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Andrew Harding | 15:44 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

"Do you have kidnap insurance?" was the earnest inquiry of an English friend of mine on hearing that I was moving, with my wife and three children, to live in Johannesburg. From the outside, South Africa can seem a little daunting - and yes, it does take a while to get used to the security alarms, the armed guards, panic buttons and so on. But spend a little time here and you'll realise why so many foreigners fall under the spell of this country - and this continent.

Cape Town stadiumYou'll also see why - we think, hope and pray - the World Cup is going to be an inspirational, triumphant, and yes, probably chaotic experience.

I used to live in Kenya and felt that South Africa was a land apart - sophisticated, developed, self-obsessed and not the "real" Africa. Now I find that many South Africans seem to feel the same way, and hold the rest of the continent at arm's length. Friends here - black and white - talk about going "to Africa" on holiday - meaning a trip to somewhere like Mozambique or Tanzania.

The introspection you find here is understandable. A generation after apartheid, this country is still going through the most tumultuous, absorbing, high-stakes transformation. Will South Africa muddle through, or triumph, or follow Zimbabwe's grim example?

Sudan electionIn this blog, I'll try to give you my sense of that transformation, and an on-the-streets perspective of Africa's first World Cup. I'll also be reporting from around the continent, from places like Sudan, which could well split in two next year and Somalia, which is still fighting to put itself back together.

There is, of course, plenty going right in Africa at the moment. This blog is my chance not just to reflect on what's happening - good and bad - but also to hear your views, complaints, and recommendations. Please let me know your thoughts.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:01am on 13 Apr 2010, Norman Conquest wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 2. At 1:33pm on 13 Apr 2010, Rufus wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 3. At 1:51pm on 13 Apr 2010, Norman Conquest wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 4. At 5:20pm on 13 Apr 2010, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 5. At 8:06pm on 13 Apr 2010, deep_in_thought wrote:

    "Friends here - black and white - talk about going "to Africa" on holiday - meaning a trip to somewhere like Mozambique or Tanzania."

    I was born and grew up in SA, though now reside in the UK and visit SA regularly. I have never, ever heard anyone say they were visiting "Africa". I've travelled to Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, however. Contrast this with the 'introspective' (read arrogant) views of many in the west who think that Africa is a country (I've experienced this firsthand BTW).

    Mini-rant over, I look forward to your future analysis of the issues my country faces in the run up to the World Cup.

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  • 6. At 12:37pm on 16 Apr 2010, Patrik wrote:

    Having mysef recenty moved to SA I look forward to reading this blog.

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  • 7. At 5:10pm on 16 Apr 2010, Rachel K wrote:

    Wonderful! A news corespondent sent to Africa to report about the GOOD things, as well as the bad, happening. I believe you'll find plenty good, share them well! And enjoy!

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  • 8. At 02:47am on 17 Apr 2010, gatherer wrote:

    I am sure you will have lots of things to report on, as there lots of good things happening in Africa. As an ex South African I am encouraged at the many things that are going right in the country. I cannot understand how people who have left Africa and gone to the UK, Australia or North America can still consider themselves South Africans, if they are them how come they are not there helping the country. (That was my mini rant)

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  • 9. At 08:17am on 17 Apr 2010, Margaret wrote:

    OMG clearly an interesting take. Yes a lot of South Africans hold the rest of the continent at an arms length but that is because more the 50% of them do not own a passport and are not well travelled and hence the high levels of racism and xenophobic acts. From history they were isolated for a longtime.

    As referring to Africa as a country and not a continent I think the is a Western thing which does display a certain level of ignorance.

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  • 10. At 9:33pm on 20 Apr 2010, BZ wrote:

    @ deep_in_thought

    Im a born and bred south african. I tell you now that I have heard many people (south africans) say that they are going into "africa" when they are bound for mocambique etc.

