I’ll begin what will hopefully be a thought-provoking and insightful record of my time in South Africa with a joke. For no reason, really, other than the fact that it made me laugh. Yes, out loud.
“A survey asked women across South Africa if they would sleep with Jacob Zuma. Eighty-seven percent of them said, ‘Never again.’”
The joke is a Zapiro-style jab at Jacob Zuma’s countless romantic liaisons. I’d call them “affairs,” but the word implies an illicit act. And according to the South African law that prevents discrimination on the basis of culture or tradition, it’s not illegal for any man to marry multiple women.
Jacob Zuma, as I came to learn early on in my preparatory study of South Africa, firmly believes in polygamy. His countless wives and children (some perhaps yet to come out of the woodwork) are proof of this. And he also serves as just one example of the many contradictions that pervade South Africa’s current political and socioeconomic climate.
I hope to explore these contradictions that stem from a deeper understanding of South Africa’s complex history. I look forward to hitting the streets, day in and day out, to delve into stories that are challenging and provocative, eye-opening and enlightening.
I like to think I can hold my own in a debate about the political movement that is the ANC or a discussion about the mixed messages President Jacob Zuma is sending to the majority sexually-active youth. I’ve taken a preparatory class, I’ve read books, I’ve surfed South African news sites and I’ve even watched the satirical (and hilarious) ZA NEWS videos on the Mail & Guardian’s Web site, which most recently ridiculed Julius Malema’s claim that he only accepts hand-outs. Despite all of this, I will be the first to admit that there’s so much about South Africa, its historic struggle and its current socioeconomic and political climate that I don’t know. This is both nerve-wracking and exciting. I feel like the tourist-turned-journalist, and next week I’ll trade in my camera, on which I’ve captured breath-taking pictures of Table Mountain and the historically significant Robben Island, for my reporter’s notebook. I feel simultaneously well-prepared and completely unequipped to tell the true-life stories I hope to tell (I won’t be admitting this to my editor, of course). I only hope that I’ll be able to do justice to whatever stories I begin to tackle over the next few months. And somewhere along the way, I hope to find answers to what I haven’t yet realized I don’t know.