Africa Speaks Blog Sun, 21 Dec 2014 02:55:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Complex World: History, Religion, Caste and Race in India Sun, 21 Dec 2014 02:33:59 +0000 December 20, 2014
By Runoko Rashidi –

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

Since the first modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) were of African birth, the African presence globally can be demonstrated through the history of the Black populations that have inhabited the world within the span of recent humanity. Not only are African people the aboriginal people of the planet, however, there is abundant evidence to show that Black people created and sustained many of the world’s earliest and most-enduring civilizations. Such was the case in India.

Exceptionally valuable writings reflecting linkages between Africa and early India have existed for more than 2,000 years. Apollonius of Tyana, who is said to have visited India near the end of the first century, was convinced that “The Ethiopians are colonists sent from India, who follow their forefathers in matters of wisdom.” The literary work of the early Christian writer Eusebius preserves the tradition that, “In the reign of Amenophis III [the mighty Dynasty XVIII Ancient Egyptian king] a body of Ethiopians migrated from the country about the Indus, and settled in the valley of the Nile.” And still another document from ancient times, “The Itinerarium Alexandri,” says that “India, taken as a whole, beginning from the north and embracing what of it is subject to Persia, is a continuation of Egypt and the Ethiopians.”

The commentary of Diodorus Siculus (circa 45 B.C.) reflects the same theme:

“From Ethiopia he (Osiris) passed through Arabia, bordering upon the Red Sea as far as to India, and the remotest inhabited coasts; he built likewise many cities in India, one of which he called Nysa, willing to have remembrance of that (Nysa) in Egypt where he was brought up.”

And then there is the story of the Ethiopian king, Ganges, conveyed by Samuel Purchas and cited by J.A. Rogers. The citation reads:

“But of all (the kings of Ethiopia) Ganges was most famous, who with his Ethiopian army passed into Asia and conquered all as far as the River Ganges to which he left that name, being before called Chliaros.”

Dalits at work in IndiaThe Aryans in India

The white tribes that invaded ancient Pakistan and India and disrupted Black civilization there are known as Aryans. The Aryans were not necessarily superior warriors to the Blacks, but they were aggressive, developed sophisticated military technologies and glorified military virtues. After hundreds of years of intense martial conflict between the Dravidians and Aryans, the Aryans succeeded in subjugating most of northern India. By about 800 B.C. these nomadic Aryan tribes had conquered Pakistan and all of northern India, naming their newly won territories after themselves, Aryavarta, or the Aryan Land.

Throughout the vanquished territories a rigid, caste-segmented social order was established with the masses of conquered Blacks (the Sudras) essentially reduced to slaves to the whites and imposed upon for service in any capacity required by their Aryan conquerors. This vicious new world order was cold-bloodedly racist, with the whites on top, the “mixed races” in the middle, and the overwhelming majority of Black people on the very bottom, and imposed upon for service in any capacity required to the higher castes. In fact, the Sanskrit term varna, denoting one’s societal status and used interchangeably with caste, literally means color or complexion and reflects a prevalent racial stratification and hierarchy.

Caste in India is the foundation of the religion known as Hinduism. Caste law in India, based originally on race and ethnicity, regulated all aspects of life, including marriage, diet, education, place of residence and occupation. This is not to deny that there were certain elements of the ancient Black aristocracy that managed to gain prominence in the dominant white social structure. The masses of conquered Blacks, however, were regarded by the whites as Untruth itself. The whites claimed to have emerged from the mouth of God; the Blacks, on the other hand, were said to have emerged from the feet of God. This was the ugly reality for the Black masses in conquered India.

Dalit in IndiaThe highest caste was the Brahmin (the Aryan elite) and identified with the color white; followed by the Kshatriyas (the military and administrative sector) identified with the color red; the Vaisyas (merchants and farmers) and identified with the color yellow; and, of course, the Sudras themselves, identified with the color black. Beneath even the Sudras were the outcastes or untouchables, composed of the unfortunate offspring of Brahmin-Sudra unions and long-established Black populations in India, which had retreated into the hinterlands to escape the Aryan advances, but ultimately coming under the Aryan sphere of influence.

For the maintenance of the new order a detailed religious and legal code was implemented, which regulated even the most minute aspects of daily life. In respect to the Sudras and outcastes, the code was quite simply draconian, with few if any ambiguities about it. Because of the critical nature of this subject — the study of early race and cultural relations in South Asia — several illustrative passages from “The Law of Manu” (Manu being a mythical Indian sage and lawgiver and supposedly a descendant of Brahman) are offered for critical examination:

“Twice-bom (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas) who, in their fony, wed wives of the low (Sudra) caste, soon degrade their families and their children to the state of Sudras.

He who weds a Sudra woman becomes an outcast, according to Saunaka on the birth of a son, and according to Bhrigu he who has (male) offspring from a (Sudra female, alone).

A Brahmana who takes a Sudra wife to his bed, will (after death) sink into hell …

Let him not anow a dead Brahmana to be carried out by a Sudra, while men of the same caste are at hand; for that burnt-offering, which is defiled by a Sudra’s touch, is detrimental to (the deceased’s passage to) heaven.

A Brahmana … may, at the king’s pleasure, interpret the law to him but never a Sudra.

A Kshatriya, having defamed a Brahmana, shall be fined one hundred (panas); a Vaisya one hundred and fifty or two hundred; a Sudra shall suffer corporal punishment.

A Brahmana shall be fined fifty (panas) for defaming a Kshatriya; in (the case of) a Vaisya the fine shall be twenty-five (panas); in (the case of) Sudra twelve.

A once-born man (a Sudra), who insults a twice-born man with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.

If he mentions the names and castes of the (twice-born) with contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth.

If he arrogantly teaches Brahmanas their duty, the king shall cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and into his ears.

A low-caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat with a man of high caste, shall be branded on his hip and be banished, or (the king) shall cause his buttock to be gashed.

If out of arrogance he spits (on a superior), the king shall cause both his lips to be cut off; if he urinates (on him), the penis; if he breaks wind (against him), the anus.”

Outcaste in IndiaFor the Sudras and outcastes, as we have noted and followed with the evidence, “The Law of Manu” was brutal and vicious, and designed to keep them in their lowly caste position from generation to generation unto eternity. However, there was a way upward, for the Sudras at any rate, and Manu himself articulates the method: “[A Sudra who is] pure, the servant of his betters, gentle in speech, and free from pride, and always seeks a refuge with Brahmanas, attains [in his next life] a higher caste.”

As the very name implies, the life of the Indian outcaste was full of misery and impoverishment. Food and drink, if seen by them, were not to be taken. Generally they lived in settlements on the outskirts of villages and towns. In certain periods in Indian history outcastes, or untouchables, were not allowed to enter the adjoining Hindu community at night, in other periods, in daylight. Indeed, the outcaste’s very shadow was thought-polluting. Outcastes were required to attach a broom to their backs to erase any evidence of their presence. A cup was tied around their necks to capture any spittle that might escape their lips. The untouchable possessions consisted of dogs and donkeys. Their meals were consumed from broken dishes. Their clothing was taken from corpses. The principal functions of the outcastes included street sweeping, the removal of dead animals and human corpses, and the clean-up of cremation grounds; all of which was regarded as impure, even by the Sudras.

Outcaste in IndiaFrom at least the third century, three major Dravidian kingdoms existed in South India — the kingdoms of Pandya, Chera and Chola. Pandya was the southernmost Dravidian kingdom. The major city of Pandya was Madurai, the location of the famous chapel of the Tamil Sangam (Academy). The Sangam, of which there were three, was initiated by a body of 48 exceptionally learned scholars who established standards over all literary productions. The Pandyan rulers received these intellectuals with lavish honors.

It is also important to note that in the kingdom of the Pandyas women seem to have enjoyed a high status. This is the exact opposite of the regions of India where the whites ruled. In these lands of Aryan domination it is said that a woman was never independent. “When she is a child she belongs to her father. As an adult when she marries she belongs to her husband. If she outlives her husband she belongs to her sons.” An early queen of the Pandyas, on the other hand, is credited with controlling an army of 500 war elephants, 4,000 cavalry and 13,000 infantry.

To the northwest of Pandya was the kingdom of Chera (present-day Kerala). Northwest of Pandya lay the kingdom of Chola, said to be the place where Saint Thomas the Apostle was buried. The Venetian traveler Marco Polo, who visited India in 1288 and again 1293, referred to Chola as “the best province and the most refined in all India.” Polo further exclaimed that:

“The darkest man is here the most highly esteemed and considered better than the others who are not so dark. Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow. For they say that God and all the saints are black and the devils are all white. That is why they portray them as I have described.”

