May 28, 2009

Why Platini smiled

Filed under: sports — newritings @ 6:23 pm

I began writing this when the sounds of joy, noise to some, had hardly fully abated. It was a memorable final, the best for a long time, as it pitted two teams of different styles against each other. The one, whilst peppered with international cast, was still essentially English: fight hard, defend, and attack when possible. The other, with the DNA of Barça, touch and feel, possession football – total passion for the people’s game.

I took inspiration from Simon Kuper’s comments (Financial Times) regarding some in Barça being there because of Catalan styled affirmative action. I think many of them are, and there is nothing to be ashamed of it.  He tried to imply weakness, however, last night in the final against Manchester United, the home-grown goalkeeper Valdes, stopped all, whilst the Dutch goalkeeper, bought in the football market, let two in… but that’s history now. (and do not talk of reject Pique… he was brilliant).

To continue, the Barça coach Guardiola does not tire to mention that his team has small guys, Iniesta, Messi, Xavi, etc. and on occasion has reminded people that this is football not basketball, and it is played on the ground. I have witnessed the few times I have been at Camp Nou that they wet the pitch slightly before the game commences and during half time, to keep the ball gliding from player to player… to player.

We know about years’ social engineering that preferred one group over the majority of the people.  In South Africa, we had policies consciously keeping Black people (African, coloured and those of Indian origin) in systematic disadvantage. It was puerile, wasteful, and degrading of human beings: both white and Black.

A pride of place in the Barça museum for a murdered martyr: A month after the civil war began in 1936, Barças left-wing president Josep Sunyol was murdered by Francisco Francos soldiers near Guadarrama

A pride of place in the Barça museum for a murdered martyr: A month after the civil war began in 1936, Barça's left-wing president Josep Sunyol was murdered by Francisco Franco's soldiers near Guadarrama

Whilst white people from all over Europe and who spoke different languages were regarded as ONE group, Black people were divided into tribes, and so called races. There was even football matches of Indians vs whites, with Blacks (then meant to refer to black Africans) playing coloureds or what not.  If it was not for the tireless efforts of anti-apartheid sportspersons in football such as the anti-racist South African Soccer League (and the anti apartheid movement in sports and society) were would not have this “new” South Africa.  An interesting article points out that the SASL had “demonstrated that racially integrated professional soccer was hugely popular. Avalon Athletic, Cape Ramblers, Pirates, and Swallows were among the most successful sides, while players such as Dharam Mohan, Conrad Stuurman, Scara Sono, and Difference Mbanya became township heroes.”

“That’s before the Apartheid government entered with big money, and other enticements, whilst repressing human rights activists in sports.

In education, the leader of the National Party, helped engineer as Minister of Native Affairs, the Bantu Education Act (Act No. 47 of 1953) which de-emphasised the learning of the sciences (maths and science) by black people. He is well-known for notorious comment before his whites only parliament the same year (1953); ‘What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice’.

In Catalunya as with the rest of Spain, Franco’s iron hand, marginalized human rights: to life, peoples culture and language, etc. – and he favoured Real Madrid. In those times, Camp Nou became a temple of resistance and Catalanism. People could shout and scream in their mother tongue and if in the process the “old enemy” could be beaten on the field, so much the better. It gave hope for more strength off the pitch…

But the affirmative action that Barça employs is that it plays the game to suit the type of person it has. Hence seldom do you see high balls, etc., and not to say that Messi can’t head them in, when they do come occasionally.

With the 2010 world cup one year away we South Africans can take something home from the game.  Barça played their style, it affirmed the small guys, who come from within their system, and play the game. They caress the ball to each other, keep possession, although the match last night they showed that they can play without it too.  Most importantly, the boys that won -at least eight that were on the field- were home-grown, and maybe that’s why Platini smiled.  He was a small gifted player once, and now president of UEFA and if he has his way, affirmative action will be policy. I concur; it will be good for the game.


May 27, 2009

The South African constitution and women’s rights

Filed under: manifesto — newritings @ 4:25 pm

stamp it

stamp it

This is merely a note to share this resource, it worth having, the constitutional court of South Africa. The constitutional court is but one, albeit the most revered and powerful institution in our country, as we have other instruments we too can use to make our country more just. One simple example I do not get tired of sharing: join up with others, in a union, youth group, feminist organisation, and organise!

This is from the constitutional court:

Section 9 – Equality

Women are obviously protected by the full range of rights guaranteed in the new Constitution – the rights to life, dignity, privacy and others. But they receive specific protection in section 9, entitled “Equality”. It says:

“(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

The prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of gender, sex, pregnancy and marital status is clearly intended to protect women. The grounds “sex”, which is a biological feature, and “gender”, a social artefact, are both included – perhaps unnecessarily. But the result is that this section leaves no doubt that no unfair discrimination based on any feature of being a woman will be tolerated.

