South Africans show their spirit

Traumatised South Africans have risen to the challenge of their country’s darkest hour by opening their hearts and wallets to the crisis on the ground, after fast-failing national and provincial governments showed their incompetencies. This morning’s IOL daily email shows the national headlines:

Coffers swell as South Africa gives
South Africans are showing a spirit of charity as they open their wallets to help people affected by xenophobic violence across the country. Full Story …
Durban lauded for embracing foreigners
Cape Town unites against xenophobia
Immigrants being reintegrated
Donations pour in for victims
SA celebrities launch anti-violence campaign
Joy for children at makeshift school

Yesterday’s International Herald Tribune focused on the negative impacts. Writing about Cape Town: “One of South Africa’s most famous beauty spots is now a scene of disgrace.

“These attacks threaten to negate the gains we have made since the end of apartheid,” chief justice Pius Langa told a somber crowd in Cape Town’s cathedral.

“Are we as a society going to allow ourselves to be sabotaged?” said Langa, who like many in the congregation wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word Foreigner.”

Cape Town has been the hospitable Tavern of the Seas for centuries and the horror of the xenophic attacks has hurt the Mother City badly.

IHT continues: “Cape Town authorities held a crisis meeting with representatives of the tourist industry and set up a team to assess the impact on bookings and cancellations. The fear is that photos of a burning Mozambican man that made front pages of newspapers around the world last week will displace Table Mountain as the face of South Africa.

“Nearly 1 million people — many of them foreigners — work in the tourism industry in Cape Town. The city is one Africa’s most popular destinations thanks to its iconic mountain, pristine beaches, spectacular vistas and rolling vineyards. Tourism accounts for more than one-fifth of the province’s income.

“The xenophobic violence “will have an impact and it will remain with us for quite some time,” said Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism. “The image of the destination will suffer, that’s beyond question.”

True to form, it was once again Cape Town Tourism that took the leadership in addressing the issues with the formation of a task team. (They had engaged the UNWTO before violence started in Cape Town and elicited their full support and resources for media management.)

In contrast, the last communication from the Provincial tourism authority was on the afternoon that xenophobic mayhem erupted in the city:

“A picture speaks a thousand words and we would much rather that these images were eye-catching pictures of Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Agulhas, the Knysna Heads, West Coast wild flowers or the Karoo landscape. They have the potential to draw tourists, rather than to discourage them from visiting our extraordinary destination.

“Cape Town Routes Unlimited understands that the violent xenophobic attacks have not spread to Cape Town and the Western Cape and that our destination is still fairly safe for tourists to visit. We would like to encourage our tourism partners to spread this message, especially in markets like India, Japan, China and the United Kingdom where there is a degree of anxiety.”

Was that naivety or just tempting fate.

Whatever… the fact remains that the violence occured in the poorest of the poor areas, where government has failed citizens most badly. They are areas tourists are most unlikely to visit. Violence has not spread to other areas. Travel cautionaries are unwarranted and do more damage than anything else.

This is a time when South African needs the world’s help. Incompetent, inept and inane governments exist everywhere but it is always the triumph of human spirit that carries us all forward.

In Cape Town, mayor Helen Zille has acknowledged that local government alone is not equipped to handle the crisis. Responding to comments by the UN’s Arvind Gupta, she said “We require practical assistance even more, in the form of the resources and expertise of his international organization which has a large Department specifically resourced to deal with crises of international magnitude such as these. The City does not have such resources. We call on the national government to invite the UN to help us address the issue.”

So… show that you care.

2 responses to “South Africans show their spirit”

  1. I believe the Mother City certainly lived up to its name and reputation as a caring, compassionate community when its local residents opened their hearts to those affected by the appalling xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals living in our province.
    In response, the Premier chose to open the Province’s wallet to run a full page B&W advert in the media.
    Headlined “People of the Western Cape – We salute you”, this advert purportedly thanked the ‘man-in-the-street’ for their spontaneous response to the plight of fellow Africans in distress.
    (An A – Z list of all the community organisations involved was listed down the left hand side of the page).
    Whilst the spirited local residents and tireless volunteers of all these listed organisations are grateful for the recognition received, I’m sure they feel somewhat saddened (even possibly aggrieved) that Premier Ebrahim Rasool has attempted to hi-jack their sterling efforts for his own political gain.
    The second para of the bodycopy in the dominant black graphic of Africa (under the “We salute you” headline)
    says it all:
    “The provincial Government has applied a three-pronged approach to the disaster by-
    ensuring the safety and security of foreign nationals and South Africans; giving humanitarian assistance to the displaced people; and reintegrating them into their communities of origin under safe conditions.”
    As late as last week a press report quoted Rasool as saying they ( the provincial govt.) were “in the process of applying for a provincial disaster declaration” and were negotiating with the UN “not only for their expertise but for shelters”). This is weeks after the disaster began.
    So much for your strategies, processes, action plans and good intentions – the fact is that the residents of Cape Town have beaten you to the punch and shown you up.
    I’m a little confused here Mr Rasool – Reading this advert I thought you were thanking those who took foreign nationals into their private homes, churches, mosques and synagogues (while you were probably sleeping comfortably at home).
    What a cheap shot Mr Rasool!!
    Fancy trying to appropriate that which does not belong to you. You should be ashamed of yourself and your political cronies.
    Next time, apply your mind before engaging on such-not-so cheap party propaganda.
    The money wasted on your self promotion and political party aggrandisement would keep a soup kitchen going for many months to come.
    As far as I’m concerned you are in the soup now – and best you get out. You are spoiling the flavour of what the real people of Cape Town have brought to the table for the hungry and dislocated.

  2. I see Mr Rasool is still beating the same “Spirit of the new SA” drum.
    This evening’s Cape Argus (Fri 20 June) features an article on the leader page penned by the Premier titled “The spirit of the new SA is still alive” wherein he again lauds the locals who “opened their hearts, wallets and homes to offer all kinds of relief to the victims of these viscious attacks”.
    Not only is Mr Rasool still trying to appropiate what ordinary South Africans have done to assist those affected by the xenophobia, but he (or his script writer)has the audacity to even plagarise copy originally presented on the CapeInfo website, and to present it as his own!
    Not so obviously, (notice he has given up placing paid adverts in favour of ‘editorial’ crafted by himself)our politically bankrupt premier has again tried to con the public!
    Won’t somebody tell him to stop trying to appear to be at the helm of relief operations – we are not buying his story. And frankly, neither are the countless displaced people who are still camping out in these appalling winter conditions.

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