Iâ€™m sitting at OR Tambo airport in Jozi, waiting for my flight back to Cape Town and I confess I am feeling down. I guess it had to happen. After a four hour run in with SAA you can end up feeling like that, but thatâ€™s not it.
Let me rewind a bit. My brother wanted me to see the show that he and his partners produced, Beautiful Creatures, which finished its run at The Teatro at Montecasino today, so he bought me a ticket to come up for the weekend. Then my cousin asked me if I wanted to go with him to the Ghana Uruguay game at Soccer City on Friday night. It was a little miracle. I had fantasized about going to a game with little hope, since I myself had made no effort to get a ticket besides for wishing for one to land in my lap. Bingo. I was the luckiest person in the world.
I was delighted to arrive in Jozi. The energy at both Cape Town airport when I departed and OR Tambo when I arrived was electric. I love the mad Uruguayan supporters on the flight who took a poll for the game and were devastated that 90% of the passengers wanted Ghana to win. I was ecstatic to see, feel and be part of this magnificent achievement. I loved the great decorations on the side of the highway. I loved the millions of vuvuzelas. I loved hearing so many different foreign languages. Â I loved the transport, the security, the magnificent Soccer City. I loved the 90 000 fans that streamed in with face paint, tattoos and supporter colours. I cried with 90% of them when Ghana lost! I loved the Rea Via bus trip into the centre of town after the game in the middle of the night.
I loved the after-game hangover we aIl nursed at Melrose Arch the next morning where every person at every table was speaking about their heartache, and where every somebody in a Uruguayan short was â€˜skeefedâ€™.
I loved going to Montecasino yesterday to see Beautiful Creatures and be part of the total delight of every child (and parent). I loved the huge crowds that started arriving at the fan park to watch the Germany Argentina game. I loved the outdoor restaurant we sat at in Rosebank to watch it.
I have been unwavering in my pride and praise of one of South Aricaâ€™s greatest achievements, this, the 2010 world cup, in spite of hard-core Fifa. I have been touched by how friendly, interested, passionate and hospitable South Africans have been.
No doubt, the few incidents of reported crime have been disturbing, but the mediaâ€™s take on it has been that the incidents have been random, opportunistic and isolated. Of course, there has been the great publicity of the special courts that were set up, and the swiftness of the justice they have meted out.
I have been sharing in the delight of the Gautrain which I caught today, the sight of people reclaiming the streets of South African cities on foot, and the good word and reputation that South Africa is basking in, even though Bafana Bafana didnâ€™t make it through the first round. I have been lapping up every good article, review and conversation.
That is, until today, at OR Tambo airport, where, while having my tiff with SAA at the passenger services counter, I met a man who needed their help to leave the country and fast. He was an American tourist to South Africa, for the world cup, who, after last nightâ€™s game, had been woken up, beaten and robbed, whose sister these bastards had threatened to rape, all in the promised security of their up-market Sandton hotel accommodation. He was in total trauma and was trying to get SAA to help him, and his brother and sister go to family in Namibia.
I cannot begin to express my shame. I cannot begin to express my absolute helplessness. I cried. I cried for his physical hurt. I cried for his material loss. I cried for how he was going to need help and comfort from others, and not from us South Africans. I hurt for how long it would take him to recover, after only being here for four days. And I want somebody to pay, to make it better, to fix it.
I am in the air now, sitting amongst locals and tourists alike. And I am struggling to control the desire to shout out, â€œItâ€™s all bullshit! We are fucked! This country is a mess! Go home! Quickly.â€ I know itâ€™s not true, but meeting one victim in the flesh is a shocking reminder that he is one victim too many. And I know that most tourists will go home having had the best time of their lives, but it will have been a â€˜there but for the grace of the godsâ€™ time. And Iâ€™m sorry, thatâ€™s a bitter pill to swallow.