This is Africa

When I saw the Leonaro DiCaprio Film ‘Blood Diamond’ two years ago I thought it a pretty good depiction of some of the realities of Africa today — corruption, Western greed, African greed and a fair bit of violence. My South African friend Karnie scoffed at such naivete. And she was probably right, I’ve only been to Africa twice and never to the east; Tanzania, as has been pointed out to me more than once here, is ‘real’ Africa.

Back to the film though . . . there’s a running motif throughout which ‘Deek’ (as I believe he is known in Tinseltown) utters now and again as a sort of slippy-shouldered philosophical negation of responsibility every time his character (former Rhodesian military man with a lust for diamonds) commits or witnesses some fraudulent deed. The phrase in question is ‘This is Africa’, shortened to TIA probably by scriptwriters keen to tap into that funky faddishness the Hollywood target demographic has for all things acronym.

For a few days after the film came out I offered up ‘This is Africa’ every time Karnie and I talked about any African situation from coups to HIV to cuisine. Of course it’s a glib expression and masks all sorts of realities and complexities that underpin every problem this continent faces. I can’t remember the last time I said it.

Last night colleague Krupa and I headed down to Coco Beach to check out a venue for this coming Tuesday’s World Have Your Say programme. The boss of the bar on the beach is 42-year-old Alfonse and like everyone here he was super-friendly and keen to help. Under a crystal-clear starry sky in a balmy 28 degrees we got chatting. When we asked him if he’d been affected by the slowdown we got a lot more than we bargained for. For about 30 minutes Alfonse told us his story about how he been in the bar business for 22 years and how he’d married and had 3 kids and how he also had a small farm and how business, generally, was muted and that he had many obstacles facing him at every twist and turn. He soon got onto the subject of his relationship with the authorities here. We were both keen to contribute but really it was a case of him talking at us.

Alfonse described how a politician had sold him the rights to run the only bar on Coco Beach. He’d been doing it for years when suddenly out of the blue he found out a local businessman had been sold the rights by another politician. He stood to lose everything: “This man was gonna take my bar? My BAR? What can I do?”

He looked at Krupa with wide-eyed indignation and then at me . . he paused for effect. That’s when I pounced. I put down my drink, affected by best all-knowing DiCaprio-syle eyebrow lift and — hating myself for saying it — delivered the cheesy line:

“This is Africa.”

Idi Amin’s personal bribery administrator couldn’t have delivered it with more aplomb.

Alfonse let rip a large smile and there was plainly a twinkle in his eye. “Yes!” he replied. “This is Africa.”

I would have preferred TIA but I’ll settle for the full OED expansion. Turns out in the end he kept the bar, not least because a friendly minister intervened to sort things out. Naturally the details were hazy. It wasn’t clear from a legal or indeed illegal point of view what had happened but this businessman still has his business and for now, in today’s climate, that’s no small beer. TIA.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!