Greetings from South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is by far one of the most beautiful cities in the world; however, it is still a country with social injustices woven into its past and continual racial discrimination and poverty existing today.  While this country is still recovering from a post-apartheid regime that lasted 46 years; it does feature a well-developed infrastructure and all the technology and amenities of America, all while living alongside poverty stricken townships.  The term “township” refers to the underdeveloped urban living areas within South Africa which during the Apartheid regime were set aside for the colored.  During the Apartheid era, blacks were driven out of areas reserved for “whites only” and were forced to live in shacks.  Today, South African residences are still divided into affluent historically white suburbs and underprivileged historically black townships. 

The MV Explorer docked at the harbor of Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.  It is South Africa’s most visited destination and has the highest rate of foreign tourism compared to any attraction in the country.  The V&A Waterfront is home to high-end restaurants, hotels, entertainment, yachts, an indoor mall and outdoor shopping center and luxury apartments.  Walking off of the ship and entering into this harbor I was shocked to find out that the 2009 Population Reference Bureau asserts that the percentage of South Africa living on less than 2 U.S. dollars a day is 43% and that the life expectancy at birth for a South African is 50 for males and 54 for females.  Comparing this life expectancy rate to the United States which is 75 for males and 80 for females; an average American is living a total of 26 years longer than that of a South African.  As I said, I felt that there must have been a mistake and perhaps my facts were incorrect; however, it was not until I entered onto the freeway and saw the shacks and huts that people inhabited on the side of the road that I began to believe the data.  South Africa has a considerable amount of disparity occurring; perhaps the largest I have seen in any country thus far.

While in South Africa I did an overnight safari where I saw the “Big Five” animals; the lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant, and buffalo.  In addition; I also saw hippos, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, elands, kudu and a wide variety of antelopes.  I learned a lot about animals, for example; cheetahs can be domesticated and are essentially big kitty cats; they purr, hiss, and are the fastest land animal.  Hippos kill more people than any other wild animal; and a group of zebras is known as a “gazelle.”  I went on night and early morning game drives in safari jeeps while the animals were most active.  In addition to my safari, I also went wine tasting in Cape Town.  South African wines are gaining an increasing share of the wine market in many countries; including the United States.  I was also fortunate to be in South Africa two months before the 2010 FIFA World Cup will take place.  The entire country has become commercialized with soccer memorabilia.  This is the first time that the World Cup is being hosted by an African nation and South Africa is making many changes in preparation for the big event; for example, stadiums are being built and public transportation is being improved.  While this is an exciting occurrence for many; it has also become a very controversial topic among South Africans.  While the World Cup stadium is located near the V&A Waterfront and in a rather eye-pleasing location; the city worries that South Africa’s income inequalities will be exposed to travelers from around the world as they veer away from the luxurious tourist locations and into the township districts.  I spoke with a local who told me that some slums are being considered for temporary eviction and could be placed elsewhere until the World Cup passes.  It is not just the impoverished South Africans who are feeling animosity towards hosting the World Cup but also locals whose jobs will be temporarily disturbed.  One would think that more tourists would mean an increase in customers for taxi cab drivers; however, many hotels are providing shuttle services from the hotel to the stadium which essentially eliminates the need for a cab.  All in all, the amount of capital which is being pumped into the South African economy for hosting such a large event is immense and I wish I could return to Cape Town for this memorable event.