It’s per­cep­tions, not facts, that count

Zululand Observer - Monday - - ZO OPINION - Gra­ham Spence

‘WHAT news do you get of South Africa in the British me­dia?’ is the question I am most of­ten asked when­ever I re­turn to my roots.

This time, hav­ing just spent the past eight days in KZN and the East­ern Cape, it was no different. The an­swer is ‘not much’.

There is some stuff on Zuma’s cor­rup­tion charges, and ev­ery now and again there’s a fea­ture on farm mur­ders.

How­ever, this time I vis­ited the coun­try had been very much in the news.

Although the big­gest story was not re­ally South African — it was Sand­pa­per­gate with the sanc­ti­mo­nious ‘we play hard but don’t cheat’ Aussies be­ing caught do­ing ex­actly that.

Sand­pa­per­gate was mas­sive in the UK, not least be­ing the look on Eng­land cap­tain Joe Root’s face af­ter his side had been bowled out for a pal­try 58 runs against New Zealand.

Root was vis­i­bly flinch­ing, ready to be roasted alive by the me­dia for Eng­land’s pa­thetic per­for­mance when news­men mobbed him de­mand­ing to know what he thought of the cheat­ing Aussies in South Africa.

Root’s smile was wider than a tooth­paste ad­vert — he had just dodged the big­gest bul­let of his life.

Also huge news, and with far big­ger con­se­quences, was land ap­pro­pri­a­tion.

Ex­cept you won’t hear much about Cyril Ramaphosa’s pledge that this will not be a land grab.

In­stead you’ll see pic­tures of EFF sup­port­ers ty­ing elec­tri­cal tape onto trees as they mark out claims on pri­vate property out­side Pre­to­ria.

That did more po­ten­tial dam­age to tourism than re­ports of farm mur­ders, hi­jack­ings and rob­beries com­bined - some­thing no amount of golden beaches, sunny skies and lions in game re­serves will trump at the mo­ment.

For in many peo­ple’s minds, it was a stark snap­shot of a col­lapse of rule of law, which we know is not true.

But in to­day’s fast mov­ing world, it’s per­cep­tions, not facts, that count.

I told this story to who­ever asked while in South Africa, and al­ways got an im­pas­sioned de­fence that South Africa was not go­ing the way of Zim­babwe.

I agree - whole­heart­edly.

But if Julius Malema truly be­lieves that kick­ing landown­ers off their prop­er­ties is a vi­able pol­icy, he’s go­ing to have a hel­luva lot more prob­lems than un­paid mort­gages.

South Africa is sec­ond only to Morocco as Africa’s most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion with 9.5 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally, but the EFF are test­ing that to its limit.

Speak­ing of Malema, I went to Port El­iz­a­beth to spend three days at the su­perla­tive Amakhala Game Re­serve a cou­ple of weeks af­ter he made his ‘cut­ting the throat of white­ness’ re­mark in a bid to re­move the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Mayor Athol Trol­lip.

As I landed at the air­port, the EFF mo­tion to oust Trol­lip had just been de­feated, and as so of­ten is the case in South Africa, the East­ern Cape was mov­ing on.

I stayed at the Leeuwen­bosch Coun­try House and once again was re­minded how words and ac­tions are of­ten two vastly different con­cepts.

Leeuwen­bosch, while part of Amakhala, is owned by the Fowlds fam­ily who have been in the area since the mid-1800s.

Af­ter a game drive, where you will see rhino, ele­phant, at least five different species of buck and most likely lion, you’ll find the pa­tri­arch Bill Fowlds at the Cel­lar Bar which was built in 1832.

Over sev­eral whiskies, Bill will re­gale you with stories and his­tory of the East­ern Cape that will keep you spell­bound.

Bill’s vivid or­a­tory is pep­pered with po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect words and ob­ser­va­tions, but don’t let that fool you.

His head ranger is a Xhosa called Ouboet, his lodge manager is Nomonde May­inje and her son Siseko, once a trainee ranger, is now a highly-skilled he­li­copter pi­lot.

Bill and his sons Grant and Will have done more for black South Africans than any of the snowflake gen­er­a­tion that spend most of their wak­ing mo­ments scream­ing racism (or in­sert ‘ism’ of choice here) ever will.

That’s why South Africa is, and al­ways will be, fas­ci­nat­ing.

You get politi­cians grand­stand­ing about throat slit­ting, while in the real world, peo­ple get on and do things to make real changes.

Like fly­ing he­li­copters, man­ag­ing lodges and show­ing tourists how beau­ti­ful this coun­try ac­tu­ally is.

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