December 8th 2003
I was thinking of referring to my trip to South Africa as "Collecting dirty looks - the chronicle of a prodigal sons return"!!
Those who have been following my adventures will remember that I had got one from US Customs at Pearson and another from the SAA lady at Atlanta. Two so far!
Not to be outdone by their overseas counterparts various people in South Africa felt that they would add to my list of looks as well. The dirtiest of all coming from the bag lady at Pick and Pay in Benmore Gardens. Now you have to understand that bag lady refers to something quite different there.
My sister doesn't have a servant to work for her. Hmmm! Sorry. She doesn't have a maid! Even South Africa is becoming politically correct in that regard. Not to mention the "Maid Police"! that they have now instituted to go around and make sure that employers have paid their maids at least minimum wage and that they have been given an increase in line with some law or other.
Anyway this means that for us household chores are merely accepted as being part of the deal. As we do here in Canada. So I was still in my Canadian conditioning when we went shopping at the local Pick and Pay.
I will discuss the heart attack inducing prices later but when we went off to the check out counter I managed to commit a major mistake. I decided to pack the bags that my Sister had bought along. You bring your own bags along because plastic bags now cost money. I thought they were banned but apparently you can still buy them. You just aren't given them gratis!
So I moved to the end and started to put goods into the bags. I didn't occur to me that the lady having a loud conversation with her friend at the other end of the store was supposed to be doing it instead. That is until my Sister elbowed me and hissed that it wasn't my job. Which is when I became aware of the stare. Said lady having curtailed her conversation she was now eying me with what I hope was disgust only. Having done a good portion of her job anyway I wasn't too worried. So I merely smiled and let her carry on. For someone whose job was supposedly to pack I must just say that her attempts were abysmal. But then I now consider myself a bit of fundi on packing bags thanks to my experience! Heavy stuff at the bottom and perishables on top. Eggs are not supposed to line the bottom of a bag so as to support tinned food!
Even at the expense of another dirty look!
The second look was more along the lines of "what the hell are you doing"?
I was off to visit a friend when I noticed that the petrol gauge was registering close to empty. So I pulled into a BP garage. Nostalgia more than anything else being the reason for that choice. Haven't filled up at the "Green and Gold" for a long time. Since I was last in South Africa actually.
So I leapt out the car and opened the filler cap, took off the hose and proceeded to try to fill it. At which stage a voice behind me said:
"I can fill it for you"!
I just knew that I was going to turn around and see that look again! So before I turned I snuck a look at the other cars on the forecourt. All of them had green-jacketed attendants filling the tanks while the owners sat inside all comfy! No "Self Service" lanes here! Which meant of course that the ubiquitous "tip" was about to be expected as well!! Never mind paying R50 for an amount that used to half fill my lawn mower!
What do you tip a person who is supposed to be paid for the work they are doing anyway?
This question of course becomes of paramount importance when you are traveling anywhere in South Africa. The newest job category appears to be "car guard"! Everywhere you go, and I mean everywhere, there is a person waiting to be paid to "look" after your car. Even on the streets! I was in Melville and on each street corner there was one of these guards. Now the interesting thing here was that apparently you pay them rather than the meters!! Unless you are me that is, in which case, just to be on the safe side you understand, you do both!! Having just been told I didn't need to by the guard on that street, I received another look. No doubt because he would have preferred the money that went into the meter instead!
About the only place you won't be pestered by these guards is in parking garages. Which have their own form of theft in operation anyway. I am sure that cars aren't stolen from them purely because it would cost the thief too much to pay to get them out!!
As for the outside car guards my Sister explained to me that the trick is to only pay when you come back to the car "if it is still there"!! I don't think she realises just how sad a statement that is!
The other look I got was at Sandton City when I went into a Travel Agent to confirm my departure. I actually got two this time. The first agency I went into looked at my Air Canada cover and told me she doesn't deal with Air Canada. "Nor SAA" was the reply when I pointed out who I was flying with. "Phone them" being the only advice I received on how to confirm.
So I went to the next agency. Next look. Only this time I was informed that they would do it for me! For R140!! I managed to get my own look in this time! So I followed the first persons advice and did phone SAA, at the Rotunda I think, and got a very helpful chap who sorted everything out for me!
In fact customer service in South Africa seems to be split between very good and totally abysmal! Again, this is not confined to any one group as I had my eyebrows raised by a good representation of the community on more than one occasion. I hesitate to categorise but it did appear that the better service was in areas where tips were to be expected. So in department stores and shopping malls I found the standard of service to be rather low. Perhaps it is reserved for "proper" tourists and I was seeing what everyday South Africans experience. I don't know.
What I do know is that the prices for just about everything are horrendous.
I have been telling everyone in Canada how cheap basic foodstuffs like bread, milk and meat were! Well not any more! About the only goods that I could see that would be cheaper than Canada were the electrical appliances and furniture. Oh! and cigarettes and liquor!!
Even at the exchange price cigarettes were $2 a pack and beer was $12 for a two-four.
Of course the trick is not to use the exchange way of thinking. As we always tell newcomers to Canada, think in the local currency and don't try to convert.
Food on the other hand has shot up in price. Apparently only in the last year according to the people I spoke to there.
R10 for 2 litres of Coke. R16 for a tube of Pringles crisps. (Although they were curry so that was a necessity I guess!) while the old Simba crisps, which now seem to be Lays rather, are R5 for the larger packs which I might add are half the size of our big packets here!
But!, and this is a big but, they do have Biltong flavoured crisps!
Which makes up for everything!
Actually they have a whole range of new and exciting varieties of crisps, which are so much more exotic than the rather bland local varieties!
Wild flame-roasted Salsa, Thai Sweet Chilli, Thai-riffic Chutney, Chilli and lime and Lamb Spitbraai.. OK I am a bit of a heat freak so obviously those would appeal to me.
There are still the obligatory cheese and onion etc., as well as NikNaks, who have a fruit chutney variant, which is surprisingly good.
Thanks to some additive that Canada has banned I am not to sure how much longer we will be able to get Peppermint Crisp through the back door here. But it is still available in South Africa. At R5 a bar. Yes those 79c bars we get here are R5 at the checkout counters there. You don't want to know about the 200g bars! I still think that the Cadbury's there is better tasting than here. I do wonder though just how many children have the opportunity to have a sweet except as a special treat!
Only the very rich ones it seems!
Clothes are expensive as well. Depending I must admit on where you go and what quality you are prepared to accept.
But the real eye opener was the price of cars. A car in Canada will set you back much less than a years pay. Even at minimum wage they are affordable. A really cheap car there is in the R100 thousand range and totally out of the reach of most people. Which no doubt is why so many old clunkers are littering the roads!
If I could give profiteers "that look" then my worst would definitely be saved for them.
So I have been practicing my look. I got the opportunity to try it out flying back when I was seated in the middle seat. Between an American husband and wife team. Whose daughter was in the row behind. Who had the cheek to try the look on me when I showed up and actually wanted to take my seat! The steward actually offered me a seat right at the back of the plane.
When I declined they both tried the look on again. But I have learned from the best!! So they got it back with vengeance.
Enough, I am happy to report, for a peaceful flight onwards.
Where I now sit in the minus degrees waiting for a snow bound Christmas.
For all of you out there may I wish you all a peaceful and joyful Christmas and festive season.
I notice that despite talking about the price of essentials last time I spent more time talking about crisps and chocolate than real food. Even though those may be thought of as a staple diet here in Canada lets be realistic about more basic staples.
Anyway once I had hunted down a bar of Caramilk, which produces the most amazing sounds when being eaten by the way, I had time to look at the prices of things like milk.
2 litres of milk being R11, which I suppose is better than 1 litre of yoghurt at R16. Both of which go well with the No-Name rice crispies at R14 for 500g.
After a while I became so shell-shocked that I stopped registering anymore. When a trolley load of food comes into the R500 plus range you become so aghast that you don't actually want to know.
I even handed over R12 for a London Pie Mutton Curry Pie and samoosa without blinking an eyelid. Actually that is not true. I did blink, but hell I haven't had a decent pie, never mind mutton curry, for a while and to have an almost decent approximation of a samoosa was bliss! Not at all like the stodgy rubbish they pass off here!
Oddly enough the other thing I have missed was conspicuous by its absence for a good few days and then just to let me know what real weather is like we had one of those Highveld thunderstorms!!!
A rip-roaring snorter that would have our local weather forecasters donning flak jackets and diving for cover. I have mentioned before the disappointment I have with the "severe thunderstorm" warnings they periodically broadcast here. How they always seem to be made up of a fart and a few flashes of light that even the energizer bunny would turn its nose up at!
Well I had one of those thunderstorms that make it all worthwhile. You know the four-o-clock ritual. The sky darkens, and it gets hot and oppressive then there is a mixture of sheet and fork lightning that lights up the whole area with this really eerie green tinged light. Then the rain.
And what rain! It will take out birds and insects in flight alike. And drench every living thing in a few seconds. Ah! So bracing!
All of which last for an hour or so if you are lucky. Suddenly it has finished almost as fast as it started and you are left with a clean feeling in the air and on the ground. God I miss those thunderstorms sometimes.
Anyway an hour or so later and you can even go back to swimming. In my case with dogs and hippos. Neither of which is a reference to myself by the way!
I sent back a few e-mails to friends and family in Canada saying that I had been swimming with dogs and hippos and no one so much as batted an eyelid. They didn't even ask either. I mean how blasé can you get. Oh he's back in Africa and swimming with hippos! Ho Hum!
Anyway dammit, I am dying to tell someone so you lucky readers get the truth. There is a new plastic chemical cover that is the splitting image of a hippo. Colour, shape and all. It is so realistic that when I first saw it I thought it was a pygmy hippo in the pool. Then I noticed the other one as well. Which being green didn't give the same effect. The grey one was excellent and I wondered how many sizes it came in. One day when I am rich again and have a house and swimming pool here I want one!! I am sure that I will be able to get away with the pygmy hippo story for quite a while!
At least plastic pygmy hippos don't bite which is what one of the dogs did to me. Well no not really .It dropped a kong in the deep end of the pool and when I retrieved it proceeded to take a chomp at it in order to get it back. Unfortunately my finger was in the way. Knuckles bleed a lot in water I have noticed. Thank God there isn't a penchant for piranhas in pools. Anyway the dogs generally just swam around in the pool and left me alone. Although two German Shepherds and a large Border Collie can take up some room. Not to mention the hippos!
I still think that is such a good idea!
And it is African to the core. Not some transplanted Americanism, which, sad to see, is starting to permeate life over there as well. It wouldn't be too bad if it was a current style but true to form the fashions are slightly out of date and the gratuitous use of New York rapper slang is just plain ridiculous. On one of the shows on SABC1 there were the obligatory rainbow coalition of youngsters going on about "peeps" and "bro" and other inarticulate slobbering! Someone ought to mention to them that even if you are a teenager you don't need to dress like a slob to show independence. Especially if every other person is dressed as badly as you are! And aren't peeps those marshmallow things that you give to children to rot their teeth around Easter?
I also find it interesting that South Africans appear to be the only community that constantly attacks the people who leave the country. At least it seems that way. I may be wrong but I don't think that I have ever heard anyone from any of the other nationalities that make up Toronto talking about the feeling of hatred back home. On a few occasions people actually got annoyed with me for saying I liked Canada!! I am not quite sure what they expected but if I was sincere, and I was, then accept it and move on. Don't try to convert me and make me stay. Or pretend that I owe anyone anything either. Does anyone else get this denigration? It just seems weird to me that it takes place.
I did manage to pick up one last look on my way out of the country. At Jo'burg Airport they have a few "security personnel" who rummage through your cases. In the open and with semi-articulate grunts when they wish you to open things. Apparently other South Africans don't take packets of biltong crisps and jelly tots back to their kids because I was given a really weird look. At least my case wasn't plundered once out of my sight as I have heard so many other people complain about.
And speaking of plundering. For those of you going back a word of advice. Buy souvenirs, cigarettes and booze at the local shops and forget about the "duty free" shops. In one last supreme effort at soaking the ignorant just about every price in the duty-free shops was more expensive than outside the airport.
Which led to one last reminder that we were in Africa. The sheer chaos that ensued on being called to board was so typical of African airports. No orderly queues here. It was a case of everyone for himself and the woman and children be dammed. Although to be fair some of the bottleneck was caused by security checking peoples shoes!! Something which occurred at Atlanta as well. Everyone had to take their shoes off and pass them through the sniffer. I wonder how often toe jam sets that lot off?
So by now, having bored everyone with my verbose tales of what I saw and experienced back in South Africa you no doubt would like me to answer the question which is always on every ex-pats lips at some time or other. Especially when they go back for the first time!
Would I want to go back?
The short answer to that is no!
Not to stay. I would go back every so often on holiday certainly but I am not sure that I would like to live there permanently. Most of us tend to forget that we are going back as tourists. Albeit very knowledgeable ones who have the luxury of staying cheaply with family and friends. We use dollars and don't really think through what it would be like to actually live there, be paid in Rands and have to put up with the day to day activities that South Africans currently seem resigned to accepting.
