LOCKY’S AFRICAN DIARY
I’VE seen some places in my time. Taken more than a few (probably unwise) walks on the wild side and emerged relatively unscathed. I’ve never seen anywhere like South Africa, however.
You would choose to walk home through Savile Town at midnight with a semi-naked nymph on your arm and a can of Special Brew in your hand while singing Rule Britannia at full voice, before you would even drive down some streets in this country.
Eight days in, and I’m no closer to understanding this big, beautiful and completely wild land than I was while sitting in the departure lounge at Manchester Airport.
A vastly travelled and trusted colleague said the day before departure that he’d be amazed if I didn’t come back and say it was the greatest country I’d ever visited.
A tea-time regular at the Woodman Inn visits here more than he does Dewsbury market and swears by the place.
As such I can only assume that I’ve either been taking a few wrong turns or my travelling companion likes to live dangerously.
So far, I’m leaning towards the latter because although he drives like Douglas Bader with two broken arms, he does know his way around.
These are very much first impressions but South Africa is a contradiction, a paradox, where blacks wield the power of state and whites wield the power of property and wealth. For now at least.
The government of ‘eccentric’ ANC President Jacob Zuma is tireless in contriving ways of redressing that economic balance, even if it bankrupts the nation (and when I say ‘eccentric’ Zuma I actually mean ‘lunatic’ Zuma).
Our first host was a contractor barred from bidding for public work unless his business is 30 per cent owned by blacks.
This is now a nation of quotas, and it threatens to bring the country to its knees, be it from industry to sport.
He prefers to divert his efforts elsewhere not least because the ANC government is a notoriously bad payer.
I read today of a council smaller than Kirklees paying close to a million quid for a Christmas tree and some lights.
Friends and relatives tend to benefit. Such barefaced corruption in a country where you can’t park your car on the street without someone ‘guiding’ you into a parking spot for whatever coppers you can spare and where most traffic lights have someone at your window offering some service or other.
Don’t lower the window, folks. There’s a huge dose of generalisation in there, clearly. A week or so might be enough time to get to know Blackpool reasonably well, but not one of the most remote, complex and psychologically scarred democracies on our beguiling planet.
WE’VE travelled about 1,000 miles from Johannesburg, via the Zulu/Boer battlefields, the outskirts of Durban and East London.
From what I’m told, if you’re ‘doing’ South Africa, this is like a UK tour beginning with Brixton, Bradford and the Gorbals in Glasgow.
We head for the famously picturesque Garden Route and Cape Town tomorrow – if the howling storms let up sufficiently to travel (Locky trips off for some winter sun and typically comes home with a half inch of rust).
The locals have been uniformly polite, hospitable, delightful.
Our white hosts however have lasted all of five minutes before asking “so what do you think of South Africa?” They are all white aquaintances because social segregation appears to remain almost total. Again, I stress this is a first impression.
Such as I’ve witnessed a glimmer of hope it was while popping into a Virgin Active gym in an upmarket area and seeing quite a decent mix.
If opportunity, ambition and just a bit of time are all South Africa needs, I reckon they’re on a better path to community cohesion than Dewsbury and Batley.
You can sense the trepidation in their “how have you found us?” question because South Africans are fiercely proud of their country – or rather the country they grew up in.
Virtually everyone is downbeat about the turbulent socio/political changes – but they would be, because there’s a huge social and economic gap to close and they’re the ‘haves’. That painful journey has a long way to go.
THE breathtaking beauty of the verdant Zulu homelands of KwaZulu-Natal was followed by a journey through the Transkei, with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho in the distance. You feel like you’re riding on top of the world.
It was a million figurative miles from the schizophrenia of Johannesburg, where abject poverty and opportunistic criminality lives hip-to-hip with fabulous wealth that cowers behind razor wire, CCTV, security guards and solid steel gates.
I’ve read about it, seen it on the news, but was no less staggered. It really is the norm.
My nature is to lightly scoff at meek scaremongers who tell you to steer clear of troublesome neighbourhoods.
Heck, I’ve done south central Los Angeles, downtown Philadelphia at 3am, been Mr Whitey in Harlem.
I’ve even walked from Dewsbury to Thornhill Lees at 2.30am.
But when the grizzled old bloke at the gun shop, surrounded by enough munitions to take over some smaller African nations, tells you to stay the hell out of this place or that, it’s probably best to heed his advice.
When everyone – everyone – says you don’t walk out at night, or even drive at night in some towns, then there’s a reason. The thing is, that’s not new to the ‘new’ South Africa.
I don’t even think there’s a racial overtone for the most part. The white folks have the money, the tourists especially, and the man with nothing – whatever his colour – has nothing to lose. It’s not rocket science.
As for those welcoming, hospitable, generous and doughty souls who have asked me what I think so far?
A big, bold, colourful and dramatic land that is everything I’d heard and imagined. A great place to visit – but not a place I’d consider living, not for a minute. Not so far at least...
PS: And now my South African adventure really begins! For reasons best kept private, I’m on my own in a strange town with no transport. No worries though – I’ve spotted what looks like a decent pub...
CLOSER to home it was no surprise to see our Supreme Court side with the EU Remoaners and rule that the Theresa May must submit a bill to Parliament before invoking Article 50.
At least that draws a line under the legal shenanigans without even more lawyers having a feeding frenzy by stringing the legal charade out even longer.
Just get on with it now Prime Minister and draw out all of the anti-democrats lying in wait. The sooner their ambush is sprung – and it will be – the sooner we’ll know who real the enemy is, because believe me, it isn’t Brussels.