Thursday, May 22, 2008


I just got of the phone with Rainbow FM 90.7 in Johannesburg, South Africa. I once again had the pleasure of talking live with radio station manager Humphrey Birkenstock. It still is quite an amazing phenomenon to think you call can from your home in San Diego and talk to a radio station in Johannesburg and be heard in a city of some 6 million people more than 10,000 miles away.

Humphrey and I had talked on the phone yesterday mostly for me to get a proper perspective on the news about South Africa that has been running on all the US media. Recent riots in the poorest communities in Johannesburg have made international headlines and they describe nearly two dozen communities that have been affected. Rising costs of food, major unemployment, and the perception of broken promises by the government for such essentials as housing have driven them to desperate measures. Their anger is being focused on the estimated 3 million undocumented foreigners who have fled Zimbabwe and Botswana from the north of South Africa. Conditions far worse than in South Africa have driven them from their homelands.

Our discussion on the radio was in part to answer my questions about how the media was reporting this situation and for Humphrey to let his listeners hear how the US and international community was perceiving this news. If I didn't know anything about South Africa I would be deeply concerned about making travel plans to South Africa. I think foreign investors are likely looking at this news also and getting very concerned.

But lets talk about the reality of the situation as it is today. Twenty two people have been killed as a result of these pressures but to the everyday person in Johannesburg, six million no less, life is as normal as it has always been. The news has an amazing way of creating what I continue to call a disproportionate response. Why this morning I read in my own local paper that 11 homes had been broken into and robbed since April in the neighborhood where I grew up and where my parents still live. This is a really nice neighborhood, and one full of million dollar and up homes. Based on the brief news I read, if I reacted like many are regarding South Africa and the drug wars in Mexico I probably would stop driving the 10 or so miles to visit my parents.

The good news is that 9 million tourists visited south Africa last year and that number is expected to climb to 10 million by 2010. At present Amor has an estimated 700 mission trip participants going to South Africa next year, up from 75 participants this year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the perspective, Scott. We have grown numb to the reports of crime in our own communities, but are over-reactive to the same reports about places far away.