The Cape stripped bare

28th November 1997 at 00:00
THE GEOGRAPHY PROGRAMME: South Africa 2000 BBC2 Age range 14-16.

The past is another country, but not one that South Africa can forget. The past doesn't exactly haunt the rainbow nation; it smacks it full in the face every day.

These four programmes from the BBC, broadcast recently and now available on video with an accompanying resource pack, make this point abundantly clear.

Each of the 20-minute programmes covers a single theme, in a depth that is refreshing for broadcast geography. They tackle "key issues", to use the politician's words ("almost insurmountable problems", to use the words of black South Africans), such as water shortage and usage, rural-urban migration, development and education, and pressures on environmentally sensitive areas.

Each programme brings alive the legacy of the past. "People on the Move" is a good example. This takes a snapshot of life in and around Cape Town. The "in" family are a German couple who have everything they want: a great view, satellite television, a golf course, windsurfing and a secure neighbourhood. The "around" Cape Town family are second-generation rural migrants who live on the massive Camp Flats squatter camp. Their home is improving, with running water and electricity, but it's still a shack. This is the geography of apartheid. It's well explained and exemplified, uncritically and dispassionately.

The daily movement of people in and out of Cape Town is mirrored by the less frequent (and not always with a return ticket) migration from rural to urban areas. Viewers get a real sense of the place, the pull of the opportunities in the city and the push of the underdevelopment of the countryside. But you are not allowed to forget the feeling people have for their roots. Just seeing cattle in the bush makes one man weep for his homeland.

"People on the Move" typifies the quality and approach of the series. The viewer is engaged, but emotions are not tugged at. This is reality. A reality that is underlined by the fact that all the interviewees in any position of authority are white. All the "victims" are black.

The truth is that South Africa isn't sorted. It's a time bomb. But one that can be defused. South Africa 2000 is an excellent look at the history behind the geography and the background to the news.

For teachers the resource pack offers extra information and a series of photocards (really necessary?), worksheets and maps. The obligatory national curriculum links are there too. It's all a bit pricey, but of good quality.

Graham Hart

A video of the series (Pounds 37.50), resource pack (Pounds 12.99) and photo pack (Pounds 5.99, or free if purchased with the video and resource pack) are available from BBC Educational Publishing, PO Box 234, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7EU. Tel: 01937 541001

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