I’m watching the unfolding story of the xenophobic violence in South Africa with sadness. Like most people, I went there to have a look at the unfolding story of the rainbow nation. But it was always obvious that the real issue is poverty – and HIV/Aids. Some of it is the economic imbalance between black and white – and the emerging affluent black middle class. More of it is just the unimaginable, grinding, undignified poverty of the townships. There’s a race against time. Children born as apartheid ended are already in their mid-teens. They don’t know to be glad that they no longer live in the apartheid system – as if that might make poverty tolerable. The other part of this sad story is about leadership which doesn’t act. South Africa has made considerable economic progress. That’s why there are power cuts. But President Mbeki’s failure to address the Zimbabwe issue other than with ‘quiet diplomacy’ has left South Africa open to a tidal wave of immigration that can’t be sustained.
It’s an unbelievably beautiful country with wonderful people. They deserve a bright future.