Cape Town

I’ve been in Cape Town this week. This is my fourth visit, and beforehand I found myself idly wondering if I would find it as beautiful as I remembered. The answer is yes, it remains the loveliest land I have ever visited.

My first visit came in 1982, in the thick of apartheid. Popie and I found it very painful to visit then, because South Africa’s physical beauty contrasted so starkly with the awful soul sickness of the racial regime. We couldn’t reach anybody–whites were miserably guilt stricken and tightly defensive, and blacks, such as we could talk to them at all, seemed to keep a closed book.

It’s very different now, a normal country in which people complain about the government and fret about the economy. Existential agony has passed.

Clearly South Africa has a long way to go. Every morning when I went running from our hotel I faced into a steady stream of cars entering the next-door business park, all driven by whites, and a steady stream of walkers, all black or colored. There is no legal segregation any more, but economic segregation runs along strongly racial lines, and that seems likely to continue for a very long time. It probably doesn’t help that the government does not seem to have made the transition from a revolutionary mindset, which inevitably acts on the basis of friends and enemies, and a democratic government that inevitably tries to turn enemies into allies. If you criticize the ANC, I understand, you may be accused of something near to treason. Nobody I talked to–admittedly a non-representative sample–seemed to be very happy with the government. But people overall are very loyal to the party that fought for their freedom, and whether happy or not, people are nowhere close to voting the ANC out of power.

Quite oblivious to politics and economics, the land remains–towering purple mountains, visible for many miles over the open plain, shining crescents of white sand and aquamarine water, vineyards climbing the hillsides and snaking through the mountain valleys.

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2 Responses to “Cape Town”

  1. David Graham Says:

    South Africa does indeed have places of great natural beauty. I especially like the country down on the “Wild Coast” of the Eastern Cape, which is gorgeous.

    Can the country of South Africa, however, really consider itself “normal,” a place where “existential agony has passed?” I would think that any place as crime ridden as South Africa – where a woman has a better chance of being raped than learning to read, where child and baby rape is disturbingly high, where murder, carjacking, and assault are among the highest in the world – not to mention a place where more cases of AIDS are thought to exist than in any other country in the world…would not be a place where existential agony has passed.

    Despite Apartheid being over, (for which all may be thankful), South Africa’s existential agony is still deeply felt.

  2. Silas Newby Stafford Says:

    African Americans remained loyal to the Republican Party for almost 70 years after the end of the civil war. I wonder if there will be a parallel in SA?

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