    South Africans have a right to put the rest of africa at arms length because the rest of africa is in fact backwards (relatively)

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  • 11. At 11:28pm on 20 Apr 2010, Simpletruth wrote:

    South Africa is an incredible country, one of few places on earth with as many contradictions and stark contrasts. Whilst being one of the most beautiful places on earth, home to so many incredible people, it's also home to some of the most unbelievably cruel and violent people on the planet. A place where sheer and utter frustration is a part of everyday life, due to the endless oportunities squandered by a government that could be worse, but which should be so much better. It's a country teetering on a razorblade which could go either way. So much potential, and so much incredibly good work done over the past 15 years, yet increasingly irresponsible and radical factions are being allowed into government, a fact that could soon rip the country apart if not reversed in the near future. One thing is guaranteed, your blogging adventure, one things for sure, you'll find no end to the passionate views and incredible tales that South Africa has to offer.

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  • 12. At 07:08am on 21 Apr 2010, Shon wrote:

    Andrew Harding, I have been monitoring your articles about South Africa with keen interest,because I will be travelling in Summer for the world cup. I am a black British with root in Africa,definitely not SA and have studied quite a lot about Africa and the world. I do know that we Brits refer to other continental Europe as Europe, maybe because we 're not using Euro, but not because we 're more developed than then-at least not Germany. I found this in stark contrast to the reason you gave for South Africans calling other Africa Countries,Africa. South Africa may have the best economy in Africa at the moment, but for how long can they sustain it with a policy that encourages mediocrity and not merit, which has been given different names in different countries, but means the same in principle-"affirmative action" in USA , "Quota system" in Nigeria . Scrap that BS and create the first developed black majority nation and leadership to the rest of Africa.

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  • 13. At 5:15pm on 21 Apr 2010, aussea wrote:

    stay in at nite ,move only in day light, and travel in groups as large as you can,during the world cup, best still don't go

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  • 14. At 02:49am on 23 Apr 2010, BigJohn wrote:

    I have just returned to summer in beautiful London after spending 5 awesome months in sunny South Africa and must say I love South Africa with all my heart. I have been doing this for 11 years now, summer here summer there and know I am truly blessed to be able to have the best of both worlds. 3 Years ago I was scared at the ammount of life endangering crime taking place right outside my front door, infront of my eyes and every South African had the same story. From armed robberies outside in my beautful little suburban road, to 13 vehicles in total being stolen from the culdesac that I live in, some belonging to guests visiting me for the evening, burglaries either side of me, 3 doors up - violent burglary, 4 doors up - armed hi jacking, 6 doors up - armed robbery, 8 doors up - murder and robbery, 9 doors up - violent hijacking, 12 doors up - violent burglary. I could just go on and on and on and thats not including the petty crimes we were experiencing on a daily basis, I would be up atleast 3 nights a week on the chase with the Neighbourhood Watch, even more if I wanted, chasing burglars and car jackers, with a chance of getting shot by one of them. My mom had an attempted hijacking, my parents factory was getting broken into on a monthly basis, my old dad got held up and pistol whipped over the head, my friends father was hijacked and found dead 3 days later and his cheap watch was missing, again I could just go on and on and on, every single South African knew of someone or some people that had been victims of some sort of violent crime if not even themselves.

    Visiting South Africa with big 6 or even 8 month gaps inbetween, I am able to notice straight away of any changes that have taken place in the atmosphere of the cities and the peoples hearts and I do ask alot of people, black and white how they feel about the current situations at that time and take note.
    Well I can only speak for Kwa Zulu Natal here but on my last visit I truly felt a spirit of peace moving through this province, from the shores of our beaches through the cities and towns and deep into the deepest of the valleys where we would be off road biking or river canoeing and hiking, I felt this spirit of peace drifting through and pushing out the murderous, destroying spirit which was once so rife. All the stories of murder and robberies have now gone, infact not a single bad story from my entire road of 80 properties, no one I knew had been hijacked or anyone they knew had been hijacked or robbed at gun point or even threatened. This spirit of peace felt good, I felt it washing over this province, healing our land, the look of hatred that was on many peoples faces had dissapeared, the peoples hearts were filling with forgivness, black and white.......Who cares if you are black or white, we are all created equal in the image of our God, if you have got a problem with that, speak to Him about it, not me my brother.
    Oh God Bless Our South Africa.

