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[Matthew Parris]

August 31, 2002

The Times of London remains in the gutter, publishing another commentary on Africa by the repellent Matthew Parris.

A few weeks ago, Mr Parris told us that Africa's elite are volatile, rapacious, brutal, infantile, cruel, corrupt cheats who have poor taste in luggage. "The little people," meanwhile, are easily-led by those who act in a "kingly manner."

Today, he concludes that John Prescott, the British Deputy Prime Minister, is an "African politician," because "he is a bruiser, he has charm, and he does not do much."

Mr Prescott could mingle easily with any African dictator, he continues, because he is fat, aggressive, likes cars, spends too much money on clothes, and dances in public. He has the same qualities that, supposedly, "made Idi Amin simultaneously murderous and fun."

Africans, you see, spend their lives either swaggering or grovelling, switching between the two states with "bewildering speed." Nelson Mandela did neither, but is "not the natural democratic product of his own people." Without apartheid, South Africans could never have elected such a leader.

Africans, Mr Parris believes, can only work "mindlessly in gangs under order" or "ingeniously and creatively alone," and are unable to do anything in-between.

This is why "it is of limited use spouting in Johannesburg about the importance of water." When a pipe is put in, there is little chance the community will look after it. "The failure of the whole concept of the ascription of responsibility to individuals, mean that what is created or started is not maintained."

This is a cultural, not a genetic problem, Mr Parris reassures us. "Their people are victims of their own culture. Released from a culture which exalts what is vain- glorious and undervalues what is worthwhile, what could they not achieve?"

David Steven | 08:31 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 30, 2002

For some reason this article from the London Times is still on your correspondent's mind...

David Steven | 10:56 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 18, 2002

Like a mirror image of Matthew Parris's bigotry, Jovial Ranta believes it's the blacks who are civilized - the whites who have no standards.

"One section of the nation, mainly white and Afrikaner Springbok supporters who believe they have been cheated by the referees in this Tri-nations series, saw Van Zyl as a hero," he writes. "Another section, mainly black, saw his action as pure thuggery. Amazing how much a small incident on a rugby field can tell about a nation."

David Steven | 12:10 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

Daily Summit readers wanting to respond to Matthew Parris's loathsome article on Africa (reported here) can "join the debate" by emailing:

Sample quote from the article: "All the stewards looked like Tintin and showed as amused a command of Third World chaos as Herve’s young Belgian journalist. One sensed among this European crew an unvoiced — professionally unvoiceable — scorn for these passengers."

David Steven | 11:28 AM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |

August 17, 2002

Why "these people" will always be poor. The Times is not the paper it once was - but its op-ed page plumbs surprising depths today, with the loathsome article This is why Africa gets the leaders it deserves.

Written by ex-Conservative MP, now political journalist, Matthew Parris, it uses the experience of queuing for an Air Gabon flight at a London airport to warn that Africa will always be poor.


First, because Africa's elite is volatile, rapacious and brutal - but also infantile in their mood swings ("momentarily warm, momentarily cruel, suddenly kind, suddenly innocent, suddenly corrupt").

They have no taste ("I have seldom in one place seen a collection of luggage at the same time so ostentatious, so expensive, and so gross").

They cheat as a matter of course ("Found out, the capacity of these people to affect innocent shock and apparent ignorance of every rule was astonishing").

And worst of all they don't know how to queue ("We started in a queue - three whites scattered among the Africans - but by the time the whites got anywhere near the check-in desk we were the last three in line").

And second, because "the little people, the common people… let themselves down; by letting their leaders let them down."

They are easily-led by people, who however vile, act in a "kingly manner." When badly treated, their resentment is soon forgotten in their "wish to be part of the top dog's gang."

Parris concludes with some trademark pomposity.

"I am not confident about the New Partnership for Africa's Development in which the Prime Minister is putting so much trust," he sighs. "I wish he and Clare Short had been with me in that queue."

So, this is serious journalism? God help us all.

David Steven | 08:32 PM South African time (utc/gmt +2) | |



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