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South Africa's sushi wars

Andrew Harding | 14:04 UK time, Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A sushi part at the nightclub the Zar, in Cape Town, South Africa, on 30 January 2011

Wealthy ANC supporter Kenny Kunene (left) eating sushi from the body of a bikini-clad woman

"The ANC Youth League welcomes the commitment to stop serving food on human bodies..." A statement to treasure. And no, it's not a question of hygiene. This is about sushi, barely clothed women, and "the ethos of our revolution".

It's also a story that gets close to the heart of South Africa's increasingly wide and uncomfortable wealth gap - a point heavily underlined by these grim new statistics - and to the ideological battles within the ruling alliance. Oh yes, and it's nearly election time here, which explains a lot.

Almost inevitably, the incident in question involves Julius Malema - the leader of the ruling party's youth league - a hard-partying populist who often seems to waver unapologetically between the doctrines of Che Guevara and Donald Trump.

Last weekend Mr Malema was in Cape Town, at the opening of a new nightclub. He has hotly denied suggesting that the club "belonged to the ANC" - as reported in one newspaper.

But no-one is disputing the fact that raw fish was served from the body of at least one bikini-clad woman who had been hired for that purpose.

A wealthy ANC supporter named Kenny Kunene was shown on the front pages of various local newspapers, grazing on her stomach and attempting to pour champagne into her mouth.

Last year, Mr Kunene enjoyed a similar meal at his own birthday party and was furiously unapologetic when accused of bad taste. But this time, no doubt with an eye on the upcoming local elections, the ANC has put its foot down more firmly.

And so, a chastened Mr Kunene has issued his own statement: "I will not be throwing or attending any further such sushi parties as I have nothing but respect for the leadership of the ANC and the guiding principles of the movement. Were it not for the work and struggle of these ANC leaders, my leaders, the money that black business people have made since 1994 would not have been possible, and this also applies to me."


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  • 1. At 4:51pm on 02 Feb 2011, Eormanric wrote:

    What would the ANC say if a bunch of white people were eating sushi from a black lady in a bikini? Something ranty and intemperate, I'm sure...

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  • 2. At 5:17pm on 02 Feb 2011, villamagome wrote:

    Freedom must be exercised within sober responsibility-- however this positive mentality is greatly lacking among the so-called "cream" of African leadership. Hence this humble reminder by St Paul: ALL THINGS MAY NOW BE PERMISSIBLE TO YOU (post-colonialism and post-apartheid) BUT NOT EVERYTHING IS BENEFICIAL OR CONSTRUCTIVE FOR YOU (1 Corinthians 10:23).
    Therefore re-calibrate your showmanship around the lyrics of Youssou Ndour's song "XEL" (human intelligence).

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  • 3. At 5:24pm on 02 Feb 2011, Ghost rider wrote:

    After nelson Mandela, these so call South Africa leaders are lack of responsability and greed just like these African dictators.

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  • 4. At 6:33pm on 02 Feb 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    Andrew why I don’t see you write something about what is going in Egypt? Why I can’t see you tell us about the man whose been in power for thirty years and what should be done? Why I can’t see you guess on what is going behind closed doors? Why you can’t tell us the bizarre appearing of those civilized and allies of democracy and freedom of expression?

    Why you still stuck on gangsters or boys drinking alcohol? Why you can’t get something serious and talk about?

    It appear that some people are trying now to pretending of freezing the assets of the former Tunisian tyrant like they never knew what he was doing for the whole 23 years, don’t you think that as journalist you should exposed those allies of those tyrants.

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  • 5. At 6:37pm on 02 Feb 2011, tobus wrote:

    How humiliating. It's a long way down.

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  • 6. At 7:16pm on 02 Feb 2011, olyus wrote:

    I see nothing wrong with this at all. A waiter or waitress might well be employed because of their appearance, this is almost a statement on that to the extreme. Eating off somebody is not a popular sign of disrespect or aggression, indeed, it might even be consider something of an intimate act. Finding somebody attractive and wanting to involve them in one's meal hardly seems a problem. Should I gain sufficient wealth at some point in my life, I look forward to allowing myself and those around me to eat off the body of attractive men and women (whatever the taste of the eater) and revelling in gaiety and decadence of it all.

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  • 7. At 7:29pm on 02 Feb 2011, freddawlanen wrote:

    There is nothing "wrong" with doing this, it simply proves that with wealth comes diminishing respect for others.
    The problem here is that it is gangsters and lowlifes who are gaining the leadership and control of a wonderful country, they all look up to the freedom fighters of the past, yet their disdain for their own "brothers" shows everyone that an "I'm all right, Jack" attitude is common to all races.

