Due to my work I have the opportunity
to travel around the world including the African continent quite
extensively. During my last travels around Africa which included
Central, Eastern and Southern Africa I was baffled why countries such
as Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and last week even Swaziland
seemed so different. Thinking of the rest of the African continent in
particular one imagines poverty, infrastructure collapse and a
general apathy within its population due to lack of governance and
the so called “evils” of post colonization on the continent. But
this is not how I experienced Africa.
On a recent week visit to Rwanda I did
not meet a single person from immigration and police officials, hotel
personal, drivers, airport staff to the lady at the till who were
unfriendly or incompetent.
Leaving South Africa at Golela Border
Post and arriving on the “other” side in Swaziland at Lavumisa it
was as if I had stepped from rudeness and arrogance to friendliness
Baffled I started a discussion at the
dinner table with the crew I was travelling with – and astonishing
all felt the same. Upon our return at the same border post we were
kept for over an hour as the Health Official made up her own rules
and wanted to see our Yellow Fever Certificates, which one does not
require when one travels to Swaziland. When she finally lost her
argument and higher intervention resulted that we had to be let go,
her argument was “Oh you only doing this because I am black”. When I pointed out that I left Swaziland on the Jan 12, 2012 and arrived in South Africa on Jan 12, 2011 I received another snubbing look.
We could not understand being the power house, one of the richest country on the continent, with every
resource available; why has South Africa become so different from the
rest of Africa.
Apartheid came to mind – but seeing
what happened on the rest of the continent, Apartheid seemed to be a
tea party in comparison to the brutality of other colonial powers.
Rwanda 1 Million dead within 100 days
due to the colonial blunders. The Belgian colonial past and King
Leopold's ghost in Central and Central West Africa left 13 Million
people dead. The Germans butchered their way around South West Africa
and German East Africa. The Portuguese Colonial Wars left scores dead
and resulted in two bloody civil wars in Mozambique and Angola, and
the French also did not run their colonies as Health Spas with
brutality and death of the local inhabitants. Britain in the 1950's
dunked their hands into blood with the Mau Mau Wars where
castrations, death and brutality in Kenya were the daily order and
the list goes on for every corner in Africa. With this history as whites we should be hated in every corner of the continent - but we are not.
Yet travelling to any of those
countries regardless of how poor or unstable they might be displayed
in the media one is surprised by its people. In Rwanda driving at
5:30 am in the morning from the Tanzanian border to Kigali the locals
swarmed around like bees getting their produce to the local market.
In Swaziland last week I was stunned in Manzini and Mbabane about the
activities in their commercial centres. In Maputo I visited a
township of refugees who started a cleaning project, to clean the
mess off their doorstep. And in Bujumbura on the last Saturday
morning of each month forget to do business as everyone in the
country takes a broom and cleans Burundi. The list is endless.
The question is simple. Why on earth
has our society after 18 years with the most solid constitution on
the continent; with education, resources, infrastructure and an
economy gone so rotten.
The answer is as simple when one reads
the local newspapers. President Kagama of Rwanda never promises its
people anything, but encourages them to strive, improve, get educated
and to ensure Rwanda's economy increases. President Sata of Zambia
encourages its farmers to work harder even in trying situations.
President Kibaki of Kenya turned the entire economy and mismanagement
of his country around, not with empty promises but with hard work.
From Kigali, to Lusaka, Nairobi,
Bujumubura, Mbabane, Addis Ababa, Accra and Dakar and many other
cities and towns on the African continent people each and every day
try their hardest to improve their lives. And in most cases without
or with limited support from their governments.
South Africa has become an “I want”
society. Democracy in South Africa was achieved with empty promises.
Once democracy is here everyone's life will be the same as of the
“whites”. Each and every day one can read in our papers about
what we want; but never what one should achieve; to work harder and
to set the goal post up. We want more and we do not want to give
anything. Sadly our leaders give the prime example.
I mentioned the toilet saga in South
Africa to my driver in Swaziland. He laughed and his answer was “If
we want toilets here we have to build them ourselves”. My driver in
Rwanda asked me about crime in South Africa and was stunned when I
told him how ineffective justice and police has become. In a game
lodge in Zambia I saw the barman read Shakespeare and in Libreville
the porter in my hotel studied law. Even in Kenya there is a law as to what official cars ministers can purchase. Within all this turmoil on the
continent there are so many examples of how individual people make a
change and make this continent shine.
I do not compare our country with any
parts of the world but as a white African I compare it with the rest
of our continent. And sadly the only conclusion I can make is that if
our leadership and society does not make a 360 degree turn very soon
we will find ourselves in the pit of Africa. Investors are not
knocking on our doors any more, yet they do so North of us.
The GDP per capita shows it clear,
South Africa's has fallen in recent years, unemployment exploded,
investment decreased, tourism arrivals decreased and our entire
economy is sluggish. Compare to many countries on the continent where
employment is being created, investment rolls in, tourism arrivals
are up and their economies regardless of the economic turmoil around
the globe are up; this excludes the few countries where turmoil still governs such as Zimbabwe, Somalia, DRC and a few more.
And regardless of the bloody colonial
history in any of those countries I have never been approached with
any form or racism or been told “you are only saying this because I
am black” the typical race card a la South Africa.
Time to do a conscious reflection of
South African society; and more so to our leaders in any political
party. One cannot live in the past and succeed in the future. Society regardless of colour has to make sacrifices to move forward. And the literal "chip on the shoulder" attitude experienced in this country day in and day out will not move us forward. South Africa's clock
stands at 5 to 12....