Manchester’s Sad Dichotomy

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375px
Every terrorist incident in the West seems to have a sequel, and that is the blame game.
In a poll on Twitter by David Jones 70% of respondents suggest government was partly to blame for the attack. Even the music concert performer, Ariana Grande, who sung at the Manchester event is being blamed for the clothes that she wore. Then it’s the security services for not preventing the attack.

Of course, it goes without saying that an entire religion is also to blame. Loose immigration policy on Middle Eastern and North African refugees, and the infiltration of radicalism into mosques is apparently much to blame. Even liberal thinking people took a knock and so too does every strain of political party. On the other hand, singer, Morrissey suggests that politicians are just too scared to blame Islam for Manchester attack! It doesn’t help.

Indeed, how is all this indignant blame going to help? It is certainly throwing up a smoke signal and one wonders if our political ‘elite’ can see the smoke for the mist and formulate pro-active and acceptable policy.

I am told that two poor homeless people, Britons, who were begging and sleeping on the street in the immediate area of the blast, rushed to the aid the bleeding victims. Their moving accounts of how they helped the victims has ended in an appropriate appeal to assist them and the money is still pouring in!

Here are two British people made destitute by the system, struggling to keep going, against all the odds, and their Government does naught for them, so it seems. How could they? Here is the irony. So much funding available to the poor is allocated to refugee immigrants first; they are housed, given jobs and lead a right royal life in comparison to life in their home nations.

Our ungrateful terrorist, even enjoyed a university education until he dropped out. Who funded that? Police named British born Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Muslim, just 22 years of age, from a Libyan refugee background. His brother, Ismail Abedi, was arrested and so too were his parents, in Libya.

Salman and Ismail appear to be of good home and blessed with the opportunities of the British way of life. Abedi lived in a house on Manchester’s Elsmore Road – a quiet, residential street lined with red-brick semi-detached houses. How quaint. Better than a cardboard box outside a stadium. The brothers were more favoured by the system, it would seem, than are most true Britons who find themselves in dire straits.

So who is responsible for this, who should take the blame? Seems to me that there is blood on the hands of successive Western governments. European and American intervention in the Muslim non-secular states is part of the problem. Invasions on false premises of weapons of mass destruction and, of course, the war against terrorism. All with ulterior motive. Offensives against ISIS in the ‘Caliphate’, and more recently in Syria cannot help. But it is not the entire cause.

Islam cannot possibly be described as a religion of peace. By all accounts it is clearly the root of most terrorism in Europe and is based on its tenets of non-Muslim intolerance, jihadist revolution, hatred of the infidel and the anti-Semitism of its faith. It’s a hateful religion, so much so that some are influenced to perpetrate dastardly acts of terrorism in its name.

There are a disturbing number of psychotically deluded little Muslims running around Europe. This psychosis is the ultimate motive for all Islamic terrorism in the West. Yet the West digs its head deeper into the sand. The migration to Europe by many thousands of Muslims, away from their now broken homes and bankrupt economies run by despots, is not without contribution. They come with much religious indoctrination, a pathological bitterness, and even thoughts of retribution and, yes, the blame game too.

We owe them, some might say, and we are giving abundantly it would seem. Yet the system that feeds and sustains them is foreign to them, non-Islamic, and needs to conform to their way of living.  They, and more so their issue, are easy victims for radicalisation; that process of religious corruption of the mind and making the infidel host enemy. Their new home, with generous benefactors, becomes the target. No holds barred. They perceive they are profiled badly, which they are much due to Muslim terrorism, and they feel rejected.

So there is the ugly mix. The West seems to have ignored the alarm bells rung and buries itself in the comfort of being nice to these strange and struggling people with different ways. Society is intolerant of those who point fingers at migration or object to the pacifism in the face of an onslaught, labelling them racist or even bigot. And now the fires are burning. Manchester weeps. Terrorism wins yet again – Europe raises the white flag to negotiate!

The thing is, you cannot negotiate with terrorists. Negotiation with terrorists will only succeed if you bend entirely to their demands. They call the shots. The jihadist wants to impose his religion, his way of life, the Islamic way, and give privilege to Muslims and those of the faith. There is no compromise. Understand clearly, the jihadist has no political master nor tangible nation to which they are loyal. They fight and slaughter the innocents in the name of their mythical God. Gods cannot negotiate. So who are European government to negotiate with?

