Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Africa Has Gone to Hell

White Zimbabweans used to tell a joke—what is the difference between a tourist and a racist? The answer—about a week. 

Few seem to joke any more. Indeed, the last time anyone laughed out there was over the memorable headline “BANANA CHARGED WITH SODOMY” (relating to the Reverend Canaan Banana and his alleged proclivities). Zimbabwe was just the latest African state to squander its potential, to swap civil society for civil strife and pile high its corpses. Then the wrecking virus moves on and a fresh spasm of violence erupts elsewhere. Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, even Kenya. Take your pick, for it is the essence of Africa, the recurring A-Z of horror. And as surely as Nelson Mandela took those steps from captivity to freedom, his own country will doubtless shuffle into chaos and ruin.

Mark my words. One day it will be the turn of South Africa to revert to type, its farms that lie wasted and its towns that are battle zones, its dreams and expectations that lie rotting on the veldt. That is the way of things. Africa rarely surprises, it simply continues to appal. 

When interviewed on BBC Radio, the legendary South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela spoke of the 350-year struggle for freedom by blacks in South Africa. The man might play his trumpet like a dream, but he talks arrant nonsense. What he has bought into is a false narrative that rewrites history and plays upon post-colonial liberal angst. The construct is as follows: white, inglorious and bad; black, noble and good; empire, bad; independence, good; the west, bad; the African, good. Forgotten in all this is that while Europeans were settling and spreading from the Cape, the psychopathic Shaka Zulu was employing his impi to crush everyone—including the Xhosa—in his path, and the Xhosa were themselves busy slaughtering Bushmen and Hottentots. Yet it is the whites who take the rap, for it was they who won the skirmishes along the Fish and Blood Rivers and who eventually gained the prize.

What suffers is the truth, and—of course—Africa. We are so cowed by the moist-eyed mantras of the left and the oath-laden platitudes of Bono and Geldof, we are forced to accept collective responsibility for the bloody mess that is now Africa. It paralyses us while excusing the black continent and its rulers.

Whenever I hear people agitate for the freezing of Third World debt, I want to shout aloud for the freezing of those myriad overseas bank accounts held by black African leaders (President Mobutu of Zaire alone is believed to have squirreled away well over $10 billion). Whenever apartheid is held up as a blueprint for evil, I want to mention Bokassa snacking on human remains, Amin clogging a hydro-electric dam with floating corpses, the President of Equatorial Guinea crucifying victims along the roadway from his airport. Whenever slavery is dredged up, I want to remind everyone the Arabs were there before us, the native Ashanti and others were no slouches at the game, and it remains extant in places like the Ivory Coast. Whenever I hear the Aids pandemic somehow blamed on western indifference, I want to point to the African native practice of dry sex, the hobby-like prevalence of rape and the clumps of despotic black leaders who deny a link between the disease and HIV and who block the provision of antiretrovirals. And whenever Africans bleat of imperialism and colonialism, I want to campaign for the demolition of every road, college, and hospital we ever built to let them start again. It is time they governed themselves. Yet few play the victim card quite so expertly as black Africans; few are quite so gullible as the white liberal-left.

“On the eve of this millennium, Nelson Mandela and friends lit candles mapping the shape of their continent and declared the Twenty-first Century would belong to Africa. A pity that for every one Mandela there are over a hundred Robert Mugabes.”

So Britain had an empire and Britain did slavery. Boo hoo. Deal with it. Move on. Slavery ended here over two hundred years ago. More recently, there were tens of millions of innocents enslaved or killed in Europe by the twin industrialised evils of Nazism and Stalinism. My own first cousins—twin brothers aged sixteen—died down a Soviet salt mine. I need no lecture on eggplants and neck-irons. Most of us are descendents of both oppressors and oppressed; most of us get over it. Mind you, I am tempted by thoughts of compensation from Scandinavia for the wickedness of its Viking raids and its slaving-hub on the Liffe. As for the 1066 invasion of England by William the Bastard…

The white man’s burden is guilt over Africa (the black man’s is sentimentality), and we are blind for it. We have tipped hundreds of billions of aid-dollars into Africa without first ensuring proper governance. We encourage NGOs and food-parcels and have built a culture of dependency. We shy away from making criticism, tiptoe around the crassness of the African Union and flinch at every anti-western jibe. The result is a free-for-all for every syphilitic black despot and his coterie of family functionaries.

Africa casts a long and toxic shadow across our consciousness. It is patronised and allowed to underperform, so too its distant black diaspora. A black London pupil is excluded from his school, not because he is lazy, stupid or disruptive, but because that school is apparently racist; a black youth is pulled over by the police, not because black males commit over eighty percent of street crime, but because the authorities are somehow corrupted by prejudice. Thus the tale continues. Excuse is everywhere and a sense of responsibility nowhere. You will rarely find either a black national leader in Africa or a black community leader in the west prepared to put up his hands and say It is our problem, our fault. Those who look to Africa for their roots, role-models and inspiration are worshipping false gods. And like all false gods, the feet are of clay, the snouts long and designed for the trough, and the torture-cells generally well-equipped.
I once met the son of a Liberian government minister and asked if he had seen video-footage of his former president Samuel Doe being tortured to death. ‘Of course’, he replied with a smile. ‘Everyone has’. They cut off the ears of Doe and force-fed them to him. His successor, the warlord Charles Taylor, was elected in a landslide result using the campaign slogan He killed my ma, he killed my pa, but I will vote for him. Nice people. Liberia was founded and colonised by black Americans to demonstrate what slave stock could achieve. They certainly showed us. Forgive my heretical belief that had a black instead of a white tribe earlier come to dominate South Africa, its opponents would not have been banished to Robben island. They would have been butchered and buried there.

When asked about the problem of Africa, Harold Macmillan suggested building a high wall around the continent and every century or so removing a brick to check on progress. I suspect that over entire millennia, the view would prove bleak and unvarying.

On the eve of this millennium, Nelson Mandela and friends lit candles mapping the shape of their continent and declared the Twenty-first Century would belong to Africa. Whatever. Meantime, the vast natural resources have been frittered and agricultural production since independence has halved. A pity that for every one Mandela there are over a hundred Robert Mugabes.
Visiting a state in west Africa a few years ago, I wandered onto a beach and marvelled at the golden sands and at the sunlight catching on the Atlantic surf. It allowed me to forget for a moment the local news that day of soldiers seizing a schoolboy and pitching him head-first into an operating cement-machine. Almost forget. Then I spotted a group of villagers beating a stray dog to death for their sport. A metaphor of sorts for all that is wrong, another link in a word-association chain that goes something like Famine… Drought… Overpopulation… Deforestation… Conflict… Barbarism… Cruelty… Machetes… Child Soldiers… Massacres… Diamonds… Warlords…Tyranny… Corruption… Despair… Disease… Aids… Africa.

Africa remains the heart of darkness. Africa is hell. 

Mixed bag of World Cup Fortunes

June 10 2011 

ONE year after the soccer World Cup, it’s a mixed bag of fortunes for the city. 

The R4 billion Cape Town stadium has been credited with attracting a stream of international performers. Two major concerts are confirmed for the next six months, while another two are in the pipeline. 

And as the global economy slowly emerges from the recession, analysts credit the World Cup with keeping scores of local tourism businesses afloat. 

The Fan Walk also continues to be an integral and unique part of the stadium experience whenever events are held there. 

And city residents are still reaping the benefits of the new and upgraded infrastructure built for the event. 

Upgrades along the M5 and Hospital Bend have helped reduce congestion significantly.
The event also marked the start of the roll-out of the Integrated Rapid Transit system, which aims to transform the city’s public transport. 

On the flip side, however, several upmarket city hotels built ahead of the World Cup are battling with low occupancy rates. And few have managed to build on the event’s momentum to secure repeat visitors. 

The Fan Walk only operates with the stadium and its viability is still being assessed. 

According to analysts, the post-World Cup tourism boom appears to be “non-existent”, while the head of the city’s tourism authority says Cape Town after the World Cup appears to be in a “brand vacuum”. 

There are also frequent reports questioning when the stadium, hailed for its world-class design, will be able to pay for itself. Currently its annual costs are R57 million. 

The city took back ownership from SAIL Stadefrance in January and the long-term business plan is only expected to be complete by the year end. 

Grant Pascoe, mayco member for tourism, events and marketing, said yesterday the city had opened the tender process calling for business analysts to bid for the development of a business model for the stadium. 

“The consultant is expected to factor in the eventing, commercial, property development, financial, environmental and marketing aspects during this modelling exercise.” 

While the business analyst would focus on long-term plans, the city had already approved a short- to medium-term model. 

Pascoe said the short-term plan was for six months, and focused on “ensuring business continuity”. Two major concerts were confirmed, while negotiations for another two were continuing. 

The medium-term plan spanned three years and was aimed at improving operations and attracting lucrative events. 

On securing an anchor tenant, Pascoe said talks with Western Province Rugby were continuing, “with both parties intent on win-win outcomes”. 

Closely linked to the stadium was the Fan Walk, hailed as a major success during the World Cup. 

In a report last year, the Cape Town Partnership listed a range of reasons for why the Fan Walk worked. The report said it was well-marketed and practical as it ran from Cape Town station. And the route’s position took pedestrians through some of the city’s most historical landmarks. 

The report said the future challenge would be to establish the Fan Walk as a “24/7” walking route. It also suggested that the city appoint a permanent marketing team to get the most from the Fan Walk and other World Cup initiatives. 

Pascoe said the city had received proposals to use the Fan Walk outside event days.
He was adamant that the benefits of the World Cup, and the publicity surrounding the event, were “still paying off”. 

“Applications and proposals for major events have increased, the business and tourism sector gained valuable experience and business benefits. Cape Town was regarded as arguably the best World Cup host city with a compact pedestrian event footprint, including the transport hub, central city, Fan Fest, Fan Walk, stadium and Waterfront all within a 2.4km radius. The international publicity and marketing for Cape Town over a four-year period in the run-up and during the event is still paying off.” 

But not all industries are flourishing as a direct result. 

Hotels are grappling with low occupancy rates. 

Dirk Elzinga, chairman of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) Cape, said about nine hotels, with 1 500 new hotel rooms, were built in the city before the World Cup. 

The industry grew by about 15 percent, but he said this was not accompanied by a 15 percent increase in capacity in the past year. While some hotels had “extremely low occupancies”, this was normal for the off-season. 

Elzinga had not heard of a high number of repeat visitors, but some hotels had managed to establish relationships with overseas travel agents and travel companies. 

“I know of some hotels that have been able to continue the discussion with clients they met for the first time during the World Cup period. So there are some good examples of hotels that have built repeat business based on the World Cup, but as far as I know, that has not happened with many hotels.” 

Grant Thornton SA, an accounting and consulting firm, said while the post-World Cup tourism boom seemed to be “non-existent”, the event introduced infrastructure and helped many local businesses to survive the economic slump. 

Gillian Saunders, head of advisory services at the firm, attributed the slow growth in tourism numbers after the World Cup to the lingering effects of the recession.
In an opinion piece in the Cape Argus, Cape Town Tourism chief executive Mariette du Toit-Helmbold said the city needed a new branding strategy.