South African expats in the UK reacted with sadness and shock (and even some anger) after watching a BBC 3 documentary last night about poor white people in Pretoria, South Africa.
The 55-minute doc was the first in a three-part series – entitled “Reggie Yates’ Extreme South Africa” – in which presenter Reggie Yates gets “up close and personal” with three different communities in South Africa. He lives with each community for a week in an effort to discover “the extremes of this misunderstood country in the 21st Century”.
In last night’s episode Reggie explores the largest white squatter camp, Coronation Park. It is one of 80 parks in and around Pretoria that’s inhabited by homeless white and black people. Some parks have filthy shared toilets and black and stained baths. Most are the domain of drug dealers. Coronation Park has no running water.
Some of the white people interviewed have a philosophical view about their lives, saying that the black people once had it bad and so now it is their turn to have the “spoils”.
One white woman said one must “forgive and forget” and move on, and became quite angry when the interviewer argued that one shouldn’t forget because then you can’t fix the mistakes.
At one point during the filming, loud music can be heard on the other side of the dam from the “rich people”. Reggie decides to go over and find out what these rich people think about Coronation Park, and is surprised to discover that they are all black; and they in turn cannot believe that white people had been living in Coronation Park for over eight years. They hadn’t realised this themselves (so imagine the shock for some expats who have been out of the country for years!).
Expat Gavin McLeod commented on SAPeople’s Facebook page that “maybe the host should have done a little more research first…and…not pushed his own opinion so much…he was there as an investigative journalist not to spark anger with his own opinion…let’s hope the next episode is based less on the race card…”
Many agreed with him. Loulou C said “I don’t feel Reggie was the right person to present this programme, his knowledge was limited. That awful situation is everywhere in the world, and I feel sorry that South Africa is so labelled. I so hope Mandela’s values are taken forward.”
Others were more impressed. Vanessa C said “I knew there were poor South Africans but I didn’t realise there were communities like that. A real eye opener and Reggie Yates did a fantastic job.”
Glynis L agreed, saying “I didn’t know that this area existed!! I thought [the programme] was well balanced too. P.S Julius is a real box!!!!!” (Malema is seen singing his rendition of Kill the Boers.)
Many, like Nerina, found it “very sad to watch”.
As part of Mandela Day last year, 18 July 2013, President Zuma handed over some houses in Danville to impoverished white and black people in Pretoria West.
Next week’s episode will focus on SA having one of the highest murder rates in the world, with the Cape Flats becoming the epicentre of violent crime in the country. Reggie will spend a week in a “new district hospital in the fastest growing township”.
South African ‘White Slums’ Video – from EuroNews (NOT last night’s programme)
We don’t have any of the BBC3 footage to show, but here is a recent EuroNews video about the “white slums” of Coronation Park, Krugersdorp: