To Brad and Angelina: a C-section (and the keys to a hysterical nation)
Sunday 28 May 2006
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may have been run to ground by the world's paparazzi, but the world's most beautiful woman (official) and her consort have a mighty weapon on their side as they await the imminent arrival of their child by caesarean section: the Namibian government.
The Republic of Namibia - the impoverished country of 1.8 million known for its wild remoteness - is not only welcoming the movie stars, it has actually handed over control of its international land borders and airspace to them.
As the world awaits the birth of the couple's first child at a luxury villa complex on the coast, Namibian authorities last night confirmed that they had bowed to pressure from the duo and granted them the right to ban foreign journalists from entering the country - a remarkable move for the government of any sovereign state. The government's decision to cede power to non-resident foreigners was taken after Brad and Angelina - Brangelina, in tabloid-speak - told ministers they would be forced to quit the country unless allegedly intrusive journalists and paparazzi were brought to heel.
The couple's six-week stay at the Burning Shore Beach Lodgehas been one of the most bizarre and ill-tempered ante-natal media events. As many as 50 of the world's most determined paparazzi have been lured to this spot on Africa's Atlantic coast by the prospect of getting the first picture of the Jolie-Pitt child, though according to some reports the pair have already sold the rights for the first baby shot for $5.4m, all proceeds going to charity.
But the exceptionally high-profile presence of Brad and Angelina promises to be a massive boost to tourist income in the desperately poor country, where the average wage is $46 a week.
"About a month ago things were getting really out of hand because of paparazzi," Leon Jooste, Namibia's tourism minister, told The Independent on Sunday. "But they never asked for anything; they simply said to me: 'Listen, things are getting a bit out of hand.' So I spoke to a bunch of people within government. For a small country like ours, with a small economy and a growing tourism industry, this is of major marketing value for us.
"What we've done is that every time they've got an appointment with a photographer or a journalist they contact me and tell me that 'Mr So-and-so' is coming, and I contact the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and they contact the Ministry of Home Affairs, and they inform the immigration department."
When The Independent on Sunday requested a work visa from the Namibian High Commission in London to cover the birth, it was told: "No, you can't. You'd get kicked out of the country. The government has taken a firm stance."
As well as enjoying the power of veto over the world's press, Brad, Angelina and her children Maddox and Zahara are relaxing in that special peace only a personal no-fly zone can bring.
Three weeks ago, one South African and three French photographers were expelled from Namibia, a move attacked by human rights groups as a clear breach of the country's civil liberties legislation. Nonsense, says the government. "This lady is expecting," said Namibia's Prime Minister, Nahas Angula. "You guys are harassing her. Why don't you allow her some privacy? Harassment is not allowed in Namibia."
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