Matters of principle: African MomentsMichael Bitala
Wien: Picus Verlag, 2007
This slender volume is a collection of reports Bitala wrote during his time as Africa correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It consists of episodes, highlighted situations as well as descriptions of people the reporter met in Africa.
In Cape Town, he pays a visit to the crew of the yacht Shosholoza with Marcello Burricks who had worked himself out of the Townships. "Happiness", the "far too young" bargirl from the desert town Gao in Mali would like to be taken along to Europe, while the 24 year old Serge from Cameroon is attempting the dangerous crossing through the desert and across the Mediterranean for the sixth time. In Swaziland, he can only shake his head at the extravagance of Mswati III, the country’s peculiar ruler and in South Africa he tries to understand why the former prisoners who now work as tourist guides on Robben Island all have a touch of sarcasm. He reports on the doctor from Stuttgart, Matthias Rath, who profits from the despair of the sick in South African townships.
The reports are often hopeful, like the visit to Gaborone, capital of Botswana, Africa's "most boring town" or the meeting with a German businessman who continues to invest in his factory in the Congo in the midst of war and destruction. Many of the reports are absurd, such as the escapades of Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki’s wife or the attempt by German authorities to deport a rejected asylum seeker to Somaliland instead of Somalia because of an oversight.
Other reports leave one speechless: in the middle of war torn Kinshasa there is a nuclear reactor where farmers have their seeds irradiated with gamma rays in order to increase harvest potential, famine is caused in Malawi because of aid organisations' poor coordination and inappropriate policies, there is utter misery in Angola's "disarmament camps" after the war – and no-one helps.