Reflections on South Africa

by Yasmin Ben-Dror on May 1, 2009

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My absence in the TechAffect blog is due to my month-long trip to South Africa. As you may know from my bio, I was born and raised in South Africa and left solo at the age of 24 (that’s a whole other story), leaving my family there. Of course, I have been back quite regularly over the years, but this visit came after a nearly 4 year hiatus.

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Since I left, I have watched and observed the painful development of freedom for this beautiful country and its “rainbow” nation, with the culmination of my hero – Nelson Mandela’s release in 1994 and the first ever democratic elections in South Africa. My excitement and hope then knew no bounds. I have been observing ever since the roller coaster of developments and it is still so interesting to witness how this beautiful country is taking shape 15 years after democracy triumphed.

So April 09 was a great time to return to South Africa!

For one, and most important, the third democratic election took place with a 87% voter turnout which is the largest in its democratic voting history, one of the largest in the world, and by far larger that the U.S. turnout for this passed 2008 election, which was 63%. I was impressed that so many people cared enough, despite long voting lines, to vote for change.

It’s been a tumultuous 15 years for the leading party, the African National Congress (ANC) and for the country. The early Mandela honeymoon years ended relatively quickly when Thabo Mbeki took over the reigns in the second election, and then was forced to resign in ’08, leaving a legacy of poor delivery on ANC promises, corruption, nepotism and worldwide criticism for his naïve stance on linking HIV/AIDS with poverty. Jacob Zuma became the ANC’s presidential candidate, despite his shady history of rape charges and more recently, corruption and fraud charges, amazingly dropped just weeks prior to the elections!

The fact that America voted for the first black president in the U.S. was thrilling to people in South Africa and has had a great influence there. The “Obama Effect” is very evident, is still very much being felt, through discussions on radio and television, on lessons South Africans can learn from the U.S. election, and has made young voters re-energized and feeling that they can make major changes in their society. It has been identified as the reason for the high registration of young people: a quarter of the registered voters were under the age of 29 and was the highest voter turnout! All wanting a better education, homes, and an end to crime and corruption.

So thank you America!

Suffice it to say, the ANC got re-elected, but lost ground. The decline in the ANC’s vote and increase in support for the main opposition parties suggests a gradual political shift. And this seems to be echoed by so many people I spoke to, from the poor to rich, young and old, saying this is the “last chance” for the ANC to prove themselves and make good on their promises.

The coming years are going to very interesting…

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Then there is the build up and excitement for the FIFA 2120 World Cup that can be felt literally everywhere. I had my doubts whether South Africa could pull this off, but evidently – and I’m so glad to say – I was wrong! Ten state-of-the-art beautiful stadiums are being built in the nine beautiful host cities, slated to be completed by the end of ‘09. Each stadium a work of art – and – built with green technology and eco-friendly materials. Intensive planning has gone into ensuring that the stadiums will be versatile, multipurpose facilities able to be used for a number of sports, as well as for entertainment and other community uses, long after the final whistle of the World Cup is blown. The event is seen as more than the world’s biggest sports gathering – it is also a means to improve the lives of South Africans and of citizens of other African countries.

Remember, if you can’t get tickets to the games, don’t give up, you may still want to be there. In the summer of 2006, millions of people experienced the FIFA World Cup together at public locations throughout Germany and transformed the host country into a month-long celebration. With free non-commercial public viewings across the country, South Africa will make sure this will be another unforgettable, massive football festival for all South Africans and visitors.
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As Zakumi, the official 2010 FIFA mascot says, “The main priority is to turn the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa into one huge, joyful and unforgettable party and show the thousands of international guests the warmth and spirit of the African continent.”

The South African wines, African Safaris, playing with wild lion cubs, feeding a mommy and baby giraffe, wild baboons jumping on our car, swimming with jackass penguins are all for another blog…
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So, this has been a slight veer from my usual technology blogging. I just wanted to share my experiences and thoughts. Send me yours….

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Saul 05.02.09 at 3:18 am

Fabulous article. Well observed. As addendum – South Africans voted for their first credible opposition since the first ’94 elections. Another sign of a healthy democracy.
(Tatha Mandela was actually released in 1990 b.t.w.)
We “are” because of Mandela but we are more than that. A nation that is getting to grips with it’s freedom and it’s problems – we are engaged in scientific, cultural and economic endeavors that place us as the beacon of African aspirations.
Once an isolated coountry whose policies were widely despised we now have friends all over the world.
Viva South Africa.

James Makoetla 06.16.09 at 9:05 pm

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s needless to mention that I
love South Africa.Well, it is now time for me to go back-to-basics, I am truly, looking for friends
and partners in the United States and South Africa to network with me. I would like to discuss
the opportunity of networking and doing business together with friends in South Africa. Build
a digital bridge of trust, mutual cooperation, share the leads, and network and be in each others
network. I really appreciate your time and look forward to connecting.
Than ks,
James
http://www.fastpitchonline.com/jamesmakoetla/
http://www.blogger.com
tsuibila@yahoo.com

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