Every travel, local or international, is an occasion to be challenged and an opportunity to appreciate home some more. As our people say, a child who doesn't travel assumes his mother is the word's best cook. A recent visit to Cape town, South Africa's "White" City, left me with enough material for reflection for a while.
First the negatives. Every time I visit South Africa I cry for that beloved country. The fermenting anger by the majority black community continually seeks an escape valve. For a while, this pressure has conveniently been released through violence at the "Makwerekweres"; immigrants from North of the Limpopo. Sooner or later it will boil beyond these easy targets and may cause race based civil war.
You only need to visit Cape town and experience the race based economic differentials to see the dangers in the horizon. From the slums that shadow the magnificent highway from the gleaming airport to the palatial sea side villas and mountain side gated communities, the fact that South Africa is a land of two contrasting worlds, screams everywhere.
In the exclusive shopping malls and lofty waterfront restaurants, people of colour only exist as shop attendants and waiters. Unfortunately for South Africa, this is not an easy problem to solve; a significant portion of its population, are beyond assistance. Many of them were victims of the post Soweto student uprisings so never went to school. Those who did went through underfunded and poor educational systems. Even if the government desired to assist them, they lack the basic raw material for capacity building.
Fortunately, the post-independence years have seen an explosion of education in South Africa so this problem may find solutions in the long term. However, the South Africa government must rethink its refusal to fully fund university education.
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I remain totally sympathetic with the "fees must fall" student's movement. For a country that desires to grow a local human resource base, black students should be entitled to free university education for the next few decades much like what happened in Kenya for almost forty years when university was virtually free for local students.
Now to the positive. Cape town is by far one of the most beautiful places in this continent. A drive through the protected forests that surround the city and the sea side towns that dot the idyllic port is a bucket list item. Stop overs for fresh sea-side fish as one navigates the roads that are carved into the steep cliffs are an absolute must.
The trip is not complete without a visit to the Cape of Good hope; though truthfully, what the tourists are shown as the tip of the continent is actually a fake tip; the real tip is further north, just not as easily accessible.
One thing we can learn from the South Africans is the telling of their story. Granted, South Africa's history is much contested but there are enough monuments to tell a part of that story, even if the "Rhodes must fall" and such other campaigns are refocusing the story from Dutch heroism to a more comprehensive one which remixes the heroic stories of the Kois, Shaka Zulu, the apartheid struggle and the beautiful and still vibrant culture of the indigenous peoples.
The one sad story that Kenya shares with South Africa is the scourge of corruption. It must be said Kenya's fight against corruption is more winnable in the medium term than South Africa's. Kenyans loathe accepting that we have made some strides in eradicating the scourge, but being the optimist, when I look at the relative magnitude of historical scams as a proportion of GDP, comparing Goldenberg, AngloLeasing against NYS and Healthgate, we are on the road to recovery.
South Africa's corruption on the other hand is on the up and up with increasingly larger figures being quoted in monthly scams. All in all, it is a country I could grow to love, but which I fear will explode some day soon.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya