Make your own free website on

Home                          Trip 2                              Maps                              Links  


March 30, 1984

I recently took an extended trip to South Africa. The purpose was to attend an International Business Conference to investigate business possibilities, and, as a Regent of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, to obtain first-hand knowledge of general conditions. The Board of Regents has received numerous requests from Faculty, Students, Church Headquarters and "outsiders' to take controversial positions and actions regarding College and Church investments in companies doing business there. Information related to the viability of those requests was specifically sought. I interviewed many people from all races and walks of life.

What follows is a personal and private diary of the trip. It is by no means an authoritative study backed by endless time, research, and verification of facts. It is a chronological record of my observations and thoughts, at those times. Since facts and unbiased first-hand observations about this country have been scarce in America for a long time, there may be as many surprises here for you as there were for me.

This record was created and typed daily into a Tandy Model 100 briefcase portable computer, then transmitted via Satellite to a host computer at my office near San Diego. On my return it was edited and additional notes were added. Your comments on any part of this trip or diary are solicited, and I'll try to answer any questions you may have.


THURSDAY FEBRUARY 23, 1984 (Houston International Airport) - My first impression of South Africans is not very favorable.  The airline counter staff is crude, surly, and slightly threatening.  They look and act like rednecks.  Based on the many bad reports about South Africa, I have some reservations about taking this trip anyway.

Feeling a bit "fluey".  Maybe coming down with what's been going around the office the last few weeks. My seat assignment is confirmed but I won't check the bags until the last minute.

Oops!  The counter staff are Americans.  Pan-Am personnel on contract to South African Airways.

Enroute Houston to Ilha do Sal to Johannesburg.

The 747SP is about half full.  Weather quite rough above the North Atlantic but this service is among the best I have experienced on any airline, anywhere.  (ED: I hear this has changed substantially.)  Food here in "Last Class" is excellent, but the chicken livers wrapped in bacon as breakfast hors d'oeuvres are -- different.  22 hours total flying time from San Diego. Am drinking water, Coke and orange-juice continuously to try and minimize jetlag.

Businessman next to me (from El Cajon, CA) is a native of Israel, grew up 19 years in South Africa, and is returning to visit wife's relatives.  Says there is a significant Jewish population in SA.  Seems knowledgeable and loves his SA homeland dearly.  Says "keep an open mind and think twice before drawing any conclusions".  Makes sense.

Couple on other side also from SA & very sociable. In the States to purchase raw materials for paints and solvents.

Landed on Ilha do Sal ("Isle of Salt"), an interesting crew change and fuel stop. Formerly Portuguese, it is part of the Cape Verde Island group, an independent nation living about 80% off international welfare.  Is located several hundred miles west of the western tip of Senegal, where U.S. space flights have emergency landing strip. It makes a little money as a gas station for International flights.  Nothing here but a long airstrip, beat up smelly terminal, hotel for crew changes, and salt evaporation ponds.  Planes from Russia and Cuba also refuel here.

Met more of the 200+ San Diego based South Africans at the snack bar in the terminal.  Attorney specializing in International Business, etc.  San Diego's similar weather attracts them.  Are also many SAs in Houston.  They have strong feelings about the American media and religious community treatment of something they "know nothing about", and politicians who "don't really care about facts".

We continued down past the West Coast of Africa, past Angola and over the barren Namibian desert. (See Maps)  Clearing customs in Johannesburg was simple and  efficient.  Was not stopped, questioned, nor bags inspected.  Just wished a "nice stay".

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 24, 1984 - Long dusk trip to the Sandton Sun Hotel in a booming northern Johannesburg suburb.  This weekend is dedication of the Hotel complex as part of a huge inside shopping center w/International class 5 star hotel.  Watched dress rehearsal for dedication tomorrow since music is so loud can't sleep anyway.

Dropped an antenna wire out the hotel window for the tiny short-wave receiver I carry.  Picked up world news from Voice Of America, then fell asleep after 30+ hours on the road.

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 25, 1984 - Up early and to breakfast.  Quality of service is superb, and no one seems uptight.  All races are seen eating, and serving.  Not really what I'd expected.  Interesting "old-world" courtesy, yet very contemporary environment.

Took a long walk through the adjacent new shopping mall, many times size of a San Diego regional, and more modern.  All races are present, buying and selling.  Can't really tell much difference between this and home except this is cleaner, more courteous and has a lot more class.  Did I get off in the wrong country???

Microcomputers are here and booming.  Stopped at numerous book and computer stores.  Was received with enthusiasm by managers.  Name was recognized at some. Company name recognized by all.  Many wondered why they had not been contacted before.

The bookstores are very modern and stock lots of computer books from the U.S. and Europe.  Most are going to the big book faire in London and want to meet us there.  Since SA is about the size of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah combined, with a similar population, exclusive distributorships are the norm.  Told them we would be in London and talk business there.

Apple, IBM, Commodore 64 and game machines abound.  Radio Shack is selling the full line.  They have been waiting for a copy of my new Model 100 tutorial book so will leave my copy with them before departing.

Watched the Hotel dedication ceremonies, featuring a stunning and overpowering rendition of the Cavalleria Rusticana themes with full orchestra, multiple choirs, lights, and live fireworks from different balconies inside 20-story atrium.  A 6-story waterfall is part of lobby.  Makes Hyatt Regency look like Motel 6.  The entire complex defies unenthusiastic description.  The insurance companies and pension funds putting up the millions of Rand are betting heavily on the future.  So far this doesn't look like a hick country or a banana republic!

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 26, 1984 - Up early to breakfast and a mob scene loading buses.  Some Americans insist on giving endless unsolicited and unknowing advice to hosts, and prattling about the irrelevant.

Stopped enroute to Sun City at the national Gold Mine Museum, near the site of the  original gold strike in late 1800's.  Donned full miners gear and went down about 50 stories (500'), then through tunnels and to site of "Kimberly Reef", an original hit.  Was fascinating.  Just one SA mine produces more Gold than all U.S. and Canadian mines combined.  We don't learn (or retain) much international history so seem very provincial about these things.