The Manchester suicide bombing is a dire tragedy of multiple proportions. The dead and their grieving and suffering families, the lacerated and torn wounded, and the horrified onlookers scared with fear, are only a part of the tragedy. The other tragedy is that of successive governments which, clearly, cannot see the wood for the trees.

The time is ripe for a paradigm shift in combatting Muslim terrorism. It goes much beyond tackling home grown radicalisation. Europeans need to go to the root of the problem and exorcise or purge the community which breeds the problem. This, of course goes against those well entrenched doctrines of human rights, religious freedom of association, and the credible system of jurisprudence that Europeans enjoy, but which no immigrant Muslim would have enjoyed in his home country. There is the dichotomy.

Is the Battle for the Rhinoceros on its Last Legs?

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XISouthern African conservation of the rhinoceros is severely threatened despite years of intensive preservation effort, mostly by private enterprise and non-governmental entities. Renewed demand for rhinoceros horn, basically a material called keratin, similar to hair and nails, has stepped up the pressure upon Africa’s most treasured fauna heritage. Criminal syndicates are hard at play while African governments slumber.

It is estimated that near 95 percent of all rhinoceros horn poached in southern Africa ends up in the Far East. China is often cited as a major consumer nation, yet the probability is that Vietnam may well be more predominant. Vietnam can hardly be proud that she lost her last Javan rhinoceros to poachers in 2010. With Asian rhinoceros numbers now depleted, to shamefully low levels, the East is looking at its new frontier of horn supply, Africa.

The principle cause of foreign demand is perceived pharmacological benefit in treating high fevers, influenza, hepatitis, and leukaemia amongst other things, according to ancient Chinese writings. Yet, no medical research in the last 30 years has concurred with these antediluvian authors. Asian rhinoceros horn is considered more potent than that of its African cousin and commands a five-fold higher price too. Alas for Africa, superior horn from the now critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros, the latter disgracefully down to a mere world population of just 30 animals, is nearly impossible to acquire!

Africa is not just victim to this effect, but catalyst to the cause as well. The ‘great white’ hunters of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries set a poor precedent in animal slaughter, but poverty would, today, seem a principle cause. This is a by-product of Africa’s heritage and political mismanagement; the doctrine of want, greed and destruction; conflict and warfare; and all the apparent misdemeanours of post-colonial government. Such poverty has presented opportunity for both indigenous poacher (who would never benefit from the live animal in the wild) and foreign trafficker alike.

Picture ©2008 Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sums it up succinctly,

“A lack of political support and will power for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos.”

Africans have been far too passive in controlling the poaching scourge. Inadequate policing; ineffective legislation; poor conservation awareness and consequent pittance budgets are germane. Misdirected land policies; political attitude with hapless foresight in the face of many other priorities, usually brought about by greed, patronage, corruption and incompetence, contribute to poaching successes, trafficking wealth, and foreign demand.

Trafficking rhinoceros horn has become a lucrative business, so much so, that even the official keepers of Africa’s wildlife heritage are succumbing to its temptations. Your average poacher has stepped up the sophistication ladder too, armed with high powered rifles; state of the art darting equipment and specialist sedative drugs; chain saws; night vision instruments and helicopters as well. Often, the horn ‘reaping’ resources of criminal syndicates far ‘outgun’ those of the protectors. It has become a no win situation for Africa.

Trade in African rhinoceros horn is becoming so lucrative that opinions in some parts of the conversation camp are turning towards legitimising its trade. To some, that would be akin to decriminalising drug trafficking because the problem has become too large and too hot to handle. A few thousand rhinoceros in the wild are hardly likely to service the demand of a quarter of the world’s population. Massive breeding and livestock rearing programmes would be needed: something way outside the capacity of ‘developing world’ coffers and way down the priority list too. The scale is just too immense, besides poached horn is free, or at least cheap.

Pertinently, Africa can hardly feed itself, yet alone nurture its wildlife. Can Africa look to its Eastern horn market for help? Strange as that may seem, Asia, being the principle source of demand, has not seen fit to properly conserve or indeed escalate or ‘farm’ its own rhinoceros populations to service horn demand. Why should they? The ease with which Asia has managed to supplement dwindling supplies of, albeit less powerful, horn out of Africa should be ringing bells loud and long for African politicians.

