South Africa – progress?

South Africa

By chance I was in South Africa recently, in Sabi Sands for a ‘trip of a life time’ and spending a couple of days in Johannesburg. One couldn’t miss the forthcoming election, with posters promoting the various parties plastered over billboards, lamp posts and any other suitable surface. And it was interesting to hear the views of an articulate waiter at the hotel where we were staying. He was not going to vote, disillusioned by the corruption of the ruling party, the ANC and unable to find an alternative party he trusted to do better.

We took the opportunity to visit the Apartheid Museum whilst in Johannesburg. Ironically, it is located next to a theme park, with shrieks and laughter ringing out. There are the remains of the old shafts going down to the gold mines alongside. The museum is beautifully designed, particularly the exterior. A walkway is lined with life size photos of descendants of the earlier settlers to live and work in Johannesburg, spooky and atmospheric. Their histories are elaborated inside the museum. A 15minute film succinctly narrates the evolution of the history of South Africa. In its matter of fact manner, it makes for grim viewing, particularly if you are from the UK. It is quite astonishing and shocking to see the total conviction we had that we were the right people to run the country successfully and the subsequent suppression and persecution of the native people, leading to the most appalling segregation.

And so it is even more depressing to have to question how much has actually changed, how much has actually improved. Yes, everyone has the vote, but unemployment is high, white people dominate the better paid job market, corruption seems rife.

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