Tuesday, November 20, 2018

South African rant

This is much unfinished, but publish and be damned. Large photo posts take a long time to compose, and as we draw towards the end of holiday, I am still working on the last big post. I will write a bit more though about our experience in South Africa, from a personal aspect.

In my youthful years I was passionately against Ian Smith in Rhodesia. Smith was eventually tossed away at the behest of Britain and the world, and Rhodesia went on to become become Zimbabwe with equal rights for black people. Job done, but then it all went so horribly wrong in Zimbabwe as white people were the elite and subjected to attacks by black people which was and still is as much about the poor uprising against the rich. Unfortunately it is skin colour that boils down to who owns what. Whites in Zimbabwe don't own much now and most have left. The country is now a basket case and while it should be able to at least feed itself, it can barely do so. Colonialism was not a good thing, but what has followed with independence has not been good either.

Ipso facto it would follow that I was also anti apartheid in South Africa. What right minded person could not be. Surely the black people in South Africa should have equal rights and a vote. It came to pass in the 1990s after a long campaign which included the hero of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and many others, including some white people. My thoughts about South Africa before we visited, was that a brutal and corrupt white political elite had been replaced by a brutal and corrupt black political elite. I may not have been wrong about that.

Yet, it is a functioning country. There are a few old white people still in the political elite, but I don't think many now. White people are still in a position of power in many areas of business and commerce. The serving class is mostly black. While our service staff were mostly black, at times there was a white person who was not in charge but just doing the same service job as black people. But yes, in most places it was white bosses in charge of black staff.

There is an official government policy to employ more black people than white. There is quite a number of unemployed white people in South Africa, and some who are quite poor.

South Africa has eleven official languages but most chat is in Afrikaans, which is Dutch and German based with some local African language thrown in. Formal business and commerce is mostly conducted in English. Generally anyone who is a tourist would come across could speak both Afrikaans and English.

Afrikaans seems to be spoken loud and it is a guttural language, with rolling rs and throaty stuff like Arabic. African people have no problem with speaking to people a long distance away. It can feel a little threatening to meek people like us.

At the end of the day, I have no idea of what black and white relationships are like in South Africa. One of our stupid politicians said that white farmers from South Africa should be given immigration priority as they were being killed on their farms by black people at a rapid rate. I came across a really good fact check South Africa website. Yes, some white farm owners have been killed, but it is mostly robbery or a labour dispute problem. Generally white people are very safe in South Africa. The murder rate among black people is much higher. If any farmers in South Africa should be given priority entrance to Australia, it is probably black farm owners who are also under threat.

I think I've already recounted this in a comment, but one day during a break of our coach travel, we came across the slowest ATM ever. A black man was using it, and we wondered why he was pissing around. His transaction eventually concluded and he was followed by a dark haired white woman. I didn't hear what was said, but the white woman said, don't worry. I am a local. You are quite safe here. Her transaction took just as long as the black person's, as did ours.

We still had plenty of time before we had to board the coach. We walked around the corner with the intention of going to the big shopping centre we could see. But there were loud black men everywhere and it being Friday evening, some were drunk. I, who would normally say, we have a perfect right to walk to the shopping centre among all these black men, was quite pleased when R said, I think we better go back. I did not argue.

We boarded our coach and it turned the same corner we had walked. I saw an about 60 year old  white woman in tailored clothing, hair beautifully coiffed, good and quite heavy makeup, dripping in gold bling, step out of her Mercedes and walk among all the black men into the shopping centre. Those at the bottom of the socio economic end, who have been discriminated against because they are black, did not attack the rich white woman and would not have attacked us. I really wonder why.

For me it is an intangible thing, pride in equality, but post Apartheid all those black men became a equal to that white woman in theory, and to us. I think if I was a black man, I would pleased and satisfied with that, but not the mostly, not always, inequality of wealth between blacks and whites in South Africa. I remember when Apartheid ended that there were quite a number of white working class people who did manual labour. I wonder what happened to them?