Continued northward on smoke filled bus with part of the American contingent for another 2+ hours northwest to Sun City, in the Republic of Bophuthatswana, an emerging independent black nation carved out of South Africa.  The countryside in the northern part of the State of Transvaal is very dry.  After 18 months of drought it resembles mix of Mojave desert and Monterey without rain.  Like Eastern Wyoming, or dry Northern New Mexico.  Sun City is sort of like Las Vegas, but with more of an international air.  It is the biggest such resort in the Southern Hemisphere, with U.S. and European entertainers headlining.  (Even have a Krugerrand slot machine taking the 1 ounce gold coins, for big spenders.)

MONDAY FEBRUARY 27, 1984 - Coming down with flu, cold, sinusitis, or something from the States.  More than just jet lag.  *!@#$%&!* smokers don't help matters.

Good conference opening session.  300+ Yanks and 100+ SA's.  Opened by Rev. Seodi, black Secretary of Internal Affairs for The Republic of Bophuthaswana (standing in for the ailing President), and featured Martin Spring, SA's top financial writer and former Newsweek African correspondent, and Arkady Shevchenko, the former Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Under Secretary General of the United Nations, and the highest ranking Russian defector.

The opening session put the sociopolitical picture in sharp perspective. Their unanimous bottom line is:

Be careful how much you believe of what the American media and mainline religious leaders say about South Africa.  Best to see it, then decide for yourself."

I bought a set of audio tapes of this session to keep their facts straight.

Mixed extensively with the South Africans present.  They have flown in from all over the country for the conference, and are exceptionally cordial and accommodating. Are much like New Zealanders, but with a clearer sense of direction.  Like Australians but more refined.

Chatted with A.B. Nahomed, black Senior Editor of Information Services for the Republic of Bophuthatswana.  Very bright and articulate, and says best thing America can do is to let SA's solve their own problems.  Says things are moving very quickly, and as fast as reasonably possible.  Says the worst thing we could do is boycott SA, as bottom of ladder would be the ones to suffer.  One speaker indicated that a "worst case" scenario involving total U.S. sanctions would temporarily cost only about 120,000 jobs, but 80,000 of them would be of non-whites. 

Rank and file SA blacks seem more like our American Indians than American blacks. Friendly, happy, docile but not lazy, extremely superstitious, and centuries behind.  A major current story is about the burning of disbeliever's by local witch doctors.  Gruesome stories of blacks inhumanity to other blacks is daily fare in both black and white newspapers.  Blacks seem at far more risk from neighboring black tribes than from SA whites.  There is no obvious hostility between local blacks and whites, but plenty is apparent by both against outside meddlers.

Seems clear to me at this early point in the trip that we cannot simply overlay the American situation and experience on the SA condition.  Like comparing avocados and artichokes.

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 28, 1984 - Feeling sicker with flu but hanging in there.  Much sleep last night and sore throat better, but not over it yet.

Sessions continue excellent.  The Hon. Owen Horwood, setter of national financial policy was featured luncheon speaker.  Flew a thousand miles from Cape Town to speak, then return home in the afternoon for more budget sessions.  His activities are reported daily on international and African news broadcasts.  I saw him speak earlier, in the States.

Took a walking tour of the premises and the Gary Player golf course.  

Saw on Reuters news service (live, here in middle of Dark Continent) that Walter Mondale came in 2nd.  Connection is by undersea cable from London, thence phone line to Sun City.  Chatted w/Reuters guy about live satellite programming.  Says they just ran test in NYC with 2' dish on limo and worked great.  Very interesting! (ED: Sounds like technical ancient history.)

SA's wanted to know who Gary Hart is.  They follow our politics very closely.

There is heavy SA media coverage of this conference.  High level SA and US types are quoted extensively each night on the news.  (A Member of Parliament and news types indicated later that it received more favorable publicity than any such international conference in the history of South Africa.)  Chatted at lunch with a SA TV producer.  Said they could get live Satellite TV feeds, but he didn't know much about the technicals.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 29, 1984 - Flu finally is breaking.  Bad night along with adverse effects of anti-Malaria pills.  One lady very ill from quinine.

More good conference sessions.  Spent some time reading the piles of material brought along for idle moments.  Am developing excellent South African contacts.

THURSDAY MARCH 1, 1984 - Up before dawn for a 3-hour photo safari through an adjacent game preserve.  Saw many animals in their native habitat.  Came upon 6 Rhinos blocking the road.  We waited.

Tour guide was a young American Zoology major from U of Nev., Reno.  Been 6 yrs in Africa w/fascinating stories told later in private, including the fall of Rhodesia and his escape to Australia.  Said President Carter's incompetence (with the help of Andrew Young) cost the free world the Peoples Republic of Angola, and exacerbated problems in Namibia.  Said President Reagan is popular since Carter's heavy-handed blundering was devastating to freedom in all of Africa.  SA's are determined to keep destiny in their own hands.  They like Americans (which is a real change!) but find the U.S. government to be a schizophrenic ally.

Accepted a SA bankers offer of car ride back to Sandton (Jo-burg) and the hotel via Rustenburg (big Platinum mine) instead of suffering the smokers on the tour bus.  He was a top executive who comes to America every 18 mos.  We had long gut-level talk about the local history and current situation.  It set the tone for rest of trip.  His low-key observations were borne out later.

A few of the great many items discussed:

The Dutch (called Afrikaners) now rule the country, and relations between them and the British leave something to be desired.  The British messed it up good with their crude attempts at colonization, the Boer War, etc.  Bitter memories remain of British rule, and the 27,000 women and children who died in British concentration camps while 80,000 Afrikaner men held off a British army of a half-million.  SA's big war with England was much more recent than ours, about 1900.  SA has only been an independent country, free to resolve its own problems and achieve stability for about 24 yrs.

Few Americans even know where SA is.  Less realize the diversity of this country of 30 million people, 4 times the geographic size of Great Britain.  It is self-sufficient in nearly every area.  The economy is very strong, as is the military.  A UN resolution against selling them arms is largely ineffective, but they still make most of their own ships, tanks, weapons and very sophisticated electronics systems.  Being heavily outnumbered by neighboring Marxist controlled countries, they can't afford to think or act either slowly or small.

