Hama Tuma, Ethiopian author, poet and journalist, has been active in the political and human rights struggle in Ethiopia and Africa since the sixties. His satirical essays under the general title of African Absurdities have gained support from many quarters. Some of his books (English and Amharic) have been translated to French, Italian and Hebrew.
The Other Afrik - Panafrica - Corruption - Slavery - Governance - Satire
Time to brand them all: AIDS, Tyrants, Talibans...
There is a time to die and a time to live (in Africa there is always more time to die) but there is also a time to brand. Cattle owners and slave drivers did it. The Nazis did it on Jews. Meles Zenawi’s guerrillas used the scythe to singe and brand their innocent victims. Branding was in for long and may be due for a comeback if we are to heed the advice of a Swazi member of parliament. He demanded that people with AIDS be branded so that their potential victims get a forewarning as they are being prepared for a dangerous foreplay. An interesting idea, to say the least.
But the Swazi MP could not withstand the hue and cry by Swazi men and had to withdraw the suggestion. Swazi Member of Parliament and gospel singer, Pastor Timothy Myeni, has now blamed the devil for suggesting at an MPs’ workshop that there should be a law making it "compulsory to test for HIV" and that people testing positive should be "branded on the buttocks". Here is a news report on his retraction:
"The devil has trapped me so that he celebrates that, from a Christian, such an uncalled for statement has come out. I am very sincere. I am very sorry. I understand very well that this was a blunder", said Pastor Myeni at a media conference, in Johannesburg.
"There are infants who get infected in the womb or during birth. Does he want HIV-positive infants to be branded also? What does he say about rape survivors?", asked one angry official without explaining if he was talking of women or men rape victims and why the branding should not involve babies with Aids. Myeni has retracted but his was an interesting suggestion.
Swaziland is a country where a young king marries young maidens and carelessly spends the country’s meagre resources over cars and palaces for himself and his women. His 13 wives shop in Dubai most of the time and his birthday parties cost millions while the Aids afflicted people suffer for lack of drugs. He ordered the Swazi girls and women not to have sex for five years, not to wear miniskirts and long pants and then goes on to hold the so called Reed Dance ceremony during which more than 50,000 bare breasted and scantily clothed young girls vie to be the absolute monarch’s next wife—for the money and prestige of course. The king, Mswati III, uses this ceremony to acquire young maidens as his wives. Shouldn’t such a person be branded on both his buttocks as a profligate, polygamist and tyrant? MP Myeni’s branding idea could very well have been an idea whose time has come but he was cowardly and threw it on and to the Devil.
To begin with, there is no reason why the branding should be for Aids carriers alone and why it should only be done on the behinds. If branding as a warning and as ID catches on, it can be used for tyrants, embezzlers, official thieves, decadent politicians, "genociders", mass killers and more. Imagine the corrupt tyrants with a big THIEF brand on their foreheads. They will never show their ugly faces in public. The brutal military regime in Ethiopia did try its own sort of branding when it unleashed the Red Terror against its opponents (mainly the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party) and nailed an "I am a counterrevolutionary" placard on the foreheads of the murdered EPRP followers. It did not catch on because the brander was the one that had to be branded and exposed while, on the other hand, popular branding by people on the tyrants can catch on.
There is branding and there is branding and the Nazi numbers branding is out of date unless we insist on branding Sassou Ngueso and his likes N° 1 Thief. African tyrants who like to be called N° 1 Patriot and N° 1 Genius could deserve to be called number one Despots and Robbers. Branding the forehead may not also be very effective given that fact that with fundamentalism spreading not only women but also bearded fanatical men cover their foreheads. The hands can also be covered with Michael Jackson gloves. Thus, where to brand becomes a problem.
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