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Associate Professor Sian Davies-Vollum writes from an around-the-world voyage through the Semester at Sea program.
South Africa—South African experience was quite different from most tourists, who arrive and immediately jet off on safari. With relatives in Durban, I opted for the more relaxing option of home-cooked food, good conversation and excellent South African wine with family not seen in a long time.
This visit also provided me with a chance to consider how South Africa had changed in the seven years since my last visit. That visit, in 2002, was eight years after the fall of apartheid, and I was stunned by the lifestyle that middle-class white South Africans maintained, living in secure, electric-fenced, razor-wired, gated communities, quite separate from most of the population.
Little has changed with respect to measures taken for protection from violent crime. However, I was encouraged to see far less racial segregation in public places and more educated, upwardly mobile black South Africans than on my previous visit. There are still huge disparities in wealth, and many black South Africans live in poverty in townships without sufficient access to clean water, but there is a sense of ongoing change and hope in the new government of Jacob Zuma.
There are also huge expectations for next summer, when South Africa hosts the soccer world cup. Beautiful new stadiums are being built, and local infrastructure is being upgraded to deal with the onslaught of fans and media. It seems as though the whole country has soccer mania. I had the sense that South Africans feel their country will be on show and are proud to prove to the world that they can make the next world cup the biggest and best. If South Africa ensures that the economic boost provided by hosting such an event can trickle down to all its citizens, not just the privileged few, that will be something to be proud of.