Tag Archives: South Africa

There’s fate . . . and then you have this!

I believe I have just read what could be the most dramatic demonstration karma imaginable.

The Hill newspaper reports the following:

South African wildlife authorities say they have recovered the remains of a man suspected of poaching rhinoceroses, one of Africa’s most endangered great beasts.

But get a load of this . . . they believe the guy was killed by an elephant and his corpse was devoured by a pride of lions.

Check out the story here.

To be brutally candid, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react to this kind of story. I have heard about how some African governments have issued shoot-on-sight orders to park personnel who witness individuals killing wildlife illegally. Given that I am a devoted wild animal lover, I have cheered those reports.

Should I feel badly for this guy’s family? I suppose so. Park officials have offered their condolences, which is appropriate.

This development, if it turns out to be true, would buttress the old commercial jingle that over the years has turned into something of a cliché: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Too many sharks, or too many humans?

Brian Kilmeade is one of Fox News Channel’s co-hosts on its “Fox and Friends” morning show.

He wonders — in the wake of the spate of shark attacks — whether coastal authorities are doing enough to rid the waters of the predatory fish before swimmers dive into the surf.


A champion surfer, Mick Fanning, was attacked by what is thought to be a great white shark while surfing off the South Africa coast. He fended off the attack and was rescued.

Still, Kilmeade pondered aloud: “You would think that they would have a way of clearing the waters before a competition of this level,” he opined. “But I guess they don’t.”

I rather like the response from a shark expert, George Burgess, who told The New York Post: “We’re basically flooding them out of their own home. It’s a function of how many people we’ve got,” Burgess pointed out. “You get this unholy mix of bait fish, sharks and humans together. When you have that, you’re going to have some bites.”

So, is the problem that we have too many human beings swimming in shark habitat? I get what Scripture says about humans having “dominion” over the animals.

Let’s be reasonable about this. Why would you stage a surfing competition in a coastal region where it is known to be populated by predators, such as great white sharks?

The oceans are vast and so are the beaches that surround them. How about looking elsewhere for those monster waves?

Obama set to meet Castro

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are going to attend a meeting together this weekend.

They’ll shake hands. They’ll talk to each other. They’ll likely exchange an idea or two about the changing relationship between their two countries. And much of the world will be hanging on every look, gesture and spoken word.

Is this a big deal? Yes. But perhaps not for reasons that some have given for it.


This won’t be a meeting between equals. Obama is head of state of the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power. Castro heads a third-rate, Third World nation that folks once thought posed some sort of threat to the United States of America.

Cuba never really did pose that threat. What danger existed essentially evaporated right along with the Soviet Union in 1991. Still, U.S. and Cuban relations remained frozen in time.

That’s changing now that Obama and Castro have agreed to proceed toward normalization. The economic, travel and diplomatic embargoes are going to end in due course. Cuba will get to become an actual neighbor of the United States.

The leaders will meet at the Summit of the Americas. They shook hands briefly at a memorial service for the great Nelson Mandela a couple of years ago. This meeting is supposed to signal the start of a new relationship.

Yes, critics chide Obama for ignoring Cuba’s human rights issues. Sure thing. As if we don’t have diplomatic ties with other nations around the world with dubious human rights reputations. Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China — they all come to mind. I believe it was President Reagan who followed what was called a policy of “constructive engagement” with South Africa when that nation was operating under its apartheid policy that denied its black majority any rights of citizenship.

This meeting is long overdue. The Cuban Missile Crisis has receded into history. Raul Castro’s brother, Fidel, has retired from his lifetime job as president, is in frail health and appears to no longer be the commanding presence in the island nation.

The time arrived long ago for the nations to establish a formal relationship.

It’s good that Barack Obama and Raul Castro are going to that important step together.

Speak carefully … always

Secretary of State John Kerry is the latest victim of the urge to record everything everyone says every time they say it.

That does not for a moment excuse what he said the other day in what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, which is that Israel may be turning into an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t hammer out a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


The term “apartheid” is poison in polite international policy company. South Africa implemented that disgraceful policy for many decades in which it denied the black majority living there the rights of citizenship. Whites and blacks couldn’t interact with each other. The policy ended with the release from prison in the early 1990s of the late Nelson Mandela. The rest is history.

Kerry’s use of the term at the very least was careless. It well may have damaged U.S.-Israel relations beyond repair.

Why wasn’t he smarter than to make his point another way? Didn’t he learn from recent history, such as the time Mitt Romney was caught on an audio recording at a fundraising dinner making his infamous “47 percent” remarks about how nearly half of Americans are going to vote Democratic because they depend on government subsidies and handouts? Didn’t he learn from the video recording of Congressman Vance McAllister making out with his staffer? There are countless other instances of people in high places being caught saying and doing things they regret because someone had a recording device hidden somewhere.

A Daily Beast reporter recorded Kerry’s statements the other day, getting past detection and apparently not heeding ground rules stipulating the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

In this world of instant communication where everyone has a set of electronic eyes and ears, the only response simply is: Too bad.

Mandela was no pork-barrel politician

They’re burying Nelson Mandela today in his hometown of Qunu, in a remote eastern region of South Africa.

Indeed, the remoteness of the great man’s home brings me to an interesting point. Listening to NPR on Friday, I heard something that caught me by surprise. A Qunu villager actually was critical of Mandela for — are you ready for this? — failing to bring more modernity and infrastructure to his hometown.

The news report detailed how much hassle it would be for Qunu to prepare for this event that is drawing worldwide attention. The village lacks many modern amenities. Roads are unpaved. There’s virtually no lodging available for visiting dignitaries. Qunu lacks much of the sewage and fresh water infrastructure that is needed to accommodate the visitors.

The individual being interviewed wondered why “Madiba,” as Mandela is called, would have neglected his hometown while basking in the glory of international acclaim and reverence.

Interesting, I thought.

I’ve tried to ponder the implications of that criticism.

Imagine, then, this scenario playing out. Suppose Barack Obama would steer road and bridge development to his south Chicago neighborhood, or perhaps to Hawaii, the state of birth. Imagine if you will George W. Bush directing federal money to Crawford, Texas, where he vacationed often while he was president and where he has a small ranch; Crawford could use some highway improvements, too. What if Bill Clinton had done the same for his hometown of Hope, Ark., or George H.W. Bush done so for Houston (which doesn’t need as much federal help as many small towns in America)? Hey, Ronald Reagan came from a small town in Illinois, Dixon. Couldn’t that town have used a little presidential push to build infrastructure? Same for Plains, Ga., Jimmy Carter’s hometown.

Any of those men would have been accused of promoting pork-barrel politics above the national interest.

Might that have been the case for Nelson Mandela, who presided for a single term — from 1994 to 1999 — over what’s been called a “developing country”? Its gross domestic product goes only so far and it well might have raised more than a few eyebrows if Qunu had received money that could have been spent in other struggling villages.

Mandela will be buried today. The town will erect a suitable monument to its iconic son.

My hunch is that Nelson Mandela eventually will bring much in the form of tourist money to Qunu now that he’s gone.

His greatness lives on.

Shaking hands with a foe? Stop the presses!

I can hear it now from the conservative media.

There he goes again, shaking hands with our enemies.

President Obama today took a moment at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service to shake hands with Cuban president Raul Castro, who was among the 100 or so heads of state and government who traveled to South Africa to honor the life of one of history’s greatest liberators.

Obama took his seat among the dignitaries and shook hands with a number of them. One of them happened to be Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro, the communist dictator who outlasted 10 U.S. presidents — all of whom sought to remove him from power in Cuba. The United States still has a trade embargo in place against Cuba, a nation we still regard as some kind of geopolitical threat — even though the Cold War ended more than two decades ago.

Then the commentators made an important point about Obama’s fleeting gesture of good will toward Castro: It is totally in keeping with the life of the man they all were gathered to honor.

I’ve said it here already, but it bears repeating. Nelson Mandela emerged from imprisonment in February 1990 with his head held high and his hand held out to those who held him captive. He could have fomented violence. He could have returned to freedom an angry man bent on revenge.

Instead, he reached out to his foes and said, in effect, “Let’s build a new nation together. I need you and you need me.”

No one on Earth — except Barack Obama and Raul Castro — know what they said to each other for all of about two seconds. It doesn’t matter. The nations still are at odds over a whole host of issues. The two men weren’t present in that massive Soweto stadium to argue with each other. They were there to honor a great man’s memory and his glorious life of reconciliation.

Santorum defames Mandela’s struggle

I’ll admit I didn’t see this one coming.

On the heels of Nelson Mandela’s death this week in South Africa, we hear from a two-bit American politician who equates the great Mandela’s struggle against injustice and tyranny with Republicans’ effort to rid the United States of the Affordable Care Act.

Yep, according to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the two battles stand as moral equals. That’s what he told Bill O’Reilly. Have a listen.


I don’t know which offends more: Santorum’s equating the two fights or O’Reilly’s failure to call him out on his ridiculous comparison.

I’ll stick with the original offense, which would be Santorum’s asinine assertion.

Say whatever you wish about the ACA or about its chief benefactor, President Barack Obama, what is going on now in the United States bears no resemblance, none, to what Nelson Mandela endured as he led the movement to rid South Africa of its apartheid policy.

You remember apartheid, yes? It was the policy that required separate societies within South Africa, one for the white minority that governed the country and the other for black residents who comprised the overwhelming majority of the country’s population. The black residents, though, didn’t have the right to vote or to have any voice at all in the policies that suppressed them.

This was the battle Mandela fought and which cost him 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island.

For a one-time U.S. senator who may run for president yet again to compare his party’s struggle against the Affordable Care Act with what Nelson Mandela endured is offensive beyond all measure.

R.I.P., Nelson Mandela

One of the world’s greatest men has left us.

The life of Nelson Mandela, who died today at age 95, can be summed up, for me, in a single word: courage.

He endured 27 years in prison because he fought for equality for the majority of South Africa’s citizens, who were denied basic human rights under a policy called “apartheid.”

He emerged from prison in 1990 with his head held high. He became, in an instant, a towering world figure.

Mandela then ran for president of his country in 1994. For the first time in their history, millions of black South Africans were given the chance to vote. They stood in line for days to vote. They wept. They cheered. They performed their rights as citizens with immense pride. Mandela won, becoming the first black man to lead his country.


In the summer of 2004 I had the privilege of laying eyes on the great man. I attended the International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand. Mandela was there to talk about tuberculosis, another communicable disease that he contracted while imprisoned. He came into a room full of journalists. I stood about 40 feet from him. He spoke for a few minutes and then left the room.

I didn’t speak to the great man, shake his hand, pat him on the back, nothing. Just being in the room with him — in its way — had some undefined effect on me. I am proud to have seen him.

Yes, he had his critics. He was too cozy with communist leaders, they said. Mandela’s response: They were the folks who stood behind him during his time in prison. He owed them for their loyalty.

He also said something else upon his release. He spoke of his lack of bitterness at his captors. A coward might lash out, casting aspersions on those who had deprived him of his freedom.

Mandela, courageous man that he was, instead spoke of the triumph he had scored. Apartheid had come to an end upon his release from prison. That, he said, was cause for joy.

He was a happy man. He also embodied courage beyond measure.

Well done, Mr. President.