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South Africa: Charting a Course to a More Profitable Future?


Tomorrow's elections could determine pace of nation's progress.

To say that my expectations for South Africa were low is a tremendous understatement.: When I went there to give a presentation last March, my preparations included a visit to my doctor, where I paid $285 for 3 vaccinations against hepatitis, tetanus and typhoid. My wife packed antibacterial wipes, and gave me clear instructions: "Wipe your hands whenever you touch anything."

Images of dirt roads, AIDS, starving children, militants with AK-47s, and general lawlessness were circulating in my head, and on some subconscious level I was saying my final goodbyes to my wife and kids. I was going to South Africa - but would I come back?

Ignorance is bliss; in fact, my expectations were so low that the mere presence of semi-paved roads would have been enough to elicit delight. The South Africa I found was dominated not by parched earth tones - the color of sand and poverty, as I'd expected; instead, the South Africa I found was bright green, blue, and white. Were it not for the cars being driven on the wrong (left) side of the street, you could easily confuse it with Southern California (Santa Barbara especially came to mind).

The roads are in far better shape than those in many First World cities. Neatly manicured grass, palm trees, and endless vineyards are responsible for the overwhelming greenness. White, well-maintained European-style buildings -- and the blue of the 2 oceans (the Indian and the Atlantic) that surround the Cape -- round out the gorgeous tableaux.

This is the view you'll get of Cape Town and the Cape if you only stay on the major roads, and only visit the tourist areas. Until the early 1990s, you'd see this side of the country only if you were white. If you were black, "colored," or Indian, this paradise was off-limits. The slums, poverty, humiliation, and second-class citizenship were your domain.

South Africa in Pictures

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