Guest Column

Rise up, Cape Flats!

2017-04-20 11:17
Russian believers hold candles during the Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. (Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP)

Russian believers hold candles during the Easter service in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. (Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP)

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Moeshfieka Botha

Easter is a time of great religious significance to many people. To others it is simply a much needed break from work, whilst for many Capetonians it is a time old expression of traditions and cultures.

From pickled fish to hot-cross buns to singing around the fire at dusty campsites – Easter weekend on the Cape Flats means something to everyone.

For many years now there has been an exodus from the Cape Flats to a make-shift campsite called “The Krammat” in Faure every Easter weekend.

From about 11 pm the “singkringe” come alive in the Krammat. We come out in numbers and bring out our traditional music instruments to sing “Nederlandse liedjies”(Dutch slave songs) and old English songs till the early hours of the morning.

True Cape Flats generosity is shown when hundreds of people get fed – and the cultural past of Cape Malay Choir singing is lovingly remembered by the elderly sitting around the camp-fires. All of this is done night after night without any alcohol or drugs in sight, debunking the myth that all Cape Coloureds do on the weekend is drink and do drugs!

I think my community deserves a time like the Easter weekend. A time to celebrate and showcase the good from our past and our present. For when we return to the stark reality of our ordinary lives, the future is surely not shining too brightly.

We live in devastatingly traumatic times. Yet sadly, we seem to have become numb to it. It seems to have become our norm. We have accepted the rape and murder of 11 year old Stacha Arendse from Swartklip, Tafelsig by a community drug addict as part of our everyday lives.

Except for the initial expressions of rage and grief, we seem almost detached when a parishioner standing in front of a church, or a child walking to a spaza shop to buy R10 pre-paid electricity, is killed in gang-crossfire, or when a school principal is attacked for opposing gang-activities on his school grounds.

We seem to have accepted that the concept of “spatial apartheid” will forever rule our lives. We seem resigned to the fact that Cape Town will always be a tale of two cities where spatial, racial and economic segregation remain the foundation of our existence.

It is right here that I wish for us to reach deep within ourselves, find the passion and the gusto with which we sing our proudly Cape Town songs around the “singkring” fires and break free from our apathy and our acceptance of everything that brings us down.

Rise up Cape Flats, rise up! It is obvious that in a city as segregated as ours, our safety and our wellbeing (much less our future or our existence) is not a priority. We therefore have no choice but to do what we must to ensure our own survival.

How do we do that? By choosing life over death. By acknowledging that our communities are bleeding, and choosing to heal the source of the wound as opposed to merely being put off by the sight of blood. By owning up to the fact that currently, we are the main contributors to the violent, ugly space we find ourselves existing in.

I am not a “forgive and forget” person when it comes to the effects of racism and apartheid on our communities, especially in Cape Town. It literally galls me to see the difference in living conditions from those living in Newlands and Constantia to those living in Khayelitsha and Delft, knowing full well that all of this was brought about by an evil, unequal system of oppression; a system which saw my father and grandfather not being able own property in “whites only” areas, or even use the same public toilet or sit on the same public bench as a white person.

Yet they were good enough to toil the soil so that the very person they could not sit next to could enrich themselves on land and resources which were not theirs in the first place.

As all of this stares me in the face on a daily basis, as I watch how those earning the least have to pay the most to travel by hugely flawed public transport networks, from their shacks and their backyard wendy houses, simply to get paid minimum wage – I struggle with the concept of “forgive and forget”

But I will be damned if I continue to use the past as an excuse for all the evil which continues to flourish around me today! It is imperative that we move away from the lethargy and apathy we seem to exist in. We have to muster the courage to say that enough is enough. We have to work together to bring about change – change in mindset, change in lifestyle and change in what we deem acceptable or not.

We should not accept the notion of living in fear of rape and violence every day of our lives. We should not accept being surrounded by drugs and death. We should not accept that where we are now as a society is where we will always be.

It will probably take a lot more articles to flesh out what we will have to do to bring about the change we so sorely seek, but in the meantime we have to at least make the mental shift away from meekly accepting that our current reality dare not be our only reality. Our survival as a community depends on this.

We may continue to find solace and joy in singing the old slave songs, but we may not remain enslaved to that which breaks us down and further oppresses us. We are worth more than that. Rise up Cape Flats, rise up!

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