BOOK REVIEW

Dark Star Safari
by
Paul Theroux

Page Contents

Conditions in Africa

Conditions in Egypt

Conditions in East Africa

Conditions in South Africa

FUTURECASTS online magazine
www.futurecasts.com
Vol. 6, No. 8, 8/1/04.

Homepage

Africa:

  Traveling predominantly overland from Cairo to Cape Town, Paul Theroux offers an array of illuminating observations about conditions in Africa. "Wonderful people, terrible governments: the African story," is the way things are succinctly explained to him at the beginning of his trip.
 &

Theroux's most frequent literary references are to Conrad, "Heart of Darkness."

 

In the four decades since he previously left Africa, all the changes have been for the worse.

  The author fleshes out what is already widely known about the deplorable economic, political and social conditions in Africa, so this review need not go into extensive detail. The detail is in the book for those who want it. There is also much more to this fascinating book than just these conditions along the author's route and the factors affecting future prospects. However, that is what FUTURECASTS is predominantly involved in covering, and so that is perforce the primary focus of this review.
 &
  Theroux likes to reference appropriate literary passages from books with African themes. His familiarity with such works is impressive. His most frequent references are to Conrad, "Heart of Darkness." He despises Hemmingway and similar authors.
 &
  The author's experience runs back to the 1960s, when he taught in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. His enviable facility with languages enables him to converse with ordinary people - native and non native - all along the route. He ultimately concludes that - in the four decades since he previously left Africa - all the changes have been for the worse.
 &

Everywhere, there are ex-prisoners - casualties of political wars - clinging to the remnants of their health.

 

The towns and cities are bloated hopeless messes, victims of "broken promises and thwarted hopes and cynicism."

 

"Scamming is the survival mode in a city where tribal niceties do not apply and there are no sanctions except those of the police, a class of people who in Africa generally are little more than licensed thieves."

  For many people - black and white - the past is a grim memory - of wars and poverty and imprisonment and untimely death of friends and family by disease or violence.  Everywhere, there are ex-prisoners - casualties of political wars - clinging to the remnants of their health.
 &
  Everywhere there is ignorance and poverty and corruption in the cities, and ancient peoples living ancient lives trading traditional products in traditional markets. The villages are still self sufficient at subsistence levels. However, the towns and cities are bloated hopeless messes, victims of "broken promises and thwarted hopes and cynicism." Vast rapidly growing squatters hut settlements surround all the towns and cities. (This is not the Africa you see on the National Geographic channel.)

  "Even at their best, African cities seemed to me miserable improvised anthills, attracting the poor and the desperate from the bush and turning them into thieves and devisers of cruel scams. Scamming is the survival mode in a city where tribal niceties do not apply and there are no sanctions except those of the police, a class of people who in Africa generally are little more than licensed thieves."

  In some countries, the average life span is now so short that few even of the officials he meets remember the 1960s.

  "The average life expectancy in Africa was so short that many diplomats were in their thirties, some were in their twenties, and they had no memory of their country as a big placid republic but only as a nest of problems. I had never seen these places at war. There had been fighting in Uganda from the 1970s onward."

  Theroux travels alone over substantial parts of the only north-south road through Africa, aboard a wide variety of vehicles. For most of the way, the road is just a poorly maintained dirt track filled with rocks and ruts and potholes that take a fearsome toll on the vehicles that travel on it. He takes some local railroad trips, and takes boats on some rivers and lakes - once traveling downriver in a native dugout canoe - but takes to the air for only two relatively short unavoidable hops getting into Ethiopia.
 &
  Cell phones are frequently mentioned - but not something the author took along. At a couple of points, he did let his wife know he was still alive, but generally he just disappeared into the vastness of Africa. Not mentioned are satellite dishes, solar panel arrays, wind turbines, etc. Not even in the cities. (Perhaps there are none. However, perhaps these were simply things the author wasn't looking for.)
 &

The "agents of virtue" were, "in general, oafish self-dramatizing pigs, and often complete bastards."

 

"Charities and aid programs seemed to turn African problems into permanent conditions that were bigger and messier."

