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Food may just be the best way to woo Indian tourists to South Africa

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Panaji: From conjuring a South African version of Jain vegetarian cuisine to a 13-day circuit tracking the immortal legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, South African tourism promoters appear to be pulling out all stops to cater to Indian travelers.

picture from- www.boldsky.com
picture from- www.boldsky.com

Speaking on the sidelines of a training session for Indian tour operators and travel agents on selling South Africa as a multidimensional tourism destination, South African Tourism’s India country head Hanneli Slabber said that India currently ranks number seven as far as arrivals to the nation are concerned.

And food, Slabber said, may just be the best way to improve footfalls by making the destination gastronomically enticing to food-loving Indians.

“We have the second biggest population of Indian-origin people outside of India. We are the second biggest exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables in the world. So why do you think they can’t eat here? People were coming in with their own chefs and their own food and we were like whoa!” Slabber said, before realization dawned on the country’s tourism mandarins that unless South Africa adapted its food to the Indian palette, “we can look at the same (arrival) stats for the next ten years”.

“What we did was that we went to the chefs and said we need to re-look at how we train them because obviously, our vegetarian food is not hitting the Indian vegetarians. We retrained 5,000 chefs in Indian vegetarian, vegan and Jain food. It became such a big thing in South Africa that South African chefs then came up with a Jain cookbook that you can download from our website,” she said.

As a result of the thrust, Jain food in South Africa has blossomed to such a degree that Slabber claimed that even Micthelin chefs were now dishing out French Jain food.

“So it has opened up a new door for us. There is a part of the Jain vegetarian community that likes the idea that they can get non-Indian versions of Jain (food). We also have over 300 Indian restaurants, which is the reason why we put it all together,” she said.

Currently, Britons top the list of tourist arrivals in South Africa with half a million footfalls, followed by the Germans and Americans. India, with 126,000 tourists, currently ranks seventh.

“We get a lot of families and a lot of singles groups (from India) before getting married and same sex groups,” she said, profiling the tourist arrival trends from India.

Slabber also said that apart from adventure and leisure tourism, the Mahatma Gandhi circuit established in South Africa last year was also drawing a lot of enthusiasm from tourists across nationalities.

“The circuit is a 13-day experience. It’s everything from his house in Durban, his house in Jo’burg – literally the whole history. You know he was a stretcher bearer during the Zulu war. Every single point where he touched South African lives is on that map,” Slabber said.

She said that Gandhi, who spent 21 years in South Africa before his arrival in India, had a lot of resonance in South Africa so much so that school going children refer to the Mahatma as one of their own and not an Indian.

“Gandhi is an integral part of South African politics and children learn about Gandhi in school so if you ask an average 10-year-old who Gandhi is he would not be able to tell you that Gandhi actually returned back to India. They learn that part of history that involves Gandhi and his role is big in South African history. But South African kids consider him as ours,” Slabber said.

(IANS)

Next Story

Widespread Stigma in South Africa, Despite Liberal Abortion Laws

At the clinic in Rustenburg, nurse Christa Tsomele has been performing abortions for a decade, and says she is proud of her work. She says she thinks some of her colleagues are contributing to the stigma of abortion -- and worse.

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South Africa
Nurse Margorie Sithole, left, explains to Martina Mabe, center, and Flora Tshabalala, right, that abortion proceedures will only be performed during the week at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Feb. 1, 1997. VOA

Twenty-six-year-old Precious, as she has asked us to call her to protect her identity, is 16 weeks pregnant. And so is her best friend, also by Precious’ boyfriend. That event turned her life upside down and brought her to the difficult decision to seek an abortion.

She lives in South Africa, where abortion is legal without justification and available through a nurse through 12 weeks of pregnancy, and legal up to 20 weeks, when done by a doctor and with justification.

But when she tried to get an abortion in her home city of Johannesburg, she ran into problems.

“When I went to register my name, I simply said, ‘I want to do abortion,’ and then they said, ‘No,’” she told VOA.