Conservationists have been tolling these bells for decades. Zimbabwe’s Campfire programme has long identified the need to allow poor rural communities, the have-nots, to be rewarded and benefit from their wildlife heritage through conservation projects alongside the wealthy. Could African communities, using Campfire styled strategies, benefit from massive rhinoceros breeding schemes and how effectively could governments protect their efforts if they did? It seems that this has been left to private enterprise, which is actually stifled by regulatory control against trading the horn they reap from living, rather than slaughtered, beasts.

Little doubt the debate will continue, but swift action is now the only hope. In the meantime, Africa’s rhinoceros populations are on the decline, being decimated, following the Asian trend. Clearly, Far Eastern nations, responsible for the destruction of African fauna, need to play their critical role in controlling illicit trade, yet that outcome is remote.

That leaves the issue squarely in the hands of poorly resourced Africans. It does not bode well for the rhinoceros, short of implementing some rather draconian measures. How does one expect African governments to fair against illicit horn syndicates when more powerful and better resourced nations have failed against the drug cartels? The other option is to succumb to legitimisation of trade in horn. That will only enhance our acceleration towards extinction of the species because, seemingly, Africans lack the will and capacity to change and have run out of time to alter their course.

“Despite the action of conservation programmes, 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction. For example, the reassessments of several Rhinoceros species show that the subspecies of the Black Rhino in western Africa, the Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared Extinct. The subspecies of the White Rhino in central Africa, the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is currently teetering on the brink of extinction and has been listed as Possibly Extinct in the Wild. The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is also making its last stand, as the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus is probably Extinct, following the poaching of what is thought to be the last animal in Viet Nam in 2010.” – IUCN

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Corrupt States: Outcome Choices – Democracy or Revolution

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
One may ask, is there some correlation between democracy and corruption? It would seem there is.
Those countries with autocratic or ‘president for life’ dictatorships, or those that suffer democracy challenges, seem to have a higher ranking, for being lofty in their corruptness, than those with more stable democracies. The recently released Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010 appears to suggest this when compared with other indices.

It is common purpose for lesser free nations to impose extreme controls to sustain their autocratic rule, and this depends upon an array of punitive legislation; a strong securotocracy of partisan service chiefs; systems of patronage, where Peter is robbed to pay Paul, in other words, the party faithful; and a generally kleptocratic ethos, opening up the stratagem for filthy corruption. Sound familiar? Zimbabwe is no stranger to this and is certainly no alien to its poor ranking on the corruption scales.

Zimbabwe, which was ranked joint 154th (with 11 other nations), of the 182 countries surveyed, joins a few other countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with similar poor ranking and likewise dodgy democracy records. Within the SADC region Zimbabwe is brought together with two others at the bottom of the corruption cesspool, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The top three (least corrupt) in SADC are Botswana, Mauritius and the Seychelles (Namibia and South Africa follow, regionally, in 4th and 5th place respectively).

If one looks at the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index rankings… there is a striking resemblance in their rankings, give or take a few juxtaposed grades and one major exception. Swaziland ranks highly amongst least corrupt, but is rated low on the democracy rankings; synonymous with its monarchic plutocracy, perhaps. Despite this, generally, rank correlation between democracy and corruption is distinctly apparent.

The EIU index places Zimbabwe, Angola and the DRC at the bottom of the SADC democracy standings, while Botswana and Mauritius are top ranking (most democratic) SADC nations (the Seychelles seems not to have been surveyed by the EIU). Here of course is another exception, the Seychelles has strayed from democracy in recent years and perhaps it is only time before the corruption sets in there; if the supposition is correct.

If this hypothesis is anywhere near decent, then, clearly, the solutions to Zimbabwe’s corruption lay with re-democratization of the nation. The people seem to want this, but are far from ready to demonstrate their will. Some years back, Zimbabwe was actually ranked 65th in the TI rankings. This is when the economy was faring reasonably well and the then popular party was getting its own way in power sustenance. There were no threats against the king. Perhaps the corruption ranking was skewed.

Then, about came change…the politicians went and spoiled it all. There was popular resistance to constitution change, which would have entrenched the Mugabe regime; then mindless forays into the DRC to fight another dictator’s squabbles; land seizures, theft and gluttony; denial of freedoms; suppression of transparency; explosion of inflation and consummate hunger; and now indigenisation; and some even say a military coup by proxy.

