Greetings to the world’s seven-billionth person

Dear Dani

Halala! Welcome to the world, little one. Many are alarmed by your arrival. They are worried that there are now just too many of us — humans — for the planet’s resources. Valid concern, sure, but that’s not your doing, is it? The birth of a baby is always a blessing and a reason to celebrate, so halala — that’s what we say in my language when we rejoice.

Danica May Camacho is your full name, but may I call you Dani? Hope you don’t mind. Anyway, just thought I’d write you a little note from Africa to let you know what you are in for and what’s been happening here down south while you were sleeping. I know you can’t read just yet so I’ll keep it simple.

Poor little tyke, the timing couldn’t be worse for you to come and join us. Money is tight almost everywhere. Lots of countries have gone and spent much more money than they actually had, so they ended up borrowing lots and lots of cash from other people and places, but now they can’t pay it back.

This means there’s now less money to go around for everyone. Even though places like your country, the Philippines, and mine, South Africa, were not involved, we are all feeling the squeeze. Now it looks like we are in what is called a recession. It is a bad word. When you are older, look it up in the dictionary.

So, by way of an update from my continent — it has been quite a year. We’ve managed to rid ourselves of some pretty bad people in a very short space of time. They were leaders who wanted to be in power forever. Such people are called dictators. Your countrymen will be familiar with this term; ask them to tell you about Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.

Anyway, many of these African leaders had ruled their countries for something like 40 years. That’s until their people decided they wouldn’t and couldn’t take it any more and told them to go. Some listened and just left, but others refused to step down, so the people put up a big fight and in the end they won. The horrible leaders either died or gave up and allowed other people to take over.

Here in South Africa, we’ve also had a whale of a time. My job is that of being a journalist — those are people who tell others what is happening in the world.

Let me tell you, Dani, that at this time of year we are usually in a slump, stuck with very little new or exciting information to tell people. But not this year, little one. The news gods have kept us very busy. I imagine them flying around, flapping their ink-stained wings, microphone at the ready and dropping select news gems almost on a daily basis.

It is enough to make one cry for a holiday. Our president, Jacob Zuma, finally did something that many South Africans had asked him to do, which was to get rid of a few people who had apparently lied, cheated and tried to take money that wasn’t theirs. One of them even used the money to go and visit a girlfriend in a place far far away. This is called corruption. Also a bad word.

Zuma also said that he is going to look into something that happened a long time ago that involved even more money. Now everyone is very happy with Zuma. They say he did the right thing. “Please, sir, can I have some more?” many of them are now heard saying, just as little Oliver Twist did in a book you are sure to read in a few years’ time.

Just as we were recovering from that, many young people told the government and business that they wanted jobs. Everyone wants to have a job so they can have a home and feed their families. Your father, who is a taxi driver, I believe, will understand how important that is, especially now that he has you. These young people said they were sick and tired of being poor so they marched a very long route to make sure that everyone heard them. They seem to have been heard, but who knows whether anything will be done? We wait and see.

There is another bit of news about a minister who was caught playing a sport he should not have been playing, but I wouldn’t want to pollute your young mind with those details.
So, Dani, those are a few things I thought you ought to know. I may have painted a gloomy picture. I’m sorry about that, but this Earth is actually a wonderful place.

Girl to girl, I wish you a sharp mind, fine looks, a clear complexion, a slim figure, and good health. In your time, may you find love, peace and happiness and none of the bad things like dictators, recession and corruption.

All the best

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday