from Anne in Adelaide: the long Trail of Memory.

July 24. Yesterday, I was contacted by a gentleman from Muscat, Oman. He is my age and says he is planning to write his family story and would appreciate some help. His family originally came from Yemen but spent many years in Zanzibar including the period of the 1964 revolution. In those days, people travelled with the monsoon to and from the Gulf States and Eastern Africa.

The 72-year-old is wanting help to fill in gaps of his father’s time in Zanzibar. He has appealed to me to answer specific questions about the period 1963 to 1964. Most importantly, he wants to know more about what happened during the Zanzibar Revolution.

This revolution caused a diaspora of surviving Zanzibaris. Although it was punishable by death, anyone who could leave, did so. Nowadays, you will find Zanzibaris settled in London, Toronto, Muscat and Adelaide, for example.

Following the end of the Cold War, when Zanzibar relaxed their one-party state by holding multi-party elections, (1995) people begin to return. After all, this was where they spent their childhoods, where their grandparents were buried. Half hidden throughout Stone Town, Zanzibar, there are private cemeteries. Most of the private houses had been nationalised without compensation by the revolutionary junta. However, nowadays, whenever a picture of Stone Town’s streets is posted on Facebook, people remember whose house it was and whose little shop or duka was below. The streets of your hometown are never forgotten.

And it is in honour of one’s parents to try to recall their world, the history they lived through, the challenges they faced.

The British, in recalling their history, might not remember the Zanzibar Revolution, or if they do so, would like to forget it. It is a mere blip in the history of Africa, a fallout of the Cold War. After all, the resulting genocide is a small one: maybe 5-10,000 people in a population of 300,000. (It is listed in Wikipedia’s list of historical genocides).

The point is, the British bear considerable responsibility: the British Colonial Office had ran the country since 1890 and had organised every detail of the series of elections leading to independence or ‘Uhuru’. There’s no other way to say it. A month and two days after the pomp and ceremony of the 10th December 1963 Independence Celebrations attended by Prince Phillip, the new government was overthrown.

A sprinkling of British officials had remained in the government administration, security and police – including my father. When the rebels attacked the police stations, a desperate appeal for help was made to the British Government (through Aden) but they refused, ‘declined’ to send in troops. They said that Zanzibar was now an independent nation. They had first asked if any white people were being attacked.

However, a British Navy ship promptly arrived and moored offshore in view of the city but did nothing except take off the English people. The revolutionary leader, John Okello, had told his mobs not to touch any Europeans. Instead, Okello directed his mobs to slaughter the Zanzibari Arabs.

(Two weeks later, on 28th January, 1964, there was an army mutiny against President Nyerere’s government in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika, and Nyerere appealed to the British for help – the British promptly sent in their paratroopers and quelled the insurrection.)

I realise that the gentleman who contacted me will eventually come down to asking me about this question of why the British did not help. It’s over 50 years since these events, yet still the question comes.

I cannot help thinking what the effects of the massive devastation of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria must be: what personal stories of loss will be told and passed down from generation to generation.

from Louis in Johannesburg: Fracture Lines …

It has become a truism that Covid19 has exposed many of the fracture lines and contradictions in South African society. The inequality across SA society has become much more visible and prominent. There are stark provincial differences in dealing with the crisis. Ideologues persist in shunning the private sector, which at the same time are providing a far more efficient basis for testing services to stem the pandemic tide. Prevention measures remain better than cure.

There can be no mistaking a capable state with a clear strategy, leadership that takes a stand for their strategic priorities and relentless delivery of quality services. In Gauteng province where I live, we have gone in the last few weeks, from the expectation of a massive wave of infections to the reality of infection levels that may well overwhelm the medical facilities available.

The stated intent by the ANC government of “flattening the curve” was to buy time to expand medical facilities such as testing and tracking as well as increasing beds available for those in most in need of intensive care. The official reason given was “to save lives” This government mantra reminds me of the  mini-speech/presentation delivered on take-off about “the unlikely event of an emergency landing etc.” The best part is the “life-jacket under your seat” part, especially in the event of an emergency sea landing. With large jet engines hanging off the wings which will be the first to touch the water surface in an emergency landing, does this not cause the aircraft to cartwheel out of control killing all on board! Safety regulations being what they are, they shall be obeyed even if they do not make sense. Politicians being what they are, they must be seen to be doing their best even if their leadership does not make sense. In defence of political leadership, much has yet to be understood about the behaviour of the Covid19 virus. A curious comparative African statistic  on 4th of July 2020 raises many questions.

South Africa: Population 59,312,107 Total deaths 2,952, Full lockdown, Unemployment rate 30.1%, GDP Growth -7.2% in 2020.

Tanzania: Population: 59,727,695, Total deaths 21, No lockdown, Unemployment rate: 1.98%, GDP Growth 2.5% in 2020.

The Democratic Party-run Western Cape Province is the only province that has done this. The eight other Provinces seem to have postponed the inevitable tsunami and squandered the time created by lockdown by a lack of implementation, leaving very few options. It is emerging that lives lost through the loss of jobs may be substantial; some estimates place the economic consequences at R1.2 Trillion and counting. Testing by the government takes at least six days to obtain results. My Covid19 test took six hours in a private sector facility. The ANC Government insists on working separately from the private sector while it is clear where efficiencies lie. An ideological bias towards a statist policy creates a manifest learning disability. ANC politicians continuously refer to expected surges trying to create the impression that they are in control, while the opposite is true. Professor Alex van den Heever of the Wits School of governance said recently that the government now needs to seriously change tack and begin to do its job-rather then just pretending. The Western Cape’s response to Covid19 should be recognised and replicated because it represents best practice.

I’m not holding my breath. There seems to be a deep inability to learn within the ANC government. Other examples exist but are ignored. Much yet to be desired for evidence based policy and modern government.

Cape Town was the first Metro to conduct a full virtual council sitting where it passed an adjusted budget with an R3 billion social support package. This was made possible by the City’s history of responsible, clean financial management. It offered the most comprehensive services to homeless people of any metro during the initial hard lockdown providing temporary emergency facilities housing 2,000 people: providing meals, shelter, blankets, sanitation and psychosocial services including assistance with getting identity documentation and registering for social programmes.

President Ramaphosa, who has recently been compared to Churchill, admonished the population not to stigmatise of people testing positive for Covid19. He commanded that it “must stop.” Stigmatisation seems to be a throwback to one of the responses to HIV/Aids infection. A kind of denial of existence. In his defence, he has prioritised the lack of capability in government. However, a general lack of follow-through by government, now also in the case of flattening the curve tactics. The time between early lockdown and exponential infections seems to have been squandered in all provices where the ANC rules.

Capability can be seen and appreciated in Japanese industries, during the quality revolution stretching from the1940s to the 1980s. In Singapore, the government scenario planning unit anticipated, amongst other dynamics, a viral attack and prepared plans accordingly. More recently, China has demonstrated its capability to build medical facilities at a breath-taking pace. The capability of these government organisations is unmistakable. This capability has taken years of steady investment to build.