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The saddest thing about South Africa

24 April 2012, 20:52
Standing outside tonight, watching the sun set behind Table Mountain, with the mountain a silhouette against the fantastic colours, I realised what the saddest thing about South Africa really is.

It's that we really do have the most beautiful country in the world, but we can't enjoy it.

While I looked at that mountain, it struck me that that's the only way most of us get to see our country - from a distance, behind high walls.

About ten years ago, I developed a taste for the open road, and I spent many a holiday exploring SA in a car, with a tent, and not mush else in the way of civilised trappings.

You really get to know a place when you travel that way, but even then, things were starting to go bad. I'll never forget the large, stern Zulu gentleman who admonished us for driving through the city with our windows open when we were in Durban. We wanted to see the city, but he knew that we were inviting theft or worse. That was about six years ago.

Over the past two decades, I don't think there's a single beauty spot in our country that has not been marred by crime and violence. The stories that made them what they were are being replaced by new ones of rape, murder and muggings.

There's not a summer that goes by that there aren't reports of muggings on Table Mountain - so that it's now become a symbol to be admired from afar, rather than a piece of our culture that we can enjoy close up.

The beaches are littered with garbage, the roads potholed, and the cities filled with criminals looking to part visitors and residents alike from their valuables.

In fact, for many of us, the closest we get to the natural beauty of South Africa are pictures in magazines or the internet, or views, like mine, from behind high walls.

I don't have the solution to the problem. Just like I don't have a solution to poverty, crime and all the other ills that touch us as South Africans, but I do think that if we can't find those solutions, we're losing even more.

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