 

They have turned much of Africa into a land of beggars and helpless whiners who approach life with a sense of frustrated entitlement.

 

The result after four decades [of extensive charitable efforts] was a lower standard of living, a higher rate of illiteracy, overpopulation, and much more disease."

 

"Aid is a failure if in forty years of charity the only people still dishing up the food and doling out the money are foreigners. No Africans are involved - there is not even a concept of African volunteerism."

 

The tyrants love aid. Aid helps them stay in power and contributes to underdevelopment." It doesn't develop social or cultural institutions, or facilitate economic development. "Aid is one of the main reasons for underdevelopment in Africa."

 

 

  The author has deep disdain for the vast majority of the aid workers in Africa. These "agents of virtue" were, "in general, oafish self-dramatizing pigs, and often complete bastards."

  "Now a complex infrastructure was devoted to what had become ineradicable miseries: famine, displacement, poverty, illiteracy, AIDS, the ravages of war. Name an African problem and an agency or a charity existed to deal with it. But that did not mean a solution was produced. Charities and aid programs seemed to turn African problems into permanent conditions that were bigger and messier."
 &
  "The whites, diplomats and agents of virtue I met at dinner parties had pretty much the same things on their minds as their counterparts had in the 1960s. They discussed relief projects and scholarships and agricultural schemes, refugee camps, emergency food programs, technical assistance. They were newcomers. They did not realize that for forty years people had been saying the same things, and the result after four decades was a lower standard of living, a higher rate of illiteracy, overpopulation, and much more disease."

  Since they never stayed long, these agents of virtue "never discovered the full extent of their failure." The agents of virtue kept to themselves, drove new white Land Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers, were uniformly unapproachable and unhelpful. The foreign charities do things, but don't ask the Africans to do anything - so they don't. The aid workers - all white and short timers - run orphanages and staff hospitals and run education systems. They have turned much of Africa into a land of beggars and helpless whiners who approach life with a sense of frustrated entitlement.

  "Where are the Africans in this?" Theroux asks.

   "In my view, aid is a failure if in forty years of charity the only people still dishing up the food and doling out the money are foreigners. No Africans are involved - there is not even a concept of African volunteerism or labor-intensive project. If all you have done is spend money and have not inspired anyone, you can teach the sharpest lesson by turning your back and going home."

  It is not capability that is lacking. Everywhere, Theroux finds remarkable, cheerful people "doing their jobs against the odds" so that some semblance of economic life might continue in Africa.
 &
  "All aid is political," Theroux is candidly told. The donors are not developing institutions or anything else. "They maintain the status quo. The politicians love that, because they hate change. The tyrants love aid. Aid helps them stay in power and contributes to underdevelopment." It doesn't develop social or cultural institutions, or facilitate economic development. "Aid is one of the main reasons for underdevelopment in Africa."
 &
   There were a couple of dedicated nuns and religious ministry ladies that he met along the route that were saintly, indeed, in their selfless contributions, but there were evangelist types who were just narrow-minded bible-thumpers. In South Africa (where there are property rights), Theroux found one aid project with some promise. With major participation from the African residents, the project is turning a collection of shantytown huts into a real village of solid little houses, complete with roads and utilities.
 &
  However, Theroux concludes:

  "Only Africans are capable of making a difference in Africa. Everyone else, donors and volunteers and bankers, however idealistic, were simply agents of subversion."

The tourists are kept in a world apart from the real Kenya - a civilized world in an uncivilized nation.

 

Hunters kill the best specimens - creating a noxious selection process - survival of the unfit - that weakens the gene pool.

  Around the game parks there are first class tourist facilities, improved roads and a semblance of civilization. This is an easy source of revenue for the various governments. In Kenya, Richard Leakey established the game parks, telling rangers to shoot poachers on sight. The tourists are kept in a world apart from the real Kenya - a civilized world in an uncivilized nation.
 &
  Theroux has great disdain for the usual tourist safaris - with their luxurious accommodations and ersatz jungle experiences.