May 25, 2009

“…But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.”

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article,testimonies — newritings @ 9:57 pm

This speech is part of an ongoing debate amongst friends and comrades about the complex interrelationship between race, class and gender discrimination-oppression. Made almost to the day 40 years ago by Shirley Chisholm, at the US House Representative from New York, it is still relevant to current debates, in the US, South Africa and elsewhere. The speech can be viewed on youtube ( ) Enjoy and learn…

Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed
Shirley Chisolm 1972 unbought and unbossed

Address To The United States House Of Representatives, Washington, DC: May 21, 1969

Mr.Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her. If she walks into an office for an interview, the first question she will be asked is, “Do you type?”

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.

The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.

It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis – that they were different and inferior. The happy little homemaker and the contented “old darkey” on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.

As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.

Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as “for men only.”

More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet No women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.

Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.

It is true that part of the problem has been that women have not been aggressive in demanding their rights. This was also true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression and even cooperated with it. Women have done the same thing. But now there is an awareness of this situation particularly among the younger segment of the population.

As in the field of equal rights for blacks, Spanish-Americans, the Indians, and other groups, laws will not change such deep-seated problems overnight But they can be used to provide protection for those who are most abused, and to begin the process of evolutionary change by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine it’s unconscious attitudes.

It is for this reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the equal rights amendment.

Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?

It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as ”odd” and “unfeminine.” The fact is that a woman who aspires to be chairman of the board, or a Member of the House, does so for exactly the same reasons as any man. Basically, these are that she thinks she can do the job and she wants to try.

A second argument often heard against the equal rights amendment is that is would eliminate legislation that many States and the Federal Government have enacted giving special protection to women and that it would throw the marriage and divorce laws into chaos.

As for the marriage laws, they are due for a sweeping reform, and an excellent beginning would be to wipe the existing ones off the books. Regarding special protection for working women, I cannot understand why it should be needed. Women need no protection that men do not need. What we need are laws to protect working people, to guarantee them fair pay, safe working conditions, protection against sickness and layoffs, and provision for dignified, comfortable retirement. Men and women need these things equally. That one sex needs protection more than the other is a male supremacist myth as ridiculous and unworthy of respect as the white supremacist myths that society is trying to cure itself of at this time.

Sources: Congressional Record – Extensions of Remarks E4165-6.

May 22, 2009

Hamba Kahle – comrade Benedetti

Filed under: poetry,some of my favorite things — newritings @ 9:47 pm

Uruguayan poet and writer of over 80 books, Mario Benedetti died on 17 May 2009, and he was my partner Marta’s favourite writer.

The 88 year old Benedetti of Italian parents was or will always be a legend as his poems were turned into songs, imortalising him whilst he was alive and it is likely to continue. He was deeply loved not only in his country but in the Spanish speaking world. Benedetti lived in exile from 1973-1983 during Uruguay’s military regime.

There is a brilliant tribute of the man and writer and the fact that he is seldom translated into english by Terence Clark on an equally  brilliant site:, where I borrowed this poem. (below)

The poet, Alicante 1998

The poet, Alicante 1998

Mario Benedetti

Me jode confesarlo
pero la vida es también un bandoneón
hay quien sostiene que lo toca dios
pero yo estoy seguro de que es Troilo
ya que dios apenas toca el arpa
y mal

fuere quien fuere lo cierto es
que nos estira en un solo ademán purísimo
y luego nos reduce de a poco a casi nada
y claro nos arranca confesiones
quejas que son clamores
vértebras de alegría
esperanzas que vuelven
como los hijos pródigos
y sobre todo como los estribillos

me jode confesarlo
porque lo cierto es que hoy en día
quieren ser tango
la natural tendencia
es a ser rumba o mambo o chachachá
o merengue o bolero o tal vez casino
en último caso valsecito o milonga
pasodoble jamás
pero cuando dios o Pichuco o quien sea
toma entre sus manos la vida bandoneón
y le sugiere que llore o regocije
uno siente el tremendo decoro de ser tango
y se deja cantar y ni se acuerda
que allá espera
el estuche.


