Hopes On The Horizon HomepageSouth African students plan for change at Aha Thuto

Take a peek at clips from the 2-hour documentary. Be sure to use these video clips as a companion to the Questions and Activities sections of this Web site.

Click on the country names listed below to view the transcripts for each clip.

Democracy loves technology

“ . . . we have the power to challenge.”

Revolution rewrites history

Secular law vs. Islamic law

“There is no price for the poor.”

A call for community control at Aha Thuto

BENIN – Democracy loves technology      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

During the conference, no one in the private or public sector worked. The sellers of transistor radios were doing the biggest business in the country. Everyone would buy himself a little transistor radio and you would see them on their motor scooters in the street holding the handlebar with one hand and the radio with the other.

NIGERIA – “. . . we have the power to challenge.”      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

NARR: With Nigeria’s oil money at his disposal, Abacha paid for a Two Million Man March to support his presidential bid. The proposed march would be held in the capitol city of Abuja in the middle of the country.

Militant youth members of the United Action for Democracy, a new coalition of pro-democracy groups announced a counter march. It would be held in the southern city of Lagos.

OLISA AGBAKOBA – Leader, United Action for Democracy
The next day in the office a paper was coming out of the fax machine and I was following the trail, Five Million Man March, five million I say Jesus these boys have killed me, where are we going to find five million you know because is best if you can’t do something not to expose yourself. I said Jesus Christ my first thought was how are we going to pull this off. How are we going to save face? Five million!

NARR: On March 23, 1998, the two marches got underway. In Abuja, tens of thousands of paid supporters gathered on behalf of General Abacha.

We are convinced that Sani Abacha is the best material we have right now to lead this country to a better ground.

I’m proud to be a Nigerian.

NARR: 350 miles away in Lagos, pro-democracy demonstrators without money or logistical support faced police opposition.

And thank God that the security service at the time, their brain was very small. It was also the circumstance of the encounter that gave it its impetus. So, you have people like Abubakar Kasav, the commissioner of police in Lagos at that time, saying that anybody who would approach the square, Yaba Square would be dealt with with maximum force. So people like that, you know it was brewing, it was brewing, the great encounter

AYO OBE – President, Civil Liberties Organization
So we were approaching Yaba bus stop. We were all supposed to approach from three different directions. I can remember, those of us who were coming from Surulere were expecting sort of a marching force of about 200. When it got to about ten to three and we didn't see this crowd gathering, the people who were supposed to have been collected, Olisa said, “Look, we are the chief hosts of this party. We cannot afford to be late at the venue of the party, so we should go.”

All we are saying ...

Today, because they don’t know what they wanted, they are only interested in ...

As they got there, the crowd that was already there was being dispersed by the mobile police. They were saying that they should run, everybody should run. And of course it was impossible for Olisa, who had come down from the vehicle, to start running, because he was the leader of the show. And so he was walking forward, and, of course, the police now took that as defiance, and one of them took his rifle butt and smashed Olisa in the face.

So it was in that context that the five million-man march lost its significance with them from the point of people, that was not the issue. It became the fact that it could be held at all, that was the thing, the fact that it could be held at all. No one counted five million, we didn’t have five million but it was the symbolic thing.

It unleashed in people the realization that we have the power to challenge. We don't have to just accept this thing that is being done to us in our country, lying down.

RWANDA – Revolution rewrites history      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

NARR: The roots of Rwanda’s trauma lie in its history of shared oppression and humiliation. Despite a common language and religion, and some mixed marriages, a Tutsi monarch and aristocracy had long ruled over a Hutu majority. Although flexible identities meant some rich Hutus could join the Tutsi ruling class, most remained peasants.

This system was exploited by German and then Belgian colonialists, who ruled through the Tutsi monarchy and limited Hutus’ education and employment. Hutu inferiority was further entrenched by Belgian identity cards, which froze ethnic identities.

But it was the Belgian use of Tutsis as overseers, to drive the forced labor of Hutus, that most vividly scarred Hutu memories.

CANIUS KARAKE – Former Rwandan Diplomat
When I was young, I often saw peasants who were forced to lie down on the ground and take off their clothes to be beaten because they had committed some small misdeed.

NARR: Then in 1959 everything changed. With most of Africa throwing off colonial rule, the Tutsi aristocracy wanted independence. But they were unwilling to extend full democracy to the Hutu majority.