  However, the tourist parks are the only chance for survival for many of the animals. And, traveling as Theroux does has many hazards. Theroux has his bag stolen, is shot at by highwaymen, and has stones thrown at his railway car. He finishes his trip with a serious parasite infection that he was still struggling with while writing this book. These are not the joys or travel or educational experiences that most tourists care to pay for and experience.

  More than disdain, he has the greatest contempt for those who still hunt dumb animals with high powered rifles instead of cameras. Whereas predators cull herds of their weakest members, hunters kill the best specimens - creating a noxious selection process - survival of the unfit - that weakens the gene pool.
 &
  Outside the tourist facilities, all is typically decrepitude, ragged, with rutted roads, idle people, street vendors and multitudes of beggars, aged vehicles, irregular service on all transport and utilities.
 &

  Aid payments comprise a huge proportion of the revenue for many African governments. This is generally a curse for the people.

  The exploitation of mineral wealth - such as oil, diamonds, gold and other metals - also provide easy sources of revenue for the various governments. Such mineral wealth is also a curse for the peoples of Africa and other third world nations. Governments that need not draw their revenues from the commerce of their peoples generally don't  give a damn about their peoples. They do nothing to facilitate private commerce and frequently discourage the activities and development of civil society. So, their peoples languish in hopeless poverty.

Aid agencies send in a constant stream of gifts - schools, hospitals, flour mills, etc.  Ultimately, they deteriorate and become wrecks. Nobody maintains them.

 

Foreign aid flows in and mostly vanishes without a trace into the pockets of politicians. "It is almost impossible to exaggerate the fatness of corrupt African politicians."

  Buildings and other facilities are built, but are seldom maintained. African cities are typically a few tall buildings with rows of street lights surrounded by miles of blight and danger. Schools were built, but are under funded and frequently fail. "Educated people are a liability in a dictatorship." Aid agencies send in a constant stream of gifts - schools, hospitals, flour mills, etc.  Ultimately, they deteriorate and become wrecks. Nobody maintains them.
 &
  Theroux offers one explanation. Africans are used to mud huts. When the huts wear away, a new one is built. Nothing is maintained. However, he elsewhere offers a better explanation. Foreign aid flows in and mostly vanishes without a trace into the pockets of politicians. "It is almost impossible to exaggerate the fatness of corrupt African politicians."

  Another explanation is the lack of secure property rights. In some nations, the Indian shopkeepers were driven out of their shops. The native Africans who took the shops over did not maintain them. Now both the Indians and the shops are gone. Now, the same thing is happening to the white farmers in Zimbabwe.
 &
  Perhaps, if African governments - instead of just milking commerce - provided secure property rights and made some effort to facilitate commerce, more Africans would try commercial activities and maintain their property. However, an educated middle class is harder to govern. Many tyrants prefer an impoverished, ignorant and docile population - dependent on aid.

  In much of Africa, any successful person attracts the destitute - especially an army of relatives - who feel entitled to handouts and entitled to take whatever they can. One successful African told Theroux that he was afraid that if his relatives found him they would come and "borrow my money and eat my food and make me poor."
 &
  With corruption everywhere, there is "no answer" to the problems of most African states, Theroux concludes.
 &

The people who remain in the subsistence villages remain true to their heritages.

  The saving grace in Africa is that there is still a widespread subsistence economy. When things fall apart, or an Idi Amin grabs power, people go back to their villages in the bush and subsist. They grow the traditional crops - corn, beans, onions - as well as bananas and tomatoes where appropriate. They husband their animals The people who remain in the subsistence villages remain true to their heritages.
 &
  Theroux is constantly helped along his way by pleasant, interesting people - resilient, resourceful, surviving in a dysfunctional world. Outside the towns and cities, Africa still frequently presents scenery of spectacular beauty.

  Theroux, like many with his ideological views, tends to view subsistence farmers such as those of Africa in a rosy hue. However, subsistence farming isn't easy or rewarding - or really sustainable in the modern world. If wealthy nations would open their markets to poor nation agricultural exports, more cash crops would be grown by African farmers, and some might even progress beyond subsistence levels.
 &
  However, Theroux is clearly correct. Only Africans can help Africa. Unless African governments begin to make the effort to facilitate commerce and encourage the activities and development of civil society, there is no hope for Africa.

Egypt:

  With 16 million people, Cairo is a vast, smelly third world city. It boasts bad air and hideous traffic, but is made habitable, "even pleasant, by its genial populace and its big placid river, brown under a brown sky."
 &

"This was new Egypt, but it was also old Egypt, for I had seen many of these images in the Cairo museum -- the adzes and mattocks the boys carried I had seen looking much the same, and the heavy browed bullocks I had seen hammered in gold or carved in stone I saw browsing by the river; the same dogs with upright tails and big ears, the same narrow cats."

 

Muslim extremists occasionally shoot into the first class carriages of railroad trains, and engage in kidnapping.

  It is a great tourist trap, where everyone smiles and banters and angles for the tourist dollar. Arriving in February, Theroux finds a sky full of gritty dust blowing interminably in from the desert. He attends a literary meeting, where he is entertained with the standard Middle Eastern views of the U.S., Israel and the Iraq conflict.
 &
  Running south from Cairo, Theroux quickly enters an Egypt that isn't changing. 

  "Date palms in clusters, orange trees, low boxy houses, donkey carts piled high with tomatoes, the occasional camel, men in white gowns and skull caps. Boys walked to the fields carrying farm implements, and the wide slow river and the flat bright land shimmering under the blue sky. This was new Egypt, but it was also old Egypt, for I had seen many of these images in the Cairo museum -- the adzes and mattocks the boys carried I had seen looking much the same, and the heavy browed bullocks I had seen hammered in gold or carved in stone I saw browsing by the river; the same dogs with upright tails and big ears, the same narrow cats, - - -."
 &
  "Some of those cap and gowned men were seated in groups eating pieces of the same shaped bread loaves I had seen in the museum, removed intact, solid and stale, from ancient tombs; the same fava beans that had been disinterred from crypts were being gobbled up from wagons of men selling foul, the stewed beans that are still an Egyptian staple. The same-shaped ewers and bowls I had seen as artifacts were visible here in the hands of women faffing around at the kitchen doors of their huts."

  The Nile Valley is still a dangerous place, with Muslim extremists occasionally shooting into the first class carriages of railroad trains, and with kidnapping and ransoms. Tourism is down - but certainly not out.
 &

Sudan:

 

&

  Young Sudanese men in Khartoum readily state that they like Americans but not the American government. Since governments are so unrepresentative in Africa, they have no trouble distinguishing between Americans and the American government. They read a novel written in English not for the content but for the English. They would like to go to America to work and study, but they have never been outside Khartoum and have no skills.
 &

Bush and Clinton were Satans, and American soldiers are no good because they kill people - but every man wants to go to America and work in America. There are no jobs in Sudan.

  Khartoum is full of refugees from the decades-old wars in the south. There are areas in the south so full of landmines that they are uninhabitable. Everyone is war weary and many are anxious for change. Khartoum is also full of aid experts ranging "from selfless idealists to the laziest boondogglers cashing in on a crisis."
 &
  A variety of Muslim sects thrive in Northern Sudan. The faithful are widespread and fervent. Osama bin Laden had been there for several years and was favorably remembered for his piety and good works. Bush and Clinton were Satans, and American soldiers are no good because they kill people - but every man wants to go to America and work in America. There are no jobs in Sudan.
 &

Ethiopia:

  Addis Ababa is full of "handsome people in rags, possessed of both haughtiness and destitution, a race of aristocrats who had pawned the family silver."

Addis Ababa is dirty and falling apart, stinking horribly of unwashed people and sick animals, every wall reeking with urine, every alley blocked with garbage.

 

The poaching of elephants for their tusks is rampant. Asian diplomats ship the tusks home in their diplomatic packages.

  "Addis Ababa was a sprawling high-altitude settlement resembling a vast rusty-roofed village scattered over many hills. It was a hundred years old but had a look of timeless decrepitude. Unprepossessing from a distance, up close it was dirty and falling apart, stinking horribly of unwashed people and sick animals, every wall reeking with urine, every alley blocked with garbage. Loud music, car horns, diesel fumes and pestering urchins with hard-luck tales and insinuating fingers and dire warnings, such as 'there are bad people here.'"