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  • 8. At 10:24pm on 02 Feb 2011, Martyn abrahams wrote:

    With all due respect, sorry but YOU are proof of why things never go right in Darkest Africa.
    Egypt's story is on the front page of this website, if you looked hard enough you would see this.

    What is a shame is that when a brother or brothers who are supposedly leading members of African society, who are suppose to lead by example, throw their names away then some individuals like yourself always go on the defensive.
    Lack of responsibility does not have to translate in Africa or as an African to having a lack of accountability.

    Maybe when Africa learns to say enough, maybe things in Africa will change, until then I wait while Hell tries to build a ski ramp.

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  • 9. At 10:42pm on 02 Feb 2011, JeanLouis wrote:

    This cost a few hundreds bucks and they had innocent fun: that's one hundredth of what Berlusconi is blamed of. Let us keep our pious and vengeful eye for the stuff which really matters: multi-millions bribes and incompetence. In my view, this press coverage and the ensuing "outrage" is a waste of space and sweat.

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  • 10. At 11:08pm on 02 Feb 2011, Back 2 Blighty wrote:

    Andrew, why aren't you in Cairo?

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  • 11. At 00:27am on 03 Feb 2011, koba wrote:

    Such stupid manner disgusted me as a Japanese
    with having important Sushi culture.
    "Sushi" is very important food with having
    various important meaning for Japanese.
    To my regret, I think such African can't understand
    what the meaning of "Sushi" is.

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  • 12. At 01:49am on 03 Feb 2011, marchino wrote:

    To all those asking why Andrew Harding is not in Cairo: the reason is that the BBC deals with the Middle East separately from Africa - you might try looking at reporting from for example, Wyre Davis, BBC Middle East Correspondent.

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  • 13. At 02:38am on 03 Feb 2011, DavidH wrote:

    Hey, BBC - this is a story based simply around a good pic of a half naked girl. I clicked like everybody else, of course, so job done? Or should we hold the BBC to higher standards?

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  • 14. At 03:25am on 03 Feb 2011, Charles wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 15. At 08:44am on 03 Feb 2011, phkk wrote:

    A waiter or waitress might well be employed because of their appearance. Are they pretty much the same as Japanese Sushi.

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  • 16. At 09:43am on 03 Feb 2011, Back 2 Blighty wrote:

    12. At 01:49am on 03 Feb 2011, marchino wrote:

    To all those asking why Andrew Harding is not in Cairo: the reason is that the BBC deals with the Middle East separately from Africa - you might try looking at reporting from for example, Wyre Davis, BBC Middle East Correspondent.


    But I want Andrew to be there -- on the Tahrir Square.

    Also, Middle East or not, Egypt is still Africa and a very important part of it at that.

    So the BBC's chief blogger on Africa should definitely be there covering the events, assessing the implications and the consequences not just for the Middle East and the Arab World but for Africa in general and for the Anglo-Saxon entities too.

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  • 17. At 09:50am on 03 Feb 2011, Saxonbard wrote:

    I respectfully agree that we should heed the guidance of our leaders in the ANC. I would also respectfully ask that those responsible for moral guidance within our party can advise me on a dilemma I was recently faced with while visiting a well known restaurant chain. Is it counter-revolutionary to eat sushi off a revolving counter?

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  • 18. At 10:26am on 03 Feb 2011, Roy Brookes wrote:

    I assume that Andrew Harding is not in Cairo because the BBc already has a large and very competent team there, including the incomparable John Simpson. There is not room or need for any more BBC reporters. Look at the coverage of the crisis in Egypt and you will see.

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  • 19. At 10:31am on 03 Feb 2011, docthebiker wrote:

    Caviare is at it's best when eaten from the back of a lady's hand, and nobody would make a fuss should one consume it thus in public. The same theory applies to sushi, so this is not considered as some form of sexual debauchery.
    Kenny Kunene "grazing" and attempting to pour drink into the mouth of the server shows appalling disrespect for that person.

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  • 20. At 11:25am on 03 Feb 2011, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    Egypt may be part of Africa when it comes to the continent's football tournaments. But you're right - our middle east bureaux cover it for news. Shame!

