The filthy stench assaulted my nose. The makeshift roadside toilets an eyesore, men openly ogled as women went about their business in the “loos”, while children splattered water on each other. Not rain water, but the dirty sewerage water. The shrieks from an overjoyed mother welcoming back her son, home from studies abroad, jolted me into the moment.

This is Soweto, South Africa, a place where history was brewed as South Africans battled over apartheid. The Soweto Uprising, escalated by the murder of young schoolboys, was indubitably the beginning of the apartheid government’s Waterloo. Heart wrenching images of gunned- down school children splashed across dailies around the globe.

That was then, but now, Soweto is just as pathetic, only this time around, history is shamefully repeating itself. The slum, one of the largest in Africa, harbors indecency and immoral tales rivaled by Kibera, back home in Kenya. Life is at its lowest here and it seems, George Orwell not withstanding, all animals are not equal down here!

In the village of Bloom down yonder, in a swipe reminiscent of Kenya’s Rift Valley province, large tracts of land under crop entice the eye into an agricultural trance. The air here is flowery, and one can hear joyful noises from the kids playing, with their nannies sitting by, carefree. But do not be fooled. The lands have violent history too.

One is bound to be welcomed in for a drink; it doesn’t matter if you are black, grey, green or yellow. Generally, life is in no hurry here, and worth it.

On driving on to the mining fields, the Kimberly Mine (the city of Kimberley is the capital of Northern Cape province) comes to mind, where one embraces labor at its might. You need not ask why the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is so powerful in South African politics; after all, it is a major partner of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Mine workers labor away their days in the hope of striking gold. The mines, a source of livelihood for the miserable as well as the nobility of South Africa, provide employment to all and sundry, including minors, and under-age labor is at its worst here. Children are known to fake dates of birth just to be allowed to work, forgoing school in the process. Most simply die, after years of ingesting dust from the mines. They just cough their lives and souls away – simple! These mines too, harbor a large contingent of Zimbabweans who fled from their home country, where its leader, President Robert Mugabe, has fallen foul of fair play in life.

Democracy? Then you ought to reconsider the meaning.

South African natives want to go on the rampage here, killing foreigners who they claim come to take away their jobs, leaving them hungry. Life belongs to the dogs of the day.

After weeks of travel in the regional provinces of South Africa, I finally pack for Jo’Burg to think about life. I question the notion of grass being greener on the other side, and wonder who ever came up with such a phrase. But all the same, welcome to South Africa, the Rainbow Nation.





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