Thursday, December 25, 2008


Who would ever have thought …?

Well it seems that Mrs. Paton isn’t the only disillusioned one as far as the country itself is concerned - many, many others have expressed the same sentiments - but that Breyten Breytenbach, the passionate former activist who spent seven years in South African prisons for his anti-apartheid activities prior to 1994, should find fault with his hero, Nelson Mandela, even going as far as to allude to him as 'Moneydeala,' is almost beyond belief! Can it be that his own ‘emperor’, like Aesop’s, was actually not ‘wearing any clothes’? Whatever the case, he supports this reference by accusing Mandela - in an article that appeared recently in Harper’s Magazine, and cited in the Boston Globe - of surrounding himself with ‘greedy, always needy sycophants, and enjoying the ‘idolatry’ (which the famed poet describes as ‘obscene’) as though he, Mandela were an ‘exotic teddy bear to slobber over’.

Since then, if one may rely on some of the Internet statics - 3025 South African farmers have been murdered. The daily violence and the shocking crime rate are no secret to people around the world, and when Breytenbach, was asked about whether he would advise people to stay and stick it out, his response, according to the Harper’s Magazine story was, “My bitter advice to young South Africans, would be to go.” - Since his own nephew was stabbed in a parking lot, it is perhaps not surprising that his reasons correspond with those offered by the thousands who have already left: ‘Ghastly, violent crime!’

More discouraging observations
Hassan Masiky, an author who resides in Kenitra, Morocco, supplies details of a posting on the Morocco American Community Board to the effect that South Africa's stint at the UN Security Council (UNSC) was “disastrous; and bitterly disappointing to the aspirations of the African continent." This observation ends with a blunt: "Good riddance!!”

“The African National Congress (ANC), a treasured political organization that embodies the struggle of Africa against oppression and colonialism," he goes on to state in a blog, “was torn apart due to Mbeki's intransigence and self-serving interests. Mbeki's refusal to accept his dismissal from the ANC has plunged the country into a turmoil that would undoubtedly further the suffering of poverty stricken South Africans.”

UPDATE December 28, 2008
Wouldn't you know it? I have just received, via a Google Alert, the following headline from a publication called Plus News:

SOUTH AFRICA: Global Fund money gets stuck with health department.
The reference is to the fact that South Africa's Department of Health has failed to channel the US$3.9 million in donor money - a grant delivered to the health department in mid-November - to 13 HIV/AIDS organizations. The delay, which has left these organizations underfunded, is attributed by the Global Fund spokesperson, Jon Lidén, to the department's 'slow and inefficient system for dispersing funds.'
Their explanation:
"The department has been slow to appoint full-time staff to deal with the allocation of this money."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So you want to be an instant 'somebody'? Become an activist? Build houses? Raise money for worthy causes?

If so, does it bother you that you don't actually know where South Africa is, or precisely what you'll be doing, when you get there? - Are you part of a knowledgeable team of people who have all the answers - even if you don't - or did you get the idea from watching Oprah? Are you sure that you are not just looking for adventure or relishing how good it feels to be counted among those who have a 'a heart' for the place?

Perhaps, in common with the school principal whose ignorance about the country (well before the Sarah Palin spoof) temporarily robbed me of speech, you may think that it is a continent, like South America; or could you, like certain prominent broadcasters, be under the impression that Namibia (stomping ground of Brad and Angelina) and South Africa are one and the same?

I've heard it all! I literally gnashed my teeth after having been approached by a bank manager - charged with the responsibility of planning the itinerary for a prize-winning young debutante (you've guessed it!) with a heart for South Africa - to ask if I could put her in touch with a few South Africans while on tour

Although it is 30 years since I left there to live in Canada, I still have friends and family in the country, and, wanting to oblige, I naturally needed some idea of where the young ambassadress planned to be spending her time. ... My mouth literally hung open when the airy response came, quite readily - TANZANIA!

Jacaranda photo: Courtesy of Alta Alberts
All other photos of South Africa are by courtesy of Clay Otto.

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