Outcaste in IndiaThe Dravidians were an unusually advanced seafaring people, with the Cholas, in particular, distinguishing themselves amongst the dominant maritime powers of their era. Through its ports, the great kings of Chola traded with Ethiopia and Somalia, Iran and Arabia, Cambodia and China, Sumatra and Sri Lanka, exporting spices and camphor, ebony and ivory, quality textiles and precious jewels.

The kingdoms of the Dravidians produced great poets and writers. Cuntarar, also known as Sundaramurti, was, during the eighth century, the most prominent of the highly esteemed Nayanars poets of Tamil Nadu, India. The Periya Puranam, which collects the legends of the Nayanars, starts and ends with him. The hymns of seventh volume of the Tirumurai, the 12-volume compendium of the poetry of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, were composed by him. Cuntarar is unique among the Nayanars in that both of his parents are also recognized as Nayanars. The ruler of the local kingdom (Thirumunaipadi-Nadu) adopted him. Tamil legend states that Cuntarar became tired of life and was taken up to heaven by a white elephant.

Kulashekhara Varma (800-820 A.D.), was a Tamil king who founded the second Chera Empire of South India. As king, Kulashekhara Varman united the present-day state of Kerala into a homogenous political entity that became a powerful force in South India for three centuries from 800 to 1102. He ruled from the capital city of Mahodayapuram (present Kodungallur). He is also one of the famous Hindu saints of the Vaishnavite movement of South India who composed one of the most celebrated devotional works of the Tamil Bhakti cult. It is believed that he renounced the crown to become a holy man and ascetic.

To the northeast of Pandya lay the Kingdom of Chola, said to house the resting place of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Aditya I was a monarch of the South Indian Kingdom of Chola, and led Chola to victory against the rival kingdoms of Pandya and Pallava. Around 885 A.D., in a mighty battle, the armies of Pandya and Nripatunga Pallava were routed by Aparajita Pallava and Aditya I of Chola. The epic Tamil novel “Ponniyin Selvan” describes this as a battle that changed the course of South India history. Aditya I also built a number of temples for Shiva along the banks of the Kaveri River. Aditya I had a long and victorious reign during which he laid the foundations for the future greatness of the Chola Empire.

The Dravidian kingdoms of South India were well known in the West, having sent several embassies to Rome in particular, in spite of the great distance involved. During the height of their commercial relations, South India was said to extract 100 million sesterces annually from the Roman economy.

Black UntouchableDalits: The Black Untouchables of India

The greatest victims of Hinduism have been those outside the caste system — the outcastes — better known as untouchables. Indeed, probably the most substantial percentage of all the Black people of Asia can be identified among India’s 200 million Untouchables. These people are the long-suffering descendants of Aryan-Sudra unions and native Black populations who retreated into the hinterlands of India in their efforts to escape the advancing Aryan sphere of influence to which they ultimately succumbed. India’s Untouchables number more than the combined populations of England, France, Belgium and Spain.

The existence of Untouchability has been justified within the context of Hindu religious thought as the ultimate and logical extensions of Karma and rebirth. Hindus believe that persons are born Untouchables because of the accumulation of sins in previous lives. Hindu texts describe these people as foul and loathsome, and any physical contact with them was regarded as polluting.

The basis status of India’s Untouchables has changed little since ancient times, and it has recently been observed that caste Hindus do not allow Untouchables to wear shoes, ride bicycles, use umbrellas or hold their heads up while walking in the street.

Untouchables in urban India are crowded together in squalid slums, while in rural India, where the vast majority of Untouchables live, they are exploited as landless agricultural laborers and ruled by terror and intimidation. Even when charges are formally filed, justice for Untouchables is rarely dispensed.

Frequently the Untouchables are called Outcastes. Indian nationalist leader and devout Hindu Mohandas K. Gandhi called them Harijans, meaning children of God. The official name given them in India’s constitution (1951) is Scheduled Castes. Dalit, meaning crushed and broken, is a name that has come into prominence only within the last four decades. Dalit reflects a radically different response to oppression.

The Dalit are demonstrating a rapidly expanding awareness of their African ancestry and their relationship to the struggle of Black people throughout the world. They seem particularly enamored of African-Americans. The Black Panther Party, in particular, is revered. In April 1972, for example, the Dalit Panther Party was formed in Bombay, India. This organization takes its pride and inspiration directly from the Black Panther Party of the United States. This is a highly important development due to the fact that the Untouchables have historically been so systematically terrorized that many of them, even today, live in a perpetual state of extreme fear of their upper caste oppressors. This is especially evident in the villages. The formation of the Dalit Panthers and the corresponding philosophy that accompanies it signals a fundamental change in the annals of resistance, and Dalit Panther organizations have subsequently spread to other parts of India. In August 1972, the Dalit Panthers announced that the 25th anniversary of Indian independence would be celebrated as a day of mourning. In 1981, in Bangalore, India Dravidian journalist V.T. Rajshekar published the first issue of Dalit Voice — the major English journal of the Black Untouchables. In a 1988 publication titled the “African Presence in Early Asia,” Rajshekar stated that:

“The African-Americans also must know that their liberation struggle cannot be complete as long as their own blood-brothers and sisters living in far off Asia are suffering. It is true that African-Americans are also suffering, but our people here today are where African-Americans were two hundred years ago. African-American leaders can give our struggle tremendous support by bringing forth knowledge of the existence of such a huge chunk of Asian Blacks to the notice of both the American Black masses and the Black masses who dwell within the African continent itself.”

A Black Untouchable of India and Runoko Rashidi

A Black Untouchable of India and Runoko Rashidi

*Runoko Rashidi is an African-American historian based in Los Angeles and is the author or editor of 18 books about travel and African and African-American history. His latest work is “African Star over Asia: The Black Presence in the East,” published by Books of Africa in 2012. He can be reached at

Reproduced by consent of the author from:

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Zimbabwe: The chalice that should not pass Wed, 02 Mar 2011 13:14:03 +0000 By Caesar Zvayi
March 01, 2011 –

ZimbabweWELL yesterday, March 1, was supposed to mark the start of an ominous Ides of March against President Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s rule in the form of a “Million Citizen March” through the streets of Harare to force President Mugabe out of office.

The organisers were clearly motivated by the ongoing uprisings in the Arab Maghreb and believed the protests that gripped Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen to mention just a few countries can be replicated in Harare, turning Africa Unity Square into Tahrir (Freedom) Square, so to speak.

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Aristide Should Be Allowed to Return to Haiti Sun, 23 Jan 2011 17:16:26 +0000 By Mark Weisbrot
January 20, 2011 –

HaitiHaiti’s infamous dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country’s first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out. These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti and our government’s respect for democracy in that country and in the region.

Asked about the return of Duvalier, who had thousands tortured and murdered under his dictatorship, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “this is a matter for the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti.”

But when asked about Aristide returning, he said, “Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens.”

Wikileaks cables released in the last week show that Washington put pressure on Brazil, which is heading up the United Nations forces that are occupying Haiti, not only to keep Aristide out of the country but to keep him from having any political influence from exile.

Who is this dangerous man that Washington fears so much? Here is how the Washington Post editorial board described Aristide’s first term, back in 1996:

“Elected overwhelmingly, ousted by a coup and reseated by American troops, the populist ex-priest abolished the repressive army, virtually ended human rights violations, mostly kept his promise to promote reconciliation, ran ragged but fair elections and, though he had the popular support to ignore it, honored his pledge to step down at the end of his term. A formidable record.”

That was before the Post editorial board became neo-conservative, and most importantly before Washington launched its campaign to oust Aristide a second time. Together with its international allies, especially Canada and France, they cut off almost all foreign aid to the country after 2000. At the same time they poured in tens of millions of dollars – to build up an opposition movement. With control over most of the media, and the help of armed thugs, convicted murderers, and former death squad leaders, the broken and impoverished government was toppled in February of 2004.

The main difference between the 2004 coup and the 1991 coup that overthrew Aristide was that in 1991, President George H. W. Bush did not recognize the coup government, even though the people that installed it were paid by the CIA. They had to at least pretend they were not involved. But in 2004, under the second President Bush, they didn’t even bother to hide it. This represents a degeneration of U.S. foreign policy.

I recently had a conversation with a long-time U.S. Congressman in which I pointed out Washington overthrew Aristide the second time, in 2004, because he had abolished the Haitian army. “That’s right,” he said.

