Traumatised South Africans have risen to the challenge of their country’s darkest hour by opening their hearts and wallets to the crisis on the ground, after fast-failing national and provincial governments showed their incompetencies. This morning’s IOL daily email shows the national headlines:
Coffers swell as South Africa gives
South Africans are showing a spirit of charity as they open their wallets to help people affected by xenophobic violence across the country. Full Story …
Durban lauded for embracing foreigners
Cape Town unites against xenophobia
Immigrants being reintegrated
Donations pour in for victims
SA celebrities launch anti-violence campaign
Joy for children at makeshift school
Yesterday’s International Herald Tribune focused on the negative impacts. Writing about Cape Town: “One of South Africa’s most famous beauty spots is now a scene of disgrace.
“These attacks threaten to negate the gains we have made since the end of apartheid,” chief justice Pius Langa told a somber crowd in Cape Town’s cathedral.
“Are we as a society going to allow ourselves to be sabotaged?” said Langa, who like many in the congregation wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word Foreigner.”
Cape Town has been the hospitable Tavern of the Seas for centuries and the horror of the xenophic attacks has hurt the Mother City badly.
IHT continues: “Cape Town authorities held a crisis meeting with representatives of the tourist industry and set up a team to assess the impact on bookings and cancellations. The fear is that photos of a burning Mozambican man that made front pages of newspapers around the world last week will displace Table Mountain as the face of South Africa.
“Nearly 1 million people — many of them foreigners — work in the tourism industry in Cape Town. The city is one Africa’s most popular destinations thanks to its iconic mountain, pristine beaches, spectacular vistas and rolling vineyards. Tourism accounts for more than one-fifth of the province’s income.
“The xenophobic violence “will have an impact and it will remain with us for quite some time,” said Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism. “The image of the destination will suffer, that’s beyond question.”
True to form, it was once again Cape Town Tourism that took the leadership in addressing the issues with the formation of a task team. (They had engaged the UNWTO before violence started in Cape Town and elicited their full support and resources for media management.)
In contrast, the last communication from the Provincial tourism authority was on the afternoon that xenophobic mayhem erupted in the city:
“A picture speaks a thousand words and we would much rather that these images were eye-catching pictures of Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Agulhas, the Knysna Heads, West Coast wild flowers or the Karoo landscape. They have the potential to draw tourists, rather than to discourage them from visiting our extraordinary destination.
“Cape Town Routes Unlimited understands that the violent xenophobic attacks have not spread to Cape Town and the Western Cape and that our destination is still fairly safe for tourists to visit. We would like to encourage our tourism partners to spread this message, especially in markets like India, Japan, China and the United Kingdom where there is a degree of anxiety.”
Was that naivety or just tempting fate.
Whatever… the fact remains that the violence occured in the poorest of the poor areas, where government has failed citizens most badly. They are areas tourists are most unlikely to visit. Violence has not spread to other areas. Travel cautionaries are unwarranted and do more damage than anything else.
This is a time when South African needs the world’s help. Incompetent, inept and inane governments exist everywhere but it is always the triumph of human spirit that carries us all forward.
In Cape Town, mayor Helen Zille has acknowledged that local government alone is not equipped to handle the crisis. Responding to comments by the UN’s Arvind Gupta, she said “We require practical assistance even more, in the form of the resources and expertise of his international organization which has a large Department specifically resourced to deal with crises of international magnitude such as these. The City does not have such resources. We call on the national government to invite the UN to help us address the issue.”
So… show that you care.