But what would do as a white South African? More specifically concerning your children. Flee the country for your children's better future? Hang on in there and see how things go? A difficult decision many will face.

South Africa is not for understanding. There is an important vote before parliament soon about whether white South African farmers should have their farms taken away from them without compensation. I can only suggest to the black people of South Africa, do you want to go down the road of Rhodesia? Black people in South Africa, take you pride in that you are equal to white people and you are advantaged in the employment market.  Get your children well educated and they will be in positions of power, government, education, technology and commerce in years to come. It will take some time for anything like economic equality but it will happen, and without upsetting the applecart.

29 comments:

  1. No answers from here. I wish I did. But yes, I do agree with your final sentences (perhaps from a position of ignorance.
    And remember that politician's stance. From memory he is also the oxygen thief who suggested that African youth made Melbournians afraid to go out at night.

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    1. EC, it is a very complex country, and there are the examples of similar countries disenfranchising the white population, and it did not go well. But it is a country with vast wealth and potential and there is no reason why it cannot succeed.

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  2. As I have commented before, HIV has destroyed young men in Africa and South Africa really copped it with treatment denied. It was passed to the women and it was up to the grandmothers to raise the children who also had a high rate of HIV. Freedom can be given but it takes a long time for the notion of freedom to wipe out years of oppression, look at America, free the slaves in one century but two centuries later, still fighting for dignity and freedom. Sad to say but this country is not much better and there are a few uppity white blokes I'd like to see thrown under a cattle stampede.
    And Barnaby is back running for Parliament and Mark Latham has joined One Nation with lovely Pauline, just in case you missed the news while you were away.

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    1. Jah Teh, yes, the politician who was called the witch doctor because of his basic denial of science and medicine. HIV is still a big problem in SA. Your point about the US is valid, but perhaps the starting date should be when all written legal discrimination stopped. Yes, I did I hear that unfortunate news, on both counts.

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  3. I remember when my first South African friends emigrated to Melbourne after the Sharpeville Massacre in the early 1960s. They were supporters of the brave Parliamentarian Helen Suzman and were very fearful of what the National Party and police would do to them.

    Everything I know about South Africa, great and tragic, I learned from those teenage friends.

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    1. Hels, Suzman is well honoured in South Africa. I recall seeing a road named Helen Suzman Drive in Cape Town, I think. I was always very impressed by her on our tv screens. There were plenty of other white people too who were against apartheid. A couple of football brothers come to mind.

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  4. Your last paragraph says it all. Make sure your children are educated.... it opens all doors. Meritocracy is far stronger than colour.

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    1. Cro, it is so true. Despots hate educating the masses.

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  5. Not sure at all what to say to all this. I agree there is much that is problematic and will take time to get sorted. I agree with Cro Magnon, education is the ticket. I also think if white farmers have their farms taken away they should be compensated at least with enough to start over or get out of the country if they wish.

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    1. River, of course they need to be compensated, and I can't imagine that in a county like South Africa that they would not be. Time will tell, and I will mention it if it comes to the worst.

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  6. "Get your children well educated": I agree on that, Andrew!

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  7. We just don't seem to figure it out.
    I am a big believer in going to a university away from home. Even if the degree doesn't necessarily equate into a better job, it broadens your horizons, exposes you to different cultures and viewpoints.

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    1. Sandra, a really good point and I agree with you. Funnily just today there was a report online that stated how much better tertiary students do if they have had a gap year.

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  8. There is such a long way to go. Despite post apartheid 'equality' the major cities and towns still are surrounded by the shanty towns, many of which have new housing 'estates' built that still are no match for the facilities enjoyed mainly by whites in the suburbs.

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    1. Victor, quite so, but what is the white population of South Africa? Around 8%, I believe. Is it such a big problem? I expect many black Africans live in modest but normal housing as we would know it.