I’m fucked, confessing it,
but life too is a bandoneón
there are some who hold that God plays it
but I’m sure that it’s Troilo
since God can hardly play the harp,
and that badly

whoever it is, the one sure thing is
that it stretches us out in a proper pure solo
and then brings us down to so little almost nothing
and for sure drags confessions from us
clamoring complaints
the vertebra of happiness
hopes that return like prodigal sons
and above all like refrains

I’m fucked confessing it
because for sure, right now, today
want to be tango
the natural tendency
is to be a rumba or mambo or chachachá
or merengue or bolero or maybe casino
and at the very last a little waltz or milonga,
and a pasadoble? never
but when God or Pichuco or whoever
takes in his hands the bandoneón life
and suggests to it that it weep or cheer
you feel the tremendous decorum of being tango
you just go ahead and sing and you would never agree
that there awaits
your casket.

Barça – ManU could be the best ever match

Filed under: sports — newritings @ 9:16 pm

Barça – ManU Wednesday 27 May 2009

I believe that this could be a great exhibition of different styles of the Peoples Game, and unlike Eric Cantona, I pick Barça to win. You would expect that from a fan. No? Well for my side, I wrote to the Financial Times in response to their columnist, read below.


We read Simon Kuper, (15 May 2009, Financial Times Weekender , This could be the best game ever) on a plane to Geneva with my partner and our one year old daughter an avid Barca fan, and already a socio, with great relish. However, we were disappointed that he turned the one fundamental strenght of Barça, its “production”and playing home-grown talents much lauded by many including the likes of UEFA president Platini and FiFa president Blatter as a weakness. This he does with references to Pique as reject and Valdez, as a product of Catalan styled affirmative action ignore the fact that both had played brilliantly in the semi finals of the Champions League, with Valdez stopping point blank goals chances by Drogba (Chelsea) not only in London but the first leg in Camp Nou too. Let us see what happens in the final. (original signed)

———-This could be the best football match in the world, : May 15 2009  Everyone expects the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United to be a great game. But in fact it could be the best football match ever. The idea isn’t mine. I got it from the German football writer Christoph Biermann. He outlined his theory in Marseille in 1998, after Brazil beat Holland in the World Cup semifinal. Somebody was calling it a great match, when Biermann cut him off. “It was the best ever,” he corrected. Biermann explained: football is always improving. Players keep getting fitter, quicker and smarter at defending. Therefore, when two great teams meet in an important match, attack a fair amount, and play at their best, it is almost by definition the best game ever. Indeed, since Biermann said this, football has gone on improving. ——-(fast forward to..)

Pique-in Barcelona youth team
Pique-in Barcelona youth team

This final won’t be like that. Market researchers at Sport+Markt say Barca is the most popular team in Europe, with 44m European supporters. United is probably the most popular team on earth. Each has a manager who incarnates his club. And each has a core of long-serving homegrown players who thrust the club culture down the throats of imported foreigners: Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville at United, Xavi Hernández Creus, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes at Barca. So each team has that elusive mix of stars and collectivist ethic. Quality is assured. Both teams will be champions of their country this season, and that’s just for starters. Barca are going for a treble of prizes, and United for a quintuple. Both teams will probably attack. Barcelona always do: this season is already its highest-scoring ever. United will want to play in Barcelona’s half because Barca’s only weakness is its defence, where it will be without three regulars, will feature a centre-back, Gerard Pique, who is a United reject, and a keeper, Valdes, who was helped into the job by a policy of affirmative action for Catalans. I hate to jinx it, but this one could take the Biermann Award from the France-Italy World Cup final of 2006.

(you must read the full article by following the link)

May 19, 2009

Kick Polio out of Africa and the world

Filed under: manifesto — newritings @ 4:21 pm
kick polio out of Africa

kick polio out of Africa

The motivation of this post comes after speaking to a researcher at the WHO working on polio, who tells me that polio remains a challenge for the world. It is particularly active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and India. I asked him how the campaign Kick Polio out of Africa was going, and we chatted a bit. I then did a search and found this African Union statement following a meeting of the Ministers of Health,  4 – 8 May 2009 and the meeting of experts 4-6 May 2009, where this status report on polio was made public.




  1. Since 1988 when the GPEI was launched, the GPEI has reduced the global incidence of polio by more than 99%.  As a result, indigenous poliovirus has been eliminated from all countries except four countries:  India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio is on the verge of eradication.  However, many countries continue to experience re-infections that result in polio outbreaks.

