Blog: Out of Africa
Dave Leggett | 10 May 2004
The journey back from South Africa to UK on Friday night/Saturday morning was uneventful but tiring. I have had the opportunity to get a few images off my camera now (see below). Impressions of South Africa itself? I wasn’t really there long enough to get a full view, but my impressions were largely positive. It’s hard to be otherwise when you stay in a modern leisure complex next to the ocean and most of the people in the immediate vicinity – all races, though mainly white-skinned - are pretty well heeled.
However, I did catch a glimpse of a large township where many of Port Elizabeth’s ‘economically disadvantaged’ live. It looked pretty grim in parts, I must say. And the country’s highly skewed economic development probably helps to explain the high crime rate.
But you don’t make everyone ‘more equal’ overnight. I understand though that progress has been made in delivering running water and electricity to more households in the townships. Is it enough, fast enough? The recent election result suggests that the government is getting the benefit of the doubt from most people – at least for now.
All in all, maybe South Africa is doing okay, given its history and given the fact that the country has only had democracy for ten years. ‘Zim’ to the north is clearly a complete mess and a vision of what some of the pessimists thought would be in store for South Africa when black majority rule came. At least that hasn’t come to pass. And in an African context, SA is certainly a beacon of political and economic stability.
Life on the roads down there? I heard quite a bit about the ‘garden route’ from PE to Cape Town. It runs by the coast and sounds like one of those road journeys that should be savoured. Maybe SA is a good place for a road holiday – the roads appeared fairly uncluttered and pretty good quality. And the SA police tend to have more important things on their plates than prosecuting erring motorists.
But, talking to some of the locals, that’s not an altogether good thing. Drink-driving down there is endemic. One guy told me that he avoided the roads on Friday nights because it was ‘just too dangerous when the bars turn out’. It was certainly a little disarming to hear people openly admitting that they drink and drive (and we’re not talking a quick lager shandy here).
But if you’re looking for a driving vacation with diversity, sunshine, good food, drink, the ocean and friendly people – not to mention lions and elephants - SA’s worth a look.
If you’re interested in seeing the PowerPoint presentation that I made to the SAAC conference last week, click on the link below (please bear in mind that the slide headed, 'Automotive industry in 2014', is NOT a forecast; it is simply illustrative of the sort of fast-moving change that characterises the auto industry).
SAAC conference delegates
Coega deep water port (very, very big hole - those dots in the middle are big trucks)
Boardwalk conference centre
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