With Belgian help, the Hutus violently overthrew the monarchy, and established an independent nation under Hutu control. The overthrow became a pivotal event in Rwanda’s history. It reversed the power balance in the country. Now, it was the Tutsis, a minority of 15 percent, who faced discrimination and humiliation.

I remember in school we were afraid. They said, “Tutsis, raise your hands.” But we were afraid to raise our hands, because the Tutsi was always described as a snake. A snake is dangerous and it should be destroyed. I can never forget this, because this story was repeated year after year in school, from the first to the sixth grade.

MOROCCO – Secular law vs. Islamic law      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

NARR: But revising the Moudawana seemed all but impossible. It is partly derived from Sharia – ancient Islamic laws drawn from the Qu’ran, or Muslim Holy Book. The Qu’ran is believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God, and therefore unchangeable. This meant that only those elements of the Moudawana that were based on tradition and custom, and not on the Qu’ran, could be changed.

Further complicating matters was Morocco’s colonial history. After seven centuries under Islamic law, Morocco came under French rule and French secular law. Only the Moudawana, or family code, remained under the authority of the King, Morocco’s highest spiritual leader.

With independence in 1956, some wanted the Moudawana, like other laws, to be brought under secular law.

The penal code is secularized. We don’t cut off the hands of someone who steals. The only legislation that belongs to this religious sphere is the Code of Personal Status that governs the relations within the family.

NARR: Instead, Morocco’s king chose to maintain the separation between secular law and the Moudawana. In part this was in reaction to pressure from Islamist forces, lobbying for a complete restoration of Islamic law.

Our struggle for the future is to re-establish the principles of Islam in trade, in justice and in other areas, so that all society is governed by the same attitudes.

HAMED KHAMLICHI – Professor of Law
Topics relating to the personal status are particularly sensitive. We should remember what happened in Egypt when Anwar Sadat decided to amend the Moudawana in between two sessions of the Parliament in order to avoid conflict within Parliament.

NARR: The Egyptian leader, already under fire from Islamists for signing a peace treaty with Israel, paid with his life, for his proposed changes to the family law.

After Sadat died, these changes were abandoned. So the Moudawana or personal status issue is extremely sensitive in the Muslim world. It should be treated with great wisdom.

“There is no price for the poor.”
      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

NARR: Machel’s successor, President Joaquim Chissano, faced a collapsing economy and the waning support of big cooperatives like the UGC. He turned to the International Monetary Fund for help, and as a condition of financial support agreed to make structural changes to the economy. The government would stop subsidizing education and other services. It would privatize state-owned industries. And it would no longer control the value of currency or the price of goods.

The moment had come when we could no longer remain the way we were. We had to introduce the market economy with all its consequences.


NARR: Members of the UGC celebrated the part they had played in ending price controls, not anticipating the cost of opening Mozambique to the global marketplace.

The problem with structural adjustment is that one part was helpful and the other was detrimental. There are many clothes and a lot of food in the stores. The problem is the prices. There is only one price. There is no price for the poor, for the one who earns the minimum wage. When one buys a television set or a freezer, one buys death in the household. Basically it’s suicide.

The main thing we lost, we had free education; that is finished now. Health, we lost; we don’t have it anymore. So, unemployment, we never put anybody out of his job without recycling him. But with privatization, if somebody buys the enterprise, and the enterprise has 200, he can say, “No, I need only 120, and the others, boom! It is not my problem.”

NARR: Under the market economy, the UGC soon faced financial crisis. The cost of supplies was rising, while the value of Mozambique’s currency was dropping. Their main commodity, pigs, took a year to raise, and were therefore a risky venture.

We felt like we were in a race when you cannot stop and look back, or others will pass you by. During this period, we all felt a great emptiness.

A call for community control at Aha Thuto
      –      56K users      DSL/Cable users

NARR: In the 1980s, leaders of the liberation movement tried to re-channel the widespread chaos among students into a movement for school reform.

The struggle became very focused around concrete things such as we wanted democratically elected student representative councils in our schools. We want democratically elected parent teacher student associations.

NARR: In 1993, Principal Hadebe renewed this call for community control at Aha Thuto. Violence was escalating, and fewer than 15% of the students taking their national matriculation exams were able to pass them. Hadebe suspended classes, allowing students back only if their parents got involved.

That’s when I first started to invest own interest in Aha Thuto, because I could share now the pain that the teachers had in that school. I had an interest by then because my son was in that particular school.

Top of Page