Friday, February 25, 2011

Zimbabwe, Where Watching the Wrong Videos is Treason

One thing about the shenanigans during American elections: It could be worse. Take Zimbabwe, for example.

Zimbabwe isn't, in my opinion, one of Africa's success stories. Not yet, anyway.

It's part of a landlocked area of Africa that's been called, in whole or in part, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, the Federation of Rhodesia, just plain Rhodesia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. ("Rhodesia," Wikipedia) Local bosses haven't been re-naming their holdings quite so often in recent decades: but my guess is that the map will be re-drawn a few more times in the next generation or so.

The part that's called Zimbabwe these days is in the news again.

A Zimbabwean college professor was tortured for showing students videos he found on the Internet. According to the boss of Zimbabwe, that's treason.

Zimbabwe is, on paper, a parliamentary democracy. The country's boss, Robert Mugabe, was prime minister from 1980 to 1987, he the apparently decided he'd like to be president, instead: and has been president ever since.

Mugabe's had elections, to show how democratic (small "d") his country is. How much the election results reflected what Mugabe's subjects actually wanted has been, in my opinion, debatable. ("Zimbabwe," CIA World Factbook, "Robert Mugabe," Wikipedia)
"Last Saturday, Munyaradzi Gwisai, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe’s law school, was showing a group of students and activists internet videos about the tumult sweeping across North Africa when state security agents burst into his office.

"The agents seized laptop computers, DVD discs, and a video projector before arresting 45 people, including Gwisai, who runs the Labor Law Center at the University of Zimbabwe. All 45 have been charged with treason - which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment or death - for, in essence, watching viral videos.

"Over the next 72 hours, Gwisai and five others were brutally tortured, he testified on Thursday at an initial hearing.

"There were 'assaults all over the detainees’ bodies, under their feet and buttocks through the use of broomsticks, metal rods, pieces of timber, open palms and some blunt objects,' The Zimbabwean newspaper reports, in an account of the court proceedings.

"In Zimbabwe, under dictator Robert Mugabe, watching internet videos can be a capital offense, it would seem. The videos included BBC World News and Al Jazeera clips, which Gwisai had downloaded from Kubatana, a web-based activist group in Zimbabwe.

"Nine out of ten people lack internet access in Zimbabwe, and cable TV is an extravagant luxury. DStv, the monopoly satellite provider, costs $70 per month – out of reach for most in a country where teachers make $150 per month...."
If Mugabe keeps Internet access in his country away from most of his subjects, and stops letting newspapers publish stories like the one involving Munyaradzi Gwisai, he may hang on to his position. Then again, he may not.

I think we're looking at more change in the status quo of countries like Zimbabwe. Tunisia and Egypt have already kicked out their bosses; folks in Bahrain and Libya aren't sitting down and keeping quiet any more; and those aren't the only places where 'the masses' are getting uppity.

Finally, I don't think Muslims have a monopoly on badly-run autocracies. Zimbabwe's a case in point. Robert Mugabe's outfit presents itself as a contemporary secular democracy, and the territory's people as a whole are hardly a homogeneous bunch.

Zimbabwe religious beliefs:
  • Syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs)
  • Christian
  • Indigenous beliefs
  • Muslim and other
    ("Zimbabwe," CIA World Factbook)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.