I.        Background:

  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has reduced the global incidence of polio by more than 99 percent – from 350,000 cases per year in 125 countries in 1988, to 1660 cases in 18 countries in 2008.
  • The “Kick Polio Out of Africa” campaign launched by President Mandela in 1996, and supported by the OAU and the AU, is an integral part of the success of GPEI.
  • 91% of the polio cases in the world in 2008 were from just the four polio-endemic countries of Nigeria (northern states), India (2 northern states), Pakistan, and southern provinces of Afghanistan. The rest of the cases were from countries that were re-infected with poliovirus importations from either Nigeria or from India.
  • Since the launch of GPEI in 1988, nearly five million people are today walking, who would otherwise have been paralysed by the disease.  An estimated more than 250,000 polio-related deaths have been prevented, in addition to more than 1.2 million childhood deaths averted by the systematic distribution of Vitamin A during polio supplementary immunization activities (SIAs).
  • The polio eradication infrastructure and staff on the ground have also provided broader benefits for the health systems by supporting the delivery of various other critical health interventions, establishing a robust disease surveillance network, establishing cold chain and logistics systems for vaccine distribution, scaling up communication and social mobilization efforts to increase awareness of the benefits of immunization, and training a large cadre of health workers in the field.
  • The continued leadership of the AU and sustained and intensified effort by the polio-infected AU Member States to reach and vaccinate all children will contribute to the ultimate success of this historic effort to deliver a polio-free world.

II.      African Union and Polio Eradication – 2008:

  • 57% (946) of all polio cases in the world were reported in AU member States in 2008, with Nigeria alone contributing to 49% (806) of the global polio cases.
  • Of the 14 countries that reported polio outbreaks after re-infections in 2008, 13 are members of the African Union (Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Sudan, and Togo).
  • Importations of poliovirus of northern Nigerian origin are responsible for the ongoing circulation of imported viruses in 11 of 13 re-infected AU member states in west, central and Horn of Africa (viruses of Indian origin are circulating in the other 2 AU states).
  • The persistent polio outbreaks in Angola and Chad that have been ongoing for a number of years are a major global concern.

III. African Union and Polio Eradication – 2009 (data as of March 25, 2009):

  • 87% (147) of all polio cases in the world in 2009 were reported in AU member States, with Nigeria alone contributing to 53% (90) of the global polio cases.
  • A major polio outbreak in south Sudan has now spread into Kenya and Uganda, threatens other countries in the Horn of Africa, and is a matter of grave concern that should be treated as a matter of international public health emergency.
  • All the 10 countries that have reported polio outbreaks after re-infections in 2009 are members of the African Union (Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Togo and Uganda).
Polio Cases in 2008 and 2009 in AU Member States (as of 25 March, 2009)
Country 2008 2009
Polio-Endemic Countries
1 Nigeria 806 90
Re-Infected Countries
2 Angola 29 3
3 Benin 6 7
4 Burkina Faso 6 6
5 Central African Republic (CAR) 3 0
6 Chad 37 0
7 Cote d’Ivoire 1 1
8 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 5 0
9 Ethiopia 3 0
10 Ghana 8 0
11 Kenya 0 4
12 Mali 1 1
13 Niger 12 9
14 Sudan 26 18
15 Togo 3 3
16 Uganda 0 5

IV.  Technical Feasibility of Polio Eradication Affirmed by Scientific Bodies

At this meeting, the GPEI stakeholders launched the intensified polio eradication effort.

WHO Executive Board calls for Independent Evaluation by May, 2009

  1. On 26 January, 2009 WHO’s governing body called for Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan to make polio eradication their top operational priority in 2009 and to report to the World Health Assembly in May on their progress. Member states supported the Director-General’s proposal to conduct an independent review of program implementation in the endemic countries to determine the remaining barriers to stopping transmission. The Board called for the Director-General to provide an initial report on the findings of the independent review and how they will guide next steps for the polio eradication initiative at the WHA in May. The Board also highlighted concerns about reinfection of polio-free countries and called for additional measures to prevent the importation of cases.

V. Key Challenges to Polio Eradication in AU Member States:

Nigeria:  progress in overcoming operational challenges must be systematically applied across all northern states

  1. These ongoing vaccination coverage gaps present a unique risk to the global polio eradication effort, as type 1 polio from northern Nigeria in 2008 spread and re-infected seven countries in West Africa.
  2. The ACPE concluded:  “Nigeria will continue to pose a high risk to international health until the new, top political commitment is translated into field level improvements in campaign quality.”
  3. In February 2009 a landmark public commitment was signed on behalf of Nigeria’s 36 state Governors by the Ministry of Health and the Chairman of the Executive Governors’ Council has pledged to hold Local Government Authorities (LGAs) accountable for the performance of their eradication programs. In 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that if 90% of children under five in Nigeria each received three polio vaccine doses, polio transmission would be stopped. On 2 February in Abuja, with Bill Gates Jr. in attendance, the Governors recognized the urgent need to tackle the ongoing coverage gaps, signing the historic “Abuja Commitments to Polio Eradication in Nigeria” in a public pledge to mobilize the state and LGA civil administrations to reach the necessary 90% coverage target.