The people began to resist autocratic leadership and from there on it has been a slide down the slippery slope of political self indulgence, benefiting only the kleptocracy and its patronised bureaucracy. Zimbabwe skidded to its worst on record corruption ranking in 2009 become the 11th most corrupt nation of 180 countries surveyed. All that in just 10 short years, the root cause being simply to sustain a single individual in power, so they say; with his lackey coterie reaping the trappings of his protectionism and patronage. The once popular party now has some of the wealthiest politicians; one has to presume, being the product of lousy, edacious graft.

Some may take heart that Zimbabwe has actually climbed the rankings in 2010. Can we say this is probably the prize of a Government of National Unity (GNU), with ‘new kids’ on the block? Well perhaps not. It does not seem that those ‘new kids’ will be any different. There is a growing cynicism, a new mood, which suggests any new broom, brought about by greater democracy, may not sweep quite as clean as it should. This goes against the theory.

More recently people have been pointing at the nation’s pro-democracy Prime Minister and his apparently scandalous personal affairs presently in the public domain. This is sad and consequently issues of trust are now being raised, personal failures translate to susceptibilities elsewhere. Add to this Zimbabwe’s recent, wealthiest in the World, discovery of diamonds, and one might surmise, unfairly perhaps, that the scales will tip even further down the corruption order, no matter how democratic the nation becomes.

This should be troublesome indeed for Zimbabwe’s new breed of politicians, while the older ones look over their shoulders. The race here must be who gets to the post first, true democracy or the powder keg of violent revolution. We should draw from the fact that famine may purge southern Africa in the months ahead… if we are to believe this, then Zimbabwe could well run short of food, a clear melting pot for dissent. North Africa chose violent revolution, and while the parallels are few; corruption, personal and political self indulgence were core causes. In those primers there are parallels aplenty for Zimbabwe.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
During the last few weeks we have seen some outrage expressed for and against punishment of offenders following the recent riots in the United Kingdom. Hackles and emotions have been raised and evidently there is quite a lobby against cruel, brutal, inhuman and degrading treatment of offenders
, understandably so. Punishment, per se, by its nature, can be and is perceived as cruel, particularly if you are on the receiving end of it. It is described as something which is painful, a penalty. Enlightened society has moved on from the archaic forms of punishment involving death and whipping of offenders, yet some countries persist with these. Some religions believe violent retribution is God given, echoes of ‘an eye for an eye’.

What is the purpose of punishment and are there alternatives? For punishment to be effective it needs to be unpleasant or dreadful and be imposed by a lawful authority. The theory is that punishment of offenders, if sufficiently harsh, will prevent further offending, although prisons are full of second offenders; it tells the victim that the offender’s actions were not acceptable; it discourages others, debatable; it protects others from dishonest or dangerous people; allows restitution; and gives the general populous a reasonable understanding of what is and is not socially acceptable.

The first issue which needs to be addressed in a discussion of this nature is: to punish or not to punish offenders. Some who argue against current forms of punishment, which includes imprisonment, tend to suggest they are all cruel and degrading and alternatives need to be found. Imprisonment does nothing to advance the offender, is a heavy burden on the tax-payer and turns criminals into helpless social outcasts. Some suggest it does not reduce crime. Given the removal of violent punishment, with which most agree, the sole and most widely used form of punishment remains imprisonment. To do away with our prisons would be tantamount to removal of punishment from our society.

As an aside, crime figures in the United States suggest the murder, rape and robbery rates have fallen to a 48 year low (Mail & Guardian – September 2011). Analysis of crime per capita rates in many states show a dramatic decline. Sociologists have come up with scores of reasons for this trend, but the more widely accepted conclusions are those which identify with the imposition of harsher prison sentences since the late 1970’s. Conversely, and to be expected, the United States has suffered a correlating increase in prison populations, interning 2,3 million of its population in the fight against crime. This has kept a large population of criminals off the streets and, apparently, has reduced crime.

Primarily our justice systems are concerned with incapacitating criminals; deterring others who may be tempted to commit similar crime; occasionally offering restitution to victims thus restoring the status quo ante; in certain societies, allowing retribution; and occasionally rehabilitation. There are strong arguments for and against these five elements of justice delivery. Not all are punishments in the true sense. Only two of these offer anything for the victim, one, retribution, has violent connotations. Some will argue punishment of the offender gives the victim some closure.

