Maybe it seems we’ve lingered here too long, but we didn’t seem to mind. In the two months we spent in South Africa before heading north for Zimbabwe we visited 5 countries: SA, Mozambique, Namibia Swaziland and Lesotho. We drove 12,000 kilometers, ensured our annual park pass paid for itself twice over, and saw all of the big 5 and then some. We entered a swim race, saw our first rugby match, celebrated a birthday and the new year, and even managed to make new, life-long friendships. In short, we got to know this place pretty darn well.
South Africa really is an interesting country but it is a country which defies easy classification. Many people back home think of South Africa as the developed and advanced part of Africa. Those people would probably be correct but stopping there doesn’t tell the whole story. The story begins a long time ago, with the discoveries of gold and diamonds in some sections of the country. Apartheid came next, followed by what some would call terrorism, others a civil war. A truce was called, suffrage was made universal, and those in power had a different skin color.
Has the country changed much since the 1990’s? We weren’t here back then but I’m not sure it has. The majority of blacks and coloreds still live in shacks outside of the city, some with running water and electricity and some without. The internet still works at dial-up speeds in most places, though it’s improving. People in Johannesburg still live behind 10 foot walls and electric fences. The government still defines all citizens by race (for statistical purposes only of course).
Some things have changed though…many towns and cities (attempts to change the name of the capital from Pretoria to Tshwane are currently being held up in court) are being changed from their current name to their Zulu or other tribal name, causing confusion on the roads. The form of affirmative action used here is de facto forcing many whites to leave the country. I wonder if in making these changes, those who are now in power have felt the need to ask the bushmen tribes what they think….after all the bushmen were here for even longer… Many citizens are embarrassed by the fact the President has 5 wives, is working on number 6, and is father to more than 20 children…many others though merely say they are unfit to judge another’s [polygamist] culture.
In my opinion though, all the hoopla, all the racism, all the debate, and all the remarks, can best be described as only one thing…growing pains. Although it is a country with a long history, it is a new democracy. Many of those with the right to vote have only just received it and as each individual, each generation grows and ages they will find a greater appreciation for that right. The politics will continue to evolve and the country with it. This is a beautiful country to know, and I am thankful to have known it as it is today and look forward to seeing it again in the future.