Re-infected countries:  stopping prolonged outbreaks and minimizing the risk of renewed international spread

Chad & Angola

  1. In 2008, 37 cases have been reported in Chad and 29 in Angola. Chad is affected by widespread geographic transmission of both type 1 and type 3 poliovirus, including in the east of the country (bordering Sudan), the south (bordering CAR) and the west (bordering Cameroon and Nigeria).
  2. With suboptimal outbreak response activities implemented in 2008 (in quality, scope and timeliness), and subnational surveillance gaps, the risk of further spread of polio within Chad, within Angola, and bordering countries is high.

The key remains to urgently improve the quality of operations, as upwards of 40% of children were regularly missed during activities in 2008 in Chad. Full political engagement, beginning with the Office of H.E. the President, is urgently needed.

  1. These prolonged outbreaks represent a risk of further international spread across Africa.

West Africa

  1. The confirmation of new polio cases in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Togo underscores the fact that west Africa continues to be at risk of international spread of polio from northern Nigeria. The risk of further circulation or additional importations into these western African countries depends fully on the quality of polio campaigns in northern Nigeria and of the outbreak response activities in the re-infected countries themselves.
  2. Seven-country synchronized cross-border campaigns were conducted in February and March in the re-infected countries, in coordination with Nigeria. More than 28 million children from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Togo joined the 25 million children being immunized with mOPV1 in 15 states in Nigeria.
  3. It is important that countries across West Africa strengthen disease surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), in order to rapidly detect any poliovirus importations and facilitate a rapid response.

Horn of Africa and Sudan outbreak raises alarm:

  1. An outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1, previously restricted to southern Sudan and western Ethiopia, has spread to northern Kenya, northern Uganda and northern Sudan (Khartoum and Port Sudan). The report of a case in Port Sudan is particularly concerning, given it was from this port city that an outbreak spread to Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Somalia and Yemen in 2004-06, resulting in 1,200 cases and requiring more than US$150 million in international emergency outbreak response costs.
  2. WHO has informed its Member States of the high risk of international spread of the disease.  Locally, detection of the case has sparked urgent and immediate outbreak response activities in the affected areas and heightened surveillance in countries at risk.
  3. On 26-27 February, the HOA Technical Advisory Group met to urgently address the polio outbreak in the region. The TAG noted that all countries in the HOA were at significant risk of outbreak, and called upon the Governments of HOA countries to make polio eradication a top priority until the current outbreaks were stopped and the risk of further spread gone. The TAG stressed that every effort must be made to improve the quality and reach of SIA rounds, and that co-ordination between countries was critical to an effective response.
  4. To minimize the risk of international spread of polio, preventive SIAs will be conducted and heightened attention to strengthening routine immunization levels given in highest-risk areas (e.g. those bordering endemic areas).

VI. African Union leadership and next steps for polio eradication in Africa:

  1. The continued public support of the African Union for completing polio eradication in Africa will be critical to ensure that all polio-affected AU member states are fully engaged in this historic effort. There is an urgent need for enhanced commitment and public involvement by the leaders of the polio-affected countries to help engage all sectors of the Government and improve the quality of polio eradication activities so that every child is reached and vaccinated against polio. At least 90% of the children need to be vaccinated in the polio immunization activities in order to stop polio in Africa.
  2. A robust discussion at the 4th AU Conference of Ministers of Health on the polio eradication efforts, challenges, and risks in the African continent will assist in recognizing the urgent need to enhance polio eradication efforts in the AU to protect the significant gains achieved in the continent. The adoption of a Decision on Polio Eradication at the Conference will further strengthen the commitment of the polio-affected AU member states, and help engage the Heads of State in this historic effort. It will also boost donor confidence to continue to support eradication efforts in Africa.
  3. Only Nigeria remains as the last polio-endemic country in Africa, though a growing number of previously polio-free countries have now become re-infected due to polio importations from Nigeria and India.
  4. Again, this demonstrates that with strong leadership, the outbreak response strategies succeeded in rapidly again stopping the spread of poliovirus across the continent.
  5. At the same time, efforts must continue to be intensified in Nigeria.  Until Nigeria eradicates polio, all countries across Africa will remain at risk of re-infection.


