23 oktober 2008

Selling the virtues of the new South Africa...
(Denis Van den Weghe)

The Thursday 16 October 2008 lecture by H.E. Dr. Anil Sooklal, the South African ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Communities, was held in the College De Valk, a setting that he thought was truly magnificent. His wife, Miss Singh, and his Counselor of Bilateral Relations, Mr. Van der Merwe, also accompanied him to Leuven for this lecture, which was organized by the Liberal Flemish Students Organization (LVSV) and attracted nearly 70 young people. The Ambassador started by giving an oral presentation about facts concerning his country. The first topic was the current political situation that is not very stable due to tensions in the African National Congress (ANC). Former president, Thabo Mbeki, had to resign recently because the ANC didn’t want to back him in parliament anymore. As a result there is an interim president for the moment until elections will be held in a couple of months to then have a new democratically elected president.

After the fall of apartheid, Dr. Sooklal himself only joined government in 1994 when the first multi-racial elections in his country took place. Before that time he was an academic. Currently he has three children who are enrolled in South African Universities. This led us to another interesting topic of the evening. South Africa has 18 universities spread all over the country. The biggest among them hosts 180.000 students and can therefore be called one of the biggest in the world. The level of education received by students at the universities is of a high-level, even when comparing globally. Of the student population, about 20% are foreigners. In general it can be said that those foreigners are mostly African students who go there because of the quality of education that is the highest throughout the African Continent. By accepting so much of them, South Africa helps to educate Africans in order to lift the continent out of extreme poverty. As the biggest economy on the continent, it is their moral duty to do so and that is something they realize.

As a footnote it can be said that there is also a small amount of students that come from Belgium and most of them from Flanders, due to the similarities of Afrikaans and Dutch. The country faces a major brain drain to countries as Canada, Australia, UAE, etc. Action has been undertaken by the Government in the form of special programs that promote South Africans returning to their home country with the knowledge they forged abroad. “History cannot be erased. Apartheid is part of South African’s history and we deal with that past in the best way we can. We are not trying to eradicate what happened like some other countries do/did.” In South Africa you have European-like infrastructure in terms of roads, harbors, airports, railway network, etc. but on the other hand there are still parts of the country that are truly of a Third World level. It is the struggle of any developing country to lift the poorest out of poverty and give them proper facilities as running water (or a clean well nearby), proper housing, sanitary accommodation and a connection to the electricity system. Without those basic needs there cannot be an improvement in financial health for them or for their kids. There has been a huge effort since 1994 to build housing facilities. A lot has been done so far but the road is still long, this cannot be denied.

The gap between rich and poor is huge and widens further and further, however, this is not a South African problem, it is again the problem of every developing country. Look at countries like India, China, Russia, etc and you will see the same. It is the Government’s aim to foster the formation of a middle class because a country can only measure its success by the size of its middle class. “Africa is the richest continent in terms of natural resources but the poorest in financial terms.” The biggest problems that the continent faces are the high corruption rate, the daily deaths of thousands of mainly young people due to HIV/AIDS, the internal and regional conflicts between military and rebels fighting for power and a huge unemployment rate. South Africa itself has an unemployment rate of over 20%. Part of it is related to the legacies of the apartheid-regime like illiteracy of most of the non-white population. Fourteen years have passed since a new era started for South Africans. In a man’s life this is a substantial amount of time, but to transform a whole system and economy, this is only the first phase. Change in terms of policy reflects in the economy and in people’s prosperity only years after implementation.

South Africa can be called an emerging market but the world economic crisis is affecting it as well, although there have not been the same catastrophic incidents so far. The economy has been growing steadily (around 6%/year) over the last couple of years and should continue to do so more or less. The EU is a big economical partner both in terms of export as import and relations intensify year after year. Among the main income streams of South Africa there is services (ca 60%), industry (ca 30%) and agriculture (ca 10%). Tourism accounts for about 8% of the ‘services’ but is still in the lift. Industry has sectors as wine, mining (diamonds, gold, platinum, chromium), oil (very little), construction, automobile assembly, etc. Construction is definitely in the lift for the moment because of the FIFA World Cup in 2010. A lot of new stadiums are being built and recent inspections by the FIFA showed that South Africa is well ahead of schedule. Overall, South Africa scores very well when looking at different aspects as economy, level of democracy, infrastructure, etc., however, it cannot be denied that security is a major problem and in this matter, a downwards spiral is showing. The right approach to this uprising in violence has yet to be found but the will to take strong measures is certainly there. As said before, tourism is important for South Africa and in 2010 it is the host of the World Cup. Therefore it is essential for them to bring back the feeling of safety which is now absent in some parts of the country.

Mr. Mbeki has played an important role in the conflict in Zimbabwe between President Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai by functioning as the moderator in talks between the two to form a joint government. The international community was pleased by this but meanwhile there are new troubles in Zimbabwe and questions arise to which extent the deal is maintainable. Mr. Ambassador made clear that a stable Zimbabwe can only benefit his country and therefore efforts were made to achieve this goal. A consensus has not yet been reached but hopes are that there will be a normalization of the internal conflict. I am confident when saying that the presentation of Dr. Sooklal was an eye-opener for a lot of people in the audience. We all learned a great deal of his wonderful country that is sometimes referred to as ‘Rainbow Nation’ because of its diversity in people.

Denis Van den Weghe is the international officer of the Liberal Flemish Students Organization and was the organizer of this event.


At 23/10/08 11:40, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Ik heb die lezing jammer genoeg gemist. Zeker gezien de problemen in Zuid-Afrika vandaag. De AIDS-pandemie blijft ongeremd voortduren. De corruptie blijft welig tieren. Zuma heeft officieel macht gekregen maar pro-Mbeki krachten (aanzienlijk deel van de partij) willen het ANC verlaten en een eigen partij oprichten. De blanken blijven gediscrimineerd worden. De economie blijft in verval. Het vluchtelingenprobleem aan de Zimbabwaanse grens blijft een tijdbom onder de stabiliteit in zuidelijk Afrika. Uit het verslag bemerk ik dat weinig van dit alles behandeld werd, maar ook dat er bij hem wel een grote bereidheid was om op publieksvragen te antwoorden. Rede temeer eigelijk om erbij geweest te zijn. Verdomme.

At 23/10/08 11:41, Anonymous Anoniem said...

@ Danish Dynamite

Toen ik vorig jaar in Katanga (DR Kongo) was, heb ik het volgende ontdekt. Geef een lokale zwarte een pint en hij begint te zeggen dat het onder Mobutu beter was ("waren wij nog maar Zaire"). Geef hem nog wat extra pinten en hij begint te zeggen dat het onder het kolonialisme beter was ("waren wij nog maar een Belgische kolonie").

Ik denk dat het in Zuid-Afrika vandaag hetzelfde is. Na een pint: hadden we nog maar Mandela als president. Na enkele pinten: "hadden we nog maar de apartheid"...

At 23/10/08 11:41, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Jacob Zuma wil vrienden zijn met iedereen, links en rechts, blank en zwart. Dat gaat hem nu veel te veel faveurs opleveren en later met veel te veel verplichtingen opzadelen. Zuma betekent dan ook geen verbetering voor de Regenboognatie. Of zoals een Boer-kennis van mij het ooit verwoordde: "nu hebben de Kaffers hun politieke macht, maar eten op tafel is er nog altijd niet". Het mislukken van Zuid-Afrika is geheel op de conto van de communisten van het ANC te schrijven.

Time for change: steun het Vrijheidsfront en dokter Mulder!

At 24/10/08 14:11, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Zuid-Afrika is gewoon een hopeloze zaak dat zal eindigen in chaos en een bloedbad.
Niemand spreekt hier over de meer dan 2.000 boeren die in Zuid-Afrika al werden vermoord en wiens land werd overgenomen door de ANC gangsters. Het zijn echter zwarte gangsters en daardoor goed.
Er werden 20 boeren vermoord in Zimbabwe en dat werd een schandaal genoemd, 2.000 bij de "heilige" Mandela is geen probleem.
Elke blanke boer is zijn verhuis aan het voorbereiden en de komende chaos is voorspelbaar.
Daarna beginnen de stammenoorlogen en Congo 2 is geboren.

At 26/10/08 16:24, Anonymous Anoniem said...

"Part of it is related to the legacies of the apartheid-regime like illiteracy of most of the non-white population"

Grappig !
Omdat er een apartheid regime er was, is er nu ongeletterdheid.

Hmm, In de de rest van Afrika heb je geen apartheid gehad of heel lang geleden.
Misschien zou het aan afrika of de negers zelf liggen ?

Brain drain ?
Jazeker er zijn nu zo'n 1 miljoen zuid-afrikaners in London..... allemaal weggepest vanwege hun witte kleur. Wit komt namelijk niet voor in de rainbow.
Logisch en misschien wel terecht, maar ...zeg het dan.

AIDS-pandemie ? Vallen mensen bij bosjes neer vanwege aids ?
Neen, vanwege messteken.


At 27/10/08 02:43, Anonymous Anoniem said...

@ traveller

Verouderde cijfers! Deze maand werd de kaap van de 3.000 "plaasmoorde" of hoevemoorden bereikt. Over een periode van 14 jaar (1994-2008) 215 slachtoffers per jaar of 18 per maand.

Ter herinnering:
- Noord-Ierland 1.000 slachtoffers over circa 25 jaar.
- Spanje/Baskenland circa 850 slachtoffers over ruwweg zelfde tijdspanne.

Hoe berichten de media hierover?

At 27/10/08 16:18, Anonymous Anoniem said...

@ fcal

Je moet stoppen met die racistische praat. Dat waren gewoon werkongevallen tijdens de "land"arbeid.


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