Saturday, January 9, 2010

South Africa is Not Angola

Another blast of bad news for Africa. As if it doesn't get plenty.

Terrorists shot up the team bus of the Togo team, killing three people who weren't players, as the Togolese made their way south to take part in the Cup of African Nations tournament in Angola -- which is in the southern half of Africa. Along with South Africa, host of the 2010 World Cup.

Fearing an assessment of guilt by geographical association, South Africa's organizing committee felt obliged to issue a statement today. The gist of it?

"We wish to state that there is no link between what happened in in Angola and South Africa's preparations to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup," Rich Mkhondo, a spokesman for SA2010 said.

If you glance at a globe, Angola seems in the same neighborhood as South Africa.

Actually, it's a stretch. Africa is a big continent, and the Angolan capital of Luanda is 1,600 miles from the South African capital of Johannesburg. Comparing what happened there to South Africa would be like fearing violence in Los Angeles because of some drug shootout in Mexico City. It's not really next door.

And the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, where the shooting took place, is even further away from South Africa than is Luanda, the Angolan capital.

That's not to say South Africa has no history in Angola. South Africa intervened on behalf of a different set of rebels during the Angolan civil war in the 1980s, back when South Africa was still under apartheid rule. Certainly, that South Africa government sent aid to rebels that eventually lost out to the current government, and there were reports of actual South African army formations entering Angola.

But, again, that was 20 years ago.

To be sure, South Africa isn't the safest place in the world, as we have noted here before. The world's No. 2 murder rate (both per capita and by volume) in the world.

But South Africa has no restive, separation-bent geographical bits that will be playing host to matches in the World Cup, as Cabinda will for the Cup of African Nations.

That is the biggest difference. South Africa is violent in a random and individual way. But Angola has a small bit of territory that is not contiguous with the country, a small bit that apparently wants to be its own country, and that is quite a different thing.

The unfortunate Togo team, which was not expected to take a bus to Angola (but air travel inside Africa is erratic, as we have noted), was attacked about six miles inside Cabinda.

Now, Togo is going to quit the tournament, and Africa's coloful continental event is already under a black cloud.

That doesn't mean anything like this will happen in South Africa.

South Africa isn't Eden. But it doesn't have the same issues that Angola has.

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