Mugabe is as good as Comedy Central

Mark Wignall

Thursday, September 13, 2012

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From the CIA Factbook, Jamaica leads Zimbabwe in school life expectancy, primary to tertiary (Ja 14 years: Zm 9 years); children under the age of five underweight (Ja 2.2 per cent: Zm 14 per cent ); HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (Ja 1.7 per cent: Zm 14.3 per cent ); doctors per 1000 population (Ja 0.85: Zm.0.17); lower fertility rate - children born per woman (Ja 2.12: Zm. 3.61); life expectancy at birth (Ja 73 years: Zm 52 years); infant mortality rate - deaths per 1000 live births (Ja 14.3: Zm 28.2); maternal mortality rate - deaths of mothers per 1000 live births (Ja 110: Zm 570); death rate per 1000 (Ja 6.6: Zm 12.4); GDP per capita (Ja US$9,100: Zm US$500) and population below poverty line (Ja16.5 per cent - 2009: Zm 68 per cent - 2004).

Granted, even though Zimbabwe has been growing its dull economy faster than us, it has a lot of catching up to do in many other areas. For now I would recommend to the octogenarian dictator Robert Mugabe - who is widely accused of rigging the 2002 presidential elections and refuses to walk away from power - a dose of the very sins he accused us of having.

Drink some rum, Robert Mugabe, and smoke a little weed.

In the interim, remind yourself of this: Jamaica has many crucial, systemic social and economic problems. In 1975 when Singapore's leader Lee Kuan Yew visited Jamaica, he later commented on a key area of our socio-cultural and political problems.

"At Kingston, Jamaica, in April 1975, Prime Minister Michael Manley, a light-skinned West Indian, presided with panache and spoke with great eloquence. But I found his views quixotic. He advocated a 'redistribution of the world's wealth'. His country was a well-endowed island of 2,000 square miles, with several mountains in the centre, where coffee and other subtropical crops were grown. They had beautiful holiday resorts built by Americans as winter homes. Theirs was a relaxed culture. The people were full of song and dance, spoke eloquently, danced vigorously, and drank copiously. Hard work they left behind with slavery."

While Lee Kuan Yew may have been wrong about the winter homes bit, every other observation was spot on. In what could only be described as a miracle of hard work and the total mobilisation of the people of the small city state, in 35 years Lee transformed Singapore from a backwoods country to a first-world destination that today is the envy of the rest of the world. So, maybe he - and certainly not Mugabe - had more than a leg to stand on in criticising us.

The price paid? Lee neutered trade unions, almost obliterated political opposition, made the media redundant and introduced many draconian laws. How could he have known that his radical experiment would have worked so successfully and how could the people have reposed so much trust in him to get it right?

To me, it is always a gamble whenever a leader says, "Give me total, unimpeded power and together we will attain our social and economic salvation." The fact is, the people of Singapore took that gamble and the payout was bigger than a lottery win.

The last time we had a potentially transformative leader whom the people trusted was in 1972 - Michael Manley. But, to me, he blew it because such an intelligent man should have known the economic consequences of his wild political experimentations at a time when the geopolitical landscape was defined by Cold War tensions and the reality of America's Monroe Doctrine in the Caribbean Basin.

Carreras 2012 Scholarship scores big with our boys

Recently, I was privileged to be part of a six-person committee (three women, three men) which vetted and awarded three main county scholarships from 21 applicants. And pleasantly surprising was the fact that where there were 13 women applicants to seven men, the men topped it. Eat that, Mugabe!

For Cornwall there was Carnel Campbell, a 20-year-old young man who was involved in just about everything in his community. Student counsellor, junior counsellor for Somerton region, 4-H club leader, plus a longer list of activities. Carnel wants to become a civil engineer.

Doing a four-year civil rngineering course at UTech he piled up impressive credits to get the nod from us. A Cornwall College graduate, the young man scored distinctions in English, IT, chemistry, geography, maths, mechanical engineering technology, physics and technical drawing.

In Middlesex there was Peton Muschette, a most impressive young man at age twenty-one. Incredibly, this youngster aced nine subjects in CXC, aced nine in CAPE (pure maths units one and two, physics one and two, chemistry one and two, biology one and two, applied maths unit one and communication studies). Peton answered every question the committee asked and even countered the difficult maths question I asked him. He will be the next great Jamaican actuary.

In Surrey there was Noel Forbes Matherson, 22 years old. Currently enrolled at NCU, this Munro College graduate had not only mastered all of the science subjects in CAPE and CSEC but at NCU he is involved in the five extra-curricular areas at the highest levels; when he was at Munro he was Governor General's Award recipient, class valedictorian, head of house, junior mayor of Black River, youth parliamentarian - and the list goes on. Matherson very obviously is aiming to become a highly skilled physician.

Runners-up in the counties were two other men, Kemar Barrett (Cornwall), Romain Thompson (Middlesex) and the highly impressive and only woman in the line-up, Abigail Morris, currently attending UWI.

Formerly of Golden Grove Primary in St Thomas and Immaculate Conception High School, Abigail intends to become a neurosurgeon.

Said Abigail, "I have always wanted to become a doctor. Initially, it was because the practice of medicine was known as a prestigious occupation. Later I realised that there was much more to the field than I had believed. Like many other youngsters I was inspired by Dr Ben Carson's story and made the decision to become a neurosurgeon. I am more confident that this is the career for me."

Thank you, Carnel Campbell, Peton Muschette, Noel Matherson, Kemar Barrett, the whiz kid from Mannings and Unity Primary School in Westmoreland, Romain Thompson from Glenmuir and the bright Abigail Morris.

You will indeed make us proud. And thank you, Carreras.

Now, Mr Mugabe, show me YOUR country's future.




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