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World News and Trends: South African update

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South African update

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Much of the population in South Africa is very unhappy with the present government's progress in closing the poverty gap. It's estimated that more than 40% of South Africa's 50 million people live on about a dollar a day, while others make a fortune. More than a third of those of working age are unemployed. Some are saying that "this is what we expected from apartheid—not from our own government" (The Guardian, June 26, 2007).

Although progress has been made in some sectors of economic life, the South African government has conceded that a huge gap between rich and poor remains. Public expectations have run high after the demise of the previous regime, which had ruled South Africa for decades.

Meanwhile crystal meth, considered one of the world's most dangerous drugs, is at the root of a great deal of crime and violence in the sprawling townships. The problem is not confined to any one ethnic group. One recovering woman described the drug's effects: "Before you know, you just can't manage without it. Girls will do anything to get it, and I mean anything. It drives you crazy. You just don't know what you are doing" (The Times, July 30, 2007).

Crystal meth is a synthetic stimulant that can lead to violent behavior, insomnia and psychotic conduct—sometimes for years after the user has quit the drug.

Although no Zimbabwe by any means, South Africa's transition from white rule has not been an easy one. (Sources: The Guardian, The Times [both London].)