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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Top 5 Books of 2011

As we edge closer to the end of 2011, and our impending annual blogging break (due 15 December), I thought it was prudent to share our customary look at the top books released in 2011. Once again a difficult choice. As always the list reflects what I found interesting, fresh, challenging and inspiring. The list of course reflects my broader reading of new books. You will naturally have read other interesting new releases. Would be interested to see what you found eye catching.

Product Details(5) Dancing In The Glory of Monsters by Jason Sterns seeks to offer a narrative of the wars that have been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is particularly useful in terms of drawing out the various roles played by its neighbours, especially the Rwandan government. It is naturally graphic and certainly not for the faint hearted. I suppose if there's a downside is that it is often unbalanced and could have done with better polishing or story telling. But certainly one of the most important books released this year and a must read for students of African affairs. You can't understand Africa until you understand the Congo. The book offers a great start in that area.

Product Details(4) Mugabe and the White African by Ben Freeth is another book with a quite graphic take on things. I suspect many people who have yet to read the book are certainly familiar with the documentary by the same name. The author recounts the oppression and brutality that he, and many white farmers, suffered under Robert Mugabe. It is a heart wrenching but necessary perspective to the usual voices. In truth we will really never get a full picture of the brutality of Mugabe's forced repossession of land in the false pretext of empowerment (much of the land went to Mugabe's cronies), until Mugabe retires. But this book again is a great start in another complex problem!  I should warn that reading this book from an "analytical" perspective will leave many disappointed. This is more or less a personal story, but one I recommend highly!

Product Details(3) The Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker is novel about  two abandoned souls on the hunt for one powerful man. Soon, their paths will cross and lead to one twisted fate.Danny Hansen is a Bosnian immigrant in America with hopes of escaping haunted memories of a tragic war that took his mother's life. Now he's a priest. Yet that does not stop him from acting as an avenging angel on those who stay within the criminal law but live outside the laws of love and compassion. Renee Gilmore is the frail and helpless victim of one such powerful man. Having escaped his clutches, she now lives only to satisfy justice by destroying him, regardless of whom she must become in that pursuit. But when Danny and Renee's paths become inexorably entangled, neither of them may make it out of this hunt alive. It keeps you on the edge and has fascinating moral issues that the mind will inevitably engage with.

Product Details(2) Getting Better by Charles Kenny is the only book in the "Top 5" we have reviewed. The central thesis of the book is that we can be optimistic about the progress countries are making around the world. Its not all doom and gloom.The author drives this point home by pointing to the evidence of widespread improvements in health, education, peace, liberty and even happiness. He shows how the spread of cheap technologies, such as vaccines and bed nets, and ideas, such as political rights, has transformed the world. He also shows that by understanding this transformation, we can make the world an even better place to live. That's not to say that life is grand for everyone, or that we dont have a long way to go. But improvements have spread far, and, according to Kenny, they can spread even further. A book worth reading - and do check out our review.

Product Details(1) God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker is the most challenging and important book released this year. The book tells the the true story of an undercover investigator's experiences infiltrating the multi-billion dollar global sex industry. It is partly a personal story of one man who made it his mention to help tackle this despicable trade. But it is also about opening the window to this quite dark industry where we get to see some ray of light shine. A remarkable story of triumph for the children and young teens released from a life of slavery and the rescuer who freed many hundreds of victims leading to the prosecution of dozens of perpetrators. And it is a story of haunting despair for those left behind in corrupt systems of law enforcement. A real challenge and a must read for anyone who longs for a just and better world.


  1. MATWA is a book that has to be read in both a text and subtext.

    The text is pretty blatant. It is a colonial's last cry for the return of White Rule, not only in Zimbabwe, but throughout Africa.

    To make this plea, they deploy the crassest racism, basically try to have the reader confuse their fear of things that go bump in the night with a fear of Africans.

    Ben Freeth is not a Rhodesian. He was not born in Southern Rhodesia or Rhodesia, or Zimbabwe. However, he wants to carve out an identity for individuals like himself, which he calls 'White African'. In the movie, he posits: "Can an American call himself a White American? Of course. Can an Australian call himself a White Australian? Of course." The problem with that, is that Americans and Australians are the majority of the population in their country, chiefly because they wiped out the native population.

    It should be born in mind that none of the indivuals in his family were actually born in Zimbabwe. Freeth was born in Scotland and is a nephew of a member of the House of Lords. Mike Campbell was a South African army captain - he fought to defend apartheid and prevent South Africa turning democratic - until he retired and started looking for an estate in Rhodesia to buy.

  2. Which he did, with a 20 year mortgage from the racist government of Ian Smith, in the whites only European Areas, speficially Chegutu, about 120 km southwest of Harare ('Salisbury'). Freeth's wife, a German looking blonde from South Africa, states that they have right to land in Zimbabwe, because her family lived for hundreds of years... in South Africa. Which has it's own issues with land redistribution (87% of the country was handed to 10% of the population.

    The original intent of colonial policy in Southern Rhodesia was to clear the center, high rainfall part of the country of Africans and put them on reservations in the low rainfall so-called Communal Areas. Without compensation, of course.

    Notice how this context is missing from both the 'documentary' and the book. According to both, Mugabe's landreform just happened, as an election ploy.

  3. It is specifically because they erase all historical context from the either work, that they are able to fill in their own context, which makes it propaganda. The land reform program which redistributed land to over 350,000 families, becomes a handout of estates to 'friends and cronies of Mugabe'. In other words, 6,000 white farmers (estate owners) are replaced by 5,000 'friends and cronies of Mugabe' who have 'no farming experience', and 'this is why the currency collapsed'.

    The currency collapsed because it was targeted through legislation called ZDERA (the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, championed by Hillary Cliton and especially Russ Feingold, who even introduced another piece of legislation himself called ZTDERA, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2010), which sought to continue Zimbabwe's international financial isolation.

    In short, Zimbabwe was frozen out of the international financial markets, which is why tobacco exports collapsed in 2002, the year ZDERA came into force, not in 2000, when the 'farm invasions' started.

  4. Ben Freeth specifically blames the economic downturn on landreform. He provides no proof, but of course it serves his purposes, because he wants the return of his 12,000 hectare estate (6.8 miles by 6.8 miles) called Mount Carmel. (If they are 'white africans' and not merely European colonials, why is their estate called Mount Carmel?)

    Again, the absence of real context and real facts allow the movie makers to create their own context.

    They neglect to state that 43% of Zimbabwe was in the hands of 1% of the population. Instead, they make up their own numbers. Ben Freeth was even caught out lying about it on Hardball with Stepen Sackur.

    Freeth's actual analysis of the African continent is not substantive either, in fact is based entirely on the demonisation of African self rule and African presidents. I quote:

    Page 86: " When I think of African dicators, I think of crocodiles, because crocodiles are absolute tyrants. "

  5. Page 92: " Africa is in such a mess today, I believe, because the spirit of the crocodile has been roused by many of its leaders. The result of entering into a covenant with death is that every thing you touch simply dies. One of the clearest illustrations of this is in agriculture. The war veterans who have invaded our farms always maintained that our land was far better than theirs. Their crops, however, look pitiable standing next to our crops, although the same rain falls on theirs as falls on ours and both crops shae the same soil. "

    So it is not exploitation by transnational corporations and the IMF/World Bank's imposition of austerity and a permanent 'liquidity gap' (24% lending rates and 2% savings rates). It is demonic possession by oceanic spirits.

    Freeth's analysis of colonialism is just as fact free and of course completely self aggrandizing and selfserving. From his 'open letter to Mugabe' at the end of the book:

    "With the arrival of the colonial white man, and the favourable conditions that this brought to the population, the black population doubled in the first thirty years."

  6. In fact, colonialism went over so well with the African population, that within 5 years of the murderous 'Pioneer Column' arriving, the Zulu related Matabele and the Shona joined hands in throwing the colonisers out, in what became known as the First Chimurenga.

    Somehow, they didn't experience the loss of their sovereignty, their human dignity, millions of heads of cattle, and especially their land, as the glorious advance of Civilisation that the aristocratic Scott Ben Freeth likes to imagine it.

