So I’m presently in Johannesburg – here for some negotiation work. It’s been a fascinating trip so far.
First the good: The weather is amazing (about 22 Celsius with a strong sun and no clouds – perfect for being outside, although I may have gotten burn today). Everyone is very friendly. The food in unreal. Last night I had Alligator and Ostrich carpacio – unbelievable. Alligator is like a cross between turkey and bacon, it’s delicious. I’m looking forward to a trip down to Cape Town at the end of the week to visit Mark S.
The bad: It’s been interesting following the news down here. Probably the saddest thing I’ve heard is the Health Minister’s repeated statements that people with HIV need only eat a balanced diet to be ok. I know the story has been covered endlessly but it remains shocking – even criminal – that this type of denial continues. Indeed, I’ve noticed that there is very little signage about HIV/AIDS. That which I have noticed has generally been put into place by private enterprises.
The ugly: Last couple of days have seen a spat of xenophobic riots in the Johannesburg suburb of Alexandra as clashes between black South Africans and refugees/migrants from other African countries – principally Zimbabwe – have escalated. Zimbabweans – and other Africans – are broadly blamed for stealing jobs and, more problematically, contributing to the country’s spiraling crime rate. Each evening it is surreal to feel safely ensconced in my hotel room and know that 20 4 km away roving bands of young men armed with machetes and bricks are looting stores and beating people up. No surprise that the city goes on as if nothing is amiss. Certainly the endless traffic jams that define Johannesburg’s roads don’t show any sign of nervousness.
South Africa is so many things at the same time. Its challenges are fascinating, but numerous and daunting – and yet I get the sense from the brief time I’ve been here – they are not overwhelming. This is very good news, not just for the country, but for the continent.