“And there were two nurses there, and the older one said, ‘Oh, thank God, I’m not trained for this,’ whilst the other one said, ‘no, you have to do back to your place and do it there.’ Then we had a disagreement there, as, like, I’m being against God and more stuff like that.”

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The company recently launched a campaign to try to reduce the stigma around abortion care. Pixabay

Hers is a common experience, and it’s what reproductive health advocates say drives 10,000 South African women to seek illegal, backstreet abortions every year.

The nation’s health department estimated that as many as 25 percent of maternal deaths from septic miscarriages were the result of such illegal abortions. More than half of all abortions in South Africa are unlicensed, despite the fact that half of all government hospitals offer the service for free.

Precious, who says she fears being judged by her neighbors, chose instead to travel to the dusty mining town of Rustenburg, where aid agency Doctors Without Borders has set up a free abortion clinic.

She said she was sure of her decision.

“I want this thing to be done as quickly as — because I can’t, I can’t take it anymore,” she said, her voice soft and wavering. “Because what I’m thinking is what happened. I can’t think of, like, of positive things. I think, if this thing failed, then what will I do? Should I end my life?”

‘We give women a choice’

Whitney Chinogwenya, head of marketing at South Africa’s best-known private abortion provider, Marie Stopes, says their clinics address a real need. The company recently launched a campaign to try to reduce the stigma around abortion care.

“When a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy, they’re going to terminate the pregnancy,” Chinogwenya told VOA from the organization’s office in downtown Johannesburg. “It doesn’t matter what methods they use, it doesn’t matter whether it’s legal, it’s illegal or it’s safe — they’re going to find a way to terminate the pregnancy.

“So what’s so great about South Africa and it being legal here is that there’s a safe place where you can get the procedure, where it’s not going to harm your body, where it’s not going to cause serious complications. And the most important thing is that we give women a choice.”

Another problem, she said, is that few women know that abortion is legal, and think backstreet providers — who advertise openly, but who are not licensed — are their only option.

Medical experts told VOA harrowing tales of the practices performed by such providers. Many don’t perform ultrasounds, don’t attempt to determine how far along the pregnancy is, don’t follow up after the procedure, give the wrong medication, give incorrect medical advice, or administer dangerous chemicals such as bleach and drain cleaner to desperate patients.

One particularly egregious provider, Chinogwenya told VOA, even tried to sexually assault a woman in his care.

‘Somebody has to do it’

Nurse Kgaladi Mphahlele, who heads the Doctors Without Borders project in Rustenburg, says demand for the clinic’s services is high. He estimates he performs as many as 100 first-trimester abortions each month, and says he sees women from as far away as Botswana, where abortion is illegal.

Pregnancy
South Africa, where abortion is legal without justification and available through a nurse through 12 weeks of pregnancy, and legal up to 20 weeks, when done by a doctor and with justification. VOA

His patients, he said, range in age from teenagers to 50-year-olds. He began his career delivering babies, but switched course, and says he’s proud of his decision.

“I look back, ‘why did I get myself into this profession?’” he said, adding that his friends and family were initially worried, but have since become supportive of his choice.

“I said, ‘I want to be a health care provider because I want to help the people.’ And then, you see a gap, and this is part of health care service, and if no one is doing it, somebody has to do it. And I enjoy doing it, and I enjoy working with people.”

At the clinic in Rustenburg, nurse Christa Tsomele has been performing abortions for a decade, and says she is proud of her work. She says she thinks some of her colleagues are contributing to the stigma of abortion — and worse.

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“If you can’t help a patient as a nurse, just refer the client to the relevant place so that the patient must get help,” she said. “Don’t just tell her, ‘no, I can’t do that, or ‘I can’t help you,’ and leave the patient stranded. That is why they end up going to the bogus [provider]. Because when you leave her stranded, now she decides to go out to the street, that is where she is going to die.”

It’s that, she says, that keeps her going, through the judgment, through the tears, through the difficult stories she hears day in and day out. Because, she says, whether people agree with her work or not, she’s saving women’s lives, and following the law. (VOA)