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Global Quest For Local LETS
Copyright � James Taris


26. South Africa Is Just Like Australia (sort of)

At a beach near Kalk Bay (Cape Town).

At last I found a country which reminded me very much of my homeland, Australia.

First of all, everyone spoke English, and the slight difference in accent was easy to accept. Then there were the streets and the buildings. British influenced architecture which I could easily relate to. And everyone drove on the left-hand side of the road! Such bliss. No longer did I need to swallow deeply whenever we overtook a vehicle from the 'wrong' side (as was always the case in mainland Europe).

We are both in the Southern Hemisphere, so we share the same seasons (and Christmas in summer). And we both have an abundance of flora and fauna, something which I sadly found lacking in Europe.

Geographically, South Africa has the same features as Australia. Much of its borders is coastline, with beautiful yellow sands and clean swimming beaches. And much of its interior is typically wide open spaces, with a range of features, from mountains to deserts.

And the people dressed like Aussies, walked like Aussies and even thought like Aussies, with similar interests in sports (especially cricket) and lifestyle views. Well, the whites did, anyway. And I guess that's where the big differences started to appear.

With apartheid gone, you'd think that South Africa would've progressed quite well, or at least satisfactorily, especially when dealing with the problems of the native African population. After all, the whites are no longer running the country. But the reality is to the contrary, and even shocking.

South Africa has a population of 43 million people. Only 6 million of these are whites, and the coloureds make up the rest. Officially, there's 29% unemployment, but unofficially the figure is more likely to be 50% (yes, 50%!).

With the hope of a brighter future, the largest cities, Johannesburg and Cape Town have attracted a massive influx of Africans from inland South Africa and also from neighbouring countries. Unfortunately, those hopes don't seem to be realized, as millions of people live in 3rd world conditions which are quite obvious when driving past kilometre after kilometre of 'squatter towns' with shacks built out of scrap wood, old corrugated iron and torn canvas sheets. I don't even want to think about their sanitary conditions! In fact, the frustration of these people has reached such an extreme that there is a large area in central Johannesburg which is regarded as a no-go zone for whites.

And there are the 'prefer not to be reminded' world claims to fame.

1) South Africa has the highest incidence of HIV and AIDS in the world.
2) South Africa has the greatest 'gap' between the rich and poor in the world.
3) Cape Town (the city I was visiting) is the Murder Capital of the world!

Not the sort of thing that a tourist wants to see on his list of tourist attractions.

The purpose of my visit to Cape Town was to help start local community trading systems (LETS) which could help these people with their plight. Fortunately, after many presentations to interested groups and even a radio interview on the popular 'Cape Talk' radio station in Cape Town, I was able to get the ball rolling in this endeavour. I hope to see some positive results emerging soon.

This article is taken from the ebook,
Global Quest for Local LETS

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