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
3) Cape Town (the city I was visiting) is the Murder Capital of the
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.