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Pole to Pole

Day 125: Johannesburg

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAfter eight years away she finds the surroundings worse - 'seventy-five per cent of people can't afford the new houses they're building' - a growing middle class and a growing violence and uncertainty, but she recognizes the danger of the returned exile coming back to tell those who live here how to run their lives. Her travels round the world echo my own feelings. 'Most countries you go to, you find that people want to be hospitable, they're proud of their country, you know, whatever, whether they're rich or poor, they want to make you feel welcome and they want to sort of show you how they live, and I think that's the same here too.'

Later I meet Jonas - another short, sharp shock for the ribcage - back from his meeting. I ask how Mandela was.

Jonas smiles. 'He still has a powerful handshake.'

Jonas has been away for thirty years and is still dazed by the reaction, 'people I haven't seen since the sixties coming up and shaking my hand'.

When I ask him if he detects a difference in the people he nods very firmly.

'They're broad-shouldered now, you know . . . before they walk looking down, they were cowed so easily.'

On which optimistic note we leave Soweto.

The last thing I hear from High Veld Stereo, '94.95 Eff-Em', is that Terry Waite has been released.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 125
  • Country/sea: South Africa
  • Place: Soweto
  • Book page no: 282

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