I do miss my friends and family but sometimes in life you make choices that you need to live with.
Despite the extreme hardship I have had over here I felt like I was coming home when I landed at Pearson.
Actually I knew I was home. It says so in my passport as well.
A postscript to the above is that when I landed at Pearson I caught two buses, the GO Train and a taxi to get home. With a bulging suitcase and satchel. Waiting alone at stations and terminals. Somehow, and despite my size, I don't think that I would have been able to do the same at Jo'burg! .
December 2nd 2003
One of the more interesting aspects of coming into South Africa was that I was an “Alien” for a change and as such had to stand in the Foreign Passport holder's line. That is where I noticed that a lot of the foreigners spoke strange dialects for whichever country it was they were coming from.
We call it “Seffrican” here in Canada!
A lot of the people in my queue and those around me spoke it very well! At one stage as the queues got longer and slower you could pick them out by the sideways glances that they gave to the South African passport holders queues which were much shorter and moved quickly for a change.
You could almost see the thought going through their heads:” should I whip out my South African passport and change queues?” Which would probably have seen a wholesale movement sideways and longer queues there. No doubt why no one did that!
I did feel a bit weird passing across my Canadian passport when I got the Officer. Watching him put the visa and stamp in was funny in a way. I wanted to shout, “hey…see I was born in Durban!!” but I was also proud of being a Canadian and wanted to use my new passport as well.
Ah! The conflicted schizophrenia of changing citizenship and going back to where you were born!
I will admit that I didn't attempt the last refuge of a different countries passport holder. Which is to speak with an accent and pretend you were born there! To heck with that. I am too old to pretend and anyway my “Canadian” accent comes across as a mixture of every country EXCEPT Canada when I do try to make a fool of myself!!
Anyway no one seemed to care where the hell I was born or even where I came from. Unlike the American Customs agents the South African agent oozed boredom and probably wished that I had stayed wherever it was I had come from to make his life so unpleasant! At least I wasn't adding to my collection of “looks”!
So after navigating the hordes of taxi-pimps we at last found ourselves out of the underground parking garage (courtesy of another group of bored attendants!) and onto the airport interchange. Here I was back on familiar ground. The crazy jigsaw that is Jo'burg Internationals jumble of highway connections is still as bad as it ever was. I have no idea how a foreigner who has hired a car ever finds their way out of there! And seeing as the driving skills of the locals has got even worse why they would even attempt it!
Now might be the time to point out to those of you who haven't been back for a while that the driving ability of most of the nation has deteriorated considerably. Never good at the best of times I would describe South African driving as being like an Italian on drugs negotiating Lagos streets at Autobahn speeds!
With the hand on the hooter! (Note to Canadian readers here - “Hooter” refers to a horn. Not to any salacious activities, although I am sure that that does occur as well.)
I drive the 401 often and will put myself up against the 16 wheelers thundering up my backside at 130 any day compared to the experience of having a taxi with 30 people in, and on, it attempting to squeeze into a width no greater than a paint swatch at 160!!
I admit that I am not the world's slowest driver around. However when I am the slowest driver on the road at 140 it can be classified as a bit ridiculous. Unless the 120 I kept seeing all over the roads was meant to point out how slow you may go?!
So having assessed that speed limits appeared to be an indication only I was also interested to note that other road signs are classified as the same.
Stop signs and robots merely being there to indicate that another road intersects at that point!
As quick aside here may I point out how wonderful it was to hear a friend of mine describe a route as follows:
“Go down Jan Smuts and hang a left at the first robot past the Colony”!! I miss the understanding that goes with that comment. Canadians always look at me as if I am mad when I say robot!! Common language se voet!!
Anyway back to the legality of traffic lights and stop streets! I lost count of how many vehicles I saw go through both! If this was done at a reasonable speed I would be a little more happy but it was done at speeds that wouldn't allow any reaction on any parties part, should two of these fools be attempting to ignore the same stop.
At one stage I was driving with someone, who had better remain nameless, when we came to a zebra crossing where two people had started to cross on the other side. Now in Canada everyone within a mile slows down and stops (theoretically that is. Certain sections of Toronto pay lip service to that idea!) and the pedestrian crosses safely. We sailed through at 60 km's and when I had regained my composure enough to query the lack of action “back there” was informed that the driver hadn't seen a pedestrian crossing and anyway they should wait until it was safe to cross!! I thought I heard the sound of a million Canadian jaws dropping but apparently it was only my own!
I think it was at this stage that I was informed that I wasn't in Canada and would I buckle up shut up already!!
Mind you I was also given a first hand experience of the standard of aggression that every driver has when earlier that day some fool ignored a guard and rushed through a stop sign at a parking lot and nearly took off my Sisters front end. I very calmly informed him he was a wanker. At which stage this fool decided to stop his very important car and self to climb out. No doubt to calmly inform me that he wasn't a wanker despite his actions. Unfortunately my sister drove off. And delivered a lecture to me about guns and South Africa and aggression and stupidity and lots of other things that I forget about. Given the age and size of the wanker concerned about the only thing that would have stopped me kicking his ass was a gun so I guess I should be grateful to her!!
How soon we reacclimatize!!
The interesting part of this driving experience is that every South African no matter what race, colour or creed, sex or age indulges in making it as frightening as it was. This is one country where the women were definitely not better drivers than the men. Everyone was rotten and aggressive equally!! Equality at last!
Leaving aside the quality of driving one of the most amusing aspects of driving on the roads was the ability to do your shopping at every street corner!!.
Before I left, the traffic-light hawker was beginning to make his appearance. Mostly selling garbage bags and coat hangers! I am happy to report that that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and expanding. You can now buy anything when you are stopped at the intersection. And I do mean anything. Batteries, umbrella's, cool drinks, cigarettes, novelty dogs, children's toys, sunglasses, telephone cards and I presume quite a few illegal substances as well. The new item of sales choice, especially in tourist trap areas, being animals made from copper wire. No doubt Telkom is also proud of this good use that their telephone wire is put too.
This makes a refreshing change from the Squeegee kids and beggars although both are there in abundance too. In fact I watched one white woman begging, reach into a pocket and take out a cell phone at one stage. Almost as insulting as watching the beggars target only white women in cars. I asked one chap why he hadn't asked the black lady in the Mercedes 500 alongside for some money. The resulting snort of laughter was a lot more insulting than the comment about rich WaBenzi bit…women!! By the way she reinforced this by telling him to “eff off” in no uncertain terms when he did show me what happens when he does ask the new rich!
In hindsight I now wonder what ever made me decide to borrow my sisters car and go driving to visit friends. The roads are crowded, the drivers insane and rules don't exist.
I will however say that the quality of the roads seems to be pretty good. Compared to the local roads here that is. I was told that they had deteriorated by the locals though, and I think that in the dim recesses of my mind they may be right on that point.
Overall my impression is that the standard of driving is way below where it should be. I am not surprised that so many accidents take place.
I am surprised that there aren't more.
Definitely not for the faint hearted. Or people with heart problems either.
The most interesting element of my recent trip to South Africa was that it took eight hours before I heard my first gunshots!! Small caliber handgun. Maybe a .32. Even more interesting is that these appeared to be the only ones I heard for the whole week I was there. Unless I was tuning them out subconsciously, but somehow I don't think so.
For those of you who are wondering why this is important, I would like to point out that before I moved five years ago I lived out on the wild and woolly north west of Gauteng where gunfights were a regular and daily occurrence. So this can be seen as a definite improvement.
This isn't to say that there weren't any gunfights taking place. Merely that I wasn't physically aware of them.
Considering that Socialite Hazel Crane was gunned down in what appeared to be an Israeli Mob hit (I hesitate to call it an assassination as the local newspapers went overboard in describing it!) Mind you she was on her way to be a witness in a court case against the man accused of murdering her one husband so it seems that lawlessness is still rife.
I did notice that the normal (is there such a thing??) daily crop of murders, rapes and robberies are still relegated to the “also ran” column tucked away in the depths of the newspapers! What I call the “if we ignore it we can pretend it doesn't exist” outlook.
This is assuming that you can ignore the 24-hour wall-to-wall non-stop blaring of sirens as well!!
But I am getting ahead of myself again.
If I have any strong feeling about the way South Africa has changed in the 5 years since I have left it is that there is a strong schizophrenic element to the collective psyche.
And enough aggression to fuel the testosterone level of every schoolboy rugby team in the world.
There is a distinct feeling of aggression that hangs over the country. Perhaps those who live there don't notice it, or have got used to it, but for me it was a palpable feeling that permeated daily activities.
Like the driving this isn't confined to any one group either. Everyone seems to be inflicted.
The trouble is that the swaggering reminds me ever so much of the little boy whistling in the dark as he pretends to be bigger and stronger than he actually is. It is a scared aggression which presents itself.
