Posted from Cape Town, South Africa.
We have just arrived in Cape Town, the last stop on our whirlwind tour. We have probably covered over two thousand miles as we have wound our way from the top to the bottom of this wildly diverse country. The parched and drought ridden landscape of the north gave way to spectacular vistas of wheat fields, vineyards and the Indian Ocean coastline. You could feel the bustle come out of the air as the sea seems to round off rough edges. Of course my water fix is a remedy for all that ails.
This country continues to amaze me. In one or two weeks I have walked with a lion and petted elephants if that is something you can really do. We have come upon white lions no more than ten feet from our jeeps. Thereafter we had an exquisite formal lunch prepared by a young black man of 22 years and he has already been at his trade for three of them. In Durban we lunched in a burger shack on the beach and the boardwalk revealed only one or two whites among a large throng of black bathers. It was uncomfortable being a minority and the experience was more than unsettling.
We stayed two nights in a picture postcard seaside colony named Knyzna (Nizena) where one night we did a cocktail cruise on a boat shucking oysters and drinking champagne. How decadent! What country are we in? That day we were escorted around the cliffside nature preserve by a young gal from the UK by the name of Allie. We descended from high up on a steep rocky trail leading to the landing. On the way down we chatted and she said was engaged to the young lad that tended to the boats and Unimog that had hauled us up the hill. She was uncertain of the date of the vow taking in as much as they had to save 40,000 rand which is about $3,000US. We suddenly came back to reality.
There is the black and white thing in this place and it is still pervasive.It is not an annoyance but rather a problem that has to be faced. They have such vast riches but are embroiled as to who gets what and a lot of things go undone. The ANC which is de facto black, rules the roost right now. They are the children of a sort of Nelson Mandela. He became a symbol of the plight of blacks as he sat rotting in a cell on Robben Island. Please understand this country is 80% black,10% whites and 10% others known as coloreds. Mandela forgave his captors and truly believed all he wanted was for the blacks to be on an equal playing field. Nice thought but much more difficult in application. His political descendants liked the whole idea of power. They fed upon the feast of corruption because it felt good and properly used it could keep them in power. They gave everything from housing to schooling at no cost. We all know that when we don’t have to earn things they somehow become an entitlement. But then coffers run dry and people begin to turn.
This is taking place all over the continent. Enter the super power and in this case China. The despots are open for business. The nations are laden with all manner of energy and ore of strange names and many utilizations. The voracious monster needs these and trades that for infrastructure of all sorts from new airports to railways to roads to nowhere. This is right up the alley of the war lords because infrastructure proves they are doing a good job and an obvious need for reelection. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven but somehow the people are catching on.Wonder if we in the US ever will?
Here in Capetown they actually have. The West Cape province is running like a decently oiled machine. The streets are clean which is unusual for SA. There are construction cranes everywhere. The townships aka slums are being transformed slowly. The sheer irony is that after 1992 the cheapest housing which some middle to upper class blacks were finally allowed to buy were in the working neighborhoods. These were the “Joe six packs” who were the most conservative apartheid loving dudes in the country. But somehow they have made it work.
Over the centuries Capetown has been an amalgam of peoples. Whites. Blacks, Dutch, English, Malays, you name it. There are vested interests but they seem more muted. Walking on the oceanfront promenade you see mixed couples of all sorts and yes on our walk yesterday we saw a black and white lesbian couple. C’est la vie. I think the city’s relative sophistication makes it more open to political concepts and God forbid cooperation. One can say they are an aberration but maybe they are a true hope for the future.
We have seen abject poverty on our little adventure. Hovels made of scraps of tin and cardboard. The people in these townships think trash is a sign of affluence. You actually have something to throw away. All of this is affectionately called “poverty porn.” Humorous in a perverse way but incredibly sad. The problem is enormous as there is over 25% unemployment here. Even worse among them 50% of the population is under 24. That literally have nothing to do.The townships are homes to millions. It would be easy to throw up one’s hands and move on.Or if we were the Donald we could just ship 10 or 15 million somewhere else.
If I have even figured out 1/10 of this country I wouldn’t have even put a dent into the entire continent. It is the second largest geographically as well population wise being home to well over a billion people. There are 55 countries and it almost impossible to believe we are in the same location as Cairo, Algiers, Tripoli and Nairobi. There is so much promise and at the same time problems of astronomical proportions.
There is one thing I have learned. Polar opposites don’t attract and they get nothing done. You may have proved whatever extreme you purport to believe in but the overall and by that I can only mean the common good is left to flounder.They came incredibly close to civil war here in the mid 90’s. We can’t give without responsibility and requiring personal accountability. In the same breath we can’t keep padding our personal vaults and think the rest will somehow make it.We are in this together and I think we have to get our act in some sort of unified fashion. No man is an island was never more true.
Ted The Great
City Populations in SA:
Johannesburg 15 millón
Cape Town 5 million
Durban 3.5 million
Nelson Mandela remained in prison for 26 years. He worked in a limestone quarry 365 days a year.With other inmates he taught the illiterate members of the chain gang as they worked and several received degrees from their work. They were allowed two letters out (no more than 500 words) and two letters in per year. They were only allowed to wear shorts and short sleeved shirts regardless of the weather.
In South Africa if someone puts any sort of a permanent building on a site for 48 hours they are considered to have squatter’s rights.
The flip side. Trevor Manuel as the Finance Minister of South Africa has been recognized worldwide as a leading banker and financial expert. He was overlooked in lieu of Christine Legard as the new head of the IMF. The unofficial reason was that he was black and the free world could not have that.
Sorry to be so long but I could continue on this whole topic for hours if not days.