• Entreaties to departing tourists in S Africa rekindle flower donation by Kenya
Sometimes when things seem to be at their most bleak, I remember something one of my aunts said to me some years ago: Even the darkest night ends in dawn.
I was reminded of this again recently as I was reporting on a story here in Cape Town that like practically all stories these days, came about because of the coronavirus.
As a result of the various international lockdowns, and with many people who had been visiting here for pleasure and business wanting to get back home to their loved ones before the smelly stuff hit the fan, a number of countries organised airlifts for their citizens.
By the third week of April, which was also the third week of our lockdown, over 6,000 foreigners were repatriated with assistance from the provincial government here. These were from North America, Europe and that over-populated island just off the west coast of Europe, also known as the United Kingdom.
I had a problem with the fact that there didn’t appear to be any fuss being made by the authorities to fly African foreigners back to their homes, even though I am sure there must have been some here who were not refugees or asylum seekers.
However, I put that aside for a moment and remembered all the times back in Kenya when it looked like there may be trouble by way of a violent election (every time since 1992). Many foreigners of a similar sort, as well some well-heeled Kenyans with homes abroad, would suddenly disappear for a few weeks until the elections were over and normal service had been resumed.
Anyway, one detail that caught my attention in the exodus of the 6,000 was a statement from the provincial tourism minister. He said, “Our tourism sector teams from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and Wesgro* played an integral role in the repatriation, making sure our visitors were well taken care of.
“They even ensured that each visitor was given a farewell note, wishing them a safe and speedy trip home and welcoming them back when they are ready to return.”
(*Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape province.)
The authorities here in the Western Cape were clearly peering through the darkness of the lockdown tunnel that has devastated all sectors of the economy and particularly tourism, and seeing the dawn in the very, very far distance.
By ensuring the departing foreigners had a personal little memento to remind them of their stay here, they were hoping that when things get back to as normal as they ever will be, under the circumstances, they hoped they might get them to feel wanted enough to come back in better times.
In a Herculean effort to be charitable to the Kenyan authorities, I tried to see their recent delivery of flowers to British essential workers in that light. Perhaps when this is all over, they are hoping that the memory of the bouquets will do something to help kick start the Sh62.9 billion industry. Or am I being too kind?