Communist Russia has schemed for over 6 decades to surround SA via terrorism & subversion in the Peoples Republic of Angola, German Southwest Africa (Namibia), Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and the Peoples Republic of Mozambique.  Since SA is the only significant global supplier (outside Russia) of Chromium, Vanadium, Gold, Palladium, and a dozen other exotic minerals critical to industry, they are holding big cards.  In addition, they control the strategic Cape of Good Hope, past which all oil tankers to Europe and America must pass.  If Russia can shut off SA, they can severely cripple the rest of the industrialized world.  Russia doesn't intimidate them, nor do their fellow travelers in Europe and the U.S.  He said, and I repeatedly heard, "This is our home.  We were born here.  We've been here for 3 centuries and don't have another country to return to.  With our backs to the wall, we will fight to the end. "

They undoubtedly have nuclear weapons since Uranium is a byproduct of gold mining, and I believe have the will to use them against Russia, therefore will not have to.  They also claim to be ahead of both Russia and the U.S. in bacteriological warfare, and have given Russia the word that if the meddling continues, they will use it against them, in Moscow.

SA's are much more internationally oriented than we are, and did not miss the current story revealing that the head of UN Information Agency is a KGB agent, as are half of the Russian UN delegates.  They threw the Russians out of SA in 1948 and have no formal diplomatic relations with them. 

(ED: This diary was written prior to President Ronald Reagan bringing down the Berlin wall, and orchestrating the collapse of the old Soviet Union.)

SA seems the antithesis of the welfare state.  It is booming, prosperous and self-sufficient.  Very different from Holland or England.  No single word I can find describes the people met so far as well as "Resolute".  I see in them the determination and steadiness that Americans and Europeans showed in their finest hours.  It seems strange to "find" this country, isolated from the west for many generations and not a part of our consciousness, but which so much resembles us.  Very strange, indeed.  I believe these people would make good and loyal friends, but a poor choice for an enemy.

The actual history of Southern Africa is very turbulent and complex. Several
hours priming with the Britannica (a sadly biased and amateurish presentation
only touched the surface. (ED: See Einbinder, H.,The Myth of the Britannica,
NY: Grove Press, 1964).
But I didn't come here to dwell on history; just to
see the present and perhaps the future.

To this point, I have encountered only 1st class people stuck with exceptionally complex historical problems who I think need only to be left alone (from the outside) for resolution.  They are a calm, very good-humored and sturdy people.  Even the most biased media acknowledges that Marxists in the UN, jealous tinhorn neighboring dictatorships, and their American lemming colleagues have attacked South Africa for decades.

Back now on 12th floor of Sandton Sun Hotel in suburban Jo-Burg.  Good to be out of Bophuthatswana and back in SA.  Recognized a TV preacher (Copeland) & wife from Ft. Worth in the lobby, and chatted briefly over lunch.

Flu/Sinusitis finally broke and am going through Kleenex by the box.  Augmenting the process with Chivas Regal headcold therapy, using a litre picked up (duty free) on Ilha do Sal in anticipation.  Have been this route before and know that timing is critical.  Now is the time.

FRIDAY MARCH 2, 1984 - Morning briefing by a leading member of Parliament (Wynard Malan) who flew in from Cape Town, by a university Prof. with teaching time in America, a SA military intelligence officer, and Lucy Mvubelo, well known founder and President of SA first black union decades ago.  Endless credentials, awards and honorary degrees, and of maternal African Lutheran heritage.  All said America should bug out.  "We are young. Give us time."  They're coming along fine and hopefully will solve own problems.

Lucy Mvubelo had just returned from an invitation to speak in Washington D.C.  When American Liberals/Blacks found out what she was going to testify about, she said they refused her the forum!  If it's the truth, they apparently don't want it known.  I chatted with her afterwards and had a picture taken.  Said she will send a written copy of her speech.

This evening went to a rural estate/ranch for a huge barbecue.  Tame zebras and other animals mixed with guests. Zulu dancers went through native routines that would embarrass the National Geographic.  Pretty funny!

SATURDAY MARCH 3, 1984 (Central Transvaal) - The sun rose early over the African veldt.  A light overnight rain provided no relief from the long cyclical drought.  With the trip now half over, these random thoughts, observations and impressions are starting to gel.  They may be right, or they may be premature:

Southern Africa has over 400 tribes which have been killing each other for a thousand years, and they still are.  Intertribal rivalries are fierce.

The African Bushman, of which 60,000 are still roaming the Kalahari desert, were here before the Dutch, English, French and Germans came in the 1600's.  But there were no settled tribes, only nomadic Bushmen.  The Bushmen are neither Negro nor Caucasian, but bear similarities to the Australian Aborigines.  Because they remain so close to the land, Marxist Cuban troops in The Peoples Republic of Angola have recruited them to sniff out mines and for other military purposes, as has SA.

White South Africans claim the right to be here on three grounds. 1) Uninterrupted occupancy for 300 years, 2) Extensive and continuous development, and 3) Continuous political control.  That's about the same rationale we use in the States.

Scandinavians played no significant role in the nation's development except for occasional brief whaling.  The small Lutheran Church barely makes the "Other" list, along with Christian Scientists and the Full Gospel Fellowship.  Dutch Reformed, Anglican and Catholic are the "main line" churches.  Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Hindus and Moslems follow.

The 2 major white African tribes (Dutch and British) battled from the beginning and are still feuding.  Bilingualism is very costly, both financially and emotionally, but with 70% Afrikaans (Dutch/French) and 30% English it probably can't ever be changed.  Forcing black students to speak Afrikaans is claimed to be the trigger that set off the Soweto riots in 1976.  The Canadian and SA experiences with forced bilingualism/multiculturalism should be a lesson for us.

The black tribal situation looks remarkably like the history of the dozens of white tribes to the far north, in what is known as Europe.  What reason is there to expect tribes of black savages to get along better than the white savages did, and still don't?