  The poaching of elephants for their tusks is rampant. Asian diplomats ship the tusks home in their diplomatic packages.
 &
  Alweyde - a "grubby khat-producing town" - has many who can be considered rich. The conditions are perfect for khat, which grows throughout the area. Khat has to be chewed while fresh. Small airplanes rush the khat to its markets in Addis Ababa and the nations around the Arabian Penninsula.
 &
  Harar - an ancient mountain town of Coptic Christians and bigoted Muslims with a keen hatred of foreigners. A German agency had built two-story apartments for some of the lepers. The lepers had rejected them in favor of their mud huts. "The Germans had built houses that did not resemble any others in Harar, did not allow for the safety of the animals" that had to be taken indoors at night to protect them from the jackals, "and had the wrong proportions."
 &

Kenya:

  Rumors of conflict and strife flow everywhere. However, everyone is actually ignorant of what is happening in neighboring states or other parts within the state. The worst part of the road yet is found in Kenya.
 &

The government lives off of foreign aid, and is thus relieved of the necessity of facilitating domestic commerce and encouraging the activities and development of civil society. Commerce thus languishes along with the people, who are stuck in subsistence farming mode.

  There was terrible drought in Northern Kenya. People were eating their cattle and goats. A heavy trade in water flowed along the road and camel trails. Armed highwaymen are frequent. In town, there are numerous aid workers with spiffy white Land Rovers - "the agents of virtue."
 &
  Lacking oil or diamonds or other natural resources that can be milked for government  finances, the Kenyan government has tapped into another source of funds. Aid from the World Bank, the IMF, America and Germany flows into corrupt hands. The government is thus relieved of the necessity of facilitating domestic commerce and encouraging the activities and development of civil society. Commerce thus languishes along with the people, who are stuck in subsistence farming mode.

  "The few tourists who visited were timid sightseers or just as timid hunters, taken in hand by white guides and brought within range of wild game. Apart from that, Kenya worked on the old colonial system of landowners and businessmen being squeezed by greedy politicians, and the rest of the population were little more than drudges and whipped serfs."

  The populace is armed for protection from bandits, but many use their weapons to become bandits. The government has abandoned its northernmost territory, leaving it to the aid groups to manage - poorly.
 &

Around the bus and taxi depot, the streets are full of stalls and street venders and beggars, thieves and prostitutes.

 

Three FBI men investigating the embassy bombings were surrounded by a crowd and had their pockets picked of wallets and pistols. Cynicism is everywhere. Even the educated, finding no chance of work, turn to thievery.

  The slums of Nairobi have swelled immensely in recent years. It is "a congested maze of improvised houses and streets thick with lurking kids and traffic and an odor of decrepitude: sewage, garbage, open drains, the stink of citified Africa." Going slowly through the traffic, Theroux's car "was surrounded by ragged children pleading for money and trying to insert their hands through the half-open windows." He was warned that they sometimes held feces that they used to force people to give them money.
 &
  He saw a man - perhaps a thief - who had been stripped of his clothes and was being chased and then beaten by a gleeful mob. The sense of fun in the activity frightened Theroux.

  "Fun is still a factor in massacre. Perhaps the reason was simple: weak idle people, suddenly granted power and the opportunity blamelessly to beat someone to death, are given a snorting animal energy and become joyous in their triumph."

  Around the bus and taxi depot, the streets are full of stalls and street venders and beggars, thieves and prostitutes.

  "On the busiest intersections street kids twitched, hunger in their skinny faces, and seized on strangers, obvious travelers, single women, old folks and foreigners, and followed them, threatening and pleading."