You only have to drive around all the walled off houses and gated enclosures to see that.
My sister lives in an enclave within an enclave.
Yes you read that right! Their neighbourhood association put up a gated enclosure covering probably a square mile of houses. This had two exits. Then along came the neighbouring community who closed off their area. Unfortunately to get to my Sisters house you have to travel through the other community. Who of course chose the most ridiculously impossible route to get in and out!
Despite much moaning it was a fait accompli. This if course had nothing to do with the fact that many of the residents of the larger area were ANC councilors and MP's!!! Which incidentally also makes a mockery of their stance in council when it comes to decrying the other gated areas as “apartheid holdouts”!!
Currently living a quarter of a mile from Sandton City it is now a five mile drive to get there!!
So as you drive around all you see are walls and gates. And electric fencing on the seven-foot walls!!
And dogs. Not the nice cuddly stupid tongue-lolling tail-wagging idiots that lick you to death here, but their snarling vicious attack pack equivalent. My sister is a dog trainer and She has some strong views about some of the breeds that act as guards over there! And the lack of training they have!
Still, with all that, there was a hijacking inside the enclosure a few days before I arrived. Which is when I discovered that the guards themselves aren't actually allowed to stop people and ask their business!! They can report suspicious characters but may not approach or apprehend them. Some law that was passed by the new lords and masters apparently! So in effect the whole concept of a gated community is a total farce!
It was also quite scary to discover just how quiet and deserted the streets become after midnight. Couple that with very few streetlights and you can get very uneasy driving around after lights out!
The worst experience I had though was quite funny in hindsight.
Driving home late one evening I went up past Sandton City. There is a Holiday Inn there but oddly enough hardly any lighting at all. So of course I get caught at the robot. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a pair of eyes and some teeth approaching me.
The South African in me says, ”put voet” and get the hell out of there.
The Canadian in me says check it out first. I haven't reached the peacekeeping stage yet so I warily observe the approaching teeth. At which stage I notice the tank top and mini skirt. And the Cher wig!!
I still “put voet”, but at least the robot had changed and there were other reasons for my haste this time!!
It seems that the area around Sandton City has become a haven for prostitutes lately and this was one of the “Ladies of negotiable affection” merely attempting to offer me a quote. Unfortunately for her I have Scottish blood in my heritage and we don't pay for anything we can get for free!!! And with the AIDS epidemic in South Africa you would have to be an absolute idiot to even consider using a prostitute.
Which is another part of the problem I noticed. While AIDS is ignored for a large part by the upper levels of Government there it is devastating the country. On speaking to friends I was informed that there are areas where up to 30% of the population has AIDS. If you consider that AIDS is mostly active in the 15 to 45 age group who are your economically viable, tax paying family supporters you have a recipe for disaster when they are no longer productive or dead! At 600 deaths a day that is just around the corner!! I am more afraid of the consequences for South Africa from AIDS than any other problem they have there!
The current life expectancy is 47 years!!!! That is 30 years less than Canada! And going down each year as well.
Sadly I also found that there was more racism there than before. Attitudes on both sides have hardened. Despite the Canadian belief that only whites are racists the black population in South Africa is doing it's best to show that racism is alive and well in all groups.
Being a voracious reader I devoured as many newspapers as I could there. Which is where I noticed some of the most vile hate speech being bandied about on the letters pages. Each side giving as good as they got! But it was disturbing to think that the attitudes seemed so polarised. It was also interesting to note that the honeymoon that Coloureds and Indians enjoyed early on in the new democracy has been replaced by a definite attitude of intolerance.
It seems as if every group has decided that every other group is to blame for its ills and is busy whining about the unfairness of it all and how racist every other group is. Most of us here in Canada are aware of the “you're a racist” chant whenever a group decides it needs to gain an advantage. Well think of that and add hatred to the mix and you have a good approximation of the level of debate there!
Which given that South Africa had one of the most amazing transformations, without bloodshed, is extremely sad. I don't see it getting better either. Not without some serious education taking place and that doesn't appear to be part of the plan. Not when you rely on an ill educated electorate to keep you in power any way! (All references to learning from Canada have been excised at this point!!)
So in many ways South Africa has some serious issues to face and overcome if they want to continue to be the powerhouse of Africa. Maybe to just remain an economically viable country in their own right.
While I am sad about the racism and crime I am really frightened by the effects of AIDS.
If anything that is what will break the country!