Addenda to previous post: Deng Thiak Adut and more

Thought of January 2016, given recent African youth crime stories: How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address. See also in October 2017 Deng Thiak Adut: ‘Refugees are not here to do miracles’.

Despite his achievements, Deng warns against expecting all refugees who arrive in Australia to become overnight success stories.

“Refugees are not here to do miracles,” he says. “They are here to be assisted. They suffer from long-term trauma…You can’t expect them to get out there and succeed. They need help. They need personal contact. They need psychological assistance, they need counselling. They need support in terms of jobs.”…

“There is a problem in this country,” he says, calling attention to the many forms of discrimination – based on race, religion, sexuality, ability – found in the community. “Those who are on the fringe, they are people who look like me. We sit at the same table. I have to protect them. I have to voice their concerns. I will listen to them.”
Deng’s brother John was also a university graduate, with a double degree in anthropology and international development. He was “discriminated against”, says Deng, and unable to find work in his field in Australia. He returned to South Sudan where he was tragically killed in 2014.


For context: see an oral history project recording the migration journeys and settlement experiences of southern Sudanese refugees now living in Blacktown, Western Sydney. See also Who are Australia’s South Sudanese? and South Sudanese honored Philip Ruddock in NSW during the refugee’s week.

Philip Ruddock was a Minister of Immigration when he travelled to Kakuma more than a decade ago. His mission led to the mass migration of the South Sudanese refugees who were stationed in Kakuma refugee camp. During the 2015 refugee day, South Sudanese and other marginalised areas Community Association in NSW honoured Philip for his care.

NOTE: My point in these two posts has been that whatever the undoubted bad that those young thugs have been doing — and may all the relevant authorities and leaders work on that! — I am sick of the panic being whipped up for naked political purposes, such as the next Victorian election. So I praise and agree with ‘Too much panic, not enough perspective’ and totally deplore this phenomenonon: Victoria’s African community ‘stereotyped, victimised’ for the sins of young kids.


Bye, bye Bob! And about bloody time too!


Ah, poor Zimbabwe, potentially a prosperous nation blessed by nature. But that all went down the tube years ago, thanks to the Twerp-in-Chief. Did manage to set a record of a kind though, as I noted in 2010.


One of my past posts follows:–

Jun 2008: Divine right of Mugabes and other illusions

Well, now we have it. The man is barking mad.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe says “only God” can remove him from office, as the opposition MDC considers pulling out of next week’s run-off election amid escalating violence.

“The MDC will never be allowed to rule this country – never ever,” Mr Mugabe told local business people in Bulawayo – Zimbabwe’s second largest city – referring to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

“Only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British.” — ABC News.

I can’t help but reflect on the sad history of good ideas gone wrong.

Mugabe is locked in to a postcolonial agenda of land reform, and given the history of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe one can see where he has come from. There was an injustice to correct. In just two decent life spans this part of the world has had amazing transformations and has lurched from one unsustainable position — white dominance — to another. The great tragedy is that the majority of Zimbabweans, whatever their ethnicity, are — if they are still in their unfortunate country — worse off in the main than they were, because Mugabe is: 1) utterly impractical; 2) corrupt, given to favouring his own house and his cronies; 3) ruthless in the very worst sense of not caring what suffering must come to achieve his “utopia”; 4) dominated by a military clique; 5) utterly mad — as I said. He is indeed, and his country is, as the Kenyan leader said recently, an eyesore in Africa.

  • See Fallen hero, Jane Fraser’s review of Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland in today’s Weekend Australian:

    …Although she stops short of condemning the man completely, possibly because she lives in southern Africa and would have justified fears for her safety, the only conclusion one can come to is that he is a monster. The question that remains is whether he was born evil or was turned evil by some of the tragedies of his life…

    Holland’s first meeting with Mugabe improved her chances of getting a personal interview. He had not spoken to the press for three years when she was told to travel from Johannesburg to Harare in case he would see her. He did and the final chapter is both riveting and without hope.

    How do you reconcile his description of the way he governed and his belief that he was misunderstood. “I don’t know whether one is misunderstood. I think the people around me understand me very well,” he told her. “But it’s the world outside that doesn’t seem to understand. They don’t appreciate what our real calling was as leaders: they think we’re in politics to enhance our status. They don’t realise that for us it was a real calling. We saw people suffer. We could not accept that our country was in the hands of a colonial power. That sense of sacrifice had to be there: you had to sacrifice yourself.”

    The more you read, the more obvious it is that Mugabe has little concept of reality. He lives in a personal bubble of a world, in which he is a selfless and successful leader….

Worth reading is this from Vanity Fair, July 2008.

I am pleased that so far the overdue ouster of Mugabe has been relatively peaceful. But one does wonder about what happens next.

The man poised to replace Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president is named Emmerson Mnangagwa, but he’s known as “The Crocodile”.

He served for decades as Mr Mugabe’s enforcer — a role that earned him a reputation for being astute, ruthless and good at manipulating the various levers of power.

Among the people, he is more feared than popular, but he has friends within the military and security forces….

See also on Foreign Policy Mugabe is a Goner, But His Looting Machine is Here to Stay.

One event dominates this day, 6 December 2013


My six degrees of separation dates back to my time teaching at Masada College where were many people from South Africa, especially Johannesburg. The father of one of my colleagues had sheltered Nelson Mandela at the time Mandela was a wanted man. Consequently I have been particularly aware of the Jews of South Africa, and was reminded very much when I saw a most moving tribute on ABC News 24 by Richard Lubner, from the Australian branch of

See also Afrika Tikkun Australia. I borrowed the picture at the head of this post from their Facebook page.

Today I had intended to say more about the Leonard Cohen concert. Strangely, it does seem appropriate to repeat what was for me one of the most affecting parts of that night:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your wïll.

— Leonard Cohen

Update 7 December

Among the many, many tributes to Nelson Mandela let me single out two from today’s Age/Herald.  First because it ties in with the personal angle I took above:  Nelson Mandela: A colossus whose time had to come by Vic Alhadeff, former chief subeditor of The Cape Times and now chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Second, for obvious reasons, J M Coetzee, Nelson Mandela held his turbulent country together during dangerous years.

He was, and by the time of his death was universally held to be, a great man; he may well be the last of the great men, as the concept of greatness retires into the historical shadows.

Jakob Ejersbo, “Exile”– and concerns about my Kobo

Here I am yesterday about to enjoy the $10 roast lamb at Wollongong Hellenic Club.


Note the book.

I really didn’t know what to expect. I am not all that fond of present tense narration or of a style featuring lots of really short sentences, and this has both. It also has a teenage female narrative viewpoint. And Michael Arditti is rather dismissive in his Daily Mail review.

In a series of honest but tediously repetitive episodes, the protagonist, Samantha, describes her aimless, pleasure-seeking life, her relationships with her violent father (a former SAS officer turned mercenary), her inadequate mother and supportive sister, and her classmates, in particular the boys, whom she alternately titillates and despises…

Despite the detailed Tanzanian setting (the most  successful element of the novel), Exile resembles nothing more than a hardcore version of an American high school rom-com, with drug-fuelled orgies replacing drugstores and the Prom.

I find myself rather more enthralled.

Synopsis: Samantha has lived in Tanzania since she was three years old. Her parents run an exclusive travel lodge and are too absorbed by their own affairs to pay much attention to their daughter. The mother sips expat gin and tonics under the midday sun; the father, a former S.A.S. officer turned mercenary, busies himself with dead end coup d’etats and clandestine love affairs with local women. Samantha learns quickly that affection comes at a premium, at a price she is always willing to pay, however shallow and transitory the experience, however hollow the love on offer. Before long, her reputation precedes her, losing her friends as quickly as it gains her admirers amongst the town’s less savoury elements, for whom consent is barely an afterthought. When Samantha meets Victor, middle-aged and, like her father, a mercenary, she falls for him instantly, persuading herself that his love will finally free her from her past. But Victor is already married, and she is not the first young girl to catch his wandering eye.  Exile is the first part of a powerful and gritty trilogy that explores the listless, self-destructive lives of rootless, European ex-pats, laying bare intractable post-colonial tensions and capturing effortlessly the tragic beauty of a continent run into the ground and sinking into the mire.

Source: Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy loves it.

Despite the matter-of-fact storytelling it did evoke emotion in me as I followed Sam through her emotional ups and downs. I was completely taken by surprise for the ending, but it certainly fit with the path that Sam had taken throughout the novel. Exile is a very dark and cynical story so if you want a story where everyone lives happily ever after then this is not the story for you!

I can’t wait for the sequels to be released, Revolution in 2012 and Liberty in 2013. It’s a shame the author died before seeing this trilogy in print.

5/5 rating

I haven’t quite reached the end yet, but I am sure giving the book bugs0abugs0abugs0abugs0a so far.

See also Slightly Read.

It is a book that reeks of urgency, in all kinds of ways.There is a rawness and a panic to nearly all of Samantha’s actions, and there is a scathing honesty and simplicity to the words that describe them. Ejersbo –  a Danish writer whose depiction of a Tanzania as rife with poverty and corruption as it was in my day, as it is today, was informed by his own time living there – died of cancer in 2008 and seems to have spent his final months ensuring his trilogy was completed before he succumbed to the disease. If the other parts of the trilogy are as compelling and affecting as this one then he’ll have left a notable legacy.

On the writer see Jakob Ejersbo 1968 – 2008.

I am also enjoying what I am learning about life in Tanzania through the novel, and even if, I imagine,  the folk at the International School in Moshi might not totally enjoy the portrait Ejersbo paints it has had the effect of interesting me in the place.


The Class of 2013 at The International School, Moshi, Tanzania

And now the possible dying of my Kobo. Yesterday when it was hooked up to my computer, as it is when adding books or recharging, it decided to update itself. Ever since the battery has shown signs of not to distant death, not holding its charge for nearly as long as it normally used to. There are also some ominous hints on this user site.

This product lasted 15 months, then battery stopped charging altogether, all kobo could advise me was it was sorry it is out of warranty. Did i wish to purchase a new one from them online. The unit was very slow to use would continually drop out from the page i was reading.

battery stopped recharging, very slow and cumbersome to use

I am recharging the Kobo right now. Let’s see if the charge lasts this time around. And yes, I have done all the things Kobo recommends to prolong battery life. But rereading my post I fear I am an eReader convert I see my Kobo is also 15 months old! The battery in the Kobo is embedded and cannot be replaced. Built-in obsolescence? Very likely.

As a precaution I am making sure later on that my eBook library is up-to-date on Baby HP where I can read via Calibre.

But real books don’t need batteries or screens of course.