  Middle class women do not wear jewelry on the street. Nobody of substance goes out at night. Shopkeepers from India have children who are afraid to go out at all. Three FBI men investigating the embassy bombings were surrounded by a crowd and had their pockets picked of wallets and pistols. Cynicism is everywhere. Even the educated, finding no chance of work, turn to thievery.
 &

    The Great Rift Valley outside Nairobi has become deforested, overgrazed, "filled with mobs of idle people and masses of ugly huts." Deforestation has destroyed much of the African  watershed, altering climate and bringing drought. Deforestation continues. (Very little of this is used for the timber trade.)
 &

Uganda:

  Tidier and better governed than Kenya, Uganda is visibly more fertile and productive, with better roads and tidier houses. Rice and bananas, along with such cash crops as coffee, tea, sugar cane, cotton, and tobacco, are grown.
 &

Wealthy nation agricultural tariffs, quotas and the dumping of subsidized crops is destroying the markets for Africa's cash crops and driving African farmers back to subsistence farming - mainly corn for personal use.

  However, Uganda is one of the victims of mercantilism. Wealthy nation agricultural tariffs, quotas and the dumping of subsidized crops is destroying the markets for Africa's cash crops and driving African farmers back to subsistence farming - mainly corn for personal use.
 &
  Armed bands stalk the bush, and grenades exploding in Kampala are regular features of the news. However, ordinary people walk the streets in safety at night. Aid projects had brought street lights - a success story for the aid establishment. AIDS orphans are everywhere, but an intensive education effort has materially reduced the incidence of the disease.
 &
  Prostitution is a lucrative activity - targeting the aid workers, the visiting bureaucrats, and foreigners in general. That's where the money is. However, the economy is good enough to support a rising African middle class, with homes and autos. There is thus a substantial Ugandan clientele for the prostitutes.
 &

People who have the means to leave or send their children away are staying in Uganda. The country seems to have a future.

  In Kampala, new graceless high-rise buildings rise next to crumbling existing structures. Nobody seems to care about maintaining existing buildings. Old banks, the railway station, the National Theater and the old movie theaters - all substantial buildings - are now seedy monstrosities. Many of the trees have been cut down to widen the streets.
 &
  People who have the means to leave or send their children away are staying in Uganda. The country seems to have a future.

  With even modestly good governance that strives to facilitate commerce, Africans can prosper.

Tanzania:

  Forty years of socialist effort in a vast fertile country of 20 million people had achieved near bankruptcy and just one textile factory.
 &

The old Maoists, comrades and Fidelistas "were now hustling jobs in hotels and taking tourists for game drives."

 

Here, too, farmers are retreating to subsistence crops, as the export markets for their cash crops are destroyed by wealthy nation mercantilist policies.

  Socialism had left Tanzania's roads in ruinous sometimes unusable condition. Fortunately, a century old railway built by the Germans still offered irregular service from Lake Victoria to Dar es Salaam.
 &
  The old Maoists, comrades and Fidelistas "were now hustling jobs in hotels and taking tourists for game drives." The tourists enjoy their usual first rate facilities.
 &
  The bush in Tanzania is vast and empty, despite the little decrepit groups of huts scattered about, and occasional settlements - all decrepit and forlorn. Cotton, along with coffee, tea, cashews and cloves, are produced as cash crops. However, here, too, farmers are retreating to subsistence crops, as the export markets for their cash crops are destroyed by wealthy nation mercantilist policies.

  "After forty years of experimenting with various ideologies and industries they were back to farming by hand and pounding maize into flour, living on porridge and beans. Nothing was new except that there were many more people, grubbier buildings, more litter, fewer trees, more poachers, less game."

The Chinese-built railroad south from Dar es Salaam was a fine achievement - just 25 year old - but already in extreme disrepair.

 

Half the Africans in the train were fleeing, intending to emigrate.

  Dar es Salaam is typical of African cities - "the bigger the dirtier." Old substantial structures are too much trouble to maintain. Cheap new buildings take their place. Slum districts sprawl everywhere.
 &
  The Chinese-built railroad south from Dar es Salaam was a fine achievement - just 25 year old - but already in extreme disrepair. Breakdowns and delays are commonplace. Stations, carriages and dining cars are filthy and dilapidated.
 &
  Here is empty bush - wilderness - where African animals can still be seen moving about in numbers and gathering at water holes. Somehow, the railway had failed to bring the expected progress to southern Tanzania. It is much the same as before. Half the Africans in the train with Theroux were fleeing, intending to emigrate.
 &

Malawi:

  Dirt poor and decrepit. The Indian shopkeepers had been driven out, and nobody tried to take over their shops, which are now abandoned and in ruins. Coffin making is a widespread trade. Another is the hawking of second hand clothes, obtained from charities.
 &

Coffin making is a widespread trade. Another is the hawking of second hand clothes, obtained from charities.

