Friday, July 27, 2012

The Weekly Sneaks: A Semi-colon, Finally.

Two things this week. I got a nice little invitation from Parselelo Kantai* to write a piece for The Africa Report's column The Last Word. Mission: creative accounting, public budgeting, creative writing- what do they have in common? Discuss.

I gave that puppy the old college try with about 800 and something words, and the eds trimmed it down to...well. A cleaner, focused, tighter length. I admit to a grim reluctance when it comes to being edited, but I know a good edit when I see one. Best of all: they gave me a solid semi-colon, the one punctuation mark that I have never used with any confidence or certainty in my life.
"One of the outcomes of being a donor darling for too many years is the encroachment of laziness and entitlement. As with an author who has been too successful for too long and whose plots become formulaic, the urgency and ambition that drive endeavour can fail a government. How else to explain Tanzania’s propensity for what can only be termed ‘budgeting by rote’? Our government has succumbed to a lazy sort of autocracy; cantankerous about making the budget process transparent and participatory, and jealous of its power to push through budgets whether or not they bring every Tanzanian a better life."
I then had to handle the weekly splotch for The East African. It was a bit of a brain squeeze after the Africa Report piece. I hope it wasn't a wash-out, for once I don't know. Still trying to frame and articulate a republican, democratic approach to this We The People business, but it's a rocky and dimly lit journey:
"In our African states, there is a crucial step we never quite committed to after achieving self-rule and we are paying for it now. The transition of leadership from colonial administrators to local revolutionaries by-passed the people. There was no time, apparently, and no need to 'confuse' matters by introducing too much democracy to folks who didn't have the “education' for it. We never did confront our deeply rooted paternalistic approach to leadership. It was a terrible act of condescension to the people, but it does explain why our governments still behave as though mass obedience is their right and due."
*Yes. Yes I did. I totally name-dropped Parselelo Kantai. :)


  1. But they have used the semi-colon wrongly! Either a colon (:) or a dash (-) would be correct in that sentence. Unless it is being used to separate items in a list, a semi-colon should always be followed by something that would itself constitute a complete sentence.

    Nice posts though.

  2. Thanks Anonymous, you are a pedant after my own heart. Though you have broken said heart by taking away my one and only real semi-colon. Back to the drawing board for me...


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