I have lived in South Africa all my life, and I have seen change upon change in this beautiful country of ours.  There are many positive changes: the important main roads have been improved very much, many of which are toll roads.  The minor roads are unfortunately not so good, depending in which province one is driving. Drivers must be aware of potholes, some of which are quite deep!

The tourist trade is strongly supported, especially by people from other countries. Due to the weak value of our currency, tourists generally find that a very good holiday can be enjoyed without costing too much in their own currencies.  For South Africans the contrary is true. Tourist bureaux and the internet would be able to highlight the very many attractions and localities. The game parks are a great attraction – there are animal parks of all kinds: lion, elephant, big cat, snake, crocodile, and others.

For people who are thinking of buying property and coming to live here, most people are of the opinion that the Western cape is the best area, as it is well run, clean, and certainly safer than many other provinces. Very many of the houses there have been bought by folks from overseas.

The question of safety will depend on where one goes, if on holiday, or where one chooses to live. There have been many changes in especially the past 20 years. There was a time when there was no real need to lock doors or windows when leaving home. Children could safely ride their bicycles in town. The population and traffic increase are to blame for that, as well as many reckless drivers.

I bought a house in 1977, in a large town which has now become a city.The house had no burglar bars on windows or doors, and had only fences around the backyard and a low wall in the front. In the years that have passed since then, I have had to add burglar bars to all the windows, and security gates on all the outside doors. An alarm has been added as well as a strong roll-up garage door. I do not have an electric gate as the walls in front would have been too expensive to have changed. The back is surrounded by walls of two metres high.

When I leave the house to go to town I have to do the following: Lock the back security gate as well as the door. The windows must all be closed. I unlock the front door as well as the security gate, and then lock them as I leave. Next I do the reverse, lock the front door as well as the security gate, activate the alarm. Then I unlock the garage with a remote key and do the same to my car. As I leave the garage I have to lock the door again. You can imagine what a mission it is to go somewhere. Obviously the reverse has to be done when I return home! The majority of houses also have electric gates and very high walls, and many have electric fencing in addition. I used to have two Doberman dogs, and they were a good deterrent against beggars and other intruders.

Most of the suburbs have their own neighbourhood watch where people take turns to ride around the streets to see what is happening. They have a light on the roof of their cars, and if anything looks suspicious they alert the rest of the members so that they can support each other.

It is very important that people coming to South Africa must pay attention to all the safety regulations that are handed out on planes before landing, and also be extremely careful and alert at all times. Hotels usually have their own pamphlets to hand out to all guests..There are criminals of all races who try to take advantage of strangers.

In spite of the pessimistic view which I have sketched above, South Africa is still a wonderful country with many friendly people, if one is polite and willing to understand that the different races have their own customs and ways, and they sometimes seem quaint to strangers. Our black people are very friendly in general, and the older folks still have great respect for elderly people. They like to be greeted first and will call an older lady Mama or Ouma , and a man is called Mtate or Papa.  It is a sign of respect.

I have a black cleaning lady who comes in twice a week. She has been with me for 30 years and is an excellent worker. I have always treated her well and seen that she is well fed, as well as her family. She lived on the property from 1986 until about 1995, and then moved to one of the townships as the government had promised free houses. She waited quite a long time before that happened, but she eventually received a small house of her own. Since then she has traveled into town by taxi.

Star Gazer