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  • 21. At 12:18pm on 03 Feb 2011, sagat4 wrote:

    Well Egyptians consider themselves as Arabs first and then Middle Eastern (or the other way round)as a West African i should know. So continue with your coverage of South Africa and let the Middle East correspondents cover that end:)

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  • 22. At 12:47pm on 03 Feb 2011, DinnersCPT wrote:

    I'm a Brit who has been living in SA for just over a year. The point here is not about colour; whether black guys eating sushi from white girls or white guys eating sushi from black girls. It really doesn't matter. Nor is it about what people do at private parties - that is their own issue. The important question here is whether it is acceptable for high profile political figures and those people close to the government to be seen revelling in spending large amounts on cash on extravagent parties, fast cars and huge houses in a country where a large percentage of people here live in abject poverty.
    It's actually very hard to justify, particularly as the funding for much of the festivities has been diverted away from the people by corruption, patronage and fraud. If the wealth of those businessman and ANC cronies had been gained legitmately instead of through dodgy government contracts it would still be crass but slightly easier to tolerate.

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  • 23. At 1:24pm on 03 Feb 2011, sagat4 wrote:

    I agree with DinnersCPT. This is blatant corruption and abuse of power. If they used government funds for this kind of party then they need to be investigated and depending on the outcome, sacked

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  • 24. At 2:18pm on 03 Feb 2011, kolobe wrote:

    there is nothing wrong with the party,its his own money.who dictates to you how you must spend?when whites through such party they are published in a good the very same cape town a white party costing R12mil was thrown and we didnt see rubbish articles being published.

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  • 25. At 2:31pm on 03 Feb 2011, Martyn abrahams wrote:

    To people like Kolobe I have the following to say:
    His own money you say? It probably was stolen or obtained illegally.
    How little you know about this man. Here is an excerpt from a magazine, I quote

    "He was jailed at Grootvlei Prison in the Free State for six years for fraud in 1997 - having spent four years awaiting trial.

    He said he plotted his rise to riches here while literally on his knees, clipping the toenails and callouses from the feet of a prison warder.

    However, this week Kunene revealed additional details of his criminal history, when he committed sometimes violent crimes for a gang while working as a Klerksdorp teacher.

    In what he describes as "the worst thing I ever did", Kunene said that - enraged that a fellow gang member had heightened their risk of arrest - he shot a gang colleague in the thigh as they left the scene of a robbery.

    Kunene admitted that he tried to sell ivory illegally in Pretoria in 1995 - and that he had grabbed a tourist around the neck to shield himself from police guns aimed at him before his arrest. This case was later dropped.

    "We used to get involved in fraud, car theft, robberies," he said. "Now when we do our talks to kids and schools, we say: 'When we were criminals we couldn't enjoy our cars; we couldn't drive them in the daylight'."

    And Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi has called him a "hyena" who "spits in the face of the poor"

    Since when is the life of a criminal something that allows for him to be a role model for others?

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  • 26. At 5:31pm on 03 Feb 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    @martyn Abraham, marchino, Andrew and all of the clones: The shame and lack of responsibility is on those who can fly to Liberian, Sierra Leon, Cap Town, Nairobi and Johannesburg claiming to be giving coverage on Africa but yet forget that Egypt is part of Africa and now needs the embed militias to respond on his behalf.

    And Martyn Abraham; via your comments I can see your capacity of understanding, but I thought you can read a written text. there you should see the name I called those silly guys Andrew focus on them (he called it war instead of argument). Not only that; but the fact of the clear bias and lack of competency on those appear to be part-time journalists is telling a lot.

    I don’t know if you will allow the truth to be told and that is if media coverage have any benefit and something should be done like how our BBC,CNN did on the road to Iraq then Aljazeera is putting all so-called western world media, democratic and civilize nations Aljazeera is putting them on shame for the ways really live coverage is been done.

    This Andrew who still reporting on Zimbabwe and planning for the removal of Mugabe, I saw he was in Somalia and recently in Sudan which is the neighbour of Egypt so my question is why he could go to Juba & Khartoum but not Cairo?

    Should I believe that the British ways of dividing the people on........... is still been apply on even the media coverage so some BBC journalists have to focus on the dark skin and some on the coloureds?

    Those BBC journalists who are reporting from Egypt are just telling what they wants not what they should and not giving a chance to be responded or been ask questions.

    Andrew Harding could not go there because he knew that when he post here we will ask him why things are like that? and what is his western Governments did or doing on Mubarak after 30 years in power? I saw this Andrew tried to throw dust into our eyes after Ben Ali left Tunisia and he asked if we don’t think that the next will be Sudan. That is why he could not have anything to write about Mubarak but keep focus on the childish Malema.

    last to the militant “martyn Abrahm”, you saw how all of your Governments were & still collaborating with all of those tyrants, you saw how you dragged your fetes to even supports the public who got tired of what wikileaks keep exposing, now if logic is saying we have to look for Ben laden because he is the behind motive, he is the one motivating and supporting those criminals who keep doing what you are telling us, then don’t you think that on the same ground, you also should be arrest and condemn for supporting those tyrants like Mubarak and the Saudis?

