Monday, January 23, 2012

First impressions

I’m in South Africa – Johannesburg or Jo'burg to be precise.

AFREEKA!!! The land of my Father's forefathers and Ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity) one of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies originated in South Africa.

It is seen by many Africans as the land of milk and honey perhaps, that’s due to it having the strongest economy in Africa, don't forget that about a year ago they also hosted the first Football World Cup to be held on the African continent in 2010......That takes some serious financial committment.

Johannesburg, South Africa is located at the bottom of Africa. It is surrounded by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. Since I’ve been here I’ve discovered that there are 11 official languages (English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Sepedi, Xhosa, Venda, Tswana, Southern Sotho, Zulu, Swazi and Tsonga). Of the 45 million South Africans, nearly 31 million are Black, 5 million White, 3 million Coloured (a term used for mixed African, Asian and White descent) and 1 million Indian.

My view of South Africa as an outsider is made of images from the media during the apartheid era and colored by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa.
I genuinely believed, South Africa to be seriously poor with an unstable government, seriously violent and you were unable to walk the street for fear of being robbed and killed but, yes I still accepted the challenge.

Can't believe everything you read.

There are glorious South African sunsets for instance and the great blue African skies and the hospitality of really nice welcoming people I have met. They seem open, kind, and helpful. The rough humour, the ready smile, just the way good people make do without complaining, they just seem to carry on.

Don't get me wrong you still have to be on your toes and the Townships remain among the poorest and the least developed parts of the world and poverty in the townships is appalling, some say progress is being made but it is very slow. 
One of the things that is hyped is that when apartheid ended 27% of the population had access to clean water and now that been increased to around 80% of the population although in the rural areas access to clean water is still scarce and the process of recovering from apartheid, which lasted 45 years (Ta Rarse!!) ending in 1994 is quite slow.

And, whilst the Government maybe black, I don't quite think they are pulling the strings, to my eyes corruption seems to be prevalent along with a certain nepotism and you can see it around you.
If you visit the townships you will see tin corrugated iron houses and people living amongst sewage and rubbish but, just a few kilometres away up the road in the white middle class suburbs such as Bryanston or Sandton you will see massive building developments taking place everywhere., the rich and old money hiding behind big walls with barbed wire and electric fences.

I think that within political circles Tribalism has taken a more prevalent position, while of course Racism has not been totally rooted out and that will take a few generations before the black people feel truly equal, it's almost as if the poor will be slaves to the rich here whether they be white or black. 

So far my general consensus is that South Africa "The Rainbow nation" is a country full of contradictions. It definitely has an exotic combination of landscapes, people, history and culture, and is offering me a unique and inspiring experience of dark and mysterious Africa beyond my wildest dreams. 

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Just passing through and enjoying life. I use this blog to keep hold of my thoughts & opinions. In general anything that interest me.