Two-year old beaten to get his mother to confess in Zimbabwe prison

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A search result from Afrigator for the two-year old yields 3 results. Why aren't we talking about this?

This morning I woke up to a story on Global Voices about two-year old Nigel Mutemagau who was abducted with his parents three months ago and taken to Zimbabwe’s most notorious prison, Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where he was held in solitary confinement with his mother and beaten to get his mother to confess. I had just signed a petition on Denford Magora’s blog for the release of two-year old when I read in the Zimbabwe Times that he has just been released.

The release of Nigel follows last month’s order by High Court Judge Justice Yunus Omerjee ordering the release of the child, as well as various MDC members and human rights activists who were abducted from various locations over the past three months

They include former newscaster Jestina Mukoko who was abducted from her home in the town of Norton, 40 kilometres west of Harare.

Although Omerjee ruled that Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and eight MDC members must be released to a private hospital for medical examination after alleged torture, the state has defied the ruling.

According to ‘This is Zimbabwe Blog‘:

As Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina is viewed as the most high-profile person to be abducted by the State to date. Her role as a human rights activist, and her work in documenting the range of human rights violations and atrocities by the Zanu PF regime, made her a threat to a despotic regime intent on holding onto power at all costs.

The site also gives a list of recommended actions from Amnesty International (download PDF version of appeal here) which includes:

  • expressing grave concern over the abduction or arrest of Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who was forcibly taken from her home by people believed to be state security agents on 3 December 2008;
  • stating that Amnesty International considers that Jestina Mukoko is solely detained for expressing her views, without advocating violence, and considers her a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty International therefore calls for her immediate and unconditional release;
  • calling on the Zimbabwean authorities to immediately end its practice of enforced disappearances and follow international standards on arrest and detention for persons under criminal investigation;
  • expressing concern about continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and political activists by the Zimbabwean security forces;

and a list of fax numbers and contacts to send your appeals to.

I have avoided researching the Zimbabwe situation for too long – it had seemed so hopeless in the past. But stories like this make me realise how important it is to add my voice to this campaign. As an activist myself, I know how tenuous my own situation has been in the past, and how important it is for me to be able to say in the future that I didn’t stand by and let those brave enough to be living in and speaking out in Zimbabwe be tortured and assaulted in this way.

We can’t stay silent any longer.

Open data please!

David Sasaki mentioned the lack of open data in last year’s 24.com SA blogger survey in this post, but it was glossed over, I guess, because of his more controversial statements about blogger diversity. Now, after reading the results to find out more information about the South African blogosphere, I’m surprised that no one else (that I can see) has demanded the release of the raw data.

Instead, the controversy has focused on the really weak interpretation of the data. But if it had been open, then this interpretation would have been just one weak interpretation among many others published by a diverse range of interested bloggers. Our fabulous eagle-eyed bloggers pointed out a few errors based on the slides, but what makes us believe that there are no others?

It is clear that we need better data next time round, and as someone who completed the survey before, I for one won’t rest until there is a guarantee for the raw data to be made available to all. I’m also certain that at least some of the companies supporting last year’s survey (24.com, Afrigator, Amatomu, MoneyWeb Life, Bizcommunity) would be supportive of that too.

Next time, let’s see the data.

Writing for Global Voices

I’ve started writing for Global Voices. My first post is about the Donn Edwards libel case. I really enjoyed reading the different perceptions by bloggers about the case – it’s great to look out more than in for a change.

Most importantly, I’m wanting to help set up a more permanent home for bloggers to monitor freedom of expression cases in SA. We’ve learned some great lessons from this case, but until a case like this goes to court, there will be many more acts of intimidation against bloggers in the future. Anyone interested? Please email me or comment below.

Update 14 January 09 from Donn Edwards on his Facebook support group page:

‘Hello everyone, the case has been SETTLED in a way that benefits everyone. The settlement is amicable and we had a meeting at the Protea Hotel in Midrand over breakfast and coffee. All parties win, and I thank you all for your support. I have made some new friendships through this ordeal, and it is good to know that the ordeal is over.’

100 days 100 fears

I’ve had an idea brewing to write a blog next year about facing up to fears. The idea would be to do something that I’m afraid of every day for 100 days and write a daily post about the experience. Being in America brings it gushing to the fore. I realise how much I’m afraid of: looking into someone’s eyes after I’ve smiled at them as I walk down the street, telling someone who I love and admire just how I feel, saying no to a person when it’s clear where the power lies, walking into the city without a map and asking strangers for directions…

Small things, but I realise how big they become when you don’t give yourself the chance to face them.