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  • 27. At 7:38pm on 03 Feb 2011, Sizwe M wrote:

    Andrew, you bad BBC 'agent' you - LOL! Definitely a quote to remember and no doubt cite sometime with it when describing Julius Malema: "a hard-partying populist who often seems to waver unapologetically between the doctrines of Che Guevara and Donald Trump." Classic!

    One has to be grateful for the entertainment value these characters provide though, both Malema and Kunene included - definitely no shortage of material for a political cartoon blog anyway! Think you'd enjoy the lighter take on the Kunene sushi party story.. particularly given his colourful prison-riches background. It will be interesting to see what the poll results yield.

    One only wonders if it's as transparent to the South African public as it is to you about the timing of Mr Kunene's sushi-free diet declaration. Nothing like the golden goose reminding you not to eat sushi off the hand that feeds..

    Sizwe - South African blogger.

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  • 28. At 9:52pm on 03 Feb 2011, Martyn abrahams wrote:

    Firstly let me tell you something, I am South African, I understand a little bit about Africa and I understand a whole lot about South Africa. You can call me militant sir, but I would suggest that you are lacking in common sense.
    Maybe if you took the exact same questions you asked, changed it to a African....not Egyptian statement and asked the same questions in an African context with regards to the TOPIC discussed here on this forum you would less be inclined to blame everyone else other than the "corrupt whites" and "BBC" for the wrongdoings of the African elites in South Africa.

    If you READ my last post maybe you will get some insight into Kenny Kunene maybe Egypt seems a place far far away but to a country trying to pull itself out of poverty, the money wasted by people like him seems a far cry from Egypt for those who can get jobs because of BEE policies which Kenny has learnt to abuse most wholeheartedly.

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  • 29. At 07:08am on 04 Feb 2011, Sizwe M wrote:

    @Mze-Djimba - Andrew went to Sudan prior to the mess that is happening in Egypt now. He has many skills as a 'part-time journalist' as you put it but I'm pretty certain crystal ball gazing is not one of them. Africa is a huge continent fraught with issues and one can only cover so much at a time.

    To your point (at least I think what your point is), I do agree that some additional emphasis needs to be placed on why many of these countries are in the state they are in. Unfortunately foolish blanket statements against Western imperialists are rarely taken seriously.. it would be great if there were more specific coverage on the history of these countries and the role the West played in bringing those countries to their current predicament... stuff like how boundaries were drawn between African countries, etc - I believe that would be more objective and credible than the typical Mugabe/ Malema rubbish about the 100% negative influence of the West.


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  • 30. At 07:31am on 04 Feb 2011, tshenke7 wrote:

    This scene is not knew. Please all of you go buy or rent the movie " RISING SUN " actors Sean Connery and Wesley Snips. There is a scene where a Japanese actor is having a party at his house eating sushi like this picture. Peace to all of you.

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  • 31. At 12:15pm on 04 Feb 2011, sagat4 wrote:

    Mze-djimba i know you have a major gripe towards Andrew. You need to cut the guy some slack. His style of reporting is better than most and he does his best to portray Africa in a positive light. Have you seen the way that other western Medias portray Africa? One of Sky's journalists (whom i consider tabloid trash) wrote a negative piece about last years world cup. Most people on the forums (SA and non SA) where so incensed by this that they commented in their thousands. I personally emailed the head of news at Sky to complain. You can't keep blaming Andrew for the sins of the past. Sure the current problems in Africa are down to the previous colonial powers and the current dictators/corrupt leaders in power (a full analysis will take years to examine). Martyn abrahams wrote a qoute about Mr Kunene. I am not from SA and did some research and found out that the guy is no angel as the ANC wants you to believe. I saw an articles once in a Ghananian daily about corruption in the ANC so this is nothing new.

    So what am i saying? Andrew is far from perfect (i queried one of his articles once) but he does try his best to protraty Africa in a positive light unlike some western tabliod journalists. So take it easy my friend and try not to sress out too much:)

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  • 32. At 1:29pm on 04 Feb 2011, The_Revolutionary_Humanist wrote:

    @ Andrew, I cannot bring myself to agree with your statement "a hard-partying populist who often seems to waver unapologetically between the doctrines of Che Guevara and Donald Trump."

    Che Guevara (and Ho Chi Min) was in all probability the only true Communist the World has ever seen. The man was completely dedicated to the cause, the upliftment of the poor and the working classes. Unlike other Communist leaders, he lived his life as he preached it, often to the annoyance of his very lacking contemporaries.

