Expressions on South Africa

09 Jan

So far I’ve documented what we’ve done and seen without a lot of expression of my thoughts and feelings about ZA (South Africa). this is a country still learning how to cope with democracy and equal rights. ZA has had only 15 years to learn how to change people, cultures. Think about the US, we’ve had so called equal rights for 10’s of years and still…minorities and women still don’t get paid the same as white males, there are still racial issues. So, you can’t expect too much. Having not lived here I’m sure I’ve missed a lot but again remember these are my impressions. What I see is still a great divide between the have and have not, exploitation, but also what we may take for apathy but may also be cultural, tribal. Many southern cultures are much more laid back.
The townships are a safe haven; living in one room houses a family can still have ‘comforts’ like a TV, aircon, etc even though the toilet is down the block and is a portapotty. The next step up in our perception of better housing brings with it a lot more responsibility and takes away the ‘family’ of neighbors and friends. To work here, you may have to take 2 or 3 taxis, costly a great percentage of wages – making it a difficult decision — work away from home with commutes for many hours, or stay at home and ‘survive’ with social assistance.
there are many good people who are trying to make a difference. we met an import/export business owner who has ’employees’ in a township near the Cape Town airport manufacture items in their home.
our drive from Jo’berg who was a retired, white policeman, had quite a different outlook. he stated that all blacks have horrible depth preception because their mother’s carry the babies on their backs to keep their hands free to do all the work since black men are very lazy.
then there is the hotel/restaurant which my nephew and his wife run. being in the hospitality industry they are looking for people who are interested in creating a wonderful customer experience to create repeat business and build a good reputation. this has proven difficult at times because many employees just don’t have the same sense of responsiblity and drive, definitely not the type A personalities that are needed in such industries.
like in any society there are many extremes. but here you see it in those who are enterprising and have a lot of drive and those who are taken advantage of. with the many natural resources (gold = money, diamonds, copper, etc) a few people are very, very rich while others barely survive.
we have not seen any beggars in Cape Town or Jo’berg (not like i saw in Jakarta), there are many hawkers who come up to your car at stop lights to sell newspapers, curios of all kinds, or offer services like parking assistance. i consider these people very enterprising and we’ve tried to support them.  but there are definitely ‘middle men’ who are directing many of the hawkers and street side vendors’ efforts and making a lot of money.
ZA is at one side of the pedulum at relates to equality. 80% of the people here are black, 20% are colored (asian, indian, etc) and white. so as an employer, i have to represent these same percentages for my employees. this forces employers to not always take the best employee. plus, the employment laws are weighed very much in favor of the employee. for example, Alex had video of an employee stealing from the hotel and still couldn’t fire that person, he had to go to court. Equal rights are in their infancy here and with time, hopefully, will moderate.
this is a beautiful country with visual wonders and amazingly friendly, trusting people. the B&B we stayed in Citrusdal turned out not to take credit cards (it is very costly), so the innkeeper offered to have us send a bank transfer when we returned to Cape Town. we ultimately paid in dollars but hardly could believe that we would be so trusting to let us leave and send money later. every inn we stayed at collected our name but no other information and we always paid upon departure, we could have stolen away during the night. This trust is mainly outside the major cities. you go from crime riddled to virtually no crime within a 50 km of leaving the city. in the cities it is truly is scary, robberies, muggings and rape are pervasive. security is BIG business, with everyone offering ‘armed’ response. we are staying in a gated community and that how the whites live. kids are taxied to school, they are not free to ever walk alone. even adults are told continually do not go anywhere, bike, hike without many other people with you. a real loss of freedom.
overall, our impression has been extremely positive and would recommend a trip here to anyone and everyone. we took 3 weeks and could have used about another week, but then again i’m now excited about getting home to my own pillow, our animals and friends!!
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Posted by on January 9, 2010 in Uncategorized


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