Thursday, December 01, 2005

Welcome to South Africa! Your Money or your Life?

This story and this story make me wonder why people still think that squatter camps are a happy friendly tourist spot. They are not. They are areas where people live in abject poverty, disease and desperation, and where AIDS and crime are the norm, not the exception. It is not somewhere you want to go for fun. I know firemen who have been robbed at knifepoint while attempting to put out shack fires, by the very owners of the shacks they're trying to save. Last year an Eskom engineer who was sent in to dismantle an illegal electricity line in one of the townships (they were stealing electricity from a nearby industrial area) was murdered because he was daring to do so. Locals know better than to break down on roads that lead through 'informal settlements'. Paramedics have begun to refuse to go into certain areas without armed guards. It's dangerous. We all know it.

But tourists... oh no, they are protected by some invisible force field that allows them to walk unharmed through areas that have been described as some of the most violent in the world outside of a warzone. It's the same forcefield that allows them to step out of the car at the game reserve to get that memorable shot right next to the lion. Or the one that protects them when they decide to go hiking up the mountain without water, food, or a cellphone, or telling anyone where they're going.

Or not.

Can you imagine if other countries offered similar tours? Come to Iraq and visit a genuine town full of suicide bombers! Come to LA and tour South Central! Special offers on our 'white is right, west is best' shirts if you call now! Feel like a little beach holiday? Enjoy sunny Antarctica - bikinis only! Or come to Australia where you can swim with the crocodiles!

Payment up front, of course.


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