Monday, April 10, 2006

Brains turned to mush

The robust good sense in the Telegraph leader today rightly mocks Brown’s gesture politics. The soon to be erstwhile chancellor (he hopes) has promised £8.5 billion of our money over the next ten years on a plan "to provide every child in the world with a primary school place by 2015".

Why not promise to end disease, while he's about it, says the Telegraph leader, or to do away with poverty? Gordon Brown's pledge to give all Africans primary education by spending British taxpayers' money is particularly silly, even by the standards of the millenarian language we expect from this ministry.

At least he will not have to fund the children of Zimbabwe as their mothers, according to a chilling story in the Sunday Times last week, seems to suggest they are finding their own macabre solutions.

This is recounted by council workers in Harare, the national capital, who are finding at least 20 corpses of newborn babies each week, thrown away or even flushed down the lavatories of the capital.

The dumping of babies, along with what doctors describe as a "dramatic" increase in malnourished children in city hospitals, is the most shocking illustration of the economic collapse of a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa.

Some of the corpses are the result of unwanted pregnancies in a country experiencing a rise in sexual abuse and prostitution. But others are newborns dumped by desperate mothers unable to support another child. Inflation has reached 1,000 percent and the government's seizure of 95 percent of commercial farms has seen food production plummet.

The "dead gutter babies", reports The Sunday Times, are the most pitiful victims of a government that believes it can starve its people into compliance, or death, turning Zimbabwe into the only country in the region with a shrinking population.

And it is this that makes such a huge contrast between the "feel good" rhetoric of our dismal politicians and the reality of the situation on the ground. That reality has children dying by the hundreds of thousands in Dafur, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and, of course, in Kenya and elsewhere from the real but unfashionable scourge of Malaria.

Elsewhere in the Telegraph we get another article, this one on Malawi which notes, amongst other things, that today, 35 million Africans - including 4.8 million Malawians - rely on the World Food Programme.

But, it says, drought does not explain why the prospect of Africa achieving self-sufficiency is so remote. Instead, Aids, land degradation and rising populations condemn millions to dependency. "Lack of rainfall is not the main problem," said Sylvester Kalonge, a Malawian food security expert from the aid agency, Care. "There are many households in Malawi who would not be able to feed themselves even if the rains were good."

Yellowing stalks of wilting maize around Kumatipa tell the real story. Intensive farming has ruined the soil. Malawi's population doubles every 25 years, so more people scratch a living from the same expanse of land. The option of leaving fields to lie fallow does not exist.

Moreover, no one has legal title to their land. Every field is handed out by village headmen such as Chief Kumatipa. And what the chief can give, the chief can take away.

So there is no incentive to develop or improve the land and every last inch must be used in case one day it is lost. And, without title, no one can use the land as collateral to raise funds for compost or fertiliser, so the soils are steadily ruined.
That latter issue is so central to the problems of Africa that the idea of providing African children with primary school places, as a palliative, is simply a cruel, hollow joke in the worst possible taste.

But it all fits in with the theme of modern politics, where everything is for presentation and everyone must be a touchy-feely liberal. But the damage this ethos does is untold, witnessed by another article in the Sunday Times. This one is on education in the UK, where Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal writes under the title, "How wet white liberals became the ultimate black joke”, with the strap, "Politically correct do-gooders do more harm than they know".

Some time ago, I was asked on a radio interview how I would solve Zimbabwe's problems, the question being posed in the context of European politics. I answered that we could sack all our MEPs and use the money saved to send the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment to depose Mugabe, and reinstate the rule of law.

Maybe it would take more than a battalion, but not much more, and it is this sort of robust response that one yearns for from our politicians instead of the garbage we now get from them all. There had been hopes that the Boy King, for instance, would offer a statement on Darfur in Manchester this weekend, but it was not to be. Instead, we got a homily about not over-filling kettles.

All our politicians, its seems, have had their brains turned to mush. Is it any wonder that we hold them in such contempt?

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