Snippets from my first three weeks at The Star newspaper:
- Representative of the most privileged group in SA’s society, a white male gets passed over for a promotion he may have deserved. “It’s because of BEE,” he tells me, referring to Black Economic Empowerment, South Africa’s version of affirmative action. “But it’s worth it,” he slips in quickly. He may be disadvantaged now but he believes it is a sacrifice he must make to further his country’s future.
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- “I’m going to grow up to be a journalist,” a black teenage girl tells me. “Just as soon as I finish all my schooling.” Black, young and female – she’s from the most disadvantaged group in society. She has left most of her friends at her local school in Soweto to pursue a better education in Johannesburg. She is taking the steps to advance her own future.
The stories in South Africa never cease to amaze me. There is a sense of vibrancy, a passion to further the goals that nominally came to fruition in 1994, but continue to require sacrifice and persistence to achieve. From tales of crossing a desert to escape totalitarian regimes in other countries to accounts of anti-apartheid protest and fighting, a new South African history is being written in everyday conversations.
These are the stories I simply couldn’t read in books from the US, but which come through every chat I seem have with a South African. The country’s history is rife with disease, crime and corruption, but this is far surpassed by the endurance and enthusiasm of the individuals – and it’s a history I am happy to take part in, however briefly, as I live in Johannesburg and intern as a Star reporter.