“What we don’t know about South Africa” – An interview to Willa Liebenberg
13 junio, 2014
South Africa is located in the southern part of Africa with a coastline that stretches along two oceans, Indian and Atlantic. It is in the top 25 of largest countries by land and by population with close to 53 million people. South Africa is a very clear example of a multiethnic society even to the point that no other country in the world has more languages recognized in their constitutions, South Africa has 11.
South Africa was a British colony until the 31st May 1910 but when the Statute of Westminster was passed it became a full sovereign nation. From there South Africa has been always consider one of the most important countries in Africa and one to be consider as a future power. However South Africa has to deal with a lot of problems about racism and discrimination (Apartheid). Even in a report by the SAMP it has been said that South Africans really struggle with immigration.
In Observatorio de la Actualidad I had the chance to work looking for news and writing articles about Sub-Saharan Africa but incredibly I never had a chance to talk about South Africa even with the election and Mandela’s death. So taking into consideration all that I took the phone got in contact with Willa Liebenberg.
Willa is a South African citizen and was born in Johannesburg where he still living, I contacted him because I met him and he allowed me to interview him and answered all my questions with joy. He works for NewDaysSafaris, a company he founded because his love for the nature of his country. He organizes safaris both for photographers and hunters.
The first thing I wanted to ask him was about his childhood, what was the feeling of a white boy 40 years ago. He tried to explain the best he could to me how society was really divided back then. “I remember one time I was going to the school and one of my friends told me that we should only hang out with white people.” He defend his friend saying it was the way of behaving back them but even now he says that the lack of education for black people has really affect their access to jobs in the cities and that is one of the main reasons why racism still exists.
Yesterday the FIFA World Cup started in Brazil and it is impossible not to remember that the African nation host it 4 years ago and was the first in its continent to do it. Now in the news we can see every day the protest that are occurring in Brazil so we went 4 years back and try to see what has changed. “For South Africa it was huge in terms of publicity and new infrastructures but now the government doesn’t have money to maintain them and are thinking about destroying them. It doesn’t make sense they were supposed to think about what to do.
Despite all this it was great to see all the population hand by hand.”
After the first questions we had a little meal and after we continued with the actual news and the first topic we discussed about was the strike some miners have started because they asked or a raise in their salary because they think that with the money the companies make they should be able to raise up their salaries. And for now the strike has cost more than 2 billion Rand. “I understand the workers need to have good salaries but you should do it year by year and not to ask a raise that is more than 100% and now they hurting our economy. I think the Unions must think about the big picture and realize a lot of those workers are asking for a salary that not even a lot of workers with 6 years of university studies have. There is something that is not right.” Now the strike is almost over and both sides have been negotiation on a new deal.
In order to conclude we focus on the South African government and its future which direction will they take? We can think that South Africa is one of the best states in the continent but what do they do for other states? “This is always a problem, the government tries to help but I think sometimes they should think about the poor people here and implant some things to solve it. Also I think the most important thing we have to solve here is the corruption and we have to start with the president Zuma and his house.” Zuma has been accused of using public money for the improvement of his private house. “Another problems they should eliminate is the crimes because there are a lot of murders probably because inequality and unemployment”
Before finishing we had to talk about the elections, the first ones without Nelson Mandela. Willa Liebenberg really showed his disagreement with what the government and especially with the citizens. “I think the ANC needed a punishment from its population but it didn’t get it, I have big hope in this country and will take time for seeing the changes, theirs new people coming in government so let’s hope…”
As a result of the interview I was really shocked because I have made an image of South Africa that is different to what my interviewee told me. I thought South Africa was one of the premier countries in Africa and was bound to be the leader of the African country. Instead I found that the citizens are really angry with its government, the corruption, inequality and the mistakes that they have made with the World Cup.
I thank Willa for his time I really appreciate how he answered all of my questions and wasn’t shy about any question I asked him.
Guillermo Morales Costas