverage and not news coverage, so they haven’t been overt about it, but in a nicely understated way that doesn’t take anything away from the sporting coverage, they have made a statement. This is deeply classy.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

15 comments to A brief follow up on Zimbabwe, Channel 4, and Henry Olonga

  • John J. Coupal

    It’s encouraging that a technically state owned television network – Channel 4 – would dare to provide such coverage of Zimbabwe.

    Will the BBC ever develop the courage?

  • Malcolm

    This is sporting coverage and not news coverage, so they haven’t been overt about it, but in a nicely understated way that doesn’t take anything away from the sporting coverage, they have made a statement. This is deeply classy.

    Actually it is political bias in broadcasting.

    On this occasion the bias is being exerted in favour of freedom, dignity and human rights rather than against them. However it is interesting that the tactics used to embedding a subtle political undertone – hard to pin down, but perfectly recognisable – into their supposedly impartial editorials are precisely the same tactics that we see and deplore in the BBC’s coverage of EU affairs.

    Just an observation. I say, good for Channel 4. But I thought I’d point it out.

  • junior

    How long before our sportsmen and women get to wear black armbands mourning the death of democracy in Europe?.

    And where will they be able to run to, to hide from the EU ‘thought police’?.

  • Which ‘thought police’ exactly? There’s a world of difference between an unrepresentative government and an oppressive one, and I can’t help but think that equating the situation in the EU to Zimbabwe belittles the plight of the many people like Olonga who have to go into hiding and flee their home country to escape punishment for ludicrous ‘crimes’. While the EU (and Britain in particular) have been unforgivably timid when it comes to confronting Mugabe, it still says something positive about the freedoms that we enjoy here when Olonga chooses Britain to take refuge in, and finds he can have a voice.

  • junior

    Eldan,

    Haven’t you read about the European Arrest Warrant?. You can be arrested for adversly commenting on our Glorious Leaders, in which ever country you reside.

    The cynical disregard of the problems in Africa, not just in Zimbabwe, give a good indication of the sort of disregard of personal freedoms that we can expect in the EU, should the proposed constitution be adopted. Maybe they do not feel that there is too much wrong with the way these countries are run!.

    Perhaps the UK does not feel as comfortable as the rest of the EU over Zimbabwe, but rather than do anything positive, they prefer to play a game of cricket. Which is not just cynical, but pathetic as well.

    Remember, Zimbabwe and Iraq were both reasonably stable countries some twenty or thirty years ago. It does not take long to sink into dictatorship if personal freedoms are not protected.

    The UK will not always be a bastion of ‘freedom’, if we just smugly sit back and pat ourselves on the back for being the ‘good guys’, while our unrepresentative leaders take us into the EU nightmare.

    The EU, as proposed in the new constitution, will be no more than a revamped USSR.

  • I hope I don’t trigger a flame war by saying this, but I really find it very hard to persuade myself that it’s worth replying to a comment that unifying Europe will turn it into a revamped USSR.

    I’ll start with the easy part – what we agree on. There is no room for complacency however good a system we may have. Even if the UK were a perfect bastion of freedom (which I don’t claim it is, I just don’t think things are as bad here as you seem to), it would still be important to watch every move made by every government, and respond as appropriate, whether that’s to congratulate them on their wisdom, start a revolution, or anything in between. It doesn’t take long to destroy a satisfactory system, and in the past few years I think we’ve seen some major steps in the wrong direction, like several iterations of Prevention of Terrorism Acts (travesties which Westminster came up with all on its own, not needing the help of Brussels or Strasbourg) increasing the scope and length of detention without charge, and making it ludicrously easy to charge someone of being associated with terrorism. Saying “things are much worse elsewhere” is not quite the same as saying “everything’s fine here”.

    I have indeed read about the European Arrest Warrant, but obviously I don’t get my information from the same place as you. My understanding is that it does not create any new offences, just removes the possibility of escaping the long arm of the law by fleeing from one EU state to another. If I break an existing UK law, and then run off to Spain, this new system makes it easier for the UK authorities to compel the Spanish to arrest me (information from the horse’s mouth). Now please show me laws from any 2 EU member states (because it would have to be illegal in both the prosecuting and the arresting country) making it illegal to adversely comment on our Glorious Leaders. Without such laws (passed by national parliaments), the European Arrest Warrant would disappoint Comrade Tony by offerring him no help at all.

    European governments’ disregard of the problems of Africa is shameful, but surely it has more to do with politicians’ instinctive fear of drawing attention to anything hard to fix, rather than their approval of the Mugabes and Kabilas. Of course there is one thing the EU could easily do for Africa, which doesn’t involve the Pandora’s box of direct intervention in the countries – they could scrap the CAP – but if anything is going to make that happen it’s the accession of the Eastern European countries, not pressure from the English Cricket Board.

    The Rhodesia that you evidently miss may have been a ‘stable’ country within living memory, but its constitution guaranteed power for the white minority. The only ruler it has had since that constitution was scrapped is Robert Mugabe (source). I can see how life may have been better for a black Rhodesian then than it is for a black Zimbabwean now (it would be hard for it not to have been), but I don’t see how you can argue they had as much freedom as we in Europe have even now. Even if we were to scrap our national governments tomorrow and cede all power to the European Parliament, we would at least be able to vote for the membership of that body. I know the right to vote is no guarantee of freedom or influence, but it at least provides some vestige of government accountability.

    [aside: if, like me, you are one of the growing number of people who take advantage of the EU by exercising our freedom not to live in the country of our birth or nationality, you will find that you can vote in elections for the European Parliament but have no influence over the election of your local MP. I suppose this probably does give me some inherent pro-integrationist bias]

    As for Iraq, well it’s been a dictatorship since it became independent from the Ottoman Empire (which was also a dictatorship, though a rather less horrible one than Saddam Hussein’s was), so it can hardly be argued to have sunk into dictatorship from a noble past (source).

  • junior

    That you feel affronted by my suggestion that the EU is a no more than a re-vamped USSR comes as no surprise.

    That people fail to see the similarities between the EU and the USSR is surprising.

    The centralised control, the unelected leaders, the interference in every aspect of life, the rights of the collective over the individual, the reduction of the value of a vote to nothing more than a token of democratic selection. The overburdening bureaucratic structure, a society where the criminal is considered more than the victim, a societ where the criminal laws are more lenient than the civil laws. Restrictions on free international trade, sections of the community pampered by the use of subsidies, and a general negative control over the private commercial sector.

    These are all signs of statist totalitarianism.

    While we have a way to go before we see breadlines, the legislative pieces are being put into place to prevent any sort of civil disturbance that would in any way effect a change of political management or philosophy. As Socialism (or whatever you like to call it), is a negative philosophy, it would end up being very similar to the USSR.

    The proposed constitution suggests a President and a Chancellor, both being unelected. Already we have EU ministers who are unelected making changes that affect our lives. (N.Kinnock et al ).

    The EU arrest warrant does not of itself make new laws, they are already being passed, but it will be used to enforce such things as the ‘anti- xenophia laws’, (which carries a two year prison sentence), as I am deeply cynical of politicians, I am sure that this will be construed to inhibit any critiscism of the ‘State’.

    No, I am not some sort of nut, but I have spent a lifetime watching these clowns reduce our quality of life, mainly through dogma and cynical ineptitude, and I cannot think of one who could be considered in the least trustworthy.

    How can you have such faith in politicians as to believe that they will get it right in the end, and that they have your best interests at heart?. Such faith would have to be on a par with a religous experience. Maybe to some, Socialism (in what ever form, or by whatever name), is a religion.

    I dont see that I mentioned Rhodesia, however as you seem to attribute remarks to me that I never made, or implied, I will persuade myself to make some sort of reply.

    I never said that Zimbabwe enjoyed the same freedoms as we Europeans, but I am sure that they enjoyed more freedom then, than now, and they were making progress in the ‘right’ direction, sure the Smiths’ of the day were doing their best to maintain the status quo, but international opinion would have ensured that a more equitable regime eventually took over.

    The hysterical performance of the Socialist government, (Harold Wilson?), at that time in the UK, and the rush to independance, virtually ensured the sort of government that now exists in Zimbabwe. So much for knee jerk dogma. And ,of course, no politician would ever admit to making a wrong decision.

    Your remark on still having a vote in the EU, really would not apply as the President and his immediate cohorts are to be elected by a committee of EMPs’.

    In a combined EU, with all applicants for membership having an MP, (how many would that be?), you can imagine what little value your one vote in 300,000,000 would have. No it is not the same system as in the US.

