Chapter 8

South Africa: Rainbow Capitalism

There is an old joke about South Africa: When God created it, He told St. Peter it would be His greatest masterpiece.

“Mountains that pierce the sky, great forests that shelter all manner of wonderful creatures, endless plains, and deserts and grasslands to far horizons. All these things this land will have,” God said.

Peter was impressed, but God went further, saying, “Beaches as fine as powdered gold, washed by clean water and caressed by tropical zephyrs. And beneath the mountains and rivers, a treasure-trove of gold and diamonds, platinum, and uranium, rich beyond dreams.”

“This is wonderful,” Peter said. “But won't the other nations of the world be full of envy?”

“No, they won't.”

“Why not?” asked St. Peter.

“Wait till you see the government I am going to give them.”

The above is an edited version of the joke as told in Gavin Bell's book on South Africa, Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Travels in South Africa, which I tucked in my bag for my May 2011 trek there. People from other richly endowed but politically challenged countries tell variations of this joke. Russians over vodka in smoky bars, Argentines over slabs of grilled meats, and many others besides, all spinning their own variants to laugh and maybe to erase a little of the pain that comes with knowing what might have been.

I heard many jokes about security in South Africa, where crime is a serious problem. One old joke goes that when pilots land there, they tell their passengers, ...

Get World Right Side Up: Investing Across Six Continents now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.