His tune became a hit around the world as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, but he slept on a dirt floor, died penniless and was buried without a headstone. It was more than 40 years later that the family of Solomon Linda, an illiterate Zulu who grew up herding cattle, won compensation from Disney for the song that helped make it millions in The Lion King.
This infamous case is just the tip of the iceberg, according to politicians in South Africa, who are debating legislation to protect “traditional knowledge” — everything from beadwork and dolls to folk songs and plants with medicinal properties — from commercial exploitation.
“South Africa, like many countries, has a history of intellectual property misappropriation by both individuals and organizations,” South African Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom said in June.
“With a few notable exceptions, it is unfortunate that many big corporations continue to ignore their moral and legal obligations to seek prior informed consent and to share benefits that result from their use of the knowledge and genetic resources of indigenous communities,” he added.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) has proposed an amendment to current intellectual property laws.
However, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) says these do not go far enough, and in April introduced the protection of traditional knowledge bill.
“It is necessary to protect the intellectual property of South African communities, such as the Ndebele patterns and traditional songs, from theft,” said Wilmot James, the DA’s shadow minister of trade and industry.
However, this week, ANC members of a parliamentary committee voted down the DA’s bill, underlining how slow progress on the issue has been since the end of apartheid nearly 20 years ago.
The most recent high-profile case of property misappropriation revolved around Hoodia, a plant used by the indigenous Khoisan people for thousands of years to suppress hunger and thirst.
Scientists isolated its active ingredient and licensed its use to a UK-based pharmaceutical company to produce a weight loss drug. However, following objections, an agreement to share benefits was reached.
However, experts warn that traditional culture is still often seen as up for grabs.
This can include lullabies that find their way into the music of local and international artists or the Ndebele tribe’s distinctive dolls now being made in China.
Yet Nomboniso Gasa, a researcher and analyst of cultural issues, said that politicians could be blundering into a legal minefield.
Gasa defended artists, such as Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon, who have been inspired by traditional material.
“A law might limit and suffocate artists in their particular creative genre,” she said. “We need a much richer conversation.”
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just