  • Dave F

    Your comments are spot on, Michael, although sometimes Olonga’s bowling is so wild he makes wayward Mornantau Hayward look parsimonious by comparison.

    Just thought I’d add that the very likeable Olonga’s commentating talents are no surprise in SA, where he often pops up (maybe that should be in the past tense) on ball by ball or the magazine programme Extra Cover.

    Not only is he a great raconteur, he also has a wonderful singing voice.

    In one of the saddest ironies of the whole affair, he has recorded a pop ballad anthem called “Our Zimbabwe”, very haunting and accompanied by a kind of travel video (a bit schmaltzy, but still) that is a great advertisement for his country, where he is no longer welcome.

    Pommie Mbangwa (who seems to be out of favour) is a very elegant commentator too, of the old mould, probably because he went to a posh old private school.

  • [Note to Samizdata contributors, especially Michael: I’m sorry about hijacking the comments to a post that wasn’t about this. If you want this discussion moved elsewhere I’ll happily continue it with Junior on email (eldan at myrealbox dot com) or a more relevant public forum]

    “That people fail to see the similarities between the EU and the USSR is surprising.”

    The thing is, you are arguing by selectively pointing out similarities and ignoring differences. Applying the same logical form I could argue that I am very like a wallaby, because I could present you with a long list of properties that humans and wallabies share – we are warm blooded, we have legs, etc. In my silly example it’s obvious that I have ignored the myriad differences, but I think that’s also what you’re doing in comparing the EU to the USSR.

    “The centralised control, the unelected leaders,”

    So far I’m more or less with you, though there is nowhere near the degree of centralised control in even the a quite strident federast’s fantasies as there was in the USSR. After all, the federal model is based on Germany, where state parliaments have significant powers, and are elected by the people of each state, as opposed to the Soviet system where the Moscow Politburo appointed the Politburo of each SSR.

    “the interference in every aspect of life”

    This is where we start to diverge. If I lived in the USSR, the government would have told me what career to follow, based supposedly on knowing what is best for the country. I would need their approval to marry, to travel (even domestically), I would have to live where they assigned me, and so on. All of these are choices I am able to make in my life, because I’m lucky enough to live here and now.

    I do, sadly, see an increasing tendency on the part of government to tell citizens how to live. This isn’t restricted to European government though – our own national leadership is rather keen on prescription and nannying, but even so we are much more free than citizens of the USSR were.

    “the rights of the collective over the individual”

    Again there’s a huge difference of extent. In the USSR whatever the leader decided would be done, whereas modern European governments need to get permission. It breeds a whole different set of problems – public inquiries that last for years and cost vast sums of money, NIMBYism managing to stop potentially beneficial public projects because the minority who will be inconvenienced effectively have a right of veto – but these are problems that would have been totally alien to the Soviets.

    “the reduction of the value of a vote to nothing more than a token of democratic selection.”

    In every country there is a limit to how unpopular a government can become and still survive. In the USSR that limit took generations to reach, by which point the government had killed more people than the Nazis and wrecked the production base of their own country and their vassal states to the point that people had no food to eat and no fuel to heat their homes with. In the UK the last time a government fell it was largely about introducing a poll tax, being caught having affairs and making some incompetent economic decisions. Is it really “surprising” that I see this as a significant difference? Was the empowerment of the population when they finally voted out the Tories really a “token”?

    “The overburdening bureaucratic structure”

    Yes, the EU has a horribly and unnecessarily stultifying bureaucracy, but then which country doesn’t? And while there is plenty of room (and justification based on precedents) for cynicism, isn’t this draft constitution malarkey all about simplifying the structures, and replacing several dead trees with a single document, making it all more transparent?

    “society where the criminal is considered more than the victim”

    Please back this up with some evidence, because I believe it to be outright untrue. The only thing I can imagine you’re getting at is the burden of proof on an accuser, which must be intensely aggravating for victims of crime, but is also an absolutely essential protection extended to all of us from harassment by either the state or individuals (and certainly does not resemble the USSR in any way).

    “Restrictions on free international trade”

    As opposed to which shining example country that doesn’t restrict international trade? I can only think of one country that has unilaterally removed significant numbers of tariffs and restrictions: New Zealand. There is some good evidence that NZ has benefited from doing so, and I hope our leaders take note of this, but saying that the EU and USSR have in common something they also have in common with 200 other countries doesn’t really make them birds of a feather, does it?

