When the power goes out in South Africa’s platinum mines—as it frequently does—emergency-response plans are activated to evacuate miners ... from the depths. And for every dark day in the mines, people above ground also suffer: businesses shutter their doors, refrigerators stop humming, health clinics go dark, access to financing gets tighter—all as the country’s power system struggles with ageing coal-fired power stations and rapidly rising energy demand.
As the world counts
down to the kick-off of the World Cup on Friday, we’re looking at the
way South Africa is seen by the rest of Africa. Today, Azad Essa talks to a Kenyan barber living in South Africa about why it is the foreigners who work the hardest.
For more on the Rainbow Nation through African eyes, read an extract of the article by Parselelo Kantai in The Africa Report June-July edition, or buy a copy now via our online store
Ali Omar leans against flimsy barber tent. The 25-year-old points across the busy intersection at a brown tent. “I am Kenyan and whatever my brothers in this tent will tell you will be the same as I what I will tell you,” he smiles. “My brother here is from Zanzibar and this brother is from Mozambique,” says Ali Omar as he points out the two barbers, busy shaving and cutting hair.?
Omar says he came to South Africa because of the strength of the South African rand and to support his family back home. “Where I come from, there is no war, no political problem. If my life changes for the better, I will return to my country,” he says.
But Ali Omar says he cannot understand why local South Africans blacks are so dependent on government help. “We are here cutting hair and fixing shoes, but when I came here I didn’t know any of this. I had to teach myself these skills. I can fix shoes now, cut hair, you know what I am saying. These people can’t do it because they want government support and they don’t want to work,” explains Ali Omar. “Here, if you get sick an ambulance will take you to the hospital, but in many other countries there is no service like that,” he adds.?
Omar says that his customers are from all race groups and that it is clear that the country is still deeply divided. He also admits to feeling threatened by xenophobic threats. “These people [black South Africans] don’t like to work. The foreigners are here, making money, working all over because they are focused on making money. These people just don’t want to work.” ?
He says local Africans do not support each other, as compared to say the growing population of Indian South Africans. “Indians are the same everywhere, in Africa, Europe or America. Indians like their businesses and they like their money. They always take care of each other,” says Ali Omar. “When they start something, a business, they support each other. Africans don’t do that.”
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