The difference between South African and Turkish thieves

The difference between South African and Turkish thieves

I already knew, even before deciding to visit the Rainbow Nation, that the South African and Turkish economies were similar. But I had no idea they were so similar, while at the same time so different.

I opened the South African business daily Business Day as my flight started descending for Johannesburg on March 18. The “Economic Week Ahead” on the second page had a lengthy discussion of the February inflation statistics that were scheduled for March 19. I learned from the quotes that South African economists, like their Turkish counterparts, are worried about the exchange rate pass-through and food prices.

I turned the page to read that there have been, on average, 34 protests a day so far in 2014, which made me wonder: How many gas canisters have the South African police used? How many people have been hurt? Are the cops here as trigger-happy as their Turkish counterparts?

There was an editorial on South Africa’s current account deficit a few pages later, which concluded: “Overall, then, the balance of payments is still an Achilles heel for SA.” Sound familiar?

Perhaps most interestingly, as the investigative files (fezlekes) on graft allegations about four ex-ministers were being discussed in the Turkish Parliament on March 19, a report released by the South African ombudsman concluded President Jacob Zuma had spent millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on his private home. Unlike Turkey, nobody tried to seal it off.

There are other differences between the two countries: As in Brazil, I was not impressed by the infrastructure. On my way to Kruger National Park, I had to navigate our SUV around potholes larger than Egemen Bağış, one of the ex-ministers accused in the fezlekes. Granted he is not a big man, but still… no wonder poor service delivery is the most common cause of the protests.

On the other hand, I was really impressed by the environmental consciousness of the South Africans I talked to, who were at the park during their long weekend. Unlike most Turks, they seem to be aware that protecting the environment makes the tourism sector more competitive.

The biggest difference between the two countries is the behavior of their thieves. After a morning hike in Blyde Canyon on March 20, noises from the living room woke me up from my afternoon nap. I thought it was housekeeping, only to find a baboon family who had apparently entered through the window to steal our biscuits. Having been caught red-handed, they immediately left.

Turkish thieves would have condemned me for having caught them in the first place. They would have claimed I was interfering with their freedom to sin. They would then have cut off my communication by breaking my cellphone. Having secured themselves, they would have sat down and started watching the TV as if nothing had happened.

If you continue to #RememberBerkin and remind everyone around yourselves of him, maybe the Turkish prime thief, who also admitted to having given the order for Berkin’s murder, will leave one day as well…