    “These are all signs of statist totalitarianism.”

    Well I suppose in a sense they are – they are necessary preconditions for labelling a state as totalitarian, but they’re pretty far from being sufficient. Or if they are sufficient then every state that exists (and perhaps every one that ever has existed) is totalitarian.

    “… it would end up being very similar to the USSR.”

    Yes, similar in the sense that I am similar to a wallaby because we are both mammals.

    “The proposed constitution suggests a President and a Chancellor, both being unelected. “

    No it doesn’t. Perhaps the last draft did, but according to the summary I have seen, today’s version doesn’t propose a Chancellor at all (possibly a concession to the UK?). It proposes a President who would be elected by EU leaders, which I grant is considerably less democratic than the US system (and incidentally which I’m not impressed with at all), but still gives us as citizens more input than the current system. At least someone you have elected will have input to the choice of each President, whereas under the current system 84 months passes between each episode when there is a President who you had a chance to vote for or against.

    “Already we have EU ministers who are unelected making changes that affect our lives”

    Yes, and we also have UK civil servants and Lords and special advisors who are unelected making changes that affect our lives.

    “How can you have such faith in politicians as to believe that they will get it right in the end, and that they have your best interests at heart?”

    I certainly do not have faith in politicians having my best interests at heart, and I am curious as to which of my words gave you the impression that I do. Perhaps “There is no room for complacency” was not a clear enough statement.

    “…. Maybe to some, Socialism (in what ever form, or by whatever name), is a religion”

    Maybe it is, but I don’t understand what you’re getting at here. It sounds like a non sequitur to me.

    “I dont see that I mentioned Rhodesia, however as you seem to attribute remarks to me that I never made, or implied, I will persuade myself to make some sort of reply.”

    Please don’t insult my intelligence by playing such politicianly word games with me. I introduced the word “Rhodesia” to refer to “Zimbabwe … some twenty or thirty years ago”, because that’s what everyone else in the world called Zimbabwe until 24 years ago. There has never been a country called Zimbabwe without a man called Robert Mugabe ruling it.

    “…sure the Smiths’ of the day were doing their best to maintain the status quo, but international opinion would have ensured that a more equitable regime eventually took over. “

    This sounds remarkably like faith in politicians ‘getting it right in the end’ to me. I’m sorry, but I don’t share that faith.

    “Your remark on still having a vote in the EU, really would not apply as the President and his immediate cohorts are to be elected by a committee of EMPs”

    Well it’s an improvement on having them elected by the population of Greece this week, and the population of Italy come July. At least in some way, however tortuous (and I’ll repeat what I wrote above – what this draft constitution proposes is not a satisfactory system) the President would be accountable to me. At the moment the President is only at all accountable to me in the 6 months out of every 7½ years when it’s my country’s turn. Of course we could improve things dramatically if the final version made the President directly elected, but remember that these are draft documents. They have to be agreed (like most of the really important decisions in the EU) between the national governments, who are elected by all of us, so we’re not quite powerless to influence these things.

    “In a combined EU, with all applicants for membership having an MP, (how many would that be?), you can imagine what little value your one vote in 300,000,000 would have. No it is not the same system as in the US.”

    Why would a vote in a 300 million citizen EU be worth less than in a 300 million citizen USA?

  • You can read the whole draft constitution (if you have a lot of time on your hands) here.

  • Dave F

    It somewhat undercuts your apology for hijacking the thread when you proceed to elaborate a lengthy eurological tract in the next breath.

    Really, this is just rudeness as it would be in any other type of conversation.

  • ernest young

    Likewise, apologies for the path that this discussion is taking, and all from a comment that did have some relevance.

    Eldan, please use the quoted email if you wish to continue. If not, well thanks for the discussion.

    ey a.k.a. junior

  • I will confess that topic drift doesn’t bother me much. As long as people generally remain civil, then let the argument go where it will. (On the other hand, I think that there is not much more to be said in this particular argument).

  • ernest young

    Eldan,

    Now look what you have done!…… have you seen David Carr’s post today?. and the comments, it seems we were a week ahead of our time…

  • yeah… and all because I was working (or should I say finding excuses not to get any work done) on the Bank Holiday. Something tells me this would have blown up without either of us though (and rightly so).