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  9. The complexities of the country are beyond me....I wish I had the answers.

    The complexities of the rest of the world are beyond me...I wish I had the answers...

    Racism is not black and white....

    I wish everyone in this world, black, white, brown, brindle, tan, pink...bright red from sunburn...could get along.

    I wish for the impossible...

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    1. Lee, good work. Yes, racism is not a black and white issue, but at times seems to be.

      Yes, you do wish for the impossible, but shouldn't we all.

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  10. Well written and thought out Andrew.
    Cousin and her husband plus daughter had black maids, cooks, gardeners with the house having high fences. These black people were not paid much as is the custom.
    Now cousins travels backwards and forwards to Jo'burg as her husband still is the Director of the School, daughter is attending Uni on the Gold Coast. Many stories I've been told via email and in person about the blacks of SA...very interesting.

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    1. Margaret, not sure about praise for me writing. I do it from a poorly educated perspective. But I call it how I see it.

      Your family information is very interesting and I have picked up the loading in what you say.

      I'll just say I am a poorly educated blue collar worker. What would I know!

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    2. Andrew, you are doing ok...To speak your mind and be able to write it down is a good thing in my opinion. I don't look for mistakes as I make them too :)

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  11. It is a complex country with many problems, as you say education is the key, but it will take many generations before things might come right. The present President is another nutcase which doesn't help.
    There is a lot of racism and hate between blacks themselves, from different tribes.
    Having lived there for 14 years I'm glad we managed to get an opportunity to leave and make a good life in other countries (namely Portugal and Australia) as I see my younger sister and Jose's older brother struggling to make ends meet, unable to change jobs as they aren't the right colour, with children with higher education (which is probably not even recognized anywhere else) who have no prospects of a good future and they don't even have the money to leave and start somewhere else.

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    1. Sami, I really appreciate your comment. It does give us some kind of understanding. I don't like saying it, but you made a wise decision so many years ago and what an asset to Australia you and your husband have become.

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  12. When corruption is replaced by more or worse corruption and lack of educated vision, Zimbabwe is the result, or one result. I often wonder about all these third world nations, many of them corrupt to this day, why they cannot progress into an educated society and political system, so at least their own citizens can work, have sewage and water systems, road repair, non corrupt police, after all these years, that stretch into decades and centuries. I don't understand it. Like most of Central America.

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    1. Strayer, yes, why is this the case? For a start, if police, judiciary and politicians are properly paid and so not susceptible to bribes and corruption not tolerated, we begin the process. I think Central American gaols are soft for those with money. That should stop. But I really do believe that education is the key. Educate the masses properly and this will in a shorter time sort things out. So many things we can futilely wring our hands about.

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  13. Africa is an enigma Andrew. I grew up there from age four until twenty one and saw many changes. I loved every minute there. P was born there, it's where he developed his love of bushwalking from an early age. I like to think there is a bright future for Africa, there are so manytalented people. The poaching of African animals drives me crazy, beautiful beasts killed for very small parts of their body grrrr. don't get me started!

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    1. Good word, Grace. Enigma. The corruption is spoiling things at the moment, I think. From what I have seen and heard, no stone is being left unturned to stop poachers in Kruger Park.

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  14. Education is everything. It is sad that in my own country our schools are in such a shambles. Not all mind you, but you really must either live in the right town, or send your children to private school.
    Often people do not even realize they are not being given a good education.
    I expect this to be a big problem in South Africa.
    A friend of mine worked in India for several years. Her housekeeper and driver had one son. She got quite close to the family, and she has paid for him to go to private school, in hopes he can break free of the Caste system there.

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    1. Maribeth, schools here are becoming a bit like that, unfortunately. But there is an awareness and efforts are being made and money spent. For some reason I think the basic education in South Africa is ok. From a comment above, perhaps tertiary is below standard.

      The castes system in India is awful and even if he has a good education, can he break free of the caste system? It may be that he has to move overseas to do so.

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