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  • 15. At 02:51am on 23 Apr 2010, BigJohn wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 16. At 02:27am on 03 Jun 2010, Markson Tetaun wrote:

    Since I was a little boy I heard about South Africa Nelson MADELA Reggae groups and so on. South Africa famous with reggae tune,Rugby and other famous site seeing. Now again South came to host FIFA wORLD CUP FOOTBALL and this was agin written on the history book.

    I came from a tiny island country called Vanuatu in south Pacific close to Autralia.

    I'am proud to be of Africa in term of black people cos I'am black as my black south Africana.

    When ONE PEOPLE BAND PAID A TRIBUTE VISIT TO VANUATU IN MEMORY OF LATE LUCKY TUBE the lead singer of the band said "I'am proud to be part of Ni-Vanuatu coz of my colour see.

    Long live south Africa

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  • 17. At 8:40pm on 06 Jul 2010, kasherif93 wrote:

    Reply to BZ

    If you are white.. you got civilized by robbing, oppressing, and extrapolating black South African natural resources. If you are black.. can you give me any statistics that South African blacks are more civilized and more educated than the rest of Africa? Africans helped you to get ride of apartheid when the entire Africa live in freedom, over a decade ago South Africa were living in darkness. As far as I'm concerned, South Africa is the only backward country in Africa where it's people is segregated economically and 200 murders a day.

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  • 18. At 2:34pm on 07 Jul 2010, Plutarch wrote:

    Question for Mr Harding.

    You state that Africa is "the world's liveliest continent". Please give us the benefit of the objective criteria you used to come to this conclusion.

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  • 19. At 11:45am on 16 Jul 2010, Rufus wrote:

    @ 18 you can ask, but will you be answered?

    "Objective criteria" has never been Mr. Harding's forte. Nor has objectivity.

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  • 20. At 00:49am on 25 Jul 2010, Mandla wrote:

    Looking at kasherif93 comment above. I think a lot of people in the African continent are expecting just too much of SA. There is no way that South Africa will now become the sink of excess brains from all dead states of Africa. South African has her own constraints. In the 1940's, the American were rapidly developing a culture of xenophobia and kicking the Chinese and other nationals out. Post world war 2, this stopped. Please do not treat SA's as if they are the exclusive bunch.
    Yip, I can here your comment about SA blacks being uneducated. My question is, "if you African brothers are so educated, why not use your education to sort your dead countries?
    I am just a little bit unnoyed. South Africa and South Africa this and that and that. This is just too much!!

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  • 21. At 4:45pm on 23 Aug 2010, Benmaxius wrote:

    "Scrap that BS and create the first developed black majority nation and leadership to the rest of Africa."

    I couldn't agree more Shon. Both my wife and I grew up in SA and opposed apartheid the moment we became free thinking individuals, around 16 in 1984. Throughout the heady days of the struggle in the 80's I was out there with masses toy toying. The ANC achived what the Nats could never do and drove us off. We left in 1998 due to affirmative action. Under apartheid I had a moral standpoint to oppose it, however when I opposed affirmative action I was branded a racist despite spending time in detention and to this day having sjambok scars on my back.

    We fought for equal rights and to have a society that was racially neutral. It's absurd that a massive majority feel so threatened by a tiny minority that they need to legislate against them. It causes a lot of bad will and casts doubt on any any black citizen that reaches high office. 'Yeah he only got there through affirmative action' goes the line.
    It reinforces negative stereotypes and gives the racists a drum to beat encouraging the view that black South Africans can only make it by excluding white competition. I would love to return to SA and make a contribution but not as a 2nd class citizen. I have already had that fight and have no wish to go through it again as it nearly killed me the first time.

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  • 22. At 05:27am on 16 Sep 2010, roger wrote:

    Why does Andrew Harding look so over confident. does he know better?

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  • 23. At 2:13pm on 29 Sep 2010, Gary wrote:

    I'm a South African living in the UK. We left 8 years ago to escape the crime wave and general uncertainties. We love living in the UK - it's so safe & organised. I am proud to be South African but will not return as just about every one of my remaining family members and friends want out, for the very reasons we left. Walking the streets of JNB centre is stupid - you obviously don't value your life!