Unlike American blacks, these are not an essentially homogenous ethnic group removed 200 years from the tribal setting, but separate, unrelated groups, just beginning to emerge.  Their ties to the bush are primal, and the rank and file has no South African "national identity".  Without comprehending the profound implications of this difference, I think there is no basis for outsiders to even begin understanding the setting.

When Rhodesia fell a few years ago and became today's Zimbabwe, the new Marxist government insisted that all black workers living in SA return home to Zimbabwe.  But the workers refused to leave SA.  SA tried to cooperate and send them back.  They refused.  SA took some to the border and handed them over.  They sneaked back.  SA finally refused to cooperate and hordes more escaped from Zimbabwe to SA along with their families.

Many blacks who stayed in Zimbabwe became slaves to the black tribes which support that govt.  Black slavery seems accepted as normal in black Africa, but somehow that never makes anyone's "human rights" agenda.  Coming from this context, blacks are better off in nearly every way in SA than in being assimilated into "foreign" black tribes.  The SA borders (like U.S. borders) try to hold back the endless stream of refugees from all over Africa, not to hold them prisoner inside SA.

It is generally accepted that the local black tribes would have been wiped out long ago by more hostile tribes from the north if Europeans had not been here the last 300 years.  The existing blacks are not indigenous to the region, but were driven south by other tribes to start with.  Tribal genocide remains a way of life to the north, ala Edi Amin.  For better or worse, this is probably the safest country in Africa for blacks, certainly for refugee blacks, and is the land of opportunity for all.  While not all have the vote here, virtually none have a vote in the black dictatorships to the north.  (ED: And if there is a vote up north, as in Zimbabwe, the leaders simply refuse to accept the outcome if it is not favorable to them, and continue to rule.)

SA is also the only country in Africa that can now feed itself.  It is also an "Industrial Colossus".  Though it is only a tiny part of this huge continent, perhaps 6% of the total population, it generates and uses 2/3 of all the electricity, and there are endless similar statistics.  No black-ruled country in Africa comes even close to SA prosperity, and a lot of historical precedent indicates they won't achieve it by taking SA's away.

In many ways, South Africa is to Africa what the United States is to the World.

It has been claimed that the prosperity is based on exploitation of the blacks.  That's an easy charge to make, particularly out of context, but there may be some truth to it, particularly in the mining industry.  Although mineral discover and mining only accounts for the last third of SA's history, it was, like elsewhere in the world, perhaps the major impetus to migration and industrial development.  But people migrate and stay only when they can improve their condition, so this must be better than where they came from.

Ironically, if there was ever a country with an economy ready to switch to high technology, it is SA.  They have the intelligence and mindset, and could automate like the Japanese.  But hordes of unskilled workers need jobs, so they are desperately looking for "low technology" labor-intensive industries, like mining.  So is nearly every other country, but few have such a high percentage of workers who have so far to go to be assimilated into a hi-tech world.

Some new SA sponsored "homeland" countries like Bophuthatswana are becoming self-sufficient, but the long drought will cause all to have to import some food.  (ED: Zimbabwe under the British was the bread basket of Africa.  Under the current Marxist regime it has to import food.)  The nearly 2 dozen other black countries which scream loudly at the UN are all economic basket cases, relying on SA for food.  Those nations also have great economic potential.  Their politics and economics do not.

I've never seen so many Mercedes anywhere, including, it seems, Germany.  It's claimed that the MBZ is the nation's best-selling car.  They're as common as VW beetles used to be in the States.  If the blacks driving them are all chauffeurs, they sure are chauffeuring a lot of other blacks around.  Because it creates labor-intensive jobs, MBZ and other companies have license agreements for local manufacture, and there's a 100% duty on genuine imports.  With an 18-month waiting list, dickering on price is out.  Some BMWs sold in America are also said to be made in SA, but I can’t confirm it.

Many blacks in leadership positions, along with whites, do have a strong spirit of South African (or, more regional "Southern African") nationalism.  They understand the roots of their dilemmas better than any visitor can (including those who breeze through, then make national or church policy).

South Africans are great Entrepreneurs, and admire Americans for their accomplishments.  One government official described Americans as "loud and brash", but says he likes to deal with them because "I always know where I stand".  Hmmm.

Americans, on the other hand, are resented for meddling in what are considered to be "internal matters".  Blacks are especially adamant that the U.S. NOT force companies to divest their SA holdings or place embargoes on SA exports.

Why is this exactly the opposite of what we hear "preached" at home?  How can there be theological credibility when geopolitical credibility is so devastatingly destroyed by simply opening ones eyes?

The whites seem more sanguine, preferring no sanctions, but having put-up with so much for so long from the UN and elsewhere seem prepared to proceed with national development with or without them.  They are not about to be "persuaded" by outside pressure that their morality is suspect.  America and Europe do not hold the moral high ground.

The animosities seen between b&w in America are not evident here.  I've not heard a single bad word in public or private by either side against the other, and have heard more genuine concern for (not about) blacks here than in a generation of blather in the States.  Animosity must be here somewhere, but all who I have observed seem determined to solve their own "impossible" problems.  I heard many times "I've never been more optimistic in my life".  And, "10 years ago I wouldn't have thought this degree of cooperation possible."

Despite the mess of discriminatory laws left behind by the British, many of the barriers to blacks moving upward have been removed.  The Dutch made it worse by formalizing apartheid, which Lucy Mvubelo said, smiling, "is on the books, but more ignored each day".

Continued change is opposed by the white labor unions.  Armies of unskilled white miners & others could be quickly replaced.  There is a virtually endless supply of unskilled labor from the north, but a severe shortage of skilled.  Qualified blacks are moving upward with the opening of some apprenticeship doors, special training programs, etc.  Both b&w proudly assert that there is to be no American style "affirmative action".  (ED: But this is one of the first things Mandela put in place --- for blacks, over coloreds.)  The black leaders say they don't want artificial progress.  (ED: But it didn't turn out that way when they got power.)  "Equal pay for equal performance" has reduced many pay differentials in the mines to near zero.

