Give me hope, Johanna

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Sunday, November 19, 2006

You always hear bad things about Joburg, and it's always the crime. Houses have high walls with electric fences on the top, and armed reponse warnings are plastered over all the walls. And with good reason.

Thanks to mainly to gold, Joburg is the wealthiest city in the nation and is surrounded by townships where the non-whites were forcibly relocated during apartheid. The police are easily bribed as they are poorly paid and largely ineffective so violent crime is rampant. I was told that in South Africa annually there are 50,000 murders and 250,000 violent crimes, and muggings are so commonplace that the stats are unreliable (people only half-jokingly say when you get mugged in Joburg, not if).

So I didn't walk around much. I took a shuttle down to the Apartheid Museum where I learnt more about the horrors of the regime (you are randomly given a white or black card on entry which only allows you in certain doors to simulate the feeling of segregation). Similar to the District Six Museum in Cape Town it was impossible not to be moved with the inhumanity and insanity of apartheid. Being a young western whitey in the early 90s all I knew about it was that pop stars were vilified for playing at Sun City and the cricket team was banned from international competition. The thing that gets me is how it could have lasted for so long.

It's only been 12 years since the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress party took control of the country with a new constitution. Of course things don't change overnight and there are clear racial divisions with many of the whites still coming across as being racist. It's the same with the economy. During apartheid the whites profited while the blacks were intentionally made poorer and less educated (after all, nobody in power wanted smart blacks questioning authority: look what happened to Steve Biko). The government is now trying to address this discrimination through a controversial policy of affirmative action, where jobs are first offered to non-whites before whites regardless of experience or capability. With this disincentive to achieve many educated young whites are leaving the country - which helps to explain why London is crawling with them! (Sports teams are also subject to these laws and have to contain a certain percentage of coloured players, hence Kevin Pietersen is now talking smack for England not his native South Africa.)

Speaking of cricket, I spent the Sunday at the Wanderers for the first One Day International between South Africa and India. Unfortunately, it pissed it down from about 20 minutes before the start for the next six or seven hours. The game was abandoned without a ball being bowled but I did get to see a replay of the last one day game played here, that ridiculous one in March against Australia that is now known here as the FourThirtyEight Game.

So that's it for Africa. It's been an amazing two months with some marvellous experiences and good people. As Bono isn't afraid to tell us, there is an awful lot to be done to improve the lot of the African people (as opposed to the criminals in power). I've just read a fantastic book called The Shackled Continent by Robert Guest which tries to explain why Africa is poorer now than it was thirty years ago. Let's hope the situation here improves, but with despotic leaders, idiotic policies and ineffective aid programmes I'm not holding my breath.

Next up for me is the mother of all cricket series: The Ashes in Australia. I've missed most of the hype so it's time for me to catch up with the excitement. In the meantime here's my
YouTube video of the day.
Slideshow Report as Spam


criaan on

Give Me Hope Johanna
Hello Dazzla

Read your posting about good old SA with interest. Firstly, even though I am a 40 year old white male, I agree 100% that apartheid was the wrongest thing ever. It is only for the best that it is now something of the past.

I am pretty much in 2 minds about my own country, 12 years after apartheid.

I do consider myself to be an African, a South African and of course I am also a member of that often hated species, the Boer. Still, I love South Africa with a passion. This is the ONLY place where I want to grow old and - hopefully - die of natural causes one day. SA is a land of amazing beauty and offers a tourist a huge variety of destinations and things to do. It really is a great place for a holiday.

On the other hand, it is difficult to stay positive nowadays, for a number of reasons:

a. The Crime you mention. Trust me, it is very bad. The most commonly mentioned murder figures you hear over here are +-50 murders per day. Rapes more than twice that. We are sitting with a terrible crime problem, to the extent that you really don't feel safe anywhere. To make it that much worse, the violence that very often forms part of these attacks are horrendous. Babies of sometimes as small as only a couple of months old get raped regularly, people are murdered for cellphones, hijackings, armed robberies, armed robberies in busy shopping centres, restaurants - EVERYWHERE!

And the police force - as well as a very large proportion of the state departments - are but a hollow shell as a direct result of the ANC's policy of replacing as many white faces with as many black faces, as fast as possible. So now you find that a large portion of these new appointees have no idea how to go about doing thier jobs, and the result is chaos. Try getting a new ID book or a passport, or try going to a provincial hospital. Not nice, to say the least.

If only they had though about implementing a program to train these people at the same time, the problems wouldnt have been close to what they are today. Instead, they blindly barged ahead and the result 12 years later is that most systems are totally useless and the biggest possible irritation factor out!

The thing that gets one though, is their inefficiency or incapability to redress the situation. Some ministers - our minister of health is a fine example of the nincompoops who shout the odds - and bosses of state departments, like the police, are just mind blowingly stupid.

What gets to one though, is that they bear NO criticism at all. Blacks that criticise are regularly made out as traitors, and if you're white then you are a racist. End of story. Now, make no mistake - racism is alive and well here! Oh yes. (As alive and well as it is in the USA for instance) And it will take quite a while to get that one out of the way. The overall feeling is that we have to somehow stand together to make this work though. But if you want to see a racist that makes all other racists pale by comparison - experience black on black or black on white racism. Reality is though, that ONLY white on black racism is newsworthy. Anything else is just one of those things.

Our only hope is for this government - you will know by now that i am no fan of the ANC and for good reasons - to stop acting like so many typical Africa style governments and start taking their jobs seriously, putting the country and it's people first. And of course - to stamp out corruption!!! All governments have corruption problems, but the level of corruption now is simply out of all control. EVERYBODY seems to be on the bandwagon for crying out loud!

Maybe then we stand a chance of becoming a country to really be proud of.

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