  1. The recommendations are included in the annexed Draft Decision for the next Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government.


draft Decision on Completing Polio Eradication in Africa

The Assembly:

1.            TAKES NOTE of the Sixty-First World Health Assembly resolution on Polio Eradication (WHA61.1) adopted on 24 May 2008 that highlights the risk of international spread of poliovirus;

2.            CONCERNED that there is continued intense poliovirus transmission in the one last polio-endemic Member State in Africa, that there has been international spread of the disease from this region to seven other Member States in West Africa thereby imposing great humanitarian and economic burden on these States, and that a few Member States have not succeeded in stopping poliovirus outbreaks following re-infections more than a year ago;

3.            RECALLS the Yaoundé Declaration on Polio Eradication in Africa adopted by the Heads of State and Governments of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) (1996), the Lungi Declaration on Polio Eradication in West African sub-region adopted by the Governments of the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) (2001), the Decision on Polio Eradication in Africa adopted by the Conference of African Ministers of Health (Tripoli, 2003), the Executive Council Decision on Polio Eradication in Africa ( Maputo, 2003);

4.            ACKNOWLEDGES the unprecedented success of the “Kick Polio Out of Africa,” initiative that resulted in the launching of national and continent-wide polio campaigns that by end 2008 has restricted endemic poliovirus transmission to just one Member State, and polio re-infections in 13 Member States;

5.            REAFFIRMS its previous commitments towards interrupting the final chains of poliovirus transmission in Africa, and preventing the international spread of poliovirus to polio-free areas within Africa and beyond;

6.            REITERATES that polio eradication is an African socio-economic development priority and that success in this historic effort will provide the necessary confidence and financial support to tackle other complex public health challenges;

7.            NOTES WITH APPRECIATION the technical assistance received from all the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and the financial support received for polio eradication from all public and private development partners, in particular the G8 Members, Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;

8.            COMMENDS the sustained efforts and leadership of the WHO, UNICEF, CDC, Rotary International and other partners, towards completing polio eradication;

9.            URGES all polio-affected Member States:

  • To engage all levels of political and civil society to conduct intensified eradication activities that ensure all children are vaccinated with oral poliomyelitis vaccine;
  • To provide the highest level of political oversight and visible leadership in support of intensified polio eradication activities so as to ensure that all children are consistently reached and vaccinated in every polio campaign;
  • To mobilize the resources of all Government Ministries to assist in reaching and vaccinating children; and ,
  • To engage traditional and religious leaders and civil society to enhance community support;

10.           CALLS UPON all Member States:

  • to sustain international quality polio surveillance in the country to rapidly detect and respond to poliovirus cases,
  • and to strengthen routine immunization services to protect populations from the consequences of poliovirus importations into polio-free areas;

11.           ALSO URGES all polio-affected Member States to urgently allocate domestic resources to implement polio eradication activities, and calls on all development partners, including the G8, to maintain their financial and/or technical support to facilitate the  achievement of a polio-free Africa;

12.           REQUESTS the Chairperson of the African Union, and the President of the African Union Commission to undertake high-level advocacy with the last remaining polio-affected Member States, and provide visible support by launching polio eradication activities;

13.           FURTHER REQUESTS the African Union Commission to submit to the Assembly an annual Progress Report on Polio Eradication efforts in the continent, until Africa is certified to be polio free.

May 15, 2009

A brief note on Maternal Mortality: Do women count? If so, why do we allow them to die in pregnacy and childbirth? (updated)

Filed under: manifesto,opinion article — newritings @ 11:39 pm mortality is defined as death occurring during or within 42 days of a pregnancy from causes related to pregnancy. The maternal mortality rate is the number of women who die as a result of childbearing in a given year per 100,000 births. According to the World Health Organisation: “every minute, at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth – that means 529 000 women a year. In addition, for every woman who dies in childbirth, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year.”

“Five direct complications account for more than 70% of maternal deaths: haemorrhage (25%), infection (15%), unsafe abortion (13%), eclampsia (very high blood pressure leading to seizures – 12%), and obstructed labour (8%). While these are the main causes of maternal death, unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable, or poor quality care is fundamentally responsible. They are detrimental to social development and wellbeing, as some one million children are left motherless each year. These children are 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers’ death.”

The figures are horrendous, and the responses to reversing these deaths are slow and uneven, with some countries showing great progress and others like ours little to none. I hasten to add if it were men who were dying like this, we would not be this lethargic as we would have acted with greater vigor, and commitment to meeting the MDG 5 commitment.

In South Africa maternal mortality figures have gone up exacebated by the HIV epidemic. But I suggest the public (and here, I refer to the media and population at large) have to date only played a small and insignificant role in making this the political issue that it truly is. I looked at the Reconstruction and Development Programme (1994) and I did not see it first glance, but re-reading it, I found this clear commitment:

“There must be a programme to improve maternal and child health through access to quality antenatal, delivery and postnatal services for all women. This must include better transport facilities and in-service training programmes for midwives and for traditional birth attendants. Targets must include 90 per cent of pregnant women receiving antenatal care and 75 per cent of deliveries being supervised and carried out under hygienic conditions within two years. By 1999, 90 per cent of deliveries should be supervised. These services must be free at government facilities by the third year of the RDP. In addition, there should be established the right to six months paid maternity leave and 10 days paternity leave.”