The mines provide the most unskilled jobs -- huge numbers.  Since relatively few blacks read and write the languages of commerce, a primitive language was created so miners from all tribes can read safety signs and engage in basic intertribal communications.  I am told that tribal jealousies are so strong that different types of mining jobs have to be given to different tribes.  If an able black worker is promoted to a supervisory position over members of another tribe, there can be big trouble.

Leadership blacks have been especially laudatory about large American, British, German, Swiss and Japanese companies, representing the major trading partners.  They have apparently introduced changes local companies could or would not, including "adopting" schools, funding large scale civic projects, equalizing b&w workers pay, etc.  (Wonder why we have to hear about this from black SA leaders instead of the American Media?)

Martin Spring, former Newsweek SA correspondent was asked at his NY HQ how many months before the SA Government would fall in a massive uprising.  His answer of "it's nowhere in sight" was neither popular nor believed.  (ED: And he was right. It never happened.)  His address analyzed the conditions necessary for a popular revolt and he claims none of them are present in sufficient quantity.  Compared to the rest of Africa, virtually everyone here never had it so good, and most know it.

Well, enough random thoughts.  10 more days to go, and who knows what contacts, experiences and ideas they will bring.  The Official Conference is over.  Am feeling better, so took the day off tour to call on prospects, and write this summary.

SUNDAY MARCH 4, 1984 (Durban) - Flew an A300 Airbus from Jo-Burg to Durban, in the SA state of Natal, still very English.  The shoreline looks like Florida, with all the beachfront hi-rises.  Heavy ship traffic from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere is seen headed towards the Cape of Good Hope.  Is an area of many shipwrecks, cause unknown, but under study and thought to be some kind of undersea activity.

Durban was discovered by Vasco da Gama in about 1500 and a suitable monument adorns one of the cities many lush (and integrated) parks.  Being on the Indian Ocean, the majority of its’ population are Indian, virtually all Hindu, Moslem and a few Hare Krishna.  They are called "Asians".  The few Japanese in SA are called "White".  Next to India, more Indians live here than anywhere else in the world.  As Chicago is to Polish, E. Los Angeles to Mexicans, Minneapolis to Scandinavians, New York to Puerto Ricans, and New York/Los Angeles to Jews.

Whites are the next most prominent, followed by Zulu's.  It is claimed there are few other blacks present because the Zulu's won't allow them.  Zulu's are reported to be the consummate Black racists, and at 5 million are the majority SA black tribe.  It is because of the Zulu's that other black tribes including the Swazi oppose a "one-man one-vote" rule.  They think Zulu's would take over and all other blacks will have it worse.  (ED: It didn't turn out that way.  The Zulus did not take over.  The Xhosha dominated ANC did.)  Durban has a total population of about a million.

Zulu's are traditionally not inclined to work the sugar cane land (unless the women do it) so Indians were initially imported as indentured laborers. (ED: AKA slaves.)  Glad to escape the worsening mess in India, they received land if they stayed the term of their contracts. Those Indians are now the local shopkeepers and businessmen, plus do much trading with the Indian subcontinent.  They are bright and ambitious and eager for education.  Heavy subsequent immigration has helped create a wealthy Indian business and professional class.  (ED: Saw a very large Mercedes dealership in Durban.)

The Indians have little to do with the Zulu's except hire them for menial jobs.  A few years ago an attempt was made to integrate blacks into an Indian housing district. There were many deaths in the riots which ensued.

It turns out that Hindus and Moslems are enemies, so will not associate, intermarry, or be buried in the same cemetery. (Just one ethnic mess after another.) But, maybe surprisingly, both the leadership and rank and file of all the races I've observed are working hard to promote peace and make the system work.  There is no realistic alternative.

Johannesburg is the Los Angeles of South Africa -- bustling, booming and sprawling.  Like Denver, it is a mile high, and it is dry.  I didn't see any problems there that aren't also present in Los Angeles.  In fact, it would be easy to make the U.S. look as bad as SA is presented by simply reciting true daily news stories to a people far away.  Russia and China do it every day.  SA has been getting the "hatchet treatment" as long as we have.

Durban is the #3 city, green and lush, built on terraced hills rising westward from the Indian Ocean.  It possesses an old colonial English charm.  Nice estates with ocean views and a quiet elegance overlook the busy port.  Durban has the largest port on the African continent servicing the Indian Ocean basin.  When misguided European nations placed an embargo on ship sales to SA, it simply set up a booming shipbuilding business here, and now exports ships to the world.  They've done the same with other products they couldn't buy.

Autos, paper, sugar, maize and other foodstuffs are loaded here, plus exports from much of the rest of Southern Africa.  SA has vast coal reserves, and due to the never-ending strikes in Australia, beat them out for coal delivery contracts to Japan.  Strikes are technically illegal in SA.  Leftist Australian labor unions (of which there are many) are unhappy and currently won't let SA rugby teams play or even land enroute to elsewhere.

I wonder what other agendas are hiding in the trendy anti-SA movement? Maybe if certain religious leaders here with strong ties to America and Europe concentrated on the very adequate reserve of unsaved souls instead of meddling in secular politics they would keep out of jail.  Of course, they wouldn't then be able to tour America and its college campuses with tales of woe.  Like most "martyrs", they are not persecuted for Christ's sake, but for their own.  I see no evidence here of true religious persecution.

Playing in the sandbox of social engineering is an abuse of ecclesiastical trust, and their rewards contains an element of justice.  Sponsoring terrorism as a hobby may be exciting, but it also exacts a price.

Story from England today has a Member of Parliament suggesting the Bishops give up politics for Lent.

SA is one of only 6 world nations that are net exporters of food.  Of the 27 countries where people are actually starving for lack of food production, 22 are in black Africa.  Ethiopia and the NE horn of Africa prospered under Haile Selassie, as did the Lutheran Church.  We used to have an international short-wave transmitting facility there.  Since his death and takeover by Marxists, the church is out and mass starvation is in.

SA sent shiploads of free food.  Because it was in containers marked "From the People of South Africa" the governmens wouldn't accept it.  The grain was shipped back to Kenya, reloaded into unmarked containers, shipped back to Ethiopia where it was relabeled, then distributed through the local Marxist patronage system.

With the formal conference now over, this particular tour group is down to 43.  It is an Interesting group.  Most very highly traveled.  Many couples in their 50's and 60's.  An old timer and his grandson, both pilots.  A broker/ex AF Colonel who was member of 1st jet training class at Williams AFB in 1947.  A few widows who just want to see Africa.  And a few just plain crabby people.  Another group headed north to the big game country of Botswana and to Victoria Falls.  Many have been here before and keep returning.  It's becoming easier to see why.

Had a group meal at an Indian restaurant tonight in Durban.  Food was much too spicy to eat, followed by a hard-sell fashion show demonstrating the Indian Sari.  Was strangely reminded of Rudyard Kipling's lines about "Here lie the bones of an Englishman who tried to hustle the East".  Tonight was reverse hustle, but at $200-$400 for a chunk of cloth didn't see any takers.  Must have mental hand on wallet in Durban at all times.

MONDAY MARCH 5, 1984 - Am now away from the conference "heavyweights".  New tour guide is pretty "touristy" for world-class travelers.  Just one more Zebra joke would do it, and he would be over the side.

Interesting trip to Zululand, north of Durban. #2. Didn't see any missionaries in kettles, but some candidates did come to mind.

Streets of the Zulu cities were clean and looked prosperous.  Shops run mostly by Indians.  I left the tour (many times) and took long walks, just looking around.  Still haven't seen poverty or slums that come even close to what I saw in Communist China, Hong Kong, Mexico or Detroit.  Saw more derelicts on the streets of Minneapolis and Oslo than here.

The landscape in Zululand strongly resembles California's central coast between Santa Barbara and Big Sur.  Is like San Luis Obispo, but even greener, complete with strange low hills and mounds.  The green and lush extends all the way south along the east coast to Cape Town.  Would be fun to fly over slowly, at a low altitude.

TUESDAY MARCH 6, 1984 - Flew by 737 from Durban to Port Elizabeth.  PE reminded me very much of Monterey, CA complete with Monterey pines.  Nice to see rain and mist against the trees & ocean from a restaurant window after the heat of Sun City and the overpowering humidity of Durban.  Continued driving south by bus towards Cape Town, through forests and wooded scenery of the Garden Route to Plettenberg Bay, a new beach townhouse development with an airport so inlanders can have a beach house.  Much like the central CA coast but has more sand and no chill.  Hauntingly Beautiful.

Plettenburg2.jpg (19588 bytes)

Pletterberg1.jpg (13019 bytes)

The words white, black, Indian, colored, man, etc. are used here openly and without offense either given or taken.  Quite a refreshing change from our having to think 3 times before speaking, for fear of offending some group's hypersensitivity by not using the latest trendy words and phrases.  (ED: It later became known as "political correctness".)

WEDNESDAY MARCH 7, 1984 - Skipped thr tour today to concentrate on briefcase full of unfinished work.  Great view from the hotel (shown above), overlooking Indian Ocean, while trying to finish an invitational article for a Creative Computing "Old Pioneer" issue due out this fall. 

Earlier we flew over Transkei, tribal "homeland" territory of Xhosa (pronounce their "X's" by clicking tongue.  Heard a demo of speech and it is unique.)  They reportedly hassle whites when driving through so it is  usually avoided.  Spoiling for unnecessary trouble by a primitive tribe on the edge of the bush.  There are over 3,000 distinct ethnic tribes on continent of Africa, speaking over 700 different languages, with as many social and political systems.  (ED: We will hear more from them on Trip number 2.)

THURSDAY MARCH 8, 1984 (Cape Town) -  The bus continued southwest on the scenic coastal route to George, where we changed back to flying, and continued on to Cape Town, which is an interesting and beautiful old city.  Dutch sailing companies founded the settlement here in 1600's to service trading ships.

Took the tram up Table Mountain, about 3000'.  Pretty exciting.  Lights illuminate the mountain slope at night, making it a formidable site from the city below.

FRIDAY MARCH 9, 1984 - Spent most of the day in the hotel working on the briefcase.  Finally finished off the 40 lbs. of paper brought along.

Walked to the parliament building but couldn't get in for lack of necktie.  Started back to the hotel for one, but stopped at computer stores instead.  The economy looks very strong here, as in Jo-Burg and Durban. (ED: That is now sad history. Has returned to "the jungle".)

Cape Town from the air looks a lot like Phoenix.  More like New Orleans from the ground.  "Coloreds", consisting of Malays and other combinations are here in large quantity.  Very pleasant.  Somewhat lethargic.  Have just been granted Representatives in Parliament, along with the Indians.  Another sign of the times.

SATURDAY MARCH 10, 1984 - Bus trip to the Cape of Good Hope.  Saw the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Lots of turbulence, rough weather and probably no fun in a boat.

On way back stopped at Groot Constantia, #2,the estate of an original pioneer, and named after a Dutch lady who guaranteed the tab for early exploration.  Sort of the Palos Verdes, CA of Cape Town -- but bigger estates, with vineyards.  Also stopped at The National Botanic Gardens#2#3. Similar to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria BC, but more extensive.  Past Groote Schuur Hospital, where Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the  world's first heart transplant. (Update 1), (Update 2).

Bus driver is very versatile.  Had a flat on the front so put on coveralls and changed it.  The tour guide went for help but did not return in time, so the driver took us to the Gardens and gave a better tour than she would have, complete with the Latin names of the plants.  Not an altogether unexpected response by this well-rounded and self-sufficient people.

SUNDAY MARCH 11, 1984 - Another big phone bill due to numerous overseas computer-to-computer tests via phone through satellite.  (ED: This was a big deal at the time.) Hotels charge 100% premium on top of regular phone bill, but the direct dialing equipment is very good.  Getting excellent research data using the Model 100 and 2 host computers at the home office.  Discovering additional techniques to include in future books or revisions.

