I was one of thousands of people at OR Tambo International airport, en route to the coast for the holidays. I stood behind a Canadian man and, I assume, his three sons.
I knew they were Canadian because they were wearing backpacks with ‘CANADA’ written on them in red and white, they were pale-skinned and spoke with North American accents.
The father kept a sharp eye on his kids, turning around every few seconds to see if they were still there. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be embarrassed by his paranoia and the fact that he kept instructing his eldest not to let go of their luggage. Would he do that if he was at JFK or Heathrow, I wondered?
As I laughed under my breath, I couldn’t help but think of the dwindling Dewani drama that’s gripped South Africa’s collective consciousness. We were shocked and embarrassed as a nation when we heard about the murder of Anni Dewani, not because murders and hijackings shock us any more, but because she was a tourist who believed enough in the dream country we so desperately want to come and spend her honeymoon here.
There were murmurs of “this country’s going to the dogs” hours after the story hit the news but they were silenced by Zola Tongo’s claim that Shrien Dewani had plotted the murder of his own wife.
I could sense a collective sigh of relief because, for once, someone of another nationality who is not black was implicated in the crime — ignoring the fact that Tongo and the people who killed Dewani are still criminals.
It may help people sleep better at night to think that a British husband might have organised for his Swedish-born wife to be killed in South Africa, but our satisfaction in this case is like cutting off our nose to spite our face.
At the end of the day, South Africa — whether it’s the people, our reputation or the tourism industry — is still the loser because this is one of many similar stories in this country.
I recently saw a report that basically said that a larger percentage of South Africans, compared with those surveyed a few months ago, think that Jacob Zuma is “doing well” as a president.
As much as I doubt that this is a true reflection of how South Africans feel about the conduct of the government and our leader, I don’t see our complacency changing drastically in the new year because, as much as we like to complain about this and that and the crime, we seem to enjoy resting on our laurels even more.