Our first stop on the world tour is Johannesburg and we are spending a few days with the Beckett-Browns; Mark, Alison and Jayden, (Sacha is at boarding school, but we will see him on our way back through).
Alison had organised a Soweto tour, but as is typical in Africa they fail to turn up! They confirm after the fact for the following day (which won’t work for us), TIA (This is Africa) explains Alison, they work to their own schedule and own rules.
Never mind; we spend the day with Ali running errands, picking up Jayden from school and then attending the evening at his school fund-raiser.
One of the activities is to buy a paper plate which the kids place on the school oval and then as its getting dark sky divers swoop in and land, the plate they land on wins. I am sure we would never be allowed to do something like that on a Melbourne school oval!
On arrival into Joburg we got the Gautrain from the airport to Sandton, the business district for Joburg. It became so unsafe downtown that Corporations couldn’t get people willing to work in the area, so they moved operations out to Sandton.
Even the stock exchange moved here! You could be in any modern city in the world. Buildings are branded with recognisable corporate logos and high-end retail advertising. What you don’t realise is that only a few kilometers away are townships living in very different conditions.
The most prominent feature is security; barbed wire, often electrified security fencing surrounds every home in the areas we drive through. Armed robbery, carjacking and break-ins are common occurrence.
You are warned not to keep anything visible in the car. Ali places her handbag under her seat when driving and our luggage is locked in the boot.
When you leave a car park, a guard stops you and asks that you stop the engine and restart the car, this is to check that you haven’t hot wired it!
It’s a long weekend and we are heading off to a private game reserve near Sun City which boarders the Pilanesberg National Park and spend the morning shopping and packing.
Alison and I head to the Supermarket, I couldn’t help but put my ‘Coles hat’ on, but as I am on holiday I will only comment on 2 things that stood out: all fruit and veg is pre-packed, very few products you could select and pack.
The aisles are immaculate, every item is perfectly placed. When the base hourly rate starts at R9.30, equivalent of Aus 93 cents, you can see how they afford to keep the shelves in perfect condition.
As we leave with two trolleys loaded up (enough to feed a small army), there are people eager to assist to take your trolley to the car and unload for just a few Rand.
With 25% of the population unemployed and many who do work earning well below the cost of living, the Brown’s teach us that identifying opportunities to allow people to earn a living and support the local economy is important.
Where I might have felt embarrassed using their services I can now understand how important it is to help South Africa grow. One more somber fact is that 40% + of deaths are HIV related.