Proceeded to the world famous BLUE TRAIN for the long trip back north to the Transvaal.  Good to have a private compartment away from rest.  Have learned to avoid telling others what I do to avoid endless "what computer should I buy" questions.

Before the train started steward brought a small bottle of chilled champagne.  A nice homey little touch!  Feature article on the BLUE TRAIN in today's Cape Town Sunday paper.  This train is the pride and joy of SA, and a national treasure.  Some fear it may be a target of terrorists from countries to the north.  The same track we will travel was sabotaged a few days ago.

Train is pulled by 3 electric engines for the first 8 hours, up from sea level through the beautiful coast range to about 3000'.  The electric lines end there, so the engines are replaced with 2 diesels for maybe 4 hours, then switch back to 2 electric engines on the flatter high country when the electric lines resume.  The line is expected to be all-electric within the year. (Pre-BLUE TRAIN history).

SA has no oil but is very long on coal, so uses coal to generate electricity to power trains and industry.  You see numerous steam engines doing yard switching, which is a little nostalgic.  They have even perfected squeezing oil out of coal for applications like airplanes, which can't burn coal.  It's expensive, but they are preparing for total independence from rest of world, if necessary.  Are also very heavy on nuclear power with another plant coming online at Cape Town this week.  Have 4-year supply of imported petroleum in storage.  Military airbases are located underground in hardened sites with camouflaged runways above.  Civilian pilots are also military pilots.  (ED: SA did not lose militarily.  It was sabotaged from within under pressure from western "friends".)

I brought a small new Sony 2002 AM/FM/SW receiver along and it's been a joy.  Since few governments allow privately owned radio and TV broadcasting like the U.S., there is a paucity of information everywhere overseas, unless short wave radio is monitored.  Local newspapers are the primary news medium and tend to be too local in coverage.

Each morning and evening I tune in the news from Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation.  Sometimes Radio Nederland, The old Radio South Africa and Radio Australia.  Radio Moscow is always present with its decades-old droning appeals to would-be intellectuals, and other fairy tales.  It's sometimes good for laughs.  Radio Havana is even funnier, and comes in very well here.

Most hi-rise hotels have too much steel and concrete for good reception so I hang a wire out window and it works well.  The BLUE TRAIN is sealed, so I place the short whip antenna next to the window.  It brings in VOA & BBC news OK.

MONDAY MARCH 12, 1984 (Aboard the BLUE TRAIN) - After a comfortable nights sleep, morning is here, and we are now traveling through area south of Jo-Burg.  Lots of grain farming seen the last few hours, especially corn.  It looks good, if a little dry.  More hilly than Iowa so only the lowlands are intensively farmed.  On the hills graze beef and dairy cattle.  Taken as a whole, it is amazing how much the country is like California, with all its diversity, except I didn't see any "granola coalition". 

Left Cape Town yesterday morning and will arrive in Pretoria early this afternoon.  It's a thousand mile one-day run in a moving 5 star hotel.

The BLUE TRAIN, challenged for luxury only by the non-air-conditioned Orient Express, is what the other train ads claim them to be.  Service is impeccable.  All meals are multicourse, small quantities of the best quality.  60 passengers and 40 attendants, I think.

There is no banging/clanging of doors between cars.  Built in 1972, it consists of 16+ cars unitized, with one very long open corridor running the entire length of the train.  Has twin Rolls-Royce diesel-electric generators in a special power car at the end to run all the electrical systems except propulsion.  It is First Class only, with compartments ranging from my "coupe", to a 3-bedroom suite.

The train itself and tracks are the smoothest I've ridden, including Japan's Bullet Train and numerous Trans-Europe Express.  It was actually smooth enough to get a good night's sleep.  Takes 3-4 months for a reservation, but it is a highlight of this trip.

There were some poignant moments yesterday (Sunday) afternoon sitting in the lounge car watching the panorama unfold, hearing hymns long gone from the Lutheran Hymnal on the train's music system.  It is interesting that the words on the South African Rand are "Soli deo Gloria".  (ED: To God alone the glory.)  Maybe Luther College doesn't have a corner on that market. (ED: It is the Luther College motto.)

Lots of good freeways here in Jo-Burg.  The huge mounds of Gold mine tailings are really small mountains.  They've discovered ways to increase the Gold yield so are now going through a hundred years of tailings and reprocessing them to remove the rest.  Gold is not panned here, but obtained by complex chemical processes.  You can't even see the raw gold as it is microscopic.  Such extraction is a very capital-intensive business.

TUESDAY MARCH 13, 1984 (Pretoria) - The Administrative Capital.  Cape Town is the Legislative Capital and Bloemfontein the Judicial Capital.  Political compromises.   Legislature meets 6 months in Cape Town to make the laws, then adjourns to Pretoria where they are administered. (ED: Not anymore. This has all been changed.)

Strolled the large park across from hotel and chatted with a policeman.  The nation is supposed to be completely bilingual but his English was marginal.  Virtually everyone of every race speaks Afrikaans, more Flemish than Dutch with French influence, not a conglomerate of many languages.  He said things were pretty quiet.  Mostly just itinerants to watch, and there was some littering.

Litter is rarely seen in SA. (ED: I hear this is no longer the case.)  Its cities are much cleaner than in the U.S., but the food-handling rules seem looser.  Butter and sugar are not individually packaged.

I sure do long for an American steak.  Even a Big-Mac would taste good.  The meat here is of good quality, but maize is too precious to feed to cattle and the seasoning foreign to my palate.  Chicken and turkey have a fishy taste because they are fed fish byproducts.

This government capital was one of the few places where I saw signs on public restrooms for different races.  Have not seen any in private enterprises.  

Have overheard women commenting how safe they've felt on the tour, having no hesitation to go out in this large city at night.  I agree.  (ED: That has changed with the change of government.  Crime in SA is now completely out of control, and it is one of the most dangerous places in the world.)

