Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sweet SA

My first impressions of South Africa might make me sound like a bit of an idiot, but so be it.

For some reason I really wasn't expecting the poverty, I guess I was thinking I was coming to a first world/developed nation, but the disparity in wealth seems to be on a par with Brazil or Colombia.

In India the poor people are really fucking poor, but the rich people don't appear that rich. In Brazil and Colombia and now South Africa (specifically Rio, Cartajena and Cape Town) what is shocking is the disparity between the rich and the poor, kids without shoes walking between BMWs and Mercedes.

Of course what I was expecting was racial disparity. I was wondering whether I would find mostly whites being served by mostly blacks. For the first couple of days that's what I got, but then Kai and I went to a comedy night. The audience was about 50/50 and the large majority of the comedy revolved around race, which really surprised me. The funny thing was (haha) that the most racial comedy came from a British woman.

People seem a lot more open and honest when it comes to race here, it always seems a bit of a taboo back in the UK. And "coloured" is an acceptable term to describe people of mixed race. Also Afrikaanas aren't all as bad as the films make out :)

There are a couple of really depressing things about South Africa: politics (and corruption) and HIV/AIDS. Corruption seems endemic at all levels, we were advised that the police are bribable with practically anything you might have with you, a create of Red Bull was a real life example given, and while we were over there there were two major corruption news stories in just three weeks. One was the case of Schabir Shaik, a close friend of president-to-be, Zuma's, who having been sentenced to 15 years on corruption charges mysteriously contracted terminal high blood pressure and has not spent a day in prison. The other major corruption news story was the disbanding of the corruption fighting police force, the Scorpions, apparently for being far too effective. There are a lot of people hoping that the ANC don't receive 66% of the vote at the approaching election as it would enable them to alter the constitution to prevent Zuma from being prosecuted. Politics and HIV/AIDS go hand in hand as Zuma's rape case unfortunately demonstrates. Zuma was acquitted of rape, but what went uncontested was that he knowingly had unprotected sexual intercourse with a women he knew to be HIV positive, saying that he showered afterwards to "cut the risk of contracting HIV". At the time he was the leader of the National AIDS Council. As for HIV/AIDS itself, the figures speak for themselves. Some townships have infection levels as high as 70%.

Since writing this it seems that the corruption charges against Zuma are being miraculously dropped.

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