I have just spent the past two weeks travelling around South Africa and talking to its mining people. This is obviously not the country I last visited nineteen years ago. Today there are friendly people providing services at every shop and kiosk. There is a happy mix of people in every office I entered and a happy group of young engineers and scientists ready to take over as their elders leave off. The people are more friendly than every before.
The blacks, colored, and Indians I talked to are optimistic and enthusiastic. The whites are another matter. First sign of their problems is a profound rudeness at airport security screening. At almost every airport I passed through, an impatient white would push in front of me, elbow past me, and generally display gross impatience. I wonder what is bugging these rude whites that they cannot exercise basic politeness at a security screening station. The answer comes soon enough when you chat to them. They have degenerated into a mass of whingeing, wailing moaners. With few exceptions, they slide into a long complaint about conditions: corrupt politicians, heavy taxes, inadequate schooling, crowded roads, black empowerment, high costs, low salaries, incompetent local services, and the list goes on and on as they wallow in self pity and failure to see the future. They are a bore and bane. The sooner they emigrate or die and leave the new South Africa to Africa the better, in my opinion.
Of course there are obvious things that need fixing: the roads are clogged and the buses full and veering across every highway. Yet the suburbs are crammed with expensive new offices and houses. The new laws I saw being implemented by consultants are considered and just and designed to promote development while protecting the environment. There seems to be a considerable push to expand the infrastructure and build people houses, although hampered by a shortage of skilled engineers.
The TV in South Africa is never-ending cricket, rugby, and soccer, and the talk is incessantly of the upcoming soccer tournament. The country is as sports-wild as I recall it. To add to that sports wildness are the fantastic new soccer stadiums I viewed in Cape Town and Durban. Only one publication I read decried the money spent on these stadiums proclaiming the money could have been better spent on housing. But who cares when the whole country is like a mad dream; like an episode from Alice in Wonderland, what with an admired president who sports more wives and children than a Harem Master, more sellers of Porsche than North America, crowded roads that exceed the worst of Los Angeles, men in pink shirts or ugly green & yellow contraptions passing as T-Shirts, food heavily spiced with curry, and that hot sticky, sweaty, dirty African feel in every city. It is energy alive as the English Empire fades, the Afrikaaner horror recedes, and the country speeds to the twenty-first century of Africa.
I am glad I do not live there: I was always out of place in that place, and I would be out of place now. I was always too liberal for my family and friends. I suffered constant moral indigestion at the censorship and cruelty of the social system. Now I am too optimistic for my family and friends; they accuse me of misty-eyed folly for believing there is great hope for the non-whites who are the future. I do not care for the crowding, the heat, or the untidy conditions that are everywhere. Nor do I like buildings, no matter how beautiful, that are surrounded by high walls topped with electrified wires. I will not invest my money in the mines of South Africa for I am cautious and nervous that the communist youth will prevail and nationalize the mines.
But I am optimistic for the people and I wish them the best.