Washington is a cynical place. The most important human rights organizations in this town did not do very much when thousands of Haitians were killed after the 2004 coup, and officials of the constitutional government were thrown in jail. And it does not seem to be an issue to them, or to the main “pro-democracy” organizations, here that Haiti’s prominent former president is kept out of the country – in violation of Haiti’s constitution and international law. Nor that his party, still the most popular in the country, is banned from participating in elections. The major media generally follows their lead.

Now we have elections in Haiti where the Organization of American States, at the behest of Washington, is trying to choose for Haiti who will compete in the second round of its presidential election. That is Washington’s idea of democracy.

But Aristide is still alive, in forced exile in South Africa. He remains the most popular political leader in Haiti, and seven years is not enough to erase his memory from Haitian consciousness. Sooner or later, he will be back.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This column was originally published by Bellingham Herald.

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MINUSTAH and the Epidemic: Cholera in Haiti Thu, 09 Dec 2010 22:45:55 +0000 By Fidel Castro
December 09, 2010

HaitiAbout three weeks ago news and photos were published showing Haitian citizens throwing stones and protesting in indignation against the forces of MINUSTAH, accusing it of having transmitted cholera to that country by way of a Nepalese soldier..

The first impression, if one doesn’t get any additional information, is that this deals with a rumour born out of the hatred caused by any occupying army.

How could this be proven? Many of us were not aware of the characteristics of cholera and how it is transmitted. A few days later the protests ceased in Haiti and nobody said anything else about the matter.

The epidemic followed its inexorable course, and other problems, such as the risks from the electoral battle, took up our time.

Today we are getting reliable and believable news about what really happened. The Haitian people had reason aplenty to express their indignant protests.

The AFP news agency textually reported that: “The renowned French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux led research in Haiti last month and came to the conclusion that the epidemic was generated by an imported strain and spread from the Nepalese base” of the MINUSTAH.

Another European agency, EFE, reported that: “The origin of the disease is in the small town of Mirebalais, in the centre of the country, where Nepalese soldiers had set up their camp, and it appeared a few days after their arrival, thus proving the origin of the epidemic…”

“Up to the present time, the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has denied that the epidemic entered along with the blue helmets.”

“…French doctor Renaud Piarroux, considered to be one of the main specialists in the world in the study of the cholera epidemic, leaves no doubts about the origin of the disease…”

“The study was ordered by Paris at the request of Haitian authorities, a French diplomatic spokesman declared.”

“…the appearance of the disease coincides with the arrival of Nepalese soldiers who, moreover, come from a country where there is a cholera epidemic.

“There is no other way to explain the sudden and powerful outbreak of cholera in a small town with a few dozen inhabitants.

“The report also analyzes the way the illness spreads, since the fecal waters in the Nepalese camp were draining into the same river from which the townspeople were getting their drinking water.”

The most surprising thing, according to the abovementioned agency, the UN did was to “…send a research mission into the Nepalese camp, and it concluded that it couldn’t be the origin of the epidemic.”

Haiti, in the midst of the destruction by the earthquake, the epidemic and poverty, cannot now dispense with an international force cooperating with a nation ruined by foreign interventions and the exploitation of the transnationals. The UN not only must fulfill the elementary duty of fighting for reconstruction and development in Haiti, but also of mobilizing the necessary resources to eradicate an epidemic which threatens to spread to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Latin America and other similar countries in Asia and Africa.

Why did the UN insist on denying that MINUSTAH brought the epidemic to the Haitian people? We are not blaming Nepal which in the past was a British colony, and whose men were used in their colonial wars and today seek employment as soldiers.

We inquired among the Cuban doctors who are today providing their services in Haiti and they confirmed to us the news transmitted by the abovementioned European news agencies with remarkable precision.

I make a brief summary of what was communicated to us by Yamila Zayas Nápoles, a specialist in comprehensive general medicine and anesthesiology, director of a medical institution with 8 basic specialties and the diagnostics of the Cuba-Venezuela Project inaugurated in October 2009 in the urban area of Mirebalais with 86,000 inhabitants in the North Department.

On Saturday October 15, 3 patients were admitted with symptoms of diarrhea and acute dehydration: on Sunday the 16th , 4 more were admitted with similar characteristics, but all from the same family, and they made the decision to isolate them and communicate what happened to the mission; on Monday the 17th, 28 patients were admitted, surprisingly, with the same symptoms.

The Medical Mission urgently sent a group of epidemiologists who took blood, vomit, stool samples and information that was sent immediately to the national Haitian laboratories.

On October 22nd the labs informed that the isolated strain corresponded to the one prevalent in Asia and Oceania, the most severe type. The UN blue-helmeted Nepalese unit is located on the banks of the Artibonite River which flows through the small town of M?y?, where the epidemic broke out, and Mirebalais, where it spread later very quickly.

Despite the sudden form in which cholera appeared in the small but excellent hospital that is at the service of Haiti, of the first 2,822 patients initially looked after in its isolation areas, only 13 people died, for a death rate of 0.5%; later on, when the Cholera Treatment Centre was created separately, of 3,459 patients, 5 of the very serious cases died, for a rate of 0.1%.

The total figure for persons ill from cholera in Haiti today, Tuesday December 7th, comes to 93,222 persons, and the death rate reached 2,120. Among those looked after by the Cuban Mission it went to 0.83%. The death rate in the other hospital institutions it is 3.2%. With experience acquired, proper measures and the reinforcement of the Henry Reeve brigade, the Cuban Medical Mission, with the support of Haitian authorities has offered the assistance to any of the 207 isolated subcommunes, so that no Haitian citizen is lacking care in confronting the epidemic, and many thousands of lives can be saved.

Also Read:

U.N. peacekeepers WERE the source of Haiti cholera outbreak that killed 2,000 people, claims French diseases expert
By James White – December 08, 2010

Genocide in Haiti. Carelessness or Malice?
By Dady Chery – November 18, 2010

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Zimbabwe land reform critics eat humble pie Thu, 09 Dec 2010 12:52:18 +0000 By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
The Herald

ZimbabweBRITAIN’S Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University has said Zimbabwe’s land reform programme is not an economic failure as widely portrayed by most Western media.

In a study recently released by the institute, the lead author of the research, Mr Ian Scoones, told BBC News that he was surprised with a lot of activities happening on farms visited over a 10-year period.

“What we have observed on the ground does not represent the political and media stereotypes of abject failure; but nor indeed are we observing universal success. People were getting on with things and doing remarkably well in difficult circumstances,” says the study, titled Zimbabwe’s Land Reform, Myths and Realities.

The report is likely to infuriate Western establishments, which have over the years denigrated the land reform programme as a vote-buying gimmick that led to the destruction of one of Africa’s vibrant economies.

Although the study notes the existence of problems with the fast track land reform, particularly inadequate funding, it however highlights undue politicisation by the country’s detractors.

The 10-year study of 400 households in Masvingo Province put to rest five myths associated with the land reform programme.

One of the myths is that the exercise was a total failure and that most of the land was given to political cronies.

The other myths that the report debunks include lack of investment on the land and that agriculture is in complete ruins – creating food insecurity and that the rural economy has all but collapsed.

The study found that two-thirds of people allocated land in Masvingo were ordinary low-income Zimbabweans and the remaining one-third includes civil servants, former farm workers, business people and members of the security services.

The research found that, on average, each household had invested more than “US$2 000 on their land since settling on it – clearing land, building houses and digging wells”.

The investment has led to knock-on-activity in the surrounding areas, boosting the rural economy and proving further employment.

This assertion is in sharp contrast with the perception of most Western countries’ particularly Britain and United States.

In a recent classified diplomatic report released by Wikileaks website, former United States ambassador Christopher Dell castigated President Mugabe for embarking on the land reform programme saying the exercise had “destroyed Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector, once the bedrock of the economy”.

However, one of those interviewed by the researchers, identified only as JM, said the land had transformed their lives as they used to rely on help from others but now owns five head of cattle and employs two workers.

Others said they are much better off farming than when they had jobs.

About half of those interviewed were doing well, reaping good harvests and re-investing the profits.

Maize is Zimbabwe’s main food crop but its production remains reliant on good rains.

The report says Zimbabwe’s food crisis of 2007/08 cannot be put down to the land seizures, as those people who went hungry produced a large surplus both the previous and subsequent years.

The research established that most of those struggling are the least well-off civil servants, such as teachers and nurses, who have been unable to get credit and do not have the resources, or political connections, to invest in their land.

As Zimbabwe’ economy slowly recovers under a power-sharing government, a new programme can be worked out which would give these people the backing they need to succeed, the report says.

It is often argued that large-scale commercial farming – as many of the white Zimbabweans used to practise – is inherently more efficient than the smallholder system which replaced it, but Mr Scoones dismisses this argument and says he is backed by several studies from around the world.

