The dirty state

7 07 2011

I returned from a week long visit to South Africa recently and unusually chose to drive to Jo’burg and back. Well, I was expecting to buy all sorts of things for the business and myself that would not fit in a suitcase.

I last drove to South Africa in 2009 before the start of the World Cup when frenzied preparations were being undertaken. I mainly saw the effect of all this on the road system and in places the going was tedious. This time the benefits were obvious; the roads in South Africa are probably the best I have driven on anywhere in the world! Zimbabwean roads are by any standard, appalling. Though there were no vehicle dismembering potholes (maybe the tolls ARE going somewhere useful) there were sections so undulating that 80km/h was a prudent speed. South African roads are also tolled and cost anything from $1.50 to $5 but it seems that the tolls do go into road maintenance – the toll roads are privately run. Under South African law there has to be an alternative route to the toll road which is not the case in Zimbabwe.

My impression of the South African economy is that it is robust. The Clearwater shopping centre in Roodepoort in south-western Jo’burg has changed markedly since I was last there last September. It’s bustling with shoppers too. Of course this is in direct contrast to the Zimbabwe economy which, according to the Economist, is the second worst performing in the world. Haiti is the worst. And what’s more they are advertising credit cards on the radio! I find it difficult to believe in the face of all this that the South African economy is doomed as is a commonly expressed opinion amongst whites (especially). Yes, South Africa does have its problems. Whilst I was there COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) was effectively calling for a communist state (uncompensated take over of private business and land a la Zimbabwe) and being highly critical of the status quo and they were being taken seriously enough that the CEO of Anglo American (a very large and powerful multinational based in South Africa) was weighing-in and rallying commerce against this threat but it has since emerged that COSATU had no economic plan of their own.

And South Africa is clean. Zimbabwe is littered with plastic bags by the road and also the occasional dead donkey or cow killed by the heavy transport. The joke used to be that the plastic bag was the national flower of South Africa but it seems that this situation might have reversed and Zimbabwe is now the dirtier of the two neigbouring states. Crime however, always a bane of the southern neighbour, has not improved. Staying with friends near Hartebeespoort Dam north-west of Jo’burg was an exercise in alarms and infra-red beams at night and they’d had two attempts to break in in the last month and were expecting another. Of course this happens here too but not to this extent and seldom during the day. Zimbabwe officials are much more friendly too. I didn’t come across a single toll collector on the roads who didn’t want to have a chat. Customs officials too were friendly unlike their South African counterparts. But yes, the South African border was more efficient!

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3 responses

7 07 2011
Tuppit

Move south or better the devil you know?

8 07 2011
goneXC

Not just yet!

18 03 2012
Diva Devine

Lol.. This is such a silly article! Littered with grammatical errors, and obviously lacking in objectivity. As a South African living in South Africa, I assure you, the quality of the roads in South Africa have always been of high standards. This isn’t a result of the world cup, as this article implies. Most of the roadworks that took place prior to the world cup were to add extra lanes on roads that have been known to have traffic during peak hours… This in anticipation of the increase in road users during that time. Another interesting point being the ‘plastic bag joke’ I have never heard such a joke, in all my years in the country. Perhaps its a joke better known by zimbabweans? While Johannesburg CBD is littered with plastic bags.. (and a whole lot of zimbabweans too) this is simply not the case elsewhere in the johannesburg.. Or the rest of the country, for that matter.
However, this article brings to the fore something I have been musing over for quite some time now. Why is it that zimbabweans try to compete with South Africa at e-v-e-r-y turn? And why the incessant need to compare the two countries? My room mate (being a zimbabwean living in South Africa) goes to the craziest ends to compare. I couldn’t contain my laughter when she blurted out that zimbabwean eggs are better than South African eggs. Infact, she even went so far as to say driving on South African roads are so much more uncomfortable than driving in Zimbabwe. When asked why she felt this way, she said the roads in South Africa are bumpy. A laughable comment by anyone’s standards.

Is this a psychological issue perhaps? Are zimbabweans angry at South Africa and its citizens, and therefore try to play down South Africa to feel better about themselves, and their circumstances?? Perhaps in the same way that the popular girl in class will always be hated/envied by the unpopular girls? It is my opinion that Zimbabweans would do better by fighting for their country, and removing unsavoury characters from power, as opposed to wasting their time and education on silly comparisons.

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