Now before you go jumping on the defensive and crying race and politics, this is indeed just that…The difference with this subject matter is that I experience it daily and that many thousands of you reading this right now have probably never walked the path I speak of, and I mean that literally and figuratively.
And yes, it is about politics and race, but a race we are still in and desperately trying to win, but to no avail.
Just before the World Cup, the entire train station on Adderley and Strand Street side was revamped for all those international visitors whom we were supposed to impress. Now if you’re not a regular train commuter and not sure of the location I speak of, allow me to remind you, this was, and still is known as the “First Class” section of the train station or as it was known during Apartheid, “for whites only”
If like me, you use public transport and come in from the Cape Flats daily, you would either come in via the taxi, train or bus. If the former, you would inevitably be dropped off at the top of the taxi rank.
My journey from the deck “forces” me to walk through the old “third class” section of the station and before I even get there I have to endure the unsightly sounds, sights and smells of the multitudes of homeless that have descended on the area in the last few months. They literally lie against the walls and on pavements, hang out, and "air their dirty laundry" in public and defecate and urinate in public. No one seems to police or control this behaviour – security guards are there to “protect PRASA property only”
If I don’t go in via the station and choose to walk outside, I have to fight my way pass the vendors camped on the pavement and the taxi’s parking on it. Assaulted by the very same smells of urine because thousands of commuters and hundreds of taxi drivers have one toilet to service the entire area, so they (most men) use the crevices of walls to relieve themselves.
“Inside” I walk through the desolate, dirty and abandoned “third class” - an area that was once a thriving business area for small entrepreneurs which all had to make way for the world cup. Here we are two years after the world cup, with nothing to show for it but vacant stores and a dilapidated building.
Yet, there, in this area, whose walls are lined inches thick with bird shit, is Helen Zille smiling down from her massive party poster at all and sundry who passes. The very same poster that is displayed at the “first class section”
However, when I walk that side, there is not one vagrant that harasses me and the glare of the sun on the new tiles still blinds me. If I need to “go” I have more than one restroom to choose from, ATM’s are in abundance and not to mention the beautiful storefronts or the elevator I can take up to the deck.
How is this fair?? How is this right?? Why such disparity in the SAME AREA?? From the same government that is supposed to look after ALL OF US?? Are we not ALL ONE NATION with ONE FUTURE?
Or is it because we are still seen as THIRD CLASS CITIZENS and do not deserve any better???