The study says it is now impossible to return to the previous set-up and suggests that some of the evicted white farmers may one day work with the new farmers as consultants, marketing men, farm managers or elsewhere in the overall agricultural economy, such as transporting goods to the market or helping to transform and add value to their produce.


Zimbabwe’s land reform ten years on: new study dispels the myths
Institute of Development Studies, at the University of Sussex, Brighton
By Ian Scoones – November 16, 2010

Zimbabwe land reform ‘not a failure’
by Joseph Winter – November 18, 2010 – BBC News

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Bridging The Divide to Rebuild Zimbabwe Thu, 22 Apr 2010 20:31:22 +0000 By Dambudzo Mapuranga
April 22, 2010

ZimbabweZimbabweans are the masters of their destiny. SADC and AU despite pressure from the West to intervene militarily or other wise have over the past decade affirmed this with their repeated assertion that only Zimbabweans can find a solution to their problems.

The divide Zimbabweans have to bridge is an enormous one. As the saying goes the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ZANU PF and MDC leadership have taken the first step. President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai have illustrated that as leaders they might have different opinions but this does not mean that they cannot work together for the betterment of Zimbabwe.

What does it mean to be Zimbabwean?

A people with no history have no identity and as such they have no direction. The ethos of the men and women who laid the foundation of Zimbabwe, a country born out of a protracted war, dictates that everyone who has the right to call themselves Zimbabwean embrace a philosophy that strives towards total black empowerment and freedom.

As Zimbabweans we have to find common ground and the tide that binds us together is that the land of our birth and heritage is meant to reflect the determinations of those who fought for our country’s liberation. Independence came about because they were men and women who had a vision of a free society where opportunities were open to every individual regardless of colour, race or creed.

It is unfortunate that one can never rewrite the past despite several attempts by forces that seek to justify a colonial system that was not only discriminatory but also not reflective of our African values and way of life. Democracy comes at a cost as witnessed in Zimbabwe. Not only has the country and its people been under siege from neo-colonial forces who seek to maintain a value system that promotes a racial elite but creates and funds institutions and individuals whose primary role is to subversively maintain such a system under the disguise of democracy.

As Zimbabweans we are divided because we relaxed, we forgot that freedom is not something that we got on a platter but had to fight for. In our relaxation we created opportunities for our enemy who to this day maintains that it would eventually have won the war against Black nationalists had peace not been brokered. It is such unrepentant statements that make it quiet clear that 30 years into Zimbabwe there are still forces that are fighting to reverse the gains of Independence.

If there is anything that is constant in life it is change. Change whether good or bad is inevitable and as circumstances change those who have goals to achieve adapt to this change and take advantage of the relaxed. This explains why a plethora of groups mushroomed all over the place claiming to be fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe. Funded by the George Soros’ of the West, economic hit men invest and trade on behalf of their governments, abusing human rights of developing nations and undermining their sovereignty.

Bridging the divide

He who controls the politics controls the economy and he who controls the economy controls the politics; it’s one of the more complex but symbiotic relationships in the game of survival. This is why you find that the West has no problem getting into bed with some of this world’s worst dictators; for them it’s a numbers game and as long as there is a dollar more that can be squeezed out of a nation the West will turn a blind eye to activity which is immoral but will threaten their balance sheets.

The economy and politics divide Zimbabweans. Chester Crocker in his support for ZIDERA acknowledged that the only way to destroy ZANU PF was to make the economy scream and that would see its membership base dwindle. The current debate on the Indigenisation Act is very interesting because those who attack the act have not been willing to face the truth about the Act. In the same manner the Land Reform Program was attacked by “democrats and analysts”, Zimbabweans are fed misinformation and half-truths because if there is one thing that capitalism does not support it is the concept of majority empowerment.

With the help of the media, analysts and commentators whose livelihood depends on a skewed system of resource and wealth allocation, manufacture fear and conspiracies in order to hamper development in Zimbabwe. Instead of focusing on this our attention had been diverted to petty squabbles fermented by those whose vision is not nationalistic in outlook but more self-centred and serving. They coin words like hardliner as taunts and insults creating negative perceptions in a bid to further their warped views.

As Zimbabweans we share common values that include our rights, our love of liberty and out commitment to principles of equality. Political acrimony can only be left on the roadside if we as Zimbabweans acknowledge our shared principles, which are nationalistic in outlook and are a basis for true political discourse and consensus building.

The Healing Process

The power of any nation lies within its people. It is the political grassroots that have to reach deep inside themselves and pick up the national ethos where they dropped it to take on current values that have cost the nation not only economically, but also socially and morally.

The majority sets the course and in this case Zimbabweans have to harmonize their politics and the national ethos in order to do away with confrontations and violence. Their political leadership should institutionalise a culture that engages in constructive dialogue.

In the rural areas traditional leaders have an important role to play as guardians of our “ubuntu”. It is their duty to bring back decency to their subjects and bring finality to the violence of yesteryear.

Women and youth leagues from both sides of the political divide make up the largest constituency in Zimbabwe and as such their leaders should take it upon themselves to give direction and open room for discourse.

Now is the time to stop hate messages, violence, wilful destruction not only of infrastructure but also of institutions that are a symbol of the power Zimbabweans have in mapping their destiny. It is time to show those who sow seeds of discord among us that not all Zimbabweans are attracted by the filthy lucre but can rise above personal ambition and fight for their place as a sovereign state.

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On the Tiger Woods “Affair” and the Myth of Exclusive Monogamous Morality (Part I) Thu, 15 Apr 2010 13:33:25 +0000 Sex
EDITOR’S NOTE: Illustration by and not the author.

By Corey Gilkes
April 15, 2010 –

Over the last few months one of the main stories in the news was an incident involving golfing legend Tiger Woods, his wife and another woman with whom Woods had a secret relationship (well, secret until the mark buss, as we say in Trinidadian parlance). As more and more of the story unfolded, it was revealed that Woods had been engaging in sexual dalliances with not only that woman, but quite a number of other women, some apparently romantic, others were simply sexual. This latest “scandal” comes on the heels of a long line of cases involving high profile men including other sporting personalities, politicians, presidential candidates like John Edwards, former presidents (who today can forget Clinton/Lewinsky?) going back to John F Kennedy, his brother Robert, Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt and even their predecessors.

Now as man ah really wasn’t going and say nothing eh; I have enough enemies who done find I always attacking dey bible or whatever book they consider holy and this is one topic that gets a lot of people riled up real quick. Given the narrow-minded, anti-intellectual, emotive way issues relating to human sexuality are discussed in Trinbago (first influenced by middle-class European Christian, Arab Islamic and Hindu values and ideas, now influenced by all that AND Euro-American Christian cultural values), discussions of modern – or even ancient – sexual behaviour not in keeping with the accepted scripts often quickly descend into simplistic religiously influenced tirades that go nowhere, hardly leaving anyone better informed. So ah was really not going to say nothing but when Tiger Woods indicated that he intended to return to golfing and some self-righteous personalities on some local and foreign radio and TV programmes stirred the furore up again, I decided I may as well pelt the jep nest and done.

Now before going any further into my rant, I’m assuming everyone at least understands, if not accepts, what in the West is the approved model for social and sexual interaction between men and women. It is essentially something like this: serious dating (going steady) and marriages are all exclusive, monogamous, closed arrangements. Once entered into there can be no intimate/sexual relations or emotional feelings (love) with anyone else. To do so is betraying, cheating, being unfaithful, failure to commit, etc. Everybody “knows” that you can be in love with or harbour deep emotional attachments for one person and one person only; no one can or is supposed to harbour those kinds of feelings for more than one person at a time. It takes away from your significant other, “the One,” your soul mate, the one who fulfils your entire intellectual, spiritual, security and especially sexual needs. You marry, settle down, raise children, pass on those values to them and the cycle is maintained. This is pretty much what we were conditioned to believe since we were children. All the romantic comedies and dramas, fairy tales, romance novels and priestly sermons reflected that or revolved around that theme. Monogamy, fidelity, sexual/emotional exclusivity are articles of faith insofar as marriage and relationships go.

In many circles, discussions about human intimacy outside of marital boundaries – or in addition to said boundaries – remain taboo, a source of either discomfort or heated verbal exchanges. Here is one area where many prefer to stay in the comfort zones that have been created and maintain the assumption everyone “knows” is true, right and moral. In fact, so deeply entrenched is this ideal that even among many of the early feminists and radical thinkers there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion regarding this issue. There is an almost complete unconscious acceptance of this model as an established, unshakeable fact; monogamy is proper, natural, moral and needed no discussion or examination and why should there be? In the West this is basically the model for all intimate/sexual interactions; this is the way it is supposed to be in civilised societies such as ours; this is the building block of stable societies and is a wonderful, simple, practical model.

