Marianne Thamm

And they want to host 2010?

2007-06-07 09:54

Marianne Thamm

Twice in the last month I have had the misfortune of finding myself in close proximity to a particular breed of South African comedians and satirists have begun to identify as "the white whine".

The first occasion was at OR Tambo International waiting to board a flight from Joburg to Cape Town. It was a busy day, as it often is at major functioning airports around the world.

A thick ribbon of passengers waited to pass through the X-ray machine and boarding gates.

"Grrumph" snorted someone behind me. "And they want to host 2010?"

I turned to locate the voice. He was a middle-aged man wearing a navy jersey with some red company logo over his left pectoral. He was a businessman, he informed me, on his way home to Durban.

"They're useless man, useless," he said as the security gates on three more windows rattled open.

As the queue began to move rapidly, I mentioned to the businessman that I had seen worse backlogs at airports in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany and England.

"It's actually the nature of modern air travel," I offered. I could tell it made no difference.

The word that gives it away

The second incident occurred at the baggage carrousel at Cape Town International Airport, which, those of us who live here are well aware, is undergoing major renovation and extension.

Two batches of passengers from different flights were congregated around the conveyor belt. There was a bit of a crush but officials apologised for the delays and gradually the crowd thinned as people retrieved their bags.

And then there it was again.

"And they want host 2010?" someone said to anyone who cared to listen.

Now let's dissect the comment to locate the nasty, ungenerous little heart that beats at its core.

It is the word "they" that is the giveaway. For who might these "they" be I wonder?

Government? Incompetent, stupid black people maybe?

Now, if both whiners had said "and WE think we can host 2010" it would have altered somewhat the tone and texture of the remark. By identifying yourself with the larger South African community you do not separate yourself from us and locate yourself somewhere on the outside, superiorly in judgement of the rest.

And I have yet to hear any of these whiners elaborate intelligently on why it is they hold their particular opinion.

Things do work in SA

The point is, South Africa is experiencing its biggest economic boom since the Second World War. No South African who lives in any of our major metropolitan cities can fail to notice the quite staggering growth.

There are road works and building happening everywhere. Some stadiums are ahead of schedule and each morning at 06:00 men in hard hats arrive to work on the Gautrain in Sandton. I know, I saw them from my hotel window.

Each day across the country planes, taxis busses and trains leave more or less on time, supermarket shelves are full of groceries (albeit increasingly expensive), milk, bread, post and newspapers get delivered, banks open, libraries function. In other words things work.

But the fact that the economy is growing and that the country has never functioned as well doesn't mean one must be mindlessly uncritical.

I am still not sure whether the money spent preparing for the World Cup could be better spent building desperately-needed houses, schools and to upgrade public hospitals.

There are many things that are worrying about the country but there are just as many things we can celebrate.

If you want people to take note of the critical issues you think need to be debated then you are constitutionally welcome to do so. Just make sure your brain is engaged before opening your mouth.

The "And they want to host 2010?" comment is obviously so common that FNB has even sponsored an ad to counteract it. To my delight, I located a week after my return. It's titled "How to beat 2010 pessimists".

Send your comments to Marianne.

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