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  • 24. At 8:54pm on 01 Nov 2010, Kendle wrote:

    It is interesting that the mere mention of South Africa pushes for a chat about racism. Unfortunately, I was born in South Africa, on the wrong side. I am white and I left in 1990, after racial problems began (aged 2). I proudly told my friends in primary school I was African, until I was told I was not because i wasn't black. (I have never forgotten this) I feel that these issues of colour of skin deeply sad. The fact that the minority (white skinned people) were in power for so long in such a cruel manner should be something to learn from- not follow. A comment was made that RSA should become the leading black nation...why black....?? The ANC under M. Nelson did an amazingly good of stopping a potential civil war, so why now be so exclusive? Did he not preach love...why has this been forgotten in time?
    The BEE was definitely not the correct way to deal with inequality, nevertheless, it seems that the IMF sanctions on spending were more problematic. The lack of investment in education has seen the next generation fall into an economic inequality trap in which programmes such as BEE remain the only equaliser.
    The countries dream of becoming a rainbow nation may not of been completed but it doesn't have to be forgotten....racism and economic inequality can be changed, but it does have to be done together.
    When visiting South Africa I was most delighted by the people I met and most saddened by the fear they have of each other. Redistribution is greatly needed, however this has to be done sensibly. Crime and war fare is not sensible, nor is the legacy of wealth in white peoples pockets.
    The Western world should reimburse these nations for the wealth they have robbed from them. Inequality should not aloud to be this high, in one nation or world wide!

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  • 25. At 6:27pm on 15 Dec 2010, garrad roble wrote:

    Andrew Harding,i think what you & the BBC are doing is fantastick, becouse you are roporting from a country wich the world has compelty forget about it & i realy thank you for that, becouse it means so much to me that the world se it..

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  • 26. At 1:11pm on 28 Dec 2010, wearelisteners wrote:

    I was very excited to hear Mike Thomson's report on the programme this morning (28 Dec)about aid to Africa. Two of us from a local charity, the Wythenshawe Development Trust, have just returned from The Gambia where we are trying to encourage Africans to unite with a view to forming the United States of Africa (USAF), a way, we think, of eradicating poverty in the continent. We have written an open letter to the West from the African people and would very much like to share this with anyone and everyone who might be interested in the hope they can help us raise awareness of the USAF. We have listened extensively to what the ordinary African person thinks about foreign aid and what he or she sees as the solutions to poverty. We have also discussed this with teachers, journalists and education ministers in Africa and they all agree that we are really on to something here.

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  • 27. At 1:17pm on 28 Dec 2010, wearelisteners wrote:

    Andrew says he wants to hear from people regarding what's going right across Africa and what's going wrong. We have just returned from The Gambia where we are trying to encourage Africans to unite with a view to forming the United States of Africa (USAF), a way, we think, of eradicating poverty in the continent. We have written an open letter to the West from the African people and would very much like to share this with anyone and everyone who might be interested to try and raise awareness of the USAF. We have listened extensively to what the ordinary African person thinks about foreign aid and what he or she sees as the solutions to poverty. We have also discussed this with teachers, journalists and education ministers in Africa and they all agree that we are really on to something here. We would like to know what Andrew thinks, with his extensive experience.

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  • 28. At 11:56am on 30 Dec 2010, mbaya wrote:

    Hey good luck with your new assignment and hopefully you will ve compelled by fair journalism to report the news accurately - and when I say accuratrly I mean to say not only blame Africans for the many failures of the continent but also the brits, french, protuguse etc. The colonial masters as you may already have known left the continent in dismal shape and one does not have to be a student of African studies to realise that governance institutions including that of democratization were certainly not within the radar of these so-called civilized western countries. Their civilization mission failed Africa and as a student of African studies I put squarely the blame first on these Europeans and secondly on the first generation African leadership. Have a good day Mr. Harding

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  • 29. At 1:25pm on 09 Jan 2011, kwa wrote:

    Hi Andrew, I have been reading your stories on Sudan.
    Am a journalist in Juba and you can also follow me on my blog at www.emmykwa.wordpress.com

