This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.
Johannesburg, South Africa
The very mention of South Africa will get mixed responses, depending on who you talk to. People from England aren't surprised, because half of London is populated by South African ex-patriots. Australians hate us, the rest of Europe is oblivious, and the Chinese consider us a lapdog.
Interestingly, the nation with the most diverse set of opinions on South Africa is the one that South Africa's oft-divided population has a single, shared opinion of - America, with its fat citizens, terrible cars and predilection for causing trouble where there is none. In my defense, I should mention that I like most things about America, along with modern-day contributions like hamburgers, Jim Carrey and the Internet.
Back to South Africa though; located on the Southern-most tip of the Dark Continent, South Africa (Est. 1652) is infamous for Apartheid. Strange, really, because it's what everybody else calls racism - so stop asking, already. Back in 1994 we had our first democratic elections with a whopping twenty-six participating parties all vying for a piece of the Rainbow Nation pie. Prophesising doom, many whites stocked up on tinned food, water and guns, to combat the black danger. Nobody stocked up on wet wipes to wipe the egg off their faces, though.
Johannesburg, the wrongly-assumed capital city of the country - an honour that actually belongs to the terrible city of Pretoria - plays home to the dumbest politicians our country has to offer. There's our president who doesn't believe in AIDS, our health-minister recommends a diet of indigenous vegetables to combat AIDS and the traffic police force that aspires to the donut-consuming stereotype.
Often referred to as the "African New York", Johannesburg only resembles the Big Apple by boasting a mediocre collection of skyscrapers.
It's here, in the country's financial centre, where investors and bankers boast about empowering the previously disadvantaged black community who, strangely, are still in squatter camps looking for food and the promised government grants. True, we have the biggest economy in Africa but poverty is still rife. The rich drive exotic cars and the poor are littered across busy intersections, begging for money. As such, crime is a large problem. Our police force is under-staffed, prisons overcrowded and the courts are too busy handling fraud and rape cases involving our own members of parliament.
We're hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010, though. Crime should be under control, the roads should be resurfaced, a new government might be in power and we should finally have a public transport system.
But our aspirations are way in the future; right now I'm stuck in a crime factory. Send reinforcements, I'm gonna need 'em.
Thanks for hanging in there with the Great American Reach Around. The final two installments of the series are ahead and will feature a shotgun-style approach as we blast away at those states we have yet to visit. If you would like to write an article about your city in one of the states that has not yet been covered, then feel free to drop me a line. I am also now accepting entries from foreign GARA reps who do not frequent our forums. We still have some countries to visit there, but I wanted to give an opportunity for those of you with a lust for writing and a story to tell about your country. Email now, or forever hold your complaints!
We might find we have more in common than we think if we just stop fighting long enough to combine our bodies into a singular organism.
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