The principle alternatives to capital, corporal and incarcerative punishment follow two broad forms: restorative justice, which attempts to create some accountability and healing between victim and offender, a case of ‘I am sorry, here is your money back’; and transformative justice, which is a little longer term and concerns itself with going back to causative issues, or conditions that nurtured unlawful activity, and that were catalytic in igniting crime in a community.

Restorative justice may heal a few wounds, but this is hardly punishment for the hardened or habitual criminal. It is tantamount to a good telling off and a ‘say you are sorry’. Transformative justice is desperately needed in most communities, but not as an alternative to punishmental justice. Some argue that doing away with prisons and converting the budgets to transformative justice programmes, which may include diversion of funds towards education, health and/or improved social upkeep programmes. The problem with transformative justice is that it is a ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’. It really provides for future generations with social issues which will be unique to their times.

A short while ago I made a comment about the old ways of handling criminals, deportation to the colonies, a favourite of the French and the English, and the glorious results achieved in Australia! Of course we no longer have colonies, and I guess my suggestions about the moon raised a few eyebrows and provided for a few rants. I have also raised the issue of conscription, something which most will find awfully distasteful, but only if applied to the general, law abiding public.

Conscription also has connotations of military involvement, but that need not be. Conscription actually provides several crime fighting solutions. Inherent in this if made a punishment would be: it could enable removal of criminals from their communities (incapacitation); it could provide vocational training (rehabilitation); it would provide a means for restitution; might be seen as a form of retribution, if holiday camp fever can be avoided; and may even offer opportunities for restorative justice. Conscription as a punishment could isolate offenders to our public service organizations (like hospitals) with smart tagging or electronic monitoring, or on the front lines of the latest conflict zone, in either an humanitarian or military support roll. Such exposure would be an invaluable character builder.

In the mean time, society is stuck with its prisons, and one should not expect much change there soon because, clearly, prison is a solution which appears to work, albeit a heavy burden on state coffers and a questionable issue of inhumanity. The American experience suggests stiffer and harsher penalties for the prison system to work, something many will find abhorrent. Clearly, some need to take heed of the American system if it is really working and stop caring about how offenders feel about their punishment.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Two Faced Short Arm of Justice

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe breaking news yesterday was all about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the once high ranking Bosnian war crimes suspect. He is accused of the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, amongst other heinous crimes. Europeans have been at the forefront of the hunt for Mladic and will no doubt expedite his extradition to The Hague for trial and due process. The world will be a better place.

Well, not quite. Mysteriously, those same Europeans, who relentlessly pursued this notorious war criminal, were busy protecting yet another reprehensible felon and human rights villain in securing his asylum in the United Kingdom under the European Human Rights Convention. Justice David Archer, so gullibly, accepted that a former Zimbabwean intelligence agent and self confessed torturer, come political murderer, would be in danger if not given asylum and compelled to return to his home land.

This is not only ludicrous to the core, but a potentially large obstacle to human rights justice. One wonders what Justice Archer’s ruling would be in the case of on an extradition to Zimbabwe of an accused person for crimes against humanity and murder. Bearing in mind that Zimbabwe still has, and may impose, the death penalty for such crimes as murder and rape, would the learned judge uphold the extradition? Perhaps not. Simply, the offender would be in danger of losing his life. Thus justice would never be done.

The point is that one day, and many hope in the not too distant future, Zimbabwe may well see regime change, despite the denials and pathetic complicity of SADC leaders supporting and upholding a now unpopular elements of the current regime. Such are the trials and tribulations of Africa, all is fair in African politics, including, apparently, the massacre of innocent civilians and political opponents, or at least those perceived to be.

What the Europeans are saying is reprieve those who should face justice in Africa, for their lives might be in danger. This is a little ripe, when NATO forces are pounding Libyan shores intent on the life destruction of Muammar Gaddafi, who, ironically and somewhat sick humorously, is being indicted for war crimes, if he survives.

Referring to Mladic’s arrest, Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as saying,

“This should send a signal to all war criminals everywhere. In the end we will get you.”

Well Zimbabweans are certainly receiving mixed messages here. Some feel that certain people should answer to alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated in Zimbabwe, including the massacre of some 20,000 people in Matabeleland and, more recently, the dastardly acts of wonton murder and torture again opposition politicians.  Yet there can be no justice if there is any danger to the accused.  Many wonder if justice will ever be seen to be done. One cannot help feeling that certain Africa leaders are sniggering with mirth in their palatial corridors, rather than taking heed of the Britannic leader’s threats.  They know they are protected from facing the wrath for their gross violations.

The Folly of an Overwhelming Right to Know

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe most extraordinary decision by two, supposedly, learned judges to allow disclosure of foreign intelligence material in the legal matter of Binyan Mohamed beggars belief.   The judgement sets, to Britain’s great peril, a grievous precedent, if what the politicians say is correct.  Would the Americans cease intelligence co-operation in consequence?   Some say not.

Mohamed is an Ethiopian national, who was given refuge, benevolently one might add, by the British government back in 1994.  He is a manqué terrorist who would happily slaughter innocent Britons, given half the chance, according to the publicity the man has attracted.

Mohamed left the safety of the United Kingdom, as a drug addict, seeking solace for his filthy habit from the Muslim faithful in distant Afghanistan.  This country is the epicentre of terrorism, co-incidentally.  He soon became embroiled in the homicidal underworld of al-Qaeda fundamentalist terrorism.  Mohamed allegedly trained with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist mentors and other sources suggest his collusion with American gangster turned terrorist, Jose Padilla.

Our alleged terrorist and Padilla plotted death and mayhem, so they say, including the construction of dirty bombs and spraying people with cyanide.  He was arrested in Pakistan attempting to exit that country on a false passport, destined for the United Kingdom.  One might suspect that, on the face of it, he was up to no good.

Of course, this does not condone his rendition and alleged torture, but quite what he is doing back on British soil, to contest British intelligence involvement, is a mystery.  Surprisingly, it was British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who secured the man’s release from Guantánamo and allowed him back to Britain.  What was he thinking, one might ask, and have we lost all of our senses on the altar of political correctitude?

Clearly, Mohamed, had a few ulterior motives, and he is not exactly the model Muslim devotee that some would like us to believe, nor British.  And yet, this matter is not about Mohamed, but rather how this foreigner has brought the judiciary and government on a collision course, because a couple of fellows, bedecked in their wigs, have decided that the British people have an overwhelming ‘right to know’.  Really, so why do we not just throw open MI5 and MI6 headquarters as public archives, you could ask?

The suppression of foreign intelligence material, by Miliband, was considered by the judges to be ‘harmful to the rule of law’.  For those with any common sense, it is enough to make one vomit.  The judges have thoroughly ignored the appeals of the Foreign Secretary.  His position is contentious; would such disclosure strain intelligence relations between the United States, the originators of the material, and those attempting to defend the Realm?  It is considered that revelation may compromise vital sources of intelligence, including the death of agents, and breach a reciprocal understanding.

In all probability, the actual material subject to this furore may not divulge much that is either sensitive or secret, but it breaks a solid principal of absolute trust in the shadowy world of spy craft.  Friendly intelligence agencies share their information, knowledge and hard gleaned intelligence and nobody has any ‘right to know’ the content of these exchanges.  This reciprocity is secret and should not be scuppered.  It is done in the interests of combating a very serious threat, the type of threat our not-so-friendly Ethiopian terrorist would pose to the British people.

While the blood of British soldiers and airmen is soaking the soil of Taliban poppy fields, defending Britain from the al-Quaeda terrorist threat, so we are told, a couple of judges pontificate about the law and rights in the comfort of their chambers.  Are they are making decisions that would breach a trust and dangerously expose Britain’s hand?  If they are, some believe, then counter-terrorism operations will suffer and British servicemen and spies will be denied access to vital intelligence from their lead ally.

Let us not forget that the Americans are still seething badly at the release of another terrorist, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, by their British ally.  The State Department took that pretty seriously, and no doubt stifled intelligence outflows in consequence. The risk that Britain’s allies will clam up altogether, drying the intelligence fountain, perhaps is no theory.  This is the gambit. Surely, it is the Americans who should be authorising the release of the information anyway.

The judges may just have made terrorism a lot easier for al-Quaeda and damningly harder for the likes of MI5, MI6 and the men and women on the frontline.  Those who deem they have the overwhelming ‘right to know’ are increasing the odds of terror attack upon themselves.  The folly of this judicial thirst for transparency and lawful outcome may come back to haunt the Realm.

