Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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September 30, 2013
vanishing public space: Africa too

Catching up this past month on a couple of our back issues of AfricaWatch (April '13), we found Andre Vltchek's account of his visit to the so-called "worst place on earth," Harare:

Right next to my hotel is the entrance to a magnificent swimming complex . . . Right next to it are Harare Gardens, a beautiful English-style park with people resting on the grass, enjoying picnics, reading. 
To have such public and ‘open’ areas like parks is unthinkable in Jakarta, where there is only one public green area of substantial size, MONAS. And Jakarta is a monster with 12 million inhabitants, while Harare has a population of only two million. Two million that are enjoying several magnificent parks and gardens, wide sidewalks and art exhibited in public areas, all over the city. 
But let’s not forget -- Harare is a ‘defiant’ nation, a country that refuses to fall on its knees and to salute its tormentors. While Jakarta and Phnom Penh are the capitals of two market fundamentalist countries. They are choking on their own fumes, they have almost nothing that could be defined as public left, but in the eyes of Western regime, they can’t be as bad as Harare, Caracas, Havana or Beijing! They are enjoying great immunity from uncomfortable questions; as well as full, hearty support from business-religion publications like The Economist.
There are also almost no public spaces in other African capitals that have been serving as Western client states for year and decades, like Kampala, Kigali, Addis Ababa and Cairo, although, in the latter, at least, people are able to gather on the city’s bridges. 
But Harare, we are told, is the worst city on earth! 
. . . Could it be that things are not so bad in Harare? There are several decent hospitals, preventive medical care, the highest literacy rate, some of the lowest crime rates on the continent, and public spaces all around.

The piece was published at too, here.

TiR highlights the above phrase because it was the one that caused us nearly to spit coffee out through our nose, for reasons of irony, due to events this past summer that Vltchek might not have been able to foresee.

In fairness, the "worst city" designation apparently was awarded in 2011, in the Global Liveability survey report published by the Economist's "Intelligence Unit."  The latest survey, released last month, upgrades Harare to merely fifth worst.