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Mark Peach
 
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Proof positive? Racism lives in Cape Town?

27 June 2014, 14:16

Yagyah Adams, from the Cape Muslim Congress, wrote and published a letter in the Cape Argus recently in which he wonders how the city of Cape Town will contend with the forced melting pot it will become as more and more people flock to it. He cites the city's historically apartheid-driven divisions and the apparent unwillingness of its communities to embrace each other.

It is a valid concern, and one that has urban planning specialists of all sorts trying to map the consequences and opportunities as cities are expected to shortly become home to 80% of the population.

In his letter, Adams writes: "Rapid urbanisation implies that locals who have misgivings about racial and class integration should have a tangible fear of what the future holds. Beyond the polemics of racial spatial plans, the question remains: are white, black, brown and poor, middle class and wealthy keen to live in close to each other?"

More controversially, Adams lays out a general state of the city as follows: "Racial and class integration has never been a strong point in South Africa. The Voortrekkers stand testimony to this reality. Historically, since Afrikaners could not tolerate the notion of living under English rule, they packed their bags and trekked inland. Those who remained or returned created a 'boerewors curtain' along the northern corridor of Cape Town. The English remain in the shadow of the mountain and the southern suburbs. Coloureds, strewn across the Cape Flats, were tolerated as long as they did not threaten the historic imbalance. Blacks were allocated a few townships from which they dared not venture."

There may be some that dispute this as a generalisation, but there will be many with whom this resonates. Like the writer Njabulo Ndebele who has written about the lingering apartheid landscape well into democracy.

What gives this piece its headline though, are the reader comments in response to Adams' piece. Here are a few:

"Joe Public: Yagyah, Yagyah, Yagyah.....sounds a lot like yaddah, yaddah, yaddah"

"abmon: hope it stays divided forever...and up yours Yagyah"

"somuchricherthanyou: some of my best friends are slaves"

"slepkava: I used to call my garden boy by his first name: boy"

"Progressive African: If you pay for a 5 star hotel, would you like your bed with or without fleas?"

"mark stevens: Yaaaaaawn! If someone had never never set standards, people like the author would have nothing to measure it by.....It would all be shite!"

"Garfy542001: They must all go squat in District 6 first"

"Peter: Send in the box of bananas."

I leave you to make your own judgements, but for me these comments - the last one in particular - to a perfectly sane observation and question, even if provocative, are racist; moreover they inadvertently, on the part of the respondents, answer Adams' question about how many people in the city will react to the influx.

Quite how widespread these sentiments are is another matter - I pray they don't reflect the general Cape Town population.

If they are, what will be equally concerning is how this plays out: will the governing DA take steps to deal with this brewing anger; and will the ANC continue to stoke it? If the DA do not, we have an escalating problem; as we will if the ANC continue to play the race card against the DA.

How they react will dictate what the future holds for Cape Town and elsewhere. We'll either become consumed by anger and reprisals.

What is sure is that there will be no stopping urbanisation, so if we don't get a handle on this issue, buckle in: it's going to get wild.

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