And another thought on journalism in Johannesburg. I’m told that the Mail & Guardian, a leaning liberal newspaper owned by Zimbabwean businessman Trevor Ncube, will no longer – in print – refer to Robert Mugabe as ‘Zimbabwean president’. Instead he will be titled ‘dictator’. Many will no doubt applaud this. Not I. If he’s a dictator, what are Zimbabwean ministers of government to be called? And how do we define a dictator? If it is length of office and high levels of brutality, then the Mail & Guardian might add to its list other leaders like Angola’s president José Eduardo dos Santos (in power for 29 years, heading a party that has ruled Angola for 33 years, and during his term in office hundreds of thousands of Angolans have died – not simply because of a war). And what about Sudan’s Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, a mere baby of a president who came to power in 1989? Then there’s Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who assumed office in 1979 in a coup d’etat. Who? Where? Take a look on a map and wiki or Google the man. And don’t just get lost worrying about Mark Thatcher. If you are someone who dislikes Obiang and you happen to have the same citizenship as him, you can expect to spend years in prison, or be exiled, or be terrified into silence. El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba has been running Gabon with an iron fist for more years than I’ve been on this earth: he scooped up power in 1967 and hasn’t let go ever since. And he certainly hasn’t held on that long because he’s an angel. Not that that should bother the Mail & Guardian (and no doubt many ‘other’ western media corporations in the northern hemisphere).
But is dictating about longevity? Or is it about violence? Or unfair and fraudulent elections? Or ignoring the citizens of the country that (didn’t) put you into power, and just going into war anyway?
George Bush may be about to go, but (leaving his dad and the family & fraternal fortune aside for one moment) let’s not forget the 2000 and 2004 elections. He may have stolen them in a more stylish manner than Uncle Bob’s 2008 theatrics, but few sane people on this planet dispute the fact the US elections were certainly not free nor fair. And yet the Mail & Guardian refer to him, I believe, as the USA president. Does it not count – what he has done to the people of Iraq (to give just one example)? Or is dictating only truly dictatorial when it takes place on your ‘own’ soil?
Come on people: wake up. Please. Please. Wake up. Look at the world. The whole of it. And think a bit. And anyone out there who wants to add a dictator to the list, please write a comment. I want a long list!