The countryside may be less predictable.  Heard on VOA last night that 2 Zulu raiding parties (near where I was) of about a thousand each made the short trip back to savagery and with spears and knives managed to kill 32 blacks and injure hundreds.   Was only a small item in the paper as is apparently common.  (Since I arrived home, they also apparently bombed an Indian building in Durban, killing 3 and injuring more. There were no whites on either side, but that is not the way our network TV reported it.)

WEDNESDAY MARCH 14, 1984 - Took a short bus ride to SA largest private zoo, outside Pretoria.  Had lots of animals traded from the rest of Africa.  Have seen in TV commercials in SA, Europe and U.S.  Many were indigenous 300 years ago but no more.  Most were raised from young in homes.  The 84-year-old lady in the tour group was the first one in the cheetah cage to pet the nice kitties.  No thanks.

She and a 77 year old retired executive from Rockford, IL set a fast pace for the rest of us.  As I knew he'd been to Africa many times over the years, I finally persuaded him to talk about his experiences.

He told of being on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro with several others in a Landrover, exploring little black fiefdoms.  Detained 2 days at a border for visa clearance, he became acquainted with the local terrorists ("freedom fighters").  Noting their fine new Eastern Block guns and support material he asked who was paying the bill.  They reluctantly admitted the money came from the World Council of Churches. (Maybe "60 Minutes" was right, this time.)

Being here so close to trouble makes the Domino Theory seem less a theory and more a fact.  There are strong resemblance's to the current Central American situation, where many conflicting issues and crosscurrents detour little minds away from the big picture.

Since every other American I talked to felt SA was grossly misrepresented by the American media and mainline churches, I asked him how he felt about it.  He said he didn't talk much about Africa when in America.  Most people told him he'd just been "brainwashed", but they wouldn't go and see for themselves.

On the way back we passed through a large valley filled with modem factory-type buildings.  It was identified as the national Uranium enrichment facility.  A few kilometers away was a large ammunition manufacturing plant.  Churches are everywhere.  They are quite self-sufficient.

THURSDAY MARCH 15, 1984 - We packed up the last time for a tour on the way to the airport, then a late evening departure for America.

I chatted with a black limo driver waiting at the hotel.  Nice guy.  Lived in Soweto. (ED: See Trip 2 for much more.)  Knew that most Americans have big limousines because he watches Dallas (ED: Old TV Series.).  Can only afford a Nissan Sentra for himself.

On the way to the airport visited local universities, as modern as anywhere, and a correspondence university so large it dominates the Pretoria skyline.  A modernistic hi-rise glass complex, its full-time faculty supervises home study students throughout the world, but mostly in Africa.  I had never seen anything quite like it.

Today's highlight was a visit to the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) monument on a hill high above the city.  


A long series of marble panels carved in Italy tells the history of SA settlement.  It's very similar to ours.  Early exploration, betrayals and massacres of and by settlers, a Gold rush, brutal civil wars with the British.  Participation in World Wars and other events establish that these are indeed a people unto themselves, not just itinerant European rednecks trying to steal land from its "rightful owners".  They, like we, have paid their dues.  I think they are entitled to recognition as friends and allies.

ON ILHA do SAL - At 4:00 AM we pulled into the terminal again for refueling.  A friendly limping dog met the plane again and was rewarded with airline cookies and pats on the head.

While waiting to reboard, an Aeroflot plane landed, reportedly enroute to Cuba.  A crew of 5 boarded and 5 others returned.  No passengers disembarked.

Later, near Bermuda, in the cockpit of the SA 747SP I chatted with the flight crew. They said that due to numerous fights in the terminal between SA's (or Americans) and Russians, it was ruled that whichever plane landed first could disembark its passengers.  The pilots all stay in the same tacky hotel and shoot pool together, but the passengers apparently can't be trusted to mingle.  Don't want WW III to start on Ilha do Sal.

HOUSTON - Home again.  Rude Customs inspector.  Noisy, pushy, smoking Americans.  Litter, crummy taxis, and the rest.

But then, this is our country.  We paid our own dues.  We don't need advice on how to run it from outsiders.  They don't understand our unique set of problems and if they don't like our handling of them, they can buzz off.

I think the South Africans may be right.

ENROUTE SAN DIEGO - Sat next to a lady who said she was America's champion lady bowler.  Been back east for dedication of the bowling hall of fame.  Had 2 years earlier spent a month in SA on a sports tour.  When she found out I was in from Ilha do Sal her first question was, "Is the dog still there?"

We agreed there is only one way to understand and appreciate South Africa.  You must see it for yourself.  I'm glad I did.


After this brief but intensive trip to Southern Africa, I'm convinced the Lutheran Church's approach to South Africa is, at the very best, "uninformed".  I neither saw nor heard of any religious persecution there, except by tribal witch doctors.

If yet another cause is really needed (preferably in a country safely far away from view), how about considering Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Ethiopia, East Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, USSR and other European countries.  Or, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries, not to mention the rest of Africa?  These peoples' "human rights" are continually violated, but what should be of far more concern to the church is that they are subjected to religious persecution.  The Lutheran Church is essentially silent.

If the Church leadership is so wise in these geopolitical matters, let it solve the problems in Ireland.  That should be easy.  These people are all of the same race.  They have the same general heritage, and all are Christians.  Why, the Church should be able to to resolve those problems in a long weekend, and show us how it's done.  Then they may qualify for bigger things.

But if condemnation and sanctions really are the business of the church, why hasn't it issued them against the above governments and their white and yellow communist oppressors?  Is the leadership of the American Lutheran Church guilty of intellectual cowardice, or is it just confused?  They can't have it both ways.

Instead of time for another merger, it may be time for another Reformation.  Where is Martin Luther when we need him?

Home                         Trip 2                               Maps                           Links  

Materials posted herein are for education and discussion only, not for commercial use, and are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.  Copyrights, Trademarks and Domain Names remain the property of their owners.   

Links to other sites are provided for their generic information and photos, but they are not endorsed.  Web sites sponsored by governments, and by others relying on their largess, reflect the current politics of those governments.  Their historical references should be assumed to be politically corrected.  Not responsible for broken links.

Site and contents 1984, 1988, 1998 - 2001.  All rights reserved.

Hit Counter