Except for one thing; it is an unrealistic and insufficient ideal as the only approved social/sexual model.

When we were being taught these values as children, certain things – such as the motivating factors behind their original creation and developments – were not taught. And being children we did not question too much. Our parents were indoctrinated into accepting the monogamous model and likewise we were indoctrinated into accepting it too. They were indoctrinated into equating morality with sex and being sexually exclusive and we were indoctrinated into equating it too. What few questions were asked such as when someone from one’s own family or from our parent’s circle of friends was found to have somebody else “on the side” were easily explained away as sinfulness, weakness, cheating, disrespect for others (especially women) and so on. Over the last 100 years alone a great many things about humanity have been discovered; old assumptions examined, challenged and re-defined. Yet human sexuality, even in 2010, remains largely untouched, unexplored; remaining under the influence of enduring myths and misconceptions.

Well by now it must be evident that I am not going to jump on the bandwagon and condemn Tiger Woods. But lest the reader feel that I am some advocate for wanton promiscuity (brushing down de place), think again. I am an advocate for serious mature discussions about human sexuality given that there is a lot about it that remains under a cloud of dated, biased, distorted and de-contextualised information. I am an advocate for the expansion of what we consider appropriate sexual boundaries so as to dispense with misplaced notions of guilt surrounding certain sexual interactions. I am an advocate for the examination and discussion in an informed and rational way the re-defined and redrawn boundaries of sexual relations in our respective societies. I say redefined and redrawn because in any case, despite certain legal sanctions and the notions of guilt championed by the still-pervasive influence of the many religious institutions, many people are defining for themselves – have defined for themselves – how they intend to live and interact sexually with their fellow human beings with or without the permission of the state or religion.

Again, while I personally do not subscribe to the idea of exclusive monogamy, that in no way means that I am going to demean it or argue for the dispensing with (as if such a thing was even possible) the institution of marriage – as imprisoning and suffocating as many are finding it and in spite of its “mortality rate” being over 50%. I can understand the view that if you made certain vows at your wedding: to “love, honour and cherish” your spouse, and it is explicitly stated that “honouring” and being “faithful” means remaining sexually exclusive to him/her, then that’s what you should be. It is an agreement after all, a contract and one should honour the terms of that contract. Some also argue that what is so reprehensible about (or more than) an affair is the lies and deception. All this I can empathise with…to a point. For me the main issue is not so much Tiger Woods or the many men AND women who for whatever reason get involved in intimate extramarital or extra-relationship situations, the root of the problem is much deeper. There is an important point that most who take that “moralistic” stance overlook. The problem lies in that very social/sexual script outlined above, which implicitly and explicitly posits that monogamy is how everyone must live and sexually interact; that one person can fulfil all one’s diverse needs. The problem lies in that script that places highly unrealistic expectations upon many people, many of whom do initially try to conform to those expectations only to either engage in secret liaisons or maintain the value and end up bitterly unhappy, stressed and in some cases engaging in very destructive behaviours. Arguments along the lines that those who do not follow the social script are weak, “full ah vice,” sinful or “animalistic” simply cannot suffice anymore, if such arguments were ever satisfactory to begin with (as far as I’m concerned they’re not).

As indicated the sexual benchmark for interactions between men and women remains the closed, exclusive, monogamous relationship, preferably within the boundaries of marriage. This is especially the case in the United States where the ideas of sexual interaction between men and women are profoundly influenced by the individualist nature of mainstream US cultural values which can be traced to Dutch Protestant ideas of the world and which in turn can be traced further back in time. It is that ideology that we should use as our point of departure.

A well-written but little known book is Lynn Atwater’s 1982 study The Extramarital Connection; a study she conducted of hundreds of women who had had extramarital affairs and the varied reasons for their doing so. One of her main arguments is that contrary to what we were conditioned into believing, the closed, exclusive monogamous union is by no means as natural and “moral” as it is made out to be. It is unrealistic to truly expect that any one person can necessarily fulfil all of our physical, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, security and sexual needs, she argued. With specific reference this idea of sexual exclusivity, she points out that “we have inherited a repressive set of legal, moral and religious codes that we still use to guide our attitudes, yet these codes were never designed to meet the problems of modern intimacy that confront us today.” I myself take some issue with her argument, but she is basically correct in the view that such ideas and beliefs regarding sex and intimacy were not developed to deal with the realities of modern human social and sexual interaction. We try rigidly to keep to the “traditional” script with almost no understanding of the complexities of the human species, no factoring in of the possibility that people evolve physiologically, intellectually and sometimes sexually as they grow. No acknowledgement that some people have different sexual drives and stimuli than others.

One of the many things we do not want to discuss is the fact that the moral codes we are upholding are by no means timeless; some of us can’t even see, for instance, that those codes themselves have changed from what was permissible in, say 1901 to what was permissible in 1968, 1978 or 2010. In fact, many Christian moralists today who ardently state that sex should only take place within marriage are either unaware or leave out the fact that according to strict Christian ideology sexual intercourse is strictly for procreation – of a male child; is never to be done on Sundays, during the Sabbath, Lent, Easter; with feelings of sensual pleasure (for then it becomes lust) and in any position other than the missionary, i.e. the man on top. One assumes the priests and pastors either simply forgot to remind their devotees about that part or they chose to operate on the principle that it is easier to catch flies with honey.

Neither are these moral codes universal; in other words, just because a model or institution was developed by and for one group does not in any way mean that that model/institution can be suitable for another group. Customs, economic and political institutions often are shaped according to immediate realities in demographics, climate, economies, crises and human experiences. Likewise they are often adjusted in response to shifts in these things, and this includes moral values, particularly the way men and women interact with each other sexually. The morality we have been made to accept as universal has been appropriately called masculine morality by Marilyn French in her book “Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals” because it was developed by men, so many hundreds of years ago, for their benefit. The irony here is that today some of the most ardent upholders of these moral sexual codes are women. In fact, as I sourced material for this essay and for a book project I am working on I realised that overwhelmingly the value systems staunchly defended today by women in the media, on talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, etc were developed by men specifically to keep women subordinated.

Returning to Atwater, my own critique of her argument merely has to do with her interpretation of history. Her arguments that the old strictures against pre-and extramarital sex are unsuitable for modern human interactions assume that those ancient strictures were appropriate even then. In fact, almost all of the ideas of sexual morality were never developed to allow for shifts in human consciousness, societal changes or differences among people. Rather, a lot of our moral ideas on sexual exclusivity, pre- and extra-marital sex and intimacy, etc., were developed because patriarchal ideas felt that such changes and fluidity should and could be curtailed. They were developed in keeping with specific cultural ideas revolving around order and rigid structure. Additionally, contrary to the dressed up image we have been given of monogamy/marital exclusivity, it was not developed out of any respect for women’s “virtue” or to preserve the “sanctity” of the family. And no, it had nothing to do with any god either. Let’s get this clear, our ideas of sexual fidelity, monogamy and so on were based above all else on economic considerations – the need for men to secure ownership of certain assets – which was also linked to the equating of status with possessions. The feelings of hurt and betrayal that are often triggered by revelations of an affair are to a huge extent based on nothing that was logical or rational or even necessarily valid. Those emotions, rather, are learnt or indoctrinated behaviours built around an ancient exploitation of male insecurities in a culture that was beginning to value material possessions as a sign of high status. The “godly” aspect was created merely to provide justification for the shift in consciousness, cultural values and societal interests. As Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan has often said “god is the deification of a culture.”

This is not going to find favour among many who are wrapped up in the patricentric idea of one true love, soulmates, fidelity, biblical strictures, imposed one-dimensional ideas of commitment and so on, but the evidence is there and whether the reader chooses to adhere to exclusive monogamy or not, it is very important that s/he is clear on that very important point. Volumes have already been written about this from widely differing sources (not that most Trinis read). Atwater herself is but one scholar who drew this conclusion based on the overwhelming historical evidence. We must also factor in a strange irrational fear these ancient patriarchists had of women’s sexuality and the mysteries of menstruation and childbirth. In this first essay, however, I would like to briefly expand on the economic motivation behind the development of our moral code regarding sexual interactions. The origins stretch back into the dim mists of time and a hostile environment many of us cannot begin to fathom. It is somewhat problematic to cite dates because the shift to rigid patriarchy occurred at different times in different locations and often due to different circumstances. Further, to show the complex, some regions retained many aspects of women’s social, economic and sexual independence even though the laws and legends had long since placed them in a subordinate position under men. For brevity and because the cultural and moral values we hold in the Caribbean for the most part come from cultural ideas Europeans developed for their middle and upper classes, I shall focus on the rise of the patriarchy in ancient pre-Christian Eurasia.