    Hope to see you one day!

    thanks

    kwa

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  • 30. At 6:59pm on 02 Feb 2011, ekieson wrote:

    Hi Andrew i hope you will be more than capable in your report about Africa,in seeing the good as well as the bad.In fact you remind me of robbin cook.its a good start that give africans the opportunity to air out their views about the ills of our continent that have over shadow the good side of the continent.As an AFrican,there is no gainsaying that the suffering of Africans is cause by our learders who for most have never put the interest of their people first.the case of egypt is just one example of a leader who for more than three decades,was unable to put in place a good political reforms.what shall we say when leaders like paul biya of cameroon who has been ruling cameroon for 28years,yet in spite the reaches of this small Africa nation,its regarded as one of the poorest nations in the world.my only worry is why is it that western media keep hammering on people like mugabe in the media while people like biya are out of the media lamp light.

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  • 31. At 9:05pm on 04 Mar 2011, Concerned African wrote:

    Thank you for providing the opportunity for South Africans to discuss their issues out in the open.

    South Africa is now once again a county dominated by one ethnic group with all other ethnic groups pushed to the peripherals. This is the way of African politics. The ever increasing occurrence of cronyism, corruption and race based favouritism is driven by the need to remain in power, no matter what the cost.

    It is my opinion, based on the observed strategies employed by the ruling party, that the ANC cannot afford reconciliation, as it would lead to their ultimate loss of control. On the contrary, its power strategy is based by necessity on division. This is reflected in the open application of political strategies such as mobilising of the youth in the form of the very influential ANCYL, through to race based disfranchisement employed so well by the Apartheid system. Examples being BEE, University Quota systems, Sporting Quota Systems and the amusingly named “Employment Equity Act”.

    The ever expanding web of laws, policies and institutions, which in themselves do not cross any major constitutional boundaries, together as a group amount to nothing more than a revival of the Apartheid principal of identifying groups, based on the colour of their skin and their culture.

    There was a moment where things looked promising and the talk on the street was “Apartheid is dead, we are the Rainbow Nation”. But by way of focusing on race to justify various political agendas, the ruling party has revived and refined the principles of Apartheid.

    The process has been gradual, insidious and unmistakable.

    The only thing different about this “New Apartheid”, is that it is enforced by a democratically elected government. This is fine for the majority, but does not equate to equality for the minority groups.

    All this is conducted under the guise of righting the wrongs of the past. It’s a powerful argument, and one that no government or news network is going to stand up and renounce.

    The reality unfortunately is that the present system of BEE only benefits a small group of politically connected elite. Once again it’s the poor that take the brunt of it, as very little of the spreading out of the wealth ever filters down to those in need.

    The latest round of business ventures involving the “Chosen Few” does not bode well for the desperate masses and in turn for the fragile middle class that drive the economy. Granted the county will keep on going, industry will work, the system will perpetuate. As you have stated yourself, it works in South Africa, however for how long. It could be so much more.

    It is my worry, that this overriding need to maintain power while at the same time having the vast majority of the population fall ever deeper into poverty is can only be maintained by shifting the blame in a convoluted manner onto the “those that have”. This may take some time to become full blown policy, but the writing is on the wall already.

    Ever so slowly things are and will be changed to enable a cling to power, whatever the cost.

    This cost is and will be reflected in the slow but steady decline in services, infrastructure, education and public safety.

    This in turn is tipping the balance from South Africa being a country capable of rising to such great heights, to instead being a mediocre republic, bordering on slipping on a banana.

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  • 32. At 7:15pm on 19 Mar 2011, Mathias wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 33. At 10:57pm on 04 Apr 2011, LARMEH wrote:

    the situation deserves the attention of all peace loving people, whether Europeans , Africans, or Americans. please save our neighboring country. it is in flame. please Security Council, don't allow the action of Gbagbo to be used to turn ur back, i beg u passionately.

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  • 34. At 11:00pm on 04 Apr 2011, LARMEH wrote:

    the situation in Douekoue should be thoroughly investigated. the culprits should be judged like others at the Hague. power should not mean blood shed

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