I know that Apartheid neglect has a role to play in our current challenges but so too, must the democratically elected government take some blame for the serious missed opportunities in turning the corner on maternal mortality and other related health, poverty and inequality challenges. The major failing of the democratically elected government in this area has been the inability to translate good policy into good and effective working programmes that meets the objectives set.

Millenium Development Goal 5 commits nations to Improve maternal health by reducing by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio.

The South African government has noted that this is one of their major challenges with an estimated maternal mortality ratio of 150/ 100,000 live births. This ratio was considered unacceptably high and thus government initiated an inquiry into maternal deaths. HIV/AIDS was found to be one of the major causes of the high maternal mortality rate with non-pregnancy related infections, which includes AIDS, increasing from 23% in 1998 to 31.4% in 2005.


During 1997, the Minister of Health in South Africa made maternal deaths notifiable and thereafter set up the National Committee for the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (NCCEMD). The other country that has a similar committee is the UK, and by all accounts such initiatives are reported to be very successful in cutting down the number of avoidable deaths of mothers.

In preparing for my short essay (not this posting) I was amazed – despite all the talk about mobilisation of communities, women, families in this gigantic struggle – trying to access the documents electronically is not that easy. Part of the problem is that these documents are posted on the department of health’s website and they do not have a very user friendly programme based web resource.

The NCCEMD has produced three reports, with great loads of practical activies, that must be used NOT only by professional doctors and academics. I do not understand why the NCCEMD do not have their own blog, linked to the ( I will come back to this later).


In the UK, maybe the initiative appears to be more of a non govenmental one ( Having been started as a unit within CEMACH, it was set up in April 2003 as a unit within the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and has a dedicated website housing their reports. Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) commenced its work in 2003 with similar objectives “to improve the health of mothers, babies and children by carrying out confidential enquiries on a nationwide basis and by widely disseminating our findings and recommendations”. According to their website, ICEMACH will become an independent charity on 1 July 2009 with the new name ‘Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries’ (CMACE).

Earlier I wrote about the inaccessibility of vital documents necessary for inform discourse and action, and it must be clear that I am not proposing that SA go this way (CMACE), but simply that the documents so valuable to saving lives be upfront — so that others cannot say – they did not know it was that bad. This will not eradicate the problem, but information acted upon is powerful. ( I do know that a few NGOs such as Health Systerms Trust, have tried to keep detailed records of important reports and documents, but these have to be kept in a user friendly manner by those entrusted with the public mandate)

Back to the South African reports: a  valuable resource is
1. Department of Health, Saving Mothers, Report 1998, Pretoria:Department of Health 1999.
The electronic report can be found at:

2. Department of Health, Saving Mothers, second report on Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in South Africa 1999-2001, Pretoria: Department of Health 2002. This report is not available electronically despite the committee and the Minister of Health committing to dessiminate information as one tool to fighting marternal mortality. However, an  electronic sources simply list the Second Interim Report on Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in South Africa – 1999 [PDF], and I list them both hereunder.

3. Department of Health, Saving Mothers, third report on Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in South Africa 2002-2004, Pretoria: Department of Health 2006.
Electronic source: I am sorry but it does not even appear on the health department’s website, a search only shows a reference to it, as part of the annual report and financial reporting.
It was however located on If I am wrong, please send a comment, and I will reflect on the points, and if wrong, apologise and make the necessary changes.

4. A fourth report is to be released during this year. I hear it is out, but not yet public.

In solidarity

1:30am 16 May (for Leila and her mum, my partner)

Football: a helping hand (foot and header) against racism and poverty

Filed under: opinion article,sports — newritings @ 3:11 pm

When Gnegneri Yaya Touré (born May 13, 1983 in Ivory Coast) FC Barcelona star scored his brilliant goal against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey, Wednesday, he also scored a goal  against racism amongst a minority of the generally progressive Basque fans at the match. In the media today, he continued to speak out against racism and we must thank and join him in our collective disapproval of racism and sexism in sports and society. There is a need for a consistent campaign against racism and not only when some fans yell racist comments against opposing teams. Groups such as FARE, Football Against Racism in Europe, must be supported. The group has as its objectives the following:

– To promote a commitment to fight racism at all levels of professional and amateur football across Europe – in stadiums, on the pitch, in administration, in coaching and sport education and through the media

– To raise awareness amongst the football family to the integrative potential of football and to encourage players, clubs, associations, supporters, coaches, administrators, referees, journalists and policy makers to take action against discrimination

– To foster networking and exchange of good practice transnationally with a range of partners

– To undertake activities to capacity build and empower marginalized and discriminated groups, in particular young people, migrants and ethnic minorities.

