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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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Give tourists true Mzansi

By unknown | Apr 28, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I thought we had been handed the 2010 World Cup out of pity. Think about it, a country that had endured ... how many years of world sanctions?

I thought we had been handed the 2010 World Cup out of pity. Think about it, a country that had endured ... how many years of world sanctions?

We came out of the woodwork sporting a jiving Madiba. The odds were 50/50 and since most of us were oblivious to the permutation, it had to be us after that Germany bleak moment.

But taking a stroll in my own Georgia-Tembisa, I couldn't help thinking that we are the beautiful ones. An interesting country with a plethora of possibilities regardless of what they say. The presentations won us the world cup fair and square. Some call this collective narcissism.

They say we are too obsessed with ourselves, with the Mandela legacy, Sara Baartman, vuvuzelas, Sarafina, Black Mambazo, Table Mountain, Market Theatre and so forth.

But I never hear them say the same about green tea and bonsai-tree gloaters. In Bali, you pay a fortune to see some medicine man who the Balinese consider a rare commodity even though he's but one grain of rice in a bag. And this is where we get it wrong with our own township tours.

We continue feeding tourists expired clichés. If not, they are taken to malls, stadiums and the SABC. For what? Why sell atchaar to Indians? Show them South Africa unplugged.

But the tour guides who try to do this end up driving tourists to tshisa nyamas that leave you reeling. Would you like a beer with your fly? Then when the penny drops, it's usually taking them to a high-class shebeen where the mood can be so painfully pitiful it makes a night vigil jovial. There's more to South Africa and people had better start doing their job.

I spoke to Felicia Mabuza-Suttle in 2005 when she was our own tourism cheerleader in the US and was at pains to present South Africa in all its glory. There were periodic festivals where Ndebele paintings were done before on-lookers' eyes, traditional dancers jumped sky high and the big five were carved from nothing to something in no time. Yet when tourists finally get here, all they stand to capture as they saw it in presentations is perhaps the Big Five at Kruger and basically where they might end up finishing their dollars in tips and abundance.

Imagine how much money you could rake in if you had your own gumboot dancers or reed dancers frequenting tourist destinations. Imagine if there were a real shebeen with all the paraphernalia of days gone by right in the middle of Newtown?

Even in the cultural village in Vosloorus, they don't have traditional healers even though cultural medicine was once taken so seriously that the government proposed their inclusion in the health department. Maybe narcissism is the opposite of what we feel about ourselves.


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