Hurt breeds Hostility

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Jeremy Clarkson’s article entitled I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies, published in The Sunday Times on 1 March, has elicited a massive response from Saffas across the globe. Optimists and Pessimists alike are up in arms. I have had an interesting morning sifting through the comments, which offer such varying perspectives.

Some Examples:

“Joburg has a crime problem & the community’s fear comes from many examples of calculated criminal attacks on valuable moveable property. Yet Joburg’s [resilience], atmosphere, potential & lifestyle is worth seeing. A tad more vibey than MKeynes, The World Cup will be special, welcoming & safe to visit.”
Bruce Ellison, Johannesburg, RSA

“South Africa would be a fantastic country if it wasn’t for the 90% of South Africans who whinge about it all the time. I have never heard such self-loathing as I have from those in SA. Meeting a [positive] voice in SA is a very rare [occurence] indeed.”
Hugh, Dublin,

“I love the tongue-in-cheek article… It is [meant] to be tongue-in-cheek? I am a proud South African and also living in the real world. Tourists, [don’t] be naive. Be [careful]. You probably wont be accosted round every corner but I dare say, at best, several of you will be happily relieved of your Nikons”
Dave, Johannesburg

“SA’s lifestyle is more than great but my family’s been attacked 3 times, hijacked 4 times, and 2 members murdered. My German sister-in- law said she’d never leave SA – that was exactly 12 hours before 5 thugs killed her! Friends – 2 murdered – and my helper’s daughter gang raped. It’s enough now!”
Hazel, Johannesburg, South Africa

“YOU WERE IN RANDBURG Jeremy!! AKA Poef-ter-ville! Next time you come to SA take a walk through the City & swing your Nikon.. [let’s] see how far you get?!! I’m not talking the outskirts of town. I’m saying CITY CENTER- We get mugged and Hijacked to & from work! .. Randburg…. Pah!”
Chantel Robins, Johannesburg, South Africa

“I love my country madly, but it has an attractive veneer covering a very real and sordid underbelly of violent crime. Not one of my friends has not experienced or witnessed crime in one form or another. Honest SAfricans have learned to be ever-vigilant. Visitors, you’re always welcome but be aware.”
Lloyd Phillips, Mooi River, SA

“SA is a beautiful vibrant & diverse country. It is safe if you live in your gated community & stay in your hotels and visit the elite shopping centres. My 5 and 8 year old daughters were hi-jacked at gun point with their 68 year old grandmother. The [play therapy] did help!”
Gillian, Perth, Australia

“Our metro trains, taxi services are first world in Johannesburg and even better than in the U.K.. Tourists must enjoy our fantastic restaurants in Alexandra, Diepsloot, Tembisa and Thokoza, and the evening strolls into downtown Hillbrow and Berea can be very romantic. Welcome all to Joburg for 2010!”
Nick B., Johannesburg

“Vintage Clarkson! I had a good chuckle. [Remember] he always writes with his tongue firmly in his cheek, so don’t be offended. Those of us who live in SA know that it is dangerous in JHB, but there are parts which are quite safe. I have relatives in JHB, lots of them, none have been murdered.”
Keith, Cape Town

It is great that the article has provoked such a strong response. It shows that South Africans do care about South Africa, whether they are living there or not. After reading page after page of ranting commentary, what really struck me is the need for South Africans to dictate the context that makes it okay for opinions to be expressed. Expats feel betrayed by their country and their government, and ‘loyalists’ feel betrayed by those who have left South Africa. It is this sense of betrayal that causes a deep hurt, which in turn provokes hostility. Thus, South Africa’s history of violence is perpetuated by the attitude of its nationals. It is important to remember that everyone has their own story, their own history and their own experience. It’s all about perception. Just as “One Man’s Freedom Fighter is Another Man’s Terrorist” one man’s act of defiance is another’s act of betrayal. How about some respect? We need to give each other a break once in a while. Life is tough enough thanks!