 

The government doesn't give a damn, so anything that was built quickly runs down.

 

 

 

 

  Overage minibuses driven by reckless youths over incredibly bad roads are frequently the only means of transportation for the traveler. Thieves and vandals are everywhere. The government doesn't give a damn, so anything that was built quickly runs down. Millions donated for schools had been embezzled by the finance minister and some politicians in a scheme involving fictional schools and teachers. The schools are disintegrating everywhere.
 &
  However, the scenery along the shore of Lake Malawi is green and beautiful - unchanged in 40 years. 
 &
  Around the capital city and in the south the roads are better, but nobody has vehicles except the politicians and aid workers. A man recently returned after many years, having been educated and having worked abroad, deplores the changes he has seen. He comments to Theroux:

  "The people are greedy and materialistic. They're lazy, too. They show no respect. They push and shove. They are awful to each other."

  Growing hybrid corn with sterile seeds, the farmers are dependent on a government handout each year for their seed corn - provided by donor countries. The growing and milling of maize is the primary occupation, on which everything depends.
 &

Mozambique:

  Torn by war for much of the last few decades, the bridges, railroad tracks, and buildings in the northern sectors are all destroyed. Land mines remain a menace off the roads.
 &

Land mines remain a menace off the roads.

  The rivers in the northern sectors still boast hippos, hawks, herons, cormorants and other fowl in abundance. Along the rivers, mud hut villages remain self-sufficient. Their government neither helps nor meddles with them.
 &

Zimbabwe:

 

 

 

&

  Whites are being driven away - but blacks, too, are fleeing in large numbers. The government had failed to provide seed corn, fertilizer and tractors to the black farmers, so many left the farms they had seized from the white farmers and returned to the cities. However, the orderliness of the white infrastructure and large farms was still apparent when Theroux traveled through the country.

  "A beautiful land of tilled fields and browsing cattle and farmhouses, yet it seemed oddly empty, as though a plague had struck."

The government had failed to provide seed corn, fertilizer and tractors to the black farmers, so many left the farms they had seized from the white farmers and returned to the cities.

  Gas is in short supply. There was no aviation fuel at Harare International Airport. There is no hard currency. Inflation was running at 65%, unemployment at 75%, tourism down 70%. 

  Zimbabwe's inflation rate in 2003 hit 385% with the economy in free fall. Mugabe apparently is intent on chasing out the middle class, so that he can rule what is left - the poor and ignorant - without opposition.

  However, Harare still looks pretty and clean - "the picture of tranquility, the countryside an Eden." Wild game is still abundant.
 &
  Zimbabwe had been a self-sufficient place, and still produced many things when the author was there - paper products, clothing, household furniture, shoes. There were dairies, bakeries, breweries, meat-packing plants, canneries. There were good hotels - mostly empty.
 &

South Africa:

  Electric lights and modernity exists in an African context in South Africa. Prostitution and crime are everywhere. There are vast numbers of murders and rapes. The nation is "a republic of miseries and splendors."
 &

Many black South Africans believed that the end of white rule would bring instant riches, and now suffer from a sense of frustrated entitlement.

 

Youths throw stones at the trains as they pass through blighted territories.

  Johannesburg is full of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and on the grass, in tents, plastic huts, lean-tos, etc. They are "the vagrants, the drunks, the desperate, the sinister, the bewildered, the uncaring, the lost." Many black South Africans believed that the end of white rule would bring instant riches, and now suffer from a sense of frustrated entitlement.
 &
  Many are immigrants from other African nations, fleeing even more hopeless situations in their home countries. South Africa has also attracted many white and Asian immigrants. They came for the opportunities. For many, the dream has become doubtful.
 &
  However, at least the buses and trains are regular and reliable - but youths throw stones at the trains as they pass through blighted territories.

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