Corruption: Zimbabwe’s Death Knell

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XITransparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2009 places Zimbabwe, jointly, as being the 11th most corrupt of nations in its survey of 180 countries for 2008.  The nation climbs to second place, as most corrupt, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, slipping in just after the apparently mucky Democratic Republic of Congo and only just before grubby Angola.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, only two countries in SADC reach the top quartile of  the 180 ranked.  Botswana prides itself at the top of the SADC list, ranked at 36.

One does not have to search too far to find reports and suggestions of massive and endemic corruption in Zimbabwe, or the denials by those who have seemingly looted and pillaged either. Even Tacitus saw the correlation between corruption and a profusion of laws, and Zimbabwe has had its fair share of those ever controlling statutes in the last decade.

Some might well believe that the ruling and profiting elite evidently do not give a ‘hoot’.  It seems strange, therefore, that the current Parliament of Zimbabwe is set to establish a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), provided by Constitutional Amendment No. 19.  Clearly, people must be asking, ‘just what is the point?’  Yet, politicians acknowledge and a few seem remarkably genuine about stamping out graft.  Really?

In fact, we have been through all this before.  This now delicate little nation established an Anti-Corruption Commission back in September 2005.  It still boasts a rather pathetic website which outlines the commission’s vision to ‘build a corrupt-free society!’  Astonishingly, hardly any senior politician or bureaucrat has actually faced the commission’s wrath, but political opponents have.

Zimbabwe is also a signatory to the SADC and African Union (AU) protocols on corruption, not amounting to much, given their respective membership ‘corruption rankings’.  The country also has its legislation, the Anti Corruption Act [Chapter 9:22], but where has all this taken a once proud, and virtuously upstanding nation?

Samora Machel Avenue, Harare - image AD Field
Samora Machel Avenue, Harare - image AD Field

The country, in the opinion of many, has been the victim of massive economic erosion, unfortunately, just too well precedented in Africa.  Africa is not alone here, but like much of Africa, corruption in Zimbabwe is considered a catalyst in the process of self destruction.  Its tenderloin platform is the lush of absolute power, given or taken by a few, in a generally impoverished society.

The politicians and party faithful bureaucrats just could not resist exploitation for their personal gain, so it seems, but far worse, pulled this off, unashamedly, under the auspices of their political patronage.  It is a ‘dog eats dog’ quagmire and so ingrained in system that the ideals of any Anti-Corruption Commission seem rather ethereal, if not laughable, were it not so sad.

One does not have to be an ‘African expert’ to understand the near demise of Zimbabwe.  Graft, cronyism, and patronage are all the by-products of the poorly thought out policies to sustain personal power, oppose threats, and take ‘revenge’ on certain minorities for past historical sins.  The core of all this reverts back to the land, once a rich base for Zimbabwe’s foreign receipts, now turned a weapon.

Productive cultivators were deprived of their land, in favour of a crony gang of raw, ‘cell-phone’ farmers.  Even that process was corrupt preferring the tiny elite with more land than the needy poor.  Little surprise therefore, that this stifled supply of both food and foreign revenues for agricultural production.

Such was the dominance of agriculture, that dual exchange rates; carefree money printing, that prodded sharp inflation; the flight of capital and expertise, while fresh capital inflows dried up; and price controlling all followed suit.  This encouraged black-marketing, and nurtured the very embryo of corruption.  No politicians accept fault, choosing rather to blame drought, phantom enemies of the state, the wicked West and its sanctions, ad nausea, for Zimbabwe’s woes.

This is a tragedy.  Zimbabwe’s only remaining options towards future growth and wealth building lie in good governance, a return to the rule of law, elimination of opacity, huge foreign investment, supposedly from the wicked West, and, to be frank, the need to jump onto higher moral ground.   The road there will be long, of course, and winding too, remembering, naturally, that the chirei[1] has no wheels.

The party elite’s eudemonic façade will fool no one asunder either.  Better governance will have to include free and fair electoral choice; an independent and non-partisan judiciary; armed forces free of party political influence and benefaction; and a bureaucracy loyal to the government of the day rather than political bearers of silver.  All this must be done transparently and free of corruption.  It seems the road will be very long, perilously winding and horribly steep too.

[1] traditional ox drawn sledge