The Beginnings

As indicated the cultural ideas of Christian Europe and the United States were profoundly influenced by older European cultural ideas which in turn can be traced back to ancient Eurasian worldviews. Interestingly, while Europe did become a bedrock of patricentric ideas, ideas that revolved around authoritarianism, individualism, possessiveness, aggressive militaristic pursuits and fatalism, considerable evidence from its early social history indicates that many communities in what we now call Europe observed matricentric customs and ideas – not too surprising when one considers that the first inhabitants of Europe were African or Africoid as well as Asiatic and maintained cultural links with the tropical south. Artefacts unearthed in places like Crete, Monaco, France, the Aegean, etc., plus studies of ancient folklore point towards women and the principles of the Sacred Feminine occupying very high social positions in those regions. Women were priestesses, poets, healers, magistrates and entrepreneurs often operating independently of their male counterparts. Socially and economically women enjoyed as much autonomy as their counterparts in the tropical regions did. Archaeological and anthropological evidence shows that women owned land – it appears that they were also the first to cultivate it for farming – their wealth and power came partly from their development of the land and the food grown on it. Thus, although even then, so many thousands of years ago, a woman’s place was in the home, the home was a very important centre of production and was valued as such.

The evidence also shows that the property and other assets they owned were passed down to their offspring or to the children of their brothers/sisters. Prior to the rise of patriarchy lineages were traced through the female line: children took their names from mothers, not fathers. Although there is still some debate as to when exactly mankind understood the concept of fatherhood, for thousands of years, women, independently of men, were able to bequeath inheritances to their offspring. We find this custom among the Picts and the Celts of England; even in the later Roman Empire, husbands initially did not have legal claim to her assets if she spent three successive nights away from home. Greece, Marriages were essentially business arrangements; a way of cementing economic and political alliances. They were in most cases arranged by the parents and/or the elders of the community. Given the mental depth of these ancient community shapers, it is very likely that the arrangements were not made arbitrarily but may have factored in the personalities of the prospective persons so as to ensure some degree of compatibility. Dr John Henrik Clarke and Ifi Amadiume, in their respective works taught us that African (and by extension, matricentric) societies functioned through a strong sense of honour, obligation and reciprocity so it’s safe to infer that there was very little abuse. Indeed, there were legal contracts and unwritten customs that ensured that in the event of spousal abuse the husband would be effectively dealt with. In any event women could, and in many instances did, initiate divorce. Be all that as it may, the idea of marrying for love or romantic feelings, as lovely as it is made out to be, is only a very recent phenomenon and is partly linked to medieval literature that themselves were based somewhat on the objectifying of the desired women.

The shift to patricentric consciousness in Eurasia and its effects

There is a school of thought that advances that in Europe dramatic changes in ecological conditions around the end of the last Ice Age was what accounted for the shift to patriarchy. Some scholars believe that the tribes and communities that settled in the lands of Eurasia were not able to move back to the warmer regions due to the presence of massive ice barriers. The ravages of the very harsh winters made barren much of the land and food sources were very scarce. Roving tribes were forced to fight each other in order to secure access to scarce food stocks along with constant battles with the elements and predatory animals. Cheikh Anta Diop argued in the “Cultural Unity of Black Africa” and “Civilisation or Barbarism” that this precarious way of living gave rise to a peculiar kind of fatalistic mindset. It also gave rise to a thought process that posited that everything in the natural world had to be subdued and controlled if people were to survive. Anything in the natural world that could not be easily rationalised – and thus controlled – was looked upon with suspicion and considered hostile – which in some instances was indeed the case.

In this very hostile and uncertain environment certain behavioural traits characterised by aggression and competitiveness took prominence over older more stable, communalistic, passive attitudes. War and violence became valuated pursuits in these cultures. Anderson and Zinsser in their book “A History of Their Own” point out that most of the earliest Eurasian artefacts and figurines uncovered by archaeologists were weapons and images of warriors. Warrior traditions extolling violence and war – specifically masculine applications of violence – profoundly influence the Homeric epics, Roman, Jewish writings and Christian traditions that shaped the ideas of what is considered Western civilisation. With this shift towards the warrior ethic the older collectivist mindset and lifestyle gradually gave way to more individualistic behaviours. Engels points to this phase as the beginnings of the concept of private possession. Also, leadership was now being redefined in very singular and authoritarian terms. Power and authority of course had always been determined by how one could secure food for oneself and the clan. Under the emerging patriarchy, however, physical strength, one’s fighting ability and the ability to withstand the harshness of one’s daily existence became the qualities that determined fitness to lead. Superior power was now being determined by a warrior/hunter’s ability to terminate life, subdue the “hostile” natural world and by that warrior’s ability to command others to do likewise.

All this profoundly affected the status and idealising of women. Insofar as changes in myths and folklore usually correspond with or are recordings of sociological changes, around the second millennium BCE, changes in the folklore and sacred myths of Sumer (one of the better known and documented examples of the shift from matricentric to patriarchal principles) reflected older maternal goddesses being subordinated to younger more aggressive male deities. The displacement of women’s economic and social autonomy did not happen at once of course but was a gradual decline and varied according to region and time period. In Greece, for instance –where much of the misogynist and sexist views we hold today was codified – women still owned parcels of land, although later laws restricted that land to only what was found around the temple: a change from the period in which all household hearths were identified with Goddesses temples and as such were controlled by women.

It is also very possible that in some regions the power and authority women enjoyed were voluntarily given up by them in order for the survival of the wider community. It is ironic that one of the principal factors behind women’s high status seemed to also have been the cause of their displacement. Women’s pregnancy and childbearing was a source of amazement and wonder among many cultures; much of women’s authority had to do with these functions as well as their mastery of domestic areas of production. But, once warfare defined the daily existence of the society, women, particularly those pregnant and caring for children, became in effect, excess baggage; their positions would have placed the whole clan in a vulnerable or compromised position. However, insofar as they were also the bearers of the future warriors and hunters, they needed to be protected by their male counterparts. Early Lombard, Celtic, Germanic, Hebrew, Roman and Greek writings and marriage customs all reflect this paternalistic, protective outlook in the way women were idealised. The price women paid for such protection has often been their subordination and their conforming to masculine interests and values. There are very few fragments of women’s writings from the ancient world but much of what has come down to us do show a certain degree of acquiescence to the patriarchs’ ideas of how society should be structured.

And so as the balance tilted more and more toward patricentric attitudes, interests and values shifted towards productive activities considered the prerogative of men. While in earlier times some women did seem to participate in hunting and warring expeditions – as suggested by certain rock drawings and by very ancient goddesses identified with hunting – these activities were increasingly being redefined as exclusively masculine pursuits. Celtic and Germanic cultures eventually excluded women from warfare which they viewed as their most valued cultural activities, Hebrew laws and the Christian-influenced that followed them dealt very severe punishments to women who committed acts of violence towards men.

As the shift gained momentum and men became more and more essential to the survival of communities, so did their activities and interests. Hence, there developed a tendency to equate or grade high status on the basis of the amount of material possessions one had – which in turn gave better leverage in trading arrangements. There is some debate as to whether it was men or women who first domesticated cattle; symbolically, the cow has been identified with the Divine Female principle. However, at some point cattle-rearing became the domain of menfolk and eventually became the principal means of production in some regions. When linked with the emerging idea of equating the amount of assets one owned with high status and the fact that fertile land was in short supply, the way was all but made for male-centred paradigms to take over older female-centred ideas of society. With this in mind it is only logical to see that with the new dispensation, women who independently owned property which they could bequeath to persons of their choosing posed subtle and perhaps open challenges to patriarchists and their claims to superior power. Patriarchists set about developing and re-defining institutions that ensured they held onto the reins of power and legitimised any transferring of wealth from men to successors of their choosing. Paternity and marriage were two such institutions.

