I recently had the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of my country for the production of a television series called The South African Story. It gave me the chance to visit places I had not been to before and to really see, for the first time, this magnificent land in all its glory – from the top of Table Mountain to the banks of the mighty Limpopo.
The first word that comes to mind in summing up the journey is “diversity”. South Africa is a large country, with a wide variety of landscapes, topographical features and climates – from arid to temperate bushveld to tropical. Diverse vistas, diverse people, diverse cultures, diverse experiences. Diversity is good: Imagine if we all looked the same, followed the same cultural practices and lived in a uniform environment.
The second word is “beauty”. I don’t have the words to do justice to the view from God’s Window in Mpumalanga, the sight of waves crashing through the Hole in the Wall on the Wild Coast, the giant baobabs on the savannah in the north, the sun hitting the sandstone cliffs at Golden Gate in the Free State, the serenity of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in the south…
The third word is “history”, starting at the Cradle of Humankind near Johannesburg where the story of the origin of our species unfolds. What a fascinating place to visit, and to learn and that no matter how we look or where we come from today, we all originate in Africa. We are all Africans. Our history is painted in ochre on cave walls from the Cederberg Mountains in the Western Cape to the heights of the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal. It is shouted from the rooftops of some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the Southern Hemisphere, from Pietermaritzburg to Grahamstown, and from Pretoria to Cape Town. Our triumph over apartheid is narrated on Robben Island, in the Apartheid Museum… through the statue of President Mandela at the gates of Victor Verster Prison from whence he so famously walked free.
The fourth word is “delicious”. Each part of the country has its own culinary character, from Cape Malay to West Coast seafood to Durban curry. Our fruit is of such good quality that most of it is exported – as is much of our seafood. Our wine route, in the Boland region of the Western Cape, is truly something to savour. And the biltong and venison from the bushveld is a delight.
And then there are the people. South Africans are justifiably proud of their country and themselves. Although many still live in extreme poverty, and although apartheid was struck from the law books just a short generation ago, there is a remarkable absence of bitterness. The magnanimity of our people was arguably the single most important ingredient in our miraculous transition to democracy.
South Africa will take your breath away. Don’t take my word for it. Please pay us a visit so that you can see for yourself.