Sunday, 25 October 2009

Joburg days 8 and 9

The weekend kicked off with a family visit. I met an aunt I had never met before which was something I hadn’t expected to be doing when I came here.

In the afternoon we navigated our way through the road works to Gold Reef City to visit the Apartheid museum. This is an impressive place. It rightly lauds the most influential figures where credit is due but it doesn’t shy from criticism either. It deals, for example, with the ANC’s change of policy on violence; with the impact of the struggle for pre-eminence between ANC supporters and Inkatha and even with mistakes Mandela himself made between 1990 and 1994 and in the early stages of his presidency. Probably the biggest of those with failure to address the HIV/AIDS issue until after the death of his son from AIDS. The proportion of HIV + people in South Africa is somewhere around 20-25%.

The museum paints a grim picture of life under Apartheid and develops the evolution of it from the late 19th Century right until its demise. The heroism of some of the people that fought the regime is contrasted by the vile arrogance of those that instigated and maintained it. It really is brilliantly done. It is a little odd that it is next door to a theme park. It is also a little sad that the theme park car park was packed and the museum’s was almost empty. Perhaps, though, people still recall it only too well and would rather enjoy themselves. It is disturbing to think that a lot of the police officers seen brutally attacking blacks in townships are still here and could easily be around my age. The Nazi AWB doesn’t seem to have much of a presence any more but it doesn’t mean their members/ former members have changed their views.

Today we drove north with our new Aussie mate to a lake, dam, biker meeting place and monkey sanctuary. These were all interesting in their own way. Because you have to drive past miles of shanties to get anywhere though, having a good time feels hollow.

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