What I’m interested in is being able to recognise when our fear is protecting us from being hurt (driving on the wrong side of the road, for example) and when it’s just stopping us from doing something because it’s uncomfortable and new (driving on the wrong side of the road, for example).

I’m only reticent because it’s so personal and would expose the my points of weakness (another fear in itself) – but, after reading another of El Oso’s beautiful posts (beautiful because it reflects such a revealing honesty about the author and his response to the world), I’m inspired to give it a go.

Support Afrigadget’s grassroots reporting project

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It’s always so great when you can see how the little you can give can make a huge difference. This from the fabulous folks at AfriGadget, a new project called ‘The Grassroots Reporting Project‘ that aims to find, equip and train more AfriGadget reporters in the field throughout Africa.

As this is our pilot project, we want to start small and learn lessons before we expand to other parts of the continent. Our first group is made up of some youth from the Khayelitsha township outside of Cape Town. Local blogger Frerieke van Bree is acting as their blogging and multimedia mentor as they are taught how to find and tell stories about local inventors, innovators and local people doing ingenious things around Cape Town. Two of the individuals that will be taking part in the program are Lukhona Lufuta and Zintle Sithole. Both live in Khayelitsha Township near Cape Town.

We’re not trying hard enough… in fact, we’re not trying at all

So glad that David Sasaki had stirred the pot a bit with his recent post about the South African blogging community not being nearly diverse enough.

I know that it’s frustrating when you feel that you’re only trying to help, but I’ll put this out there: how much are we as a blogging community really trying to do to heal the divides and build a bit of diversity into the South African blogging community? Diversity, as we’ve learned all too well in South Africa, is not just the right thing to do to build a stronger nation, it’s the right thing to do because it improves the quality and uniqueness of the industry. And in a world where quality and uniqueness are so important to stand out from the global crowd, this is the *most* important thing that we as a blogger community can do to uplift a frankly tired and staid local industry into something that we can be proud of.

Again the question: what have we done?

Have we actively sought to invite a diverse range of people to blogging events like the 27 dinner?

Have we done anything to bring new bloggers into the field with any training or mentorship?

Have we sought out the opinions of bloggers from people outside our own circle?

Have we commented on and supported the posts of new bloggers?

I say this because I accept some of the blame myself. This is a community. A community where we take collective responsibility for moving the industry forward because it’s important for all of us. Bloggers tend to be huge individualists, and I think that’s why we’ve focused on being better bloggers, getting better contacts, extending our own individual networks. But I think the time is ripe now to give some time and energy to the collective.

Let’s try to be less defensive and more reflective. You might think that David was being overly harsh. But the really average thing to do here would be to keep things as they (averagely) are.

Let’s make some communal new year’s resolutions to try. Because, frankly, I don’t think we’re trying hard enough… in fact, we’re not trying at all.

Opt out register a hit

I’m doing some research on defamation cases against bloggers in light of the blogger Donn Edwards being sued by Quality Vacation Club for complaining about the lack of transparency in the company’s direct marketing efforts, and have found a great resource in the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa‘s ‘opt out’ register. According to the DMA, the service enables consumers ‘to have their details removed from mailing lists used by marketers to promote goods and services’.

I’ve complained consistently to companies who call or SMS me about where they get my details, so I really hope that this works. It’s really simple to do, just go to this link on the DMA’s website and add your details.

I know that the Electronic Commerce and Transactions Act enables people to send communications to individuals but that there must be an opportunity to opt-out of further communication. We really need to put pressure on companies to implement opt-out instructions on SMSs and emails because it seems that so many are not. I also found this great email to send to companies who send unsolicited mail on internet.org.za:

On [insert date here], I received the following message from you:

| Blah, blah, blah

Since this is a commercial message, and since I have not requested to
be placed on your mailing list, this message constitutes an unsolicited
communication in terms of section 45 of the Electronic Communications
and Transactions Act (Act 25 of 2002).

In terms of section 45(4) of this Act, this message serves as
notification that I do not wish to receive any further communications
from you. Failure to comply with this request constitutes a criminal
offence in terms of the ECT Act.

Additionally, I hereby request that you immediately disclose where you
obtained my contact details, as per section 45(1) of the ECT Act.
Failure to respond to this request also constitutes a criminal offence.

 [ Optional paragraph:
 I note that your original message did not provide me with an option to
 cancel my subscription to your mailing list, as required by section 45(1)
 of the Act. This means that you may already have committed an offence
 in terms of section 45(3) of the Act, and may be subject to prosecution.
 ]

Should you wish to familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation,
or check my facts, a copy of the ECT Act is available on-line via the
Government's web site: http://www.gov.za/gazette/acts/2002/a25-02.pdf.

Your co-operation in this matter will be appreciated,