    And Now For The Subtext

    MATWA was funded by PBS and The Economist Magazine, according to Judy Woodruff of PBS. On the board of The Economist Magazine are sir Evelyn de Rothschild and his wife, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild (No Labels). Sir Evelyn de Rothschild is the former head of NM Rothschild, the Rothschild's family bank (which also did the privatisation of ZCCM-IH), and like his brother David, a former Director at De Beers. The Rothschilds originally funded De Beers and the British South Africa Company, by funding Cecil John Rhodes.

  7. De Beers has the national diamond mining monopolies in South Africa and Botswana, and is very keen on getting the same in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe, you see, owns 20% of the world's known diamond reserves. De Beers needs to control these deposits, in order to control the flow of diamonds onto the world market.

    So you have a direct flow of interests, coming out of the Rothschild family, on the one hand into De Beers and diamond mining, on the other into The Economist Magazine which funds MATWA, to do a hitjob on the country that has 20% of the world's diamonds.

    Neither Andrew Thompson or Lucy Bailey mention these glaring conflicts of interest. Let's look at the other ways in which they violate the rules of documentary film making.

    First, they do not provide anyone who does not agree with them to speak on camera. The 'workers' are not free to talk. The 'objective outsiders' who provide some context are none other than the Freeth's and Campbell's lawyers. The only outsider who breaks the narrative is a Peter Chimanda. Listen closely how he is interrupted when he mentions the size of the estate.

  8. Notice also how his appearance is contextualised by the use of loud dissonant music. And as we now know after reading the book, how his anger must be interpreted as his possession by the 'spirit of the crocodile'.

    Second, there is the very nasty portrayal of Africans in general. They are either fawning employees who just would't know what to do with themselves if it wasn't for the white man. Or they are dangerous creatures who can pounce at any second. Or as we now know, Freeth believes are literally possessed by lower spirits, what he calls 'the spirit of the crocodile'.

    If you read his 'letter to Mugabe', Freeth even mentions Cain, as in 'the mark of Cain'. Continously, he identifies himself with God, and black people with demons.

    Page 251: In Zimbabwe do the young really want to break their backs like Cain, hoeing the land as peasants?

  9. This is his 'opinion' of Panafricanism: This africanism movement that you revel in, and, with it, the hatred of the white man, is bringing poverty to your people [who also include the white man]. Almost all are getting poorer through this Spirit.

    He means the 'spirit of the crocodile'. And this is his solution, the return of White Rule: Why don't we turn the tables back on their feet? Why don't we call of all this nonsense off and say that we have failed God and we have failed the people? With God's help we ahve a chance to allow the healing of our land; to become an example of how things should be done and to make Zimbabwe great. But, Mr President, I believe you know that God will not help those that continue in the ways of wickedness."

    Is this really the person or ideology anyone in Zimbabwe wants to see return to power? And yet, this is what he wants for the entire continent. Which brings you back - how do they want to make this happen? And what is the role of genocide in these plans? Remember his examples of America and Australia. I guess the Aboriginals and Native Americans were 'cursed by God'?

  10. The good thing is that these individuals cannot work when the spotlight is truly on them, and their lies and manipulations are exposed.

    I have a review of the book and a blow by blow of the movie here, with lots of references and charts.

  11. One can not understand Africa unless you understand 'White' greed. They have waged more wars and violence than any other race under the sun all in the name of cilivization, which I call GREED. What you see in Zimbabwe and DR Congo is nothing but the symptoms of 'White' Greed.

  12. Anonymous,

    Things became very clear to me, when I discovered that the same bankers, NM Rothschild & sons, who funded the colonisation of Southern Africa, also funded Cecil Rhodes' De Beers in the 1880s, and funded the privatisation of ZCCM, really the privatisation of the entire Zambian mining industry with it, in the 1990s.

    The same individuals, in the same business (banking for the extractive industry), doing the same thing (which now is called 'Mergers and Acquisitions for companies, and 'Privatisation' for countries).

    Privatisation is re-colonisation, and it always was.


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