Here are some surprising facts about South Africa that I learned while I was here:
South Africa has some of the oldest archaeological and human fossil sites in the world, which has resulted in UNESCO to term it, the Cradle of Mankind. It has a population of 80% black Africans and 9% whites.
Apartheid “apart-ness” (racial segregation) has been a very large part of its recent history. Apartheid was very similar to the US previous to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Non-whites were forced to go to different schools, use separate entrances, beaches, park benches, etc. Families were forced apart as for example, if one spouse was black and another of Indian ancestry; they were forced to live in separate communities.
In the 90s, the US and other United Nations had placed sanctions on South Africa to stand against apartheid and in support for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Hypocritically, while the US had sanctioned SA for Mandela’s release from prison, laterally they had him on a terrorist watch list up until 1998 due to his affiliation with the African National Congress. Mandela was released from prison in 1994, and shortly thereafter elected as president, which then brought about the end of apartheid and the South African government recognizing the African National Congress as an actual political party and not a terrorist organization.
Since Mandela’s release, the ANC has continued to be the ruling party in SA, mainly due to the black majority and their continuing policies on restoring empowerment to non-whites that was lost during the apartheid years. This includes giving over 30% of the current white owned land to black Africans as well as rules such as that any black must be hired before a white person regardless of qualification.
Today, while many blacks still struggle and are seen as the service class (with mama in the kitchen in uniform dress and headscarf-think civil war slavery), many whites are now getting reverse discrimination as their jobless rate has skyrocketed and there are also many black on white killings (10% of white South African farmers have been murdered in very gruesome ways since 1994).
The current ANC president, Jacob Zuma, has been charged with rape, racketeering and corruption and is infamous for in 2006 saying that if you take a shower after having unprotected intercourse, you wont get AIDS. Sadly there are other sick theories on AIDS proliferating here, including if you have sex with a baby or a virgin, it will cure you. This has resulted in many other challenges in AIDS epidemic and rape rate, especially when your own president has such unfounded beliefs. There is also a 50% chance of a child being sexually abused before age 18.
While South Africa is continuing to face many challenges as a nation, there are also many glimmers of hope. Its GDP has tripled since the end of apartheid and the sanctions against it were removed. Main exports include precious metals and diamonds. It is truly a beautiful wild place, like the last true frontier. It produces 8% of the worlds wine (and keeps a lot of the best vintages for its own self consumption!!!! instead of exporting it), it has many amazing things to offer the world and tourism.
Table Mountain is one of the 7 wonders of the nature, all of the big 5 animals can be found here in National parks and game reserves, it has world class surfing, diving, golfing, etc. and I will attest many times over that the food scene is hands down world class.
It has a charm unlike any other and every tourist I talked to had one thing they all agreed on, it much surpassed their expectations and they would be back.