07.02.2018 - 23.02.2018 28 °C
We have recently come back from an incredible 2 week holiday to Cape Town. The long- awaited holiday is an attempt to keep ourselves ‘sustainable’ by taking time to rest and take a break from life in Uganda.
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen with panoramic views of spectacular mountains, shimmering turquoise-coloured sea and expanses of white beaches. There is so much to see and do and the 2 weeks weren’t enough, although we managed to hike up Table Mountain, horse-ride, see the Boulder Beach penguins, visit the Aquarium, visit a Winery have a surfing lesson and so many more things. The kids loved it and so did we...
Having grown up in DR Congo and living in East Africa, I have always said that South Africa is not the real Africa. Mostly, I mean that it is so much more ‘developed’ than many other parts of Africa that I visited. It’s GDP has been the highest in Africa, it has beautifully smooth roads, a well-developed railway network, industries and seems well organised. It’s nice to be able to drink from the taps too!
Being on holiday, I still couldn’t help myself trying to get under the skin of what is going on in South Africa and understand the culture better (although Em told me not to think too much…!)
As everyone is so aware, South Africa has had a turbulent history and it strange to think that it was so recent. It was strange to visit Robben Island with Amelie and have one of the ex-political prisoners called ‘Vusumzi Mcongo’ talk to us about his experiences. He encouraged the roomful of tourists to also visit a township to understand that not a lot has changed since the apartheid era and share this with the outside world.
Since Apartheid, South Africa is now known as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ where people of all colours and races are supposedly equal and welcome, but being in Cape Town, it felt to me that a lot still had to change.
Driving from our lovely Airbnb family home by a lake to Cape Town central, we pass the security guys protecting the neighbourhood. We pass black guys waiting at the roadside looking for work and money. We pass through a township with signs saying ‘smash and grab hotspot’. Big electric fences with the ‘tic-tic’ noise are common sights. Locals tell you to be very careful with your bags at beaches, in town or on tourist areas like Table Mountain. Beaches like stunning Noordhoek beach that we visited were targets where people had recently been killed and the same fate had befallen walkers in the hills around Muizenburg where we were staying. In the early morning, our taxi wouldn’t stop at red lights for fear of smash and grab thieving.
It was strange taking the train into town to pick up our hired car. On the whole 45 minutes, I was the only white person. I had been advised by friends that public transport is generally not safe, but being from the UK where everyone takes the train, it was weird how segregated parts of life in Cape Town are. As I was sitting on the train, I was reading about a young guy that had been killed riding the same route I was in January after fleeing from attempted thieves. I also witnessed a thief pelting out the station at great speed and another suspect being apprehended by station guards. An exciting way to travel, anyway!
To me, a passer-by in Cape Town, it feels like there are still 2 South Africas, with the divide still being a colour one, but more so an economic one. I am sure that those who lived through the apartheid era will tell me that the changes to South Africa up till now have been momentous, but to many blacks living in South Africa, I wonder what that change has been.
One of the most memorable occasions for our family was seeing a concert of the Origin choir organised by Colin Peckham whom I knew from our previous life in Edinburgh. Incredibly, since many of the band and choir had come from Edinburgh, some of our friends were there too! It was very strange seeing old friends in a completely different context.
The concert was in Mitchell’s Plain, an area featured on CNN for being one of the most dangerous places in the world. During the evening, the pastor explained how he had to live with being held at gun-point on several occasions and how he would often be burying gang members. However, he said that things were changing because people were starting to get serious about church. Social changes were happening and transformation was taking place. After the concert, it was humbling to see about 15 people give their lives to Jesus (no guys, only women!).
What I witnessed in South Africa made me consider again what true development is like. Emma and I talked about whether we would want to ever live in South Africa with its incredible beauty and natural resources and both of us were not sure. Although on one hand, there is so much material richness as seen in the beautiful yachts at the V and A waterfront, expensive cars (there were so many shiny cars on the road) and expansive malls and stunning wine estates, there is a terrible feeling of social poverty. Although South Africa is one of the most developed African nations, it wouldn’t be an easy place to live because of the social poverty and brokenness obvious almost everywhere we looked.
Uganda would like to become ‘developed’ and reach higher standards. This current administration, ‘aims at transforming Uganda from a predominantly peasant and low income country to a competitive upper middle income country’ by 2040 in a project called Vision 2040 with a per capita income at $9500 from the current $615. There are plans to develop industries, the railway, modernise agriculture and increase energy production amongst others. I believe a nation needs a vision for material development, but seeing a country like South Africa also reminds me of the greater need for wholistic development.
Our dream for Uganda and what we work for here is summed up in Bryant L Myers’ book ‘Walking with the Poor’ in describing transformational development:
“The kingdom vision for the better human future is summarised by the idea of shalom: just, peaceful, harmonious and enjoyable relationships with each other, ourselves, our environment and God.”
Although a higher GDP per capita is important for a materially poor nation, the example of South Africa shows that for good, true and transformational development, it needs to be about much more.