But there is another story that took my heart  today, a bit belated but nevertheless, it is about Villarreal star (ex Arsenal) Robert Pires  who could be called in the name of a lesser known John Lennon song, A working class hero. The report in the  UK Sun newspaper ran a story last month about Robert Pires being part of a Spanish scheme to give fans on the dole free tickets – Villarreal are part of an initiative to give former season-ticket holders who have lost their jobs free entry.

It is believed that the higher earning players like Pires will contribute to the scheme to make this possible. This is in response to giving a helping hand to the greedy hand of the not so invisible hand of capitalism which is behind the massive job losses and misery affecting many of the working peoples and the poor of the world. The Sun reported that “Michael Brunskill from fans group the Football Supporters’ Federation wants to see the same in the Premier League” in the UK. Supporting those who make the game must be welcomed and emulated globally. To make sports for all a reality, the social net must be cast wider, but that is a subject for much longer work and must involve the Spanish FA and world football community. (And you may ask, what of the Olympic movement or other sporting codes?)

May 12, 2009

Grace Before Dying

Filed under: some of my favorite things,testimonies — newritings @ 9:53 pm

By Lori Waselchuk

If you live in and around New Orleans, Grace Before Dying will be shown at the New Orleans Museum of Art for three days during the opening weekend and preview of The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography, May 15 – 17, 2009.

The website for the exhibition and traveling schedule for 2009 – 2010 is now live:

Lori Waselchuk

If you love her work as we do, check her out. Here we found other stuff on the web:

May 8, 2009

Zuma victory puts world press on notice?

Filed under: opinion article — newritings @ 6:28 pm

Zapiro in hot water or cold?

Zapiro in hot water or cold?

The ANC and in particular Jacob Zuma’s win “puts world press on notice”. This is the essence of an article in The Australian by Bruce Loudon | April 27, 2009 and revolves around Ranjeni Munusamy’s views on the tension between the ANC president and the press – what she calls “seven years of slander” of Zuma. Correctly, she says that the media “has not told the Jacob Zuma story — apart from the criminal cases against him and battles in theANC”. She also adds: “Zuma’s challenge (after the election victory) is to govern and deliver on the ANC’s election promises. It’s up to the media to find a way out of the corner they painted themselves into, and migrate to a position of neutrality and credibility to report on the new government.” It further quotes the executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, Jane Duncan, who says that “there’s a lot of unhappiness within the ANC over coverage of Zuma, and that will be even more the case now that the party has won such a strong vote of confidence from the electorate.” In addition, she said: “there is a deep-seated anger and resentment among many. I definitely think there are elements within the ANC and government who are trying to limit media freedom. And I think that it has actually been a fairly long-term trend. (…) The political culture has been one of growing hostility towards a free and independent media, and that has now been transformed into a strategy.”

Senior ANC official deny this, but it appears that the case against Zapiro is set to continue. Zapiro draws the president of the ANC and the country with a shower – like halo – over his head, after the president appeared in a court case where he was accused (and acquitted of rape). During cross examination president Zuma spoke of having taken a shower after having sex with an HIV person, so as to reduce his chances of contracting the virus. He later apologized for the comments on national radio and television saying: “I should have been more cautious and more responsible,” said Zuma in an interview to SABC radio at the time. “I erred on this issue and on this, I apologise. The continuing dispute of the Z’s (Zuma vs Zapiro) is the cartoon on the rape of justice. The drawing shows African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma unbuckling his belt in front of a lady justice who is being held down by leaders of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the ANC Youth League and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), with the word “Go for it boss.”

Democracy needs dissenters as well as consenters. One without the other will lead to a Stalinised society, which will numb not only our limbs but our brains. The ANC must meet the press on principles, of free and fair comment, nothing more. Once there is agreement on what it means to have media that keeps our politicians and the private sector (and of course some of the big bucks NGOs too) accountable we can say that the media is doing a fine job. A media that is on the side of the people is one that opens up debate, and informs people of their choices, and one that reports the truth without fear or favour. This has been lacking in South Africa of recent times when leaks became news and the media became a player in the factional wars inside the ANC. Zapiro has been his own man, a mudracker of repute.

So does the ANC victory put the press on notice? I doubt it. See Zapiro cartoon.

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