    Julius Malema is the farthest thing from a Communist. He has absolutely no idea what Socialism is all about, apart from the popular slogans of nationalisation, which is where the buck stops. I suspect he falls more into the Mao Tsetung or Tito crowd.

    As for eating sushi off half-naked models, it is a very ancient Japanese custom, made cheap - this is Africa, after all. If you have the cash to afford such luxury, I suppose there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. However, Kunene’s guests include influential politicians and government officials. They are supposed to champion the fight for the poor and the impoverished, it sets a very bad example. In an African context, to do so publicly and without shame is very inappropriate.

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  • 33. At 2:01pm on 04 Feb 2011, Ghost rider wrote:

    some people are asking why Andrew Harding didn't write something about Egypt. He replay well. But if so intereting about the Egypt debate go here.

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  • 34. At 2:41pm on 04 Feb 2011, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    so which sub-saharan country is most likely to experience a tunisia/egypt upheaval? zanu pf are already using the threat as another stick with which to beat the mdc. clear evidence of an upsurge in political violence in zimbabwe in the past two weeks. "sanctions" and indigenisation are sure to be mr mugabe's official campaign themes. but fear is, once again, the growing subtext.

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  • 35. At 2:51pm on 04 Feb 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    @martyn Abraham and the others: I am also South African, and I think I know the whole lot, not just only the past before 1994 but I know the painful transformation from both sides; yes painful from both sides.

    But before I say what I am going to say, I must mention two things: A- your coming clear on your limitation of African events, which will also help me to present my argument that here is BBC-Africa not BBC South Africa; I hope you & Andrew Understand this well. B- I must Make it clear to you that I am not ANC member, I never been one and I don’t think I will soon.

    Back to the painful change in both sides in SA: from the white side and people like you “martyn Abraham” you have to endure the pain of giving up the idea useD to be in your mind that only whites deserve to live good, as you the only ones used and was logic to be seen with high education, good cars, better houses, travel always and owns the languages which must be learned etc, etc. and all of that now become things of the past.

    Now you have to share with the Africans who useD to be looked as only born to serve whites the European. You have to share everything even bus and taxis, something you didn’t knew or like, so is very hard for you I can sense that. The good news is that you are not alone, as the shifting of world power from the west to the east is making the Americans, English and French very pissed off.

    And from the African side they have to go through the pain of been disempowered for so long & lifted to grown up with the vague idea of been irresponsible, careless, and kids dreamer, shorter sighting and give-up all of that rubbish was burnt into their minds for centuries, now to become someone who can and MUST appear on the trial of the media 24/7.

    Someone who needs to quickly know and specialise everything, someone have to build himself from nothing and without wasting time have to compute with the masters of the world for over five hundred years.

    The Africans have to build & protects the lives of the 100% while the NNP who had centuries and every possibility were only Accountable for the 13% of the population at time.

    I use to believe that the people who enjoy life in this world are the crazy people and very small kids, as they have no worries in their minds.

    The burdens of the Africans doesn’t end there, but seen the hardship their people are going through is painful torture, and the fact of leading a country which 10% of the population owns 90% of the wealth of the country, all expectations of that huge 90% are on your back, and all accusations of the 10% superrich are focusing on you, and their gigantic power of everything not only can jumped powerful person like Obama but can buy people like Andrew Harding.

    To finalize; to me so far so good, and you can have your own conclusion. and even though myself I have my own version of what should be done to remedy Africa, but for what the ANC government did and doing is not that bad, yes there is more to be done but they are on the right direction, you can ask me more on this if you want.

    Kunene Kenney is not a Government or any official person in the Government, so I don’t care about his whatever; in the west we have thousands like him, so what? Oh yes this is his car number plat.

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  • 36. At 4:17pm on 04 Feb 2011, Martyn abrahams wrote:

    Talking is one thing, doing is another.
    You obviously have all the answers to all the questions and problems facing Africa that we all seem to misunderstand and whom we criticise in a diabolical attempt at undermining the black man. Secondly, you obviously know me better than I know myself.

    How can I argue with that?

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  • 37. At 7:31pm on 04 Feb 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    Lol very sorry to everyone, up there I had to say “jammed” on this part (and their gigantic power of everything not only can “jammed” powerful person like Obama but can buy people like Andrew Harding)

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  • 38. At 08:23am on 07 Feb 2011, Back 2 Blighty wrote:

    34. At 2:41pm on 04 Feb 2011, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    so which sub-saharan country is most likely to experience a tunisia/egypt upheaval?



    I think the writing's on the wall.

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