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Holiday Destinations #8: South Africa

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Among the most popular holiday destinations around the world, it is fair to say that there are going to be many which have had a history that could be described as mixed and in places tragic. Indeed, history doesn’t tend to happen without at least one side having suffered, and South Africa is an example of a country with a recent history which, while still raw, is also interesting for the holiday maker.

Until less than twenty years ago, South Africa lived under the apartheid regime which made black people second-class citizens, without a vote and without representation. There is no point sugar-coating the facts, it was a racist form of government that was practised by a colonising force which saw fit to keep a disproportionate amount of the wealth and the power for themselves.

As any historian knows, an elite (financial, military or otherwise) cannot expect to keep hold of its power without blood being shed, and South Africa’s history is bloody in places, tragic in others. When apartheid was finally consigned to the past in 1994, and Nelson Mandela took power as the country’s first black president, a page was turned.

Of course, the struggles of the past are not easily forgotten, and any young democracy will have its problems. There are issues of violence and criminality in South Africa, but as a successful soccer World Cup showed in 2010, there is much to appreciate about a beautiful country with a vibrant culture. Johannesburg and Cape Town are particularly worth visiting, for their present as much as their history.

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