Women’s childbearing ability, in addition to being reconsidered as a hindrance, was also a source of anxiety and evoked feelings of inadequacy in patricentric ideologies: men had no equivalent birthing capability. Generally speaking, the transition from a girl to womanhood was and is easier defined than the transition from boyhood to manhood. Girls found it easier to identify with their mothers and the women of the community because of the menstruation and childbearing aspects. To compensate for their “inadequacies” men either developed or refashioned folkloric myths, customs and rituals in order to arrogate unto themselves women’s maternal and nurturing functions. We can look at certain birthing rituals in this context. Even in matricentric societies it was customary for boys to be taken from their mothers and the other women of the community and placed in all-male age-graded groups for initiatory training. These initiatory rituals were often dangerous and painful acts that symbolically equated with childbirth and menstruation: acts that involved scarification and bloodletting. At the end of this process, the initiate was said to have been “born again.” What is important to note here is that while in matricentric cultures there were all-male initiatory rituals and groups, the major difference was that in the patricentric context the initiate, was conditioned to see the second “birthing,” the one where he was conditioned to sever physical and emotional ties with the women who initially raised him, as the superior one. He was “re-born” in the image of the patriarchal man, a man who transcended the realities of his surroundings, was idealised as a super being in his own right independent of nature, emotions and women. The rationale behind patricentrically-oriented birthing rituals was to change in the consciousness of both males and females the ties boys had to women and align them to the men. This may have become even more pronounced when it was understood that men had an integral role in the bringing forth of new life in the community; patriarchists saw an opportunity by which more power could be ceded to them.

Even one of our most ancient taboos – incest – appears to have been originally based on breaking the bond between mother and son for economic reasons. Scholars like Marilyn French, Barbara Walker and Evelyn Reed vehemently argued that the taboo of incest originally had nothing to do with prohibiting sexual relations between mothers, aunts and their sons/nephews. Reed points out in “Women’s Evolution” that there has been no evidence of any such relationship existing anywhere in the ancient world. There were, however, institutions like “incestuous” marriages – i.e. between brother and sister such as what occurred from time to time in Egypt – but this was only for the purposes of keeping bloodlines intact and to keep inheritances within certain families or communities. There was no co-habitation. Strong emotional bonds existed in such unions as well as among mother, aunts and the boys. French and Walker argue that the development of the incest taboo had more to do with cementing bonds between patriarchs and the young boys they took away to be initiated: bonds that could not have existed otherwise. As always, the intent was to maintain the movements of inheritances from man to boy.

The possibility exists that at this stage the protective feelings nurtured by their guardians morphed into disdain and then outright contempt. As women’s maternal functions began to diminish in value; women and girls themselves were viewed with less importance than boys and men. To this day in Orthodox Jewry there is a daily prayer recited by men that thanks “god who has not made me a woman.” The term “woman” was an insult in the Iliad, the Odyssey and in the Old Testament. More boys meant potentially more hunters and warriors in a clan. In most Eurasian families – and this carried through down through the Roman and Greek civilisations – when more than one girl was born to a family, the baby was often left to die by exposure to the elements or to predators or she could be sold off into prostitution.

In short, men instituted such taboos and ideas of paternity because they had no other way of fully knowing which child was sired by whom. By the time the Roman Empire straddled the Mediterranean only boys were being given individual names whereas girls carried the family name and were usually distinguished from each other by nicknames. Paterfamilias – the father of the family – was a very important title and legal concept in Rome. Materfamilias was merely an honorary title given to the father’s wife; it was by no means equivalent with paterfamilias and carried no power or legal weight. The fourth of the Twelve Tables of ancient Rome was called Paternal Power and gave the father sole and absolute authority over the children in his household. The fifth table posited that due to “their levity of mind” all women (apart from the Vestal Virgins) shall be under men’s guardianship. Similarly, Celtic Irish law codes ranked women as “senseless,” like slaves and drunks.

Marriage customs of course existed in one form or another since the dawn of humanity. However, evidence indicates that in matricentric societies the marital unions were neither closed nor even permanent. There is little, if any, evidence of the existence of sexual jealousy or the equating of sexual relations between men and women with ideas of ownership of either party. The roles separating men and women were contrasting yet at the same time complementary. On the other hand, one of the main things noticeable about patriarchy – specifically Eurasian patriarchy – is that it is built on conflict, on defining the one in opposition to the other and then using those differences to show which is better. Women were and are primarily defined on the basis of their physical body: their minds, uterus, menstrual cycle, ability to give birth have all been turned around to show women were not suitable for governing, leadership and owning property. This has its origins in the warrior cultures outlined above. More and more women’s menstrual period became grounds for their being excluded from religious functions – which was at one time another seat of women’s great economic and social autonomy. With regards to marriage these biological functions were used to show that they must remain under the perpetual guardianship of men: first their fathers and male relatives and then upon marriage, their husbands.

Evidence also suggests that it was around this time that the authoritarian aspect in marriages was first perfected upon female captives as part of the process of creating compliant slaves. Gerda Lerner, citing historical evidence and the research conducted by Orlando Patterson, shows in her book “The Creation of Patriarchy”, that the majority of the first chattel slaves were women. She points out that the techniques used to create a compliant and subservient wife were first developed and perfected upon captured females. This included natal alienation in which the subject was forcibly removed from their ancestral home and community which was then destroyed along with the killing or castrating of male family members. This was to emphasise upon the captive the futility of revolting or expecting any rescue from family or clan members. Likewise in patrilocal marriage customs adopted by patriarchists women were for the most part moved from their home and/or community – where they had the company of and alliances with other women – and were settled in that of their husband’s. There she may meet a sympathetic co-wife but in many cases she was sequestered in the husband’s home. The schizophrenic fear patriarchists possessed of women unifying and challenging their pretensions to superiority, and the possibility of losing their women to another man was most evident in the marriage customs. Even if she was allowed to walk the streets she was guarded and escorted by male relatives of the husband or by an appointed eunuch. It is very instructive that word “family” comes from the Latin famulus and familia: slaves in a household. This is the way Eurasian patricians felt the relationship between men and women had to be. All this seems to support the view that females were seen less and less as humans and more as objects to be controlled.

In patriarchal Eurasia the aim has always been to break whatever autonomy women had or were felt to have had and shift the symbols and institutions of power to the men. What we fail to understand about the Euro’s psyche is that the question has never truly been about the “morality” of a sexual act or about polygamy, polygyny, polyamoury or monogamy – that was irrelevant. It was about power and who possessed it. Whether it was monogamy or polygamy power always had to reside in the hands of the patriarch and whichever institution that best facilitated that was what was moral. Marriage became primarily about possessing women for the purpose of securing material assets. It is no coincidence that the word “adultery” comes from a Latin term ad alterum se conferre (to confer property upon another). Likewise, “matrimony” was a term first used to describe inherited property along the maternal line and was the female equivalent of patrimony. It became a term linked to marriage only when marriage became the means by which men could gain control over property owned by women, including their bodies. Women became essentially vessels for breeding offspring – preferably sons – to foment business and political alliances that could increase the patrician’s status in the society. Under the emerging patriarchal dispensation the relationships between men and women were redefined according to power and stratification as determined by warrior ethics. Women were now being idealised as wards rather than companions or persons in their own right. Apart from keeping the household – which in militaristic societies would have lost the high position it held in agrarian societies as a centre of production – girls were raised primarily to be married off to another clan.

Therefore, insofar as the value of females were idealised, the presence of girls in a household served mainly to give the Eurasian patriarch yet another item with which he could bargain for greater wealth: his daughter. In the civilisations along the Tigris-Euphrates, formal written laws began to appear recognising the authority of men over women and their offspring, first through fatherhood and then through marriage when she was passed onto her husband. Their children, fathered by the man of the house of course, belonged to him and so any assets she possessed also belonged to him. Under the new legal systems that gathered momentum in Sumer and picked up speed in Greece and Rome and among the Hebrews, women were no longer being permitted to independently bequeath property which included their very bodies.

All this was to ensure that properties and other assets remain among male-centred clans so as to ensure their survival and prosperity. If one examines the strictures against adultery and premarital sex in the Hammurabic, Hittite, Jewish and Assyrian law codes, it becomes apparent that the reasons behind such harsh penalties had more to do with a sense of loss or diminishment of men’s properties than anything to do with human rights. Underneath the hurt, the feelings of betrayal, disrespect and dishonour, people today have been conditioned to feel if one’s spouse or partner is found out to be having sex on the side is a deeply ingrained idea that with an affair one “loses” one’s spouse/partner who has been idealised as one’s material possession. Your spouse becomes involved with someone else so therefore you are going to lose him/her, your possession, the person that “belonged” to you. This outlook diffused to the Hebrews, particularly those conforming to Levite Judaism and to wider Europe during the Christian era. In Part Two of this essay I shall attempt to show the way in which sexual relations became power relations and means by which men – and later women – maintained the ideal that sex was based on possessiveness.

Source material

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Zimbabwe: U.S. Must Come Clean – SA Envoy Wed, 14 Apr 2010 08:52:52 +0000 The Herald
April 14, 2010

ZimbabweSouth Africa is maintaining pressure on the United States and Europe to lift their illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe with the latest call directed on Washington to engage Harare in dialogue rather being “divisive” and polarising the country.

South African President Jacob Zuma has been calling on the West to remove the sanctions regime saying the embargo puts Zanu-PF officials in the inclusive Government at a disadvantage as they are barred from travelling to Europe and other Western countries on Government business yet their MDC counterparts visit these countries freely.

Ahead of his recent state visit to Britain, President Zuma urged London and its Western allies to lift the sanctions and has repeatedly made the plea to give the inclusive Government a chance to work.

In a recent interview with the Mail & Guardian in Washington DC, South Africa’s Deputy Chief of Mission to the US, Mr Jonny Moloto, said positive engagement was the best way forward.

“We are appreciative that the US administration is concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe. But we want that appreciation to translate into a real positive engagement, not just a critical position from a distance,” he said.

Mr Moloto said it was not “beneath the US to look at the possibility of engaging (and) assisting” Zimbabwe.

“Let’s give a chance to dialogue. We were given that opportunity when we had Codesa (Convention of a Democratic South Africa). We were given that opportunity by the international community as South Africans (to find a) South African solution.

“If powerful countries like the US and UK could give (their) voice of support behind such a dialogue . . . rather than being divisive and seeing it in absolute terms, saying that the opposition party is doing the right thing . . .

“It’s not helpful, it polarises society, it polarises nations.”

Mr Moloto said the US was not clear on what it wanted done for an end to the illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

“But if we take their pronouncements as commitments to assist . . . I think it would make a dramatic change to hear them say, ‘What can we do to assist?’ for a change, not to impose.

“In our case, we invited the international community to assist . . . during the struggle for apartheid, that’s why you (had) people from all over the world lobbying.

“But in so doing, you also want those countries to say: ‘What can we do to help?’ That’s very much different than saying, ‘We want to see this change in Zimbabwe’.

“What do the Zimbabweans want? Hear it from them, and then ask. ‘We want to hear that side of the story — what can we do to assist?’

“That would be a very refreshing voice, a very different take on what has been happening so far, you know, it’s always, conditional on this.

“‘You must do this.’ That’s regime change, that’s imposing regime change on a nation.

“And I don’t think that as South Africa, that’s the space we want to play in.”

Mr Moloto said South Africa was partnering Zimbabwe in finding common solutions to common problems “rather than imposing them from outside”.

He said President Barrack Obama should be “open-minded” in the Zimbabwe situation.

“It’s not helpful for us that we’re sitting with an estimated four million Zimbabweans in South Africa; we can’t sustain that in the long term.

“So I think it’s quite important that we get support from powerful countries such as the US.

“(The US is) still a superpower. That’s why it does concern us when they take a particular position that we feel is likely to influence the world in a particular way.”

South Africa is facilitating inter-party talks in Zimbabwe on the implementation of the inter-party agreement that led to the inclusive Government’s formation.

South Africa has also strongly condemned the illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.

The US sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, bars American companies and financial institutions with dealings with the US from doing business with Zimbabwe until land tenure reverts to pre-1998 levels.

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Zimbabwe: PM Morgan Tsvangirai tells West to face reality Sun, 11 Apr 2010 07:35:33 +0000 New Ziana-Herald Reporter
The Herald – April 10, 2010

Morgan TsvangiraiPRIME MINISTER Morgan Tsvangirai said on Thursday President Mugabe is part of the solution to the political equation in the country and the West should recognise this.

Addressing delegates to the Zimbabwe-Africa Business Opportunities Day commemorations, PM Tsvangirai advised cynics to accept the reality of the country’s political situation.

“If there are sceptics in the United States who think and wish one day President Mugabe will wake up dead then they are mistaken,” he said.

PM Tsvangirai urged the Western world to recognise the progress the inclusive Government had made, particularly in stabilising the economy.

“We need to be rewarded for the progress. We are not where we are supposed to be, but certainly we are where we never thought we would be sometime last year,” he added.

The West is understood to be holding back from lifting the debilitating economic sanctions in the hope that the economic malaise can lead to regime change.

PM Tsvangirai said Government was creating an environment conducive for foreign investment and business should not fear the indigenisation and economic empowerment regulations.

He explained that under the empowerment programme, Government was not seizing shareholding but wanted it placed on the open market so that ordinary Zimbabweans could buy into large corporations.

“As government we are working on creating an investment climate that will result in our natural assets being used for economic growth,” he said.

PM Tsvangirai urged the business community to interact positively with foreign counterparts to promote international investment.

“If you go out there and paint a bad picture no one will come to invest in the country,” the PM said.

There have been attempts by the local private and foreign media to demonise Zimbabwe’s empowerment regulations.

The laws seek to ensure Zimbabweans own at least 51 percent of any companies that are worth more than US$500 000.

The indiginisation drive has received widespread support from progressive elements of society who believe that it will result in true economic independence following the equally revolutionary land reform programme.” New Ziana-Herald Reporter

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Malema hails Zimbabwe’s empowerment drive Mon, 05 Apr 2010 09:30:08 +0000 By Zvamaida Murwira
April 05, 2010
The Herald, Zimbabwe

Julius MalemaFirebrand African National Congress youth president Cde Julius Malema yesterday saluted Zimbabwe’s indigenisation and empowerment programme saying that was the basis for waging the liberation struggle.

The tough-talking ANC youth leader said it was imperative that indigenous people take a keen interest in empowering themselves, as imperialists would never voluntarily hand over wealth to them.

He was addressing Zanu-PF youth wing members last night at New Donnington Farm near Norton, owned by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono.

“Having attained political freedom, you can’t shy away from economic emancipation,” said Cde Malema, who had earlier during the day toured Zimplats Mine plant near Chegutu and Ngezi Mine in Mhondoro.

South Africa, said Cde Malema, had a lot to learn from Zimbabwe’s experience both in terms of land redistribution and black empowerment since Harare had attained its independence much earlier than Tswane.

While there might be criticism of Zimbabwe’s empowerment regulations, what was critical was the political will shown by the country’s leadership.

“As long as there is political will, nothing is impossible. As politicians we are activists but we have people to implement it — the technocrats, people whom we pay who should then polish our ideas. They should not tell us that it is not possible. Once they tell us that then they are firing themselves. But we should be told that it might take long to implement,” he said.

He paid tribute to Dr Gono for the shrewd way he handled Zimbabwe’s economy, which he said, had been under siege by imperialist forces that imposed illegal sanctions.

“He has manoeuvred, even the best economists cannot explain how he did it to make the economy survive under sanctions,” he said.

Cde Malema hailed President Mugabe for his visionary leadership, saying the President could not relinquish power when the enemy was bent on reversing the gains of the revolution.

“In South Africa we had (Oliver) Tambo, who served for 30 years as ANC leader without being challenged. All of us said we needed a unifying figure, ” he said.

The ANC youth leader urged Zanu-PF youths to be vigilant and to conduct themselves in an exemplary way to attract more supporters.

Speaking at the same occasion, Dr Gono said he was not opposed to indigenisation and empowerment but his views had been misconstrued to mean that he did not want the economy to be in the hands of the majority.

“I can speak with certainty that nobody has come to where he is without the helping hand of this Governor. I know how painful it is to support a cause and get punished for it. My own children had to be expelled from schools abroad because of my support of this Government,” said Dr Gono.

He implored the authorities to guard against situations where the elite would continue benefiting from the indigenisation policies at the expense of the majority poor.

“We are, however, witnesses when good policies have failed our people on the altar of implementation. We are also sounding our minister to be on the lookout for those who will be greedy. The process must not benefit those who have over the years benefited,” he said.

Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the rich mineral deposits the country has should be fully utilised to build infrastructure such as hospitals and roads, among others.

It was high time that Zimbabweans benefited from the rich resources the country is endowed with, he said.

“The journey is going to be long, you need not to be faint-hearted,” added Minister Kasukuwere.

He called for a deliberate policy by banks to have a 30 percent quota of their deposits reserved for lending to youths and the disadvantaged.

“We must support our youths, I am sure Dr Gono will help us in that regard,” he said.

The Zanu-PF youth wing donated 10 heifers to ANC youth wing, as well as a bull to Cde Malema.

Minister Kasukuwere pledged 10 additional heifers.

The party’s national youth executive member, Cde Patrick Zhuwao, said the heifers would spur the recepients to look for grazing land, hence realise the need to redistribute land to the black majority.

Cde Malema, who arrived on Friday, is expected to leave today.

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