Sunday, 29 March 2009

The Voices of Reason - South African Firebrands

It is just amazing reading the Johannesburg Sunday Times this morning about the visit of the ANC Youth League firebrand Julius Malema to the white only town of Orania.

I watched the video and expected a firebrand. Yet Malema actually sounded like the voice of reason. huh????

As I watched the pics of him and Carel Boshoff junior negotiating their way through Orania, I believe both sides handled it brilliantly. I had to think back to the two times I filmed in Orania in the early 1990's.

And I had to think of one plane trip I took from Upington to Johannesburg with Carel Boshoff junior in 1994, shortly before the first multi-racial democratic elections in South Africa. Although he is the grandson of murdered Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd the architect of apartheid, he is such a reasonable and intelligent person - no hardline rightwing talk from him. Very affable, very likeable! His demeanour raised a lot of questions in my preconceptions of what I expected. He does not seem to have changed one bit in 15 years.

And for a few minutes, while watching the video, I felt as if there may be hope for the country. Two leaders from differing sides of the South African political spectrum treating each other with respect.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Bring back Pik!

For those reading Afrikaans this is vintage Pik. This is his no nonsense approach to dealing with the international diplomatic crisis around the invitation to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in South Africa. The invitation was withdrawn after China complained. South African Nobel Laureates FW De Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu then withdrew too, along with the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Pik wrote an article in Beeld newspaper telling the world how he would have dealt with it, had he still been Foreign Minister: by inviting the Ambassador of China for a cup of tea. Between the lines one could read, he would have dealt with it rugby scrum style - slight pressure applied. Metaphorically "We are not going to hurt each other or?" Afterwards he would then have told his President it is all sorted out and to go ahead with the conference as planned.

Pik Botha was the former Foreign Minister of South Africa in the De Klerk and Botha eras and South Africa's longest-serving Foreign Minister. He after 1994, when Mandela became president joined the ANC.

From Rock to Kraut

And so started my book:

"This book tells the story of my journey from South Africa to Germany; from one continent and vibrant young multi-culture to an old continent with a culture dripping with traditions spanning thousands of years; from a megalopolis in Africa to a small town in Europe.

It is the story of adapting and adopting, without forgetting where I came from and who I am. It is the story of two traditions merging in one family, who are walking a tightrope between not forgetting one culture and not letting the other culture dominate. Like anyone who has ever lived in another country, I have had to wrestle with the question of where and what home is. Home and at home have taken on a new meaning.

Although my roots will always be in Africa, I am a cosmopolitan now. I’ll never stop missing Mrs Balls’ chutney or peppermint crisp chocolates, but I can get just as excited about Italian cuisine or films, or French joie de vivre or the thought of my mother-in-law’s home-made pretzels and Obazta waiting for me when we travel to Bavaria. More than in Africa I live the seasons: sitting with friends in a city square in summer sipping a Sekt, then meeting up at the Christmas market, dressed warmly against the cold, to drink a quick Gl├╝hwein, before we go to a warm restaurant for dinner.

Home is a difficult concept to pin down, but one thing is for sure, it should be the place where one feels the warmth of others. I am lucky that there are many places in Europe where I feel at home. But these days, Trier, and especially the wine suburb of Olewig, where we live, is where I call home.

Like my ancestors before me who left Europe to go to Africa on a journey into